career, libraries, LIS, planning

No, I’m not my dad :)

Today, I actually made the effort to go and look back over my work for the Cataloging & Classification courses I’ve been taking (and have now finished). I didn’t do so poorly as I thought I did…most of the issue had to do with getting one concept wrong and then repeating it through questions that kept testing on that one concept.

Though I had the possibility of going back and re-trying the quizzes, I didn’t — for most of them. The one quiz where I originally got two questions right because I was overthinking things and the test was based on “if (x === ‘answer’)” was the one where I went back and redid my work.

(That is, I only got the question right if I typed in the exact string that was defined as correct, while the [∞-1] other possible strings were all equally incorrect, so far as the computer was concerned.)

And I don’t want to get back to the JavaScript training, but it might be good for me. I did invest all that time and money with the hopes of being a Web Developer. The problem for me is, how to tie the Arts, Humanities, and/or Social Sciences in with Web Development.

I also have an inkling that if I became a college professor, I’d really like to do it with History. I’d have the background. It’s just really fascinating. Then I could create OERs (Open Educational Resources) and post them online. :)

That actually isn’t a bad idea.

In regard to JavaScript, I have a really big textbook that is begging to be read…though probably not before I finish reading the Defusing Hostile Customers Workbook. There’s a lot of stuff coming up where …it may help to continue reading this, and looking back over The Librarian’s Guide to Homelessness (which I finished, a while ago). It’s not precisely what I want to be doing, but it may make things easier for me, soon. It’s better to be prepared, than not.

I had also wanted to read back over my Reference & Information Services texts. The issue is that there are three hundred pages in one text (of 800+ pages) which we were left on our own to read. I think I skimmed them, and that’s being forgiving about it.

I have read enough of Conducting the Reference Interview, 3rd Edition that I’m feeling relatively confident about that. The thing is, I have another book, Online Searching, that I started and then didn’t even try to get into, because I needed to read Conducting the Reference Interview, first. It doesn’t help to be able to find information if you’re answering the wrong question. Conducting the Reference Interview is about trying to figure out the real question someone is asking, or the “question behind the question.”

If you’re wondering about the last few posts…I’m still trying to figure out how to fuse technology with humanity. There’s a big question as to whether I’ll even be able to tolerate fitting reality into a system like Library of Congress Classification or Dewey Decimal Classification…the systems are just imperfect, but so far they’re what we have (aside from BISAC, which I don’t know much about).

I do like working with Metadata. I’ve reached the point, though, of knowing that there’s so much more I could be doing with my life, than Cataloging things.

It’s also known that a lot of places are shrugging off the Cataloging work onto vendors or other entities before they reach the libraries of destination. At the place at which I work now, for example, relatively little Cataloging is done in-house. While I could work for Publishers or vendors, I know relatively little about that (I didn’t do a Publishing internship in undergrad, so I’m not entirely familiar with the territory).

Aside from Cataloging or Metadata Librarianship, the two other specific jobs with “Library” in the name which I have been thinking of are Virtual Librarianship and Adult Services Librarianship. It looks like it will be easier to aim for the latter at this stage of the game. The difficult part for me is likely to rest in dealing with people breaking policy (which is why I’ve been doing the reading I have); the rest of it, I think I’m prepared for.

Anyhow. History, eh?

That…that could/would be fascinating and awesome. I could build my knowledge as a Librarian and then go for a PhD and professorship, or work in an Academic Library as a History Subject Specialist.

The big thing about Academic Librarianship is that you apparently get one shot at gaining tenure, and if you don’t, you’re out for good (or so I’ve been told).

Stressful, much…

The thing with History is that history that has actually happened (as versus propaganda, I mean), shapes the world we live in today. History has an impact on what things are happening, now, and how we think, now. Knowing the context of today is vital if one wants to liberate oneself from the traps of a lack of awareness (which do extend down to the languages and concepts we work with).

Okay, so I need to finish the Defusing book, get back to JavaScript, fill out my Master Application, and break into Online Searching. That sounds like enough, for now.

craft, fiber arts, LIS, tatting, work

History: mud and sapphires

Some time has passed. I know I haven’t touched the computer for two days…likely due to the fact that it’s associated for me, now, with work. And…things I don’t want to do, now that I think of getting back to my Library of Congress cataloging work. Ordinarily, I would take this work as something to keep me busy instead of bored…but I’ve gotten to the point where I’m not sure at all that I want to work as a Cataloger in an Academic Library setting.

Cataloging has a lot of arbitrary rules that serve to make catalog entries uniform (which is essential if we are to find things)…the thing is, they’ve been accumulating and building on each other for a couple of centuries, and the difficulty in changing them to keep up with the times is evident in what remains of the old structures.

Having done this work, I can clearly see why I shifted my focus to Digital Services: there’s less of this traditional backlog of rules, to deal with. There is also, though, a much higher need for the use of logic.

The thing with coding is that it shares the same high attention to detail as is required of a cataloger…it just seems from my perspective that — in coding — there are actual reasons for things to be the way they are. If things aren’t formatted a certain way, the computer can’t make sense of it.

For some reason, I’m willing to adapt to a computer’s constrictions, moreso than I am to history’s. I mean…the computer has no choice. It was built the way it was, without having a say in it. History always has had choices.

And at this point, I can kind of see how the mode of thinking behind, “progressivism,” could work…although in the past, I’ve rejected the term “progressive” as it applies to myself. This is because nothing guarantees that society will move forward to a better future. It can, but that doesn’t mean it will become better, or that it is becoming better. As a mirror to this, that doesn’t mean that all societies before ours, were worse than ours (or that First World countries are the so-called pinnacle of Social Darwinism [I’m going to withhold my views on the latter, for now]); or that things now are worse than they’ve ever been (which are both familiar nightmares to some people I’ve known).

What I try and remember is that people in each era (I assume) are trying to do the best they can, with the world, technology, information, and concepts they have. Now, that’s a big assumption. But I try (and I’m trying really hard right now) not to forget the human factor: that in each time, people confront constrictions, and find ways to exist despite them.

Anyhow, learning Library of Congress Classification has been like stepping backwards in time, and not in a fun way. It seriously feels like I spent a bunch of money for this class, only to learn that I don’t want to do the work (or at least, that I don’t want to do the work, full-time).

Do I want to become a Web Developer? I still don’t know about that: I’ll have to try harder and involve myself, first. But at least, I’ll know one more thing I don’t want to do, as I’ll have had some experience with it. If I hadn’t taken this LCC class, I wouldn’t know how much I don’t want to do it, and how much I should maybe just forget about it, for the short term.

Gah.

There’s a lot of stuff I’m not mentioning, right now. Most of it is political. Some of it does make me wish that I could believe in a good-natured Deity, but seeing evidence of the activity of hatred and stupidity… Declaring something as good also means declaring its opposite, or at least, the state of the absence of goodness (or so my readings in Philosophical Daoism would suggest).

And labeling the absence of goodness isn’t really effective at all, in coming to peaceful resolution and coexistence with someone who is seen to be exhibiting a lack of goodness. Because of this, it basically lines the road to coexistence with land mines.

Of course, the other person has likely had no input into what one considers “good” or not, so one big question is whether they can even be held accountable to standards they had no say in defining (although also, of course, they would likely make the definition of “not good” to be whatever they, themselves, were not — should they be given a say. That begs the question of whether we can trust evil people to define goodness). I have a sense, though, that I’m getting into legal philosophy here, so I’ll stop.

In any case…I’ve been getting tired of this. Tired of a lot of things, actually. There’s the political stuff plus the work stuff plus the study stuff plus the injury stuff plus the illness stuff — which in my case does encompass mood symptoms, which can then make me vulnerable to physical illness.

One of the things I have been working on, recently, is tatting lace…which is relatively calming (which is probably why people did it, before)…it kind of takes up a lot of mental capacity that would otherwise be spent worrying. This is one of those historical crafts that I’ve taken interest in — which, apparently, is a new thing again to people in my generation. It kind of makes me wonder if I were on the front line of fashion as regards retro designs and fiber art, and didn’t know it. (Usually, I’m not an early adopter.)

I’ve figured out how to make each individual stitch, though I’m not sure it will make sense if I explain it in words. If I recorded video, it would be different. I just remember the first book I read on it, which was talking about making half-hitches and flipping them onto the opposite cord (you tug the working cord and relax the other cord, and the half-hitch is transferred to the relaxed cord), and I’m thinking to myself, “okay, first you make a half-hitch — then you reverse it — why would you do that???”

It makes more sense when you do it, though I’m still not sure how much sense that is.

I don’t have photos at the moment. I’m not sure if I’ve given up on that, or not. :) The thing is, when you do tatting right, it basically looks exactly like the photos of all the samples that you’ve seen.

Is that a good thing? I’m not sure…

career, LIS, work

Creative outlets and work don’t have to align…

Haaah. You know what? I’ve realized that even when I don’t feel particularly creative, I still read to others as, “very creative.” Over Easter we had some visitors, and I got still more encouragement to sell my jewelry. That was, particularly…great. I mean, seriously…my beaded jewelry collection, right now, reflects multiple iterations of design that I’ve undertaken over the years. It’s why I was reluctant to get rid of one of my pieces (a sunstone and gold-finish piece, which I don’t think I’ll ever be able to exactly reproduce).

It was also really nice to be with some chosen family, whom I ended up interacting with more than extended family. That was Sunday. Yesterday (Monday), I hit a craft store looking for a specific type of storage unit — which they didn’t have. (Or, let me say that they didn’t have the brand I was looking for, which I know will match my current storage: they had store-brand versions, which I was concerned wouldn’t have the same dimensions.) What they did have were Kite Beads (kite-shaped), SuperDuos (squashed-diamond-shaped), GemDuos (diamond-shaped), and some other bits of tastiness like this. (It’s an expression, albeit one I just made up; don’t eat your beads!) Those three types of beads, by the way, all have two holes (four openings).

I also found a miniature macrame board (which I had been looking for, for a while), and a sticky bead mat that may just save me from hunting for beads on the floor.

Yeah, I didn’t intend that. But it was a cute little haul.

What I’ve found, though, from the tables I’ve been making, is that it’s relatively more expensive (per quantity) to get beads from a craft store, than it is to get them from a bead store. However, getting the macrame board and the bead mat were relatively cheaper. And if I want (or need) to go super-cheap and basic with my supplies, there is always General Bead in SoMa.

I’ve also been finding additional fields to add to the tables I have now — particularly where it comes to quantity and price per quantity. It’s kind of getting unruly, like scrolling off the right side of the page. I also am getting farther away in time from my Database Management class, so I’m wondering how we actually created the tables in the first place, for the project for that class. I know I had a hand in it; I’m just not sure what I did. (Not that Database Design is likely to be a task undertaken in any established library…but I’ve found that I do have access to at least two places where I can deal with setting up databases, entering data, and querying those databases.)

I’ve also just gotten through my MARC 21 unit, which is showing me that Cataloging (of books and other Library materials) is essentially database work. That’s not something I knew, early on in my training, but I can recognize it now. (Should I go back and take more classes in Cataloging, beyond August??? Maybe it depends on whether I have gainful employment by then, huh?)

I…have also found that training in JavaScript is not a waste of time (though I wouldn’t have known it without reading through stuff at the Career Center). However, if I get into Technical Services with any library, I may be put in charge of metrics and data visualization, which I can’t say I’m confident about. I’d have to take a class in it.

My last (completed) math class was in Statistics, and it was in undergrad. I did try to take Accounting, but I (seriously) got the flu and had to miss a four-hour class (or otherwise infect everybody), and didn’t know how to recover from that, so I dropped. I also began Calculus, but dropped early enough that I don’t know how I did (though I got the concept of derivatives okay).

The hard thing about this is that I’m not highly confident in my math skills, particularly where it comes to working things out by hand. I know I did it for years; I also know that my Math training was so intense that I didn’t have time to check my work. I can use basic Excel formulas fine, but…Algebra (minorly — I just need a refresher) and advanced Trigonometry are likely my weak points. I see that I can brush up on this online, however — and at a place where I’m already a member. For free. (I was never really taught what sin, cos, tan, sec, csc, cot, actually could be used for, in real life.)

At this point — after having gotten my degree — I’ve found a bunch of Advising information online. Of course, I don’t know that it existed at the time I went through the program. (Actually, I’m fairly certain it didn’t; there was a massive reboot of the website just as I left.) Anyway, there are certain job tasks outlined for differing sets of job types…and there are a number that deal with my skill set, particularly where it comes to Web authoring.

What I have found is that I’m relatively well prepared to work in an Academic setting, as I’ve been dealing with the Technical Services angle. Tech Services encompasses Collection Development (what items to gain access to, based on community needs and library mission), Acquisitions (budgeting and invoicing [?]), and Cataloging (describing items with the aim of increasing access). I’m interested in the first and last of those…though Cataloging is seriously full of rules. I’m no longer surprised that libraries are looking for people to do this work; I don’t think most people would want to do it. In fact, the system I’m in now mostly outsources this work, which is part of the reason I didn’t take it as seriously as I should have.

However, if one is highly accurate and can tolerate micromanagement (I can deal with both of these — after all, needles are my friend), you know, it’s ideal. Not to be facetious, but there is a lot of Information Work that depends on adhering closely to standards. This is to ensure interoperability and ease of data transfer. Web work is not an exception to this; only, on the Web, bad code won’t run properly. In Cataloging, poorly-formed code is just poorly-formed or inaccurate code (so far as I can tell) — it’s not earth-shattering, like, “NOTHING WORKS WHAT DID YOU DO?!” as happens in Web Programming (which is probably the reason Git exists).

What’s interesting to me about this class I’m in now, is how much I don’t remember from Intro to Cataloging. The big deal about learning this after University is getting access to two different resources: the RDA Toolkit, and WebDewey. (Both of them are subscription-based, and I have experience with both.) I don’t recall at this point what we used to find Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) and Classification (LCC), though it’s probably in one or another of my bookmark files…or I might be able to just run a quick Google search and find something. I seem to remember them being available, possibly for free.

What’s weird is that I expected hardly any job openings to be available for Catalogers, but it seems there is still a place existent where one can make a living. It does seem like the work is being borne by general Librarians, though…which I’m not sure they would want, to be honest!

So the project now is to figure out whether I want to work in Public Services (it seems fun and different, but I know I’m not a naturally social person), or in Cataloging and some of the other back-end stuff like Web content management, Catalog Maintenance, or Metadata (“metadata,” is, “data about data,” and encompasses a few different types: Administrative, Technical, and Descriptive). I did aim to be a Metadata Librarian…it’s just that I need to widen my scope, a bit. A lot of the work I’m doing now would best have been done a few years ago… I bet if I had talked to someone back then about my misgivings with the program (and Intro to Cataloging), I wouldn’t have been put off the career track. However, next to my Management core class, and later on, Database Management, Intro to Cataloging was one of the toughest classes for me to get through. It might have been due to teaching style, though.

Would I be good being a Cataloger and doing beadwork as my hobby of choice on my off-hours, maybe to relax and make a little play money with (but not necessarily to teach)? I believe the answer is, “yes,” but I haven’t been a Cataloger, yet…

career, LIS, personal, technology, work

It seems I can’t avoid talking about work.

Well, today was fun. It’s been so long since anything bad has happened to me in particular that I’ve begun to get good with working Circulation. Even shelving has been good. It’s really invaluable to be working with the people I’m working with, and to know I have options. Plus, I’m only working about half-time. Even though I’m not at this point doing any eight-hour days, it’s kind of like a game to see how long and in what ways I can maintain my stamina.

I’m not sure if I’m calming down, now that I don’t have a GPA on the line…actually, that’s probably a lot of it! The stress that I have now is more, “life stress,” (that is, “soon-to-be-money-stress,”) as versus, “school stress.” However, in a good situation, I would still have to wait an average of six months before getting a first job as an Information Professional.

I think I would likely have less stress now, had I planned for this phase of my life better, starting a decade or two ago. There are things I realize in retrospect that I could have done differently — like taking a work-study position at my undergraduate University library, or taking a light job in an Academic Library in addition to the Public Library job, or shadowing Cataloging staff and seeking out connections, or maintaining contacts with other students on IM or LinkedIn.

However, it’s relatively obvious to me, when stepping back to observe the entire situation, that I started out in a relatively structurally disadvantaged position (due to uncontrollable historical, combined with current, circumstances). To some extent this has been alleviated by vocational services focusing on equity, which is the reason why I’m in a career now…but I don’t even think that they really encouraged me to take on extra work, or to get into the working world as an intern, while I was still a student.

The latter would have been basically expected of me, but I didn’t have a great hint of this until looking into the Career Center at the end of my program. Trouble is, I believe I was meant to look into the Career Center, possibly before my program even began.

I’m not sure what more there is to say about that, at least that wouldn’t be oversharing.

Right now I can see a few different paths before me. One is being a Reference & User Services Librarian in a Public Library. I have a relatively good idea of what work in this position is like. The second path is becoming a Cataloging Librarian, which is something that my co-workers say I might be well-suited to because of my attention to detail. The third path is becoming a Web Developer or Web Designer.

These three paths have differing skill sets. Particularly, as a Reference Librarian, I would need to work on creating library programs, and work on my customer service and information search skills. As a Cataloger, I would need to work on my Descriptive and Subject Access Cataloging and Metadata encoding and parsing skills. As a Web Developer, there are several more technologies I would need to know with which I would need to acquire a working skill: at least JavaScript, PHP, Drupal, and SQL.

Basically, Reference Librarianship is the nearest possibility to me, but that is likely because general entry-level “Librarian” jobs seem to often be Public Service positions. Metadata Librarianship or Cataloging Librarianship is a little more distant, mostly because I was aiming for a track which, I see now, prepared me for Web Design and Development. Web Development is farthest off, and not something I can adequately do in the immediate future. It is, however, something I have a good start on, and can develop.

Right now, I’m in the middle of the MARC 21 unit in my class. It’s good information, though mostly review to me. The big deal about is is that to work as a Cataloger, one basically has to have a knowledge of Subject Access Cataloging (determining content and assigning descriptors and call numbers), Descriptive Cataloging (describing an item), FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records), MARC 21, Authority Records, and at least Dublin Core, if not other metadata schema like TEI or MODS.

But…it kind of sounds like I know a good deal about that, already. Come Fall, I should be done with my four-course, post-Master’s (a.k.a. Professional Development) run, and may actually be set up with the knowledge to start (or continue) in a job that requires Cataloging. If I had a job that pulled enough money, I would also be able to make up any deficits with additional training. Because a lot of this work is being outsourced, I would likely want to look into the people working in Technical Services, and their contacts who work for companies which serve libraries.

Web Development needs ongoing focus and training. Comparatively, it’s easier for me at this point to look forward to Cataloging or User Services! The big thing is that learning for this path never ends and, from my current perspective, seems as though no amount of study may ever be wholly sufficient. Moreso than with the other two paths, this path contains a moving target. I initially got into this because I wanted to make websites; however, is the effort worth the product? I’m not certain, especially as I have had a major downtick in my drive to publish online, recently.

Yeah, I guess…that’s a big thing.

The other thing is the fact that I have realized I’m a relatively versatile person with a lot of interests, who likes challenging themselves…which…well. It doesn’t really rule out too much. Maybe I could get a job as a Technical Assistant while working as a Page somewhere else, just get my foot in the door to Tech Services and Cataloging?

Yeah…maybe this entry won’t make sense to most people…