Blogs

On Being a Parent, SIRLS Student and KR Scholar

by Diana Almader-Douglas (KR Alum, Cohort 9) and Lisa R Aguilera (KR Scholar, Cohort 10)

 
Going Back to School, Don’t Panic:  There is a lot to take in (especially if you are returning to school after several years like I did) and it can get overwhelming, but there is plenty of support from School of Information Resources & Library Science (SIRLS), Knowledge River (KR), administration, management and your advisor.  Along the way, there have also been some very understanding, helpful and supportive instructors.  Just ask.
 
On Family:  The biggest concern when going back to school relates to knowing that the quality/ amount of time with my kids would diminished.  Luckily, my kids were at an ages that I could explain the positive impact continuing my education would have on their lives.   Within the first few weeks my children were asking for more attention and voicing their upset and disappointment.  It was an adjustment for all of us, but it didn’t take long until an understanding and new routine was created.  And by the second month, they told me they were happy and proud I went back to school.  
 
I found that going over my schedule every day helped. My children thrived in consistent and regular routines, and during grad school, my schedule was far from that. They felt more reassured when they stayed informed of my fluctuating schedule.
 
Create a Schedule to Work and Study: If you are able, set up your work schedule while kids  are in school. Most student and GA positions are flexible enough to allow you to stay home with the kids when they are sick or on vacation. Studying was a bit more challenging, but do-able.  At first I tried studying after my kids went to sleep (after 8:30 p.m.).  That’s mostly what I ended up doing, but I still had to take time out to study on Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings.  Oh yeah, and that doing homework from 8:30 p.m. to midnight had its limits.  I couldn’t do that every night.  Eventually, I was able to find a way. 
 
Ask for Help: This has been one of the most challenging things for me to do since becoming a mom. But it is very important.  Luckily my family is very supportive and have made all the difference in encouraging me and in helping me take care of my kids.  
 
Make Connections:  It is so important to make connections with your peers in your KR cohort, other cohorts, as well as other SIRLS students.  Seek support especially when responsibilities seem overwhelming.  Your peers have already experienced or are experiencing what you will be going through as a parent and/or a grad student.  It is so important to connect with others who understand and empathize.  Just calling each other on the phone or meeting over lunch can be helpful and energizing.  You will be expected to participate in study groups, conferences, clubs, associations, KR/SIRLS events, and of course social events and gatherings.  These are all important ways to connect but try to be selective about your activities. If childcare becomes an issue, consider asking if your children are welcome to attend.  The connections I have made in the past year have been of great support and have truly enriched my grad student experience and my life.
 
On Doing Your Best:  Sometimes I have run myself ragged, functioning on little sleep, feeling pulled in a thousand different directions, and stressing that I am not doing any of it “right”.  Thinking that I have just wanted to do my best and be the best I can be.  Well what has been reinforced through this past year’s experiences is that “doing my best” looks different on any given day.  That doing my best doesn’t mean being perfect or functioning at the highest peak of performance EVERY minute of EVERY day.  As a mom, there is so much that I already do.  I had to learn to acknowledge that being a mom, and working, and going to school, and taking care of myself in the process is, well, beyond-words-challenging.  Putting the added pressure to “be the best I can be all the time”, there just wasn’t room or time or energy or (after a very short while) desire for that.  Just realizing that doing my best looks different on any given day is important.  
 
Find Balance:  Finding balance between taking care of family, household responsibilities, working, studying and taking care of self is very challenging, and may seem obvious, but something that is easily forgotten when things get busier than you ever thought they could get.  
Taking time for myself is the way that I have created balance in my life.  Taking some time everyday to something I really love to do, just for me.  It may be an hour’s time, or a few hours.  It may mean treating myself to lunch, or just doing nothing but watching my favorite movie for the thousandth time, OR getting to sleep by 8 p.m.  Whatever the pleasure, finding time to give yourself what you need on a daily basis is the single most important thing you can do to create balance and promote health and joy.  

GAship at Arizona Health and Sciences Library (AHSL)

By Lisa R. Aguilera, KR Scholar (Cohort 10)

I have been working at the AHSL and it has been a great learning experience.  I have had the pleasure of working with experienced and knowledgeable people who are friendly and always willing to help.  When I started my graduate assistantship I knew nothing about medical librarianship.  I have been given many and different opportunities to experience this area of librarianship from different perspectives.  I had the opportunity to work on two digitization projects, one a converting Prescription for Health videos to mp4 and working with the metadata, and the other digitizing the Arizona Medical Journal.  Each project pertaining to medical history in Arizona and we hope will eventually become a part of the Arizona Memory Project.  I have spent some time working at the AHSL reference desk, attending webinars, attending classes given by AHSL outreach librarians, attending meetings of the Pima County Community Health Task Force, and collaborating with the Interlibrary Loan department (ILL) and learning a little bit about what they do.  Recently, Jacob and I were able to visit the medical libraries at TMC, the Veteran’s Hospital and St. Mary’s Hospital, and in doing so had the chance to meet the librarians that work there and learn a little about what they do.  There are so many people to thank, so many people that were so great to work with and be around on a daily basis, and really a wide range of opportunities and areas of medical librarianship to learn about.  Now I am looking forward to May 18th when I will be attending the 2012 Medical Library Association Conference in Seattle. I feel very fortunate for the experience and grateful for all of the great people I have had the opportunity to work with. Those that I worked most closely with were Mary Holcomb, Dave Piper, Amanda Escalante, Jacob Metoxen, Diana Almader-Douglas, thank you for making each day a pleasant learning experience and for all of your support.  Thanks to Jeanette Ryan and Gary Freiburger for facilitating these opportunities.  Also thanks to Yamila, Annabelle, Brooke, Nga, Hannah, Linda, Mikel, Diana, Kathy, Laura, Jose, Ricky, Skip, Tessie, Mary, Javad and Joan.  It has been a pleasure!

760 hours later...

By Belen Bustamante, KR Scholar (Cohort 10)

For the last two semesters, I spent a great deal of my time at Woods Memorial branch Library working as a graduate assistant.  The experience I gained is immeasurable.  I learned about the many tasks involved in the daily operation of a public library.  I assisted in planning/presenting programs, and I spent many hours in daily operations. It was interesting to learn about circulation issues, how to conduct a reference interview, weeding the collection, and many other tasks.  I believe the most important thing I have learned is the importance of creating relationships with patrons and staff in an effort to provide the best possible customer service.  I enjoyed my time at Woods, and am grateful for the time spent there.  I am leaving Woods with a much greater awareness of the public library and feel that the experience I gained will help me make future career decisions.  At Woods the possibilities are endless.

A Librarian, huh!

By Belen Bustamante, KR 10 Scholar

The traditional stereotype of a librarian is that of a spinster, with her hair in a bun, glasses pushed to the end of her nose, straight and perfect posture, with her fingers to her lips saying “shush.” Unfortunately, this is what many people think of when they hear I am in Library School. They say things like “you don’t look like a librarian,” and the most recent “you don’t act like a librarian.” Many people (including my friends) expect librarians to be introverted spinsters who prefer an evening with a book than an evening with friends. They do not realize that librarians are a diverse group of people representative of many varying and unique backgrounds. They do not realize that a day as a librarian is an adventure. A librarian never knows what the patrons will ask today, a librarian cannot predict the kinds of situations she/he will face. The reality of a day in the life of a librarian is one that involves almost constant interaction with patrons, other staff, and other librarians. We are a special breed in that we fill many roles: we teach, we act as information specialists, as recreation facilitators, and provide information for everyday survival skills (information to help the homeless, on family shelters, food stamps, tax preparation, etc.). We must be knowledgeable about many things and able to communicate with many people in ways that are comfortable for them. This requires some amount of extroversion on our part and it requires us to have some “people skills.”...

Football NOT Soccer in the USA

By Irlanda Jacinto, KR 10 Scholar

This semester I am taking ethics, which is IRLS 520 for those of us who speak SIRLS. As part of my ethics class I have to write a paper on an ethical issue affecting an information environment of my choice. I decided that I wanted to study archives and communities that lack representation within this information environment. My first thought was to dedicate my semester, once again, to the lack of dance documentation in academia. However, a certain twist of fate drove me to the article “Coming to America: historical ontologies and United States soccer” by Gary Armstrong and James Rosbrook-Thompson. This, my obsession with FC Barcelona, and my deep, deep, deep, deep love for soccer drove me to investigate why soccer is not popular in the most powerful nation in the world. This is something I have always wondered about but never really researched...

Doing the Legwork, Part 1

By Julian Etienne, KR 10 Scholar

Last month I had the wonderful opportunity of visiting Austin for the 3rd Annual IMLS Preservation
Symposium that a bunch of brilliant PhD students under Prof. Patricia Galloway organized. The symposium was titled “Preservation Research Exchange: Sustaining Digital Heritage”. It was a small two-day event with its ups and downs but I appreciate any chance to interact with other students. My past conference experiences mostly involved being around professionals. I liked the sense of taking part of a scholarly community, something we should foster more at our own school...

No Books Are Illegal

By Mikel C. Stone, KR 10 Scholar

The first annual Latino Literacy Roundtable will be held on March 9th, 2012 in conjunction with the Tucson Festival of Books. The organization of this event has been a creative collaboration between REFORMA Tucson, Knowledge River students (and alums), the University of Arizona Library and the U of A's Mexican-American Studies department. For their inaugural topic, the organizers of the roundtable chose the opportunity to meditate on the crisis represented by the dismantling of Mexican-American Studies in the Tucson Unified School District. The theme, "A Focus on Children's and Young Adult Literature," one could expect to be free of controversy, breezy even. But a different wind is blowing in Arizona. Children's and young adult literature has become a site for contestation and Latino literature has by dictate of law, become taboo...

Joan Cox: Writer/Trailblazer/Awesome Landlady

By Jacob S. Metoxen, KR 10 Scholar

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The search for an apartment in a foreign college town can go one of two ways.  There's Route 1:  Do your homework.  Research neighborhoods.  Compare costs.  When you've considered your possibilities carefully, you narrow them down and make the decision on which place best suits you.  Voilà, you've got yourself an ideal apartment.  Or your search can go something like Route 2:  Wait last minute, drive around frantic smelling like yesterday, and pray there are rental options besides the fluorescent green house with the dead crow welcome mat.
After I opted for route two I learned potentially bad signs like the aforementioned crow can actually be the guide toward a better direction.  Fortunately for me, last August I was cawwwlled (couldn't resist) towards a path that introduced me to Joan Cox. I currently rent my apartment from joe-AN and upon a few conversations it has become apparent she has accomplished many things during her time in Arizona.  For instance, Joan developed a weekly 8-page newspaper called the Women's Review: a Weekly Report for Women, the first periodical for women in Arizona.  While working for radio station KTAN-NBC she interviewed first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.  She recently was published in the book Our Spirit, Our Reality: Celebrating Our Stories.  She also exercises frequently and has regularly attended writing groups for the past 15 years.
  
So what does any of this have to do with Knowledge River?  I think people like Joan epitomize what Knowledge River represents and what we strive for: a willingness to try new things and make connections while viewing the world as an unlimited landscape for learning. She has lived during times of a depression, world wars, civil rights movements, Teen Wolf Too, and the rise of digital technology.  93 years later and she still has a youthful exuberance for life.
In retrospect it's amazing how an unplanned journey has the potential to present itself as a carefully constructed decision.  During my time in Tucson and Knowledge River, Joan has stressed the importance of staying involved, taking risks for opportunity and most importantly paying attention (or as she likes to say, "You can do a lot more learnin' flappin' your ears instead of your lips").  These days the continuous flow of knowledge makes it difficult to even remember what we had for breakfast, and this wealth of information can fuel our obsession with the future.  What are we going to do next?  How are we going to get there?  How much time do we have?  As I anticipate the forthcoming jaunts in my life, many times I've overlooked the leaders who cleared the path.  And if I ever need a reminder I know I can read great examples in libraries, archives, and special collections.  But some of the trailblazers, like Joan, remain here willing to teach and learn.  

Introduction to Special Collections: A SIRLS Experience!

By Lisa R. Aguilera, KR 10 Scholar
 
The Coursework
This online course, taught by Professor Gilman, "provides an introduction to principles, practices, and discussions in the field of special collections librarianship" (from Professor Gilman's syllabus).  It is designed in a way to provide an in depth introduction for those interested in entering the field of special collections librarianship, as well as for those needing an overview and an understanding of how the field "relates to other fields aspects of information management" (from Professor Gilman's syllabus).
  
There are four different types of assignments: Discussion posts, Exercises, Article Reviews, and Papers.  The Discussion Posts are based on weekly reading assignments, pretty much the standard in online courses.  The Exercises are based on researching various historical works or individuals and how they relate to book history.  In the Article Review assignments, students choose to review an article that relates to topics in the text and book history.  
What I have learned (so far)
In the way of content and book history it has been a fascinating journey so far, and much more "fun" than I had expected.  I have really enjoyed getting re-acquainted with well-known historical works and figures but in the context of book history.  My understanding of the content has broadened and deepened, and my curiosity and interest turned to potential passion.
In taking this course, I have gained more confidence in the area of research; it has given me the opportunity to practice researching skills, whether it be for a term, an articles, or an online exhibition.  Due to the nature of the assignments, I have really been able to become more familiar and confident in searching and researching various terms and topics related to this course that I know will carry on to other coursework.
What I appreciate
What has been very important to me as a student is (1) expectations of the instructors are clear, and (2) instructors are available.  This has been a positive aspect of the SIRLS program so far.  In an online course one would think it challenging for an instructor to come across as friendly and "approachable" but Professor Gilman does just that.  Expectations are clear, responses to questions are timely, and assignments are graded with clear and helpful feedback.  This is so important for me personally to be able to learn from my mistakes and make appropriate adjustments to my work, as well as see areas if growth and strength.  
I have really enjoyed taking this course and would recommend it to anyone, whether interested in the fields of archives, special collections, public or school librarianship.

The Joy of Tree Rings

By Venessa A. Cancio, KR 10 Scholar

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Last semester I had an epiphany: in order to get ahead in this field, it is important to put yourself out there.  I had decided that in order to be dedicated to this profession, I would need to try new things, experience new environments, and to just go with the flow.  It was with this mindset that I started this new 2012 semester. I was determined to go to conferences, volunteer wherever I could, and to find an amazing internship out of state. Basically I wanted to conquer the world and look cool while doing it.

Let me tell you, in this new project that I have started -- dust all over the place, hair all a mess, and with a confused expression on my face -- I was not the epitome of cool. At the beginning of the semester, a fellow KR colleague asked me to aid in a project-building a library from scratch at the Tree Ring Lab. This was the opportunity I was waiting for! It was a new place to volunteer and a chance to gain new experiences. I was ready for my life at the lab to begin. Little did I
know that books could be so heavy...

The first few times being at the lab, it was necessary to get all of the books and journals and things into one place in order to start the whole process. In the midst of dust and mice poo, we had to take all of the forgotten treasures and move them into a cleaner room where they could be dusted and organized. This task may seem like it was just busy work -- laborious work that could have been done by just anybody. Your right, however, being able to have conversations with my fellow movers and to learn more about the study of dendrochronology (and how to actually pronounce it) was an experience all in itself. 

I learned that this would be one of few libraries, if any, being created for this discipline. I learned that dendrochronology weaves into other disciplines such as anthropology and hydrology. By being able to talk to others in the field, handle and sort through the materials, I was able to appreciate a new discipline and to get really excited about the work we would be doing and to be there for a new beginning.  

What I am trying to say is that it is important to get out there and just do something, even if it means lugging books or wondering why a scientific collection about tree rings would have Dutch cookbooks and a book on how to make firearms. It is about the experiences. It is about opening up to new things. I had preconceived notions about this project, and I know that everyone has preconceived notions about librarianship and what we should or should not do. I say, let's not assume anything. I know that I will have to continue to push myself and sometimes there will be ups and downs in this road to graduation (and even after I become a professional). But in the words of one of my favorite bands I shall say... "the end will justify the pain it took to get us there".

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