Thursday, September 15, 2005

Finally Posting

Well, here I am: finally coming up for air to write a post about my first few weeks as an MLS student. Life here in Chapel Hill and with SILS is going well. Since I probably have not been in contact with many of you reading this for a while, a brief update on what I have been doing since arriving in Chapel Hill in mid-July.

Mid-July? Yes, you read correctly. One of the best moves I made last summer was when I responded to a fellow SILS student's posting to the new student listserv asking for a cat sitter for a month while she was doing some traveling. Getting to the area a month before most students are heading down is a great idea, especially if you are in my position (homeless, jobless, and clueless). Within three weeks, I had found a place to live and a temporary research assistantship in the Botany Section of the Couch Biology Library. Getting to know the area, and more importantly, the bus system, before being caught up in the whirlwind of classes, studies, work schedules, meetings, and (gasp!) social endeavors (yes, there is life in grad school) is making my transition from undergrad to grad school much smoother. Now that school and work have started, I'm just too busy to get on the wrong bus...

Speaking of work: as you probably know, jobs/internships/assistantships are just as important to an MLS student as great classes and good grades. An employer is going to be more interested in the combination of the MLS degree and on-the-job experience than just the degree alone. When you look for that perfect assistantship, it doesn't hurt to be creative, and it also doesn't hurt to do a little networking: I found my (fantastic!) assistantship in the Botany library through going to a SILS happy hour less than 48 hours after leaving Minneapolis. Believe me, that was difficult: I am not in the habit of going to a bar by myself in a town I am unfamiliar with to meet people I do not know. But being shy/intimidated by library science students is about as logical as being intimidated by librarians. After learning about the open position in the Botany library by word-of-mouth, I contacted my present supervisor and got an interview. The opening ended up never getting officially advertised because there was enough interest generated through word-of-mouth, so I owe my opportunity to gain experience in a specialized branch library (and in a science library, no less!) to a great extent to socializing/networking with other students. Plus, they are fascinating, fun people.

When I'm not working on special projects in the Botany library, I am taking classes in Reference, Collection Development, Information Ethics, and Cultural Institutions (note: I will try to update the link to the current Information Ethics syllabus when I can, and the other two classes are taught by a professor who has not posted syllabi on the web). Reference and Collection Development are, as yet, the only two of my classes that have begun yet: Cultural Institutions begins this Saturday, and Information Ethics will begin in October (to allow time for students participating in an international education program to arrive at UNC from Copenhagen and Singapore). I am enjoying my classes so far, and am very much looking forward to the others starting.

Wait, wait! There's more: however, I have run out of time for going into detail about what we are covering in class, how I am getting involved with student organizations, and current issues and discussions that are buzzing around SILS right now. Stay tuned for a bit more detailed news in the near future!


Alec said...

Welcome, Betsy! I'm not sure we have met, but here's a big virtual "hello!" I'm glad to see you are getting settled in a bit. Those first few weeks are always busy and chaotic, whether you are starting grad school, or starting your first professional position. I've been on the job almost five weeks, and I still have yet to find and purchase a couch for my living room! :)

I'm glad to see you've discovered how useful networking is on the grad school scene. Even in these days of e-mail, blogs, IM, and other social software, we all often find about about things at the last minute through casual conversation.

And, may I second your recommendation for seeking assistantships! I don't think I could have gotten my first professional position outside of graduate school without my two years working in the university's central reference library. Not only is it desirable for employers, it's good for you, too, as to connect the master's program with actual library work. I was fortunate to go to Illinois, where they have several graduate assistantships available.

May I ask how or why you chose UNC? I hear they are a great program! I also hear that they are one of the few LIS programs that require a thesis for graduation.

Barbara said...

Woo hoo! Hello, Betsy! Glad to hear things are going well, and I'm pleased to hear you're enjoying your classes. Library school gets a lot of bad press, but I liked most of my classes.

I'd say more but I'm totally pooped - we did a full day Teach-In on Hurricane Katrina with three BI sessions here and there... all stimulating but now I'm wiped out.