Give me the information. All of it!
April 14, 2015 3:26 PM   Subscribe

For various reasons, I've been considering going back to school for information sciences. To aid me in this I've arranged to volunteer for the Texas Library Association's annual conference happening this week, which also means I get to see the exhibitions and go to networking stuff. Hooray! But now I'm getting overwhelmed. So much vocab I don't know! Out of all of the libraries in all of the places in all of the world, Mefites, what sorts of programs should I be talking to?

My Questions:
1. What kinds of basic things should I know about info science/trends in libraries so that I can say something a bit more concrete than "I LIKE DATA!" I feel like I don't even know what terms to google.
2. Based on my 'about me', what kinds of places should I be talking up while I soak up conference stuff? Anything I should avoid? What should I be telling people to indicate that I am a person worth networking with? Am I?
3. More in general, are there places who wouldn't necessarily attend a library conference but might be looking for someone with an InfoSci background and who I should be networking with?
4. Any exciting information about libraries and information science that you want to throw at me? I love that stuff!

About me: I currently work in tourism and really like the historical/educational part of that, so I museums and historical archives are really interesting to me (the UT Ransom Center is my favorite place on earth). I've been volunteering as a page for the central public library, so I sort of know how such places are organized. I've also worked in the past for non-profits organizing donor and resource databases. I have a general social-justice lefty sort of mindset and the organization skills of a old-timey postmaster. I'm really good at service and face to face stuff, but one of the chief reasons for the career change is a hope for a regular schedule and more project based work. (And this is removed from the main ? so forgive me if it seems but since EVERY DAMN PERSON who I've mentioned this too feels like they need to bring it up: Yes. Employability is big question for me and may be the deciding factor in this decision. Low pay, for reasons, is not a factor.) I will either be in Texas or in Washington, DC for the forseeable future.

I know that I'm not really interested in working with children's collections or in schools. Other than that, I want to know everything else!
posted by theweasel to Education (7 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I've been saving all the IT, data, nerdy, library related posts here for a while (like, years). I am so much like you, so I will be watching this with interest! For me, employability was indeed the deciding factor - I just couldn't justify dropping the $ on a Masters unless it was *for a job*. I got into several programs (US) and would have majored in digital libraries/information architecture/etc. I've been looking for loopholes ever since. The other things that seem to appeal to me, and might appeal to you, are: web dev type stuff (database administration or development), data science or policy research (take statistics! STATISTICS), data analyst, etc. I have a degree in another field, and am working on a 2yr (cheaper!) degree in library tech mostly for fun. I currently have a refernce desk type job in a nontraditional setting that I really enjoy. I'm happy to talk about my current work, which Master's I looked at and got into etc. if you PM me.

Oh, I have like a billion "favorited" questions, but feel free to rifle through =)
posted by jrobin276 at 3:45 PM on April 14, 2015

I will add that my current job is 9-5, is a mix of short enquiries and longer research projects, and is sort of social-justicy (freedom of info!). I also really joyed my job as a content developer (go find all the artisinal cheese makers in the state of Maine? YES), though it didn't pay as much!
posted by jrobin276 at 4:35 PM on April 14, 2015

Best answer: OMG that is the best library conference in the US. YAY. I was supposed to go speak last year (about MeFi) and got sick and am still kicking myself that I couldn't go. I've been twice before, it's really the best. Here is my advice that is only sort of lined up with your questions....

1. For TLA, get the app, makes it a lot easier to figure out wtf is going on. Don't worry about the wording, if you are going back to school you'll pick this stuff up. Do you use the internet? Interested in current events? Just go from there.
2. Go to meetups (I am a huge fan of the ALATT stuff nice young fun social people) where people go to meet up. There should be a n00bs sort of meeting, that would be fun. If there are other topics you are into, see if they have a social (the GLBTQ groups usually have a social and it's a lot of fun and pretty all-inclusive) and just say hi to people. Opener "Hey this is my first TLA I'm thinking of going back to library school. What are you excited about seeing at the conference?"
3. IT companies especially ones that do taxonomy stuff. Non-profits who need someone to manage their databases or web interfaces to their information. Companies who need someone to manage their communities. Info science is VAST and you probably want to narrow it down to interest areas. Do you like computers? Can you use one? Can you code (It's fine if the answer is no)? What do you like to do with your computer? Can you teach people how to do things? Are you a people person? Not a people person? Etc etc.
4. Big issues form my vantage point are people dealing with the business model for digital content and libraries in particular trying to manage sharing that stuff when the laws are ... uclear on some of that. So: copyright, DRM, digital publishing, born digital content, the Googlization of everything, the walled garden of a lot of operating systems, especially popular ones like the iphone/ipad world, the digital divide and the information poor.

OMG I am such an old timey postmaster. See if there is a SRRT (social responsibilities round table) meetup or OIF (office for intellectual freedom) and check those people out. They are nerds, though not online nerds so much (some of them are) but even though the profession is pretty left leaning, you will likely find your people there. Tel them I said hi.
posted by jessamyn at 4:43 PM on April 14, 2015

Best answer: Disclaimer: I have never (NOT ONCE) been to TLA...but I have a masters in library and information science and have lived/worked/studied in Texas since 1996. I have oodles of librarian friends that go every year and LOVE IT. It is an outstanding conference for the most part. It has just never fit into the work I was doing (and the free time I had) enough to make it worthwhile to go.

TLA (IMO) tends to skew somewhat heavily towards public libraries, school libraries, and a little bit of academic/special collections thrown in. If that's your jam - great. If not, there will still be a lot of good people to talk to.

The bad news... is that a lot of interesting places tend to look down their noses at TLA because public and school libraries have historically been less-prestigious.... idiots gonna idiot. What that means for you, is that there will be a big slice of the information sciences pie missing from TLA. In direct answer to your #3 - holy heck, yes.

There's a ton more I could say, but my main advice is just enjoy the conference and let the networking chips fall where they may. There are a lot of Texas things I'm not a big fan of, but good golly are people friendly here. You will have your ear talked off. Given your interests, I would maybe try and hit up the academic/higher ed things a little more.

Feel free to PM me.
posted by pantarei70 at 6:28 PM on April 14, 2015

Best answer: I have no comment on the conference or which programs you should go for, because I did my librarianship study in Australia, where the study part is completely different. In terms of things you might be interested in though, I would focus on things like systems coordinator type roles, where you'd be looking after more techy sides of things. So things like the ILMS and any other discovery systems and components like federated search, OpenURL link resolvers, ERMS, digital repositories/archives, data and metadata wrangling, those sorts of things. Larger institutions/conglomerates are likely to have those types of tools rather than small local public libraries. The tech is currently at a stage where although many libraries have upgraded their systems considerably, there are a lot that are still only partly upgraded, or are still figuring out which direction to go.

There's a lot of good project type work involved in that area, and the ability to interact well with human beings can help a lot, since (gross generalisation here) many techy people have, um, less than optimal communication skills. Being able to work in two mindsets - how the technology functions and how the people who use the technology actually use it - is also incredibly handy. I'm technically a reference librarian, but have a lot of technical skills and aptitude and it's really valuable to have that ability to interpret one stakeholder to the other. "But the software is meant to function like this!" says developer. "But the users actually need it do this," says you. "I can never find what I'm looking for!" says user. "Let me show you this nifty little trick," says you. That kind of thing.
posted by Athanassiel at 7:01 PM on April 14, 2015

Also, yes, feel free to memail me if you like.
posted by Athanassiel at 7:01 PM on April 14, 2015

Best answer: Have you considered instead becoming an archivist? I see more and more archivist job postings and sometimes wish I had taken more archive courses as I do have a background in history and love doing- and helping people do- historical research.
posted by mareli at 5:54 AM on April 15, 2015

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