After my love of technical services came out in a recent interview for a public librarian position, I decided I needed to get back to improve my training and experience. As a result, I discovered and applied to the Certificate of Advanced Study (CAS) program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (The Library School is on the Champaign side of the campus.) They are about the only place I found on the North American continent with a post-MLS program available in technical services. The essay from my application is below the fold, with links added.
The seeds of my library career were planted at an early age. When I asked my father a question he could not answer, instead of making something up, he took me to the library, where the reference librarians loved to answer questions. Sometimes I got the book myself; other times, we all read the book. As a result of one such trip to the library, we started eating whole wheat bread and natural peanut butter.
I began working in libraries while studying linguistics at the University of North Dakota. As I shelved the materials, I noticed some that seemed out of place. I mentioned these errors,to my supervisors, and more often than not (but not always), I was correct. As time passed, I looked forward to working in the library more than studying linguistics, and the library looked forward to having me there. They suggested I consider a career in libraries.
When I attended Indiana University's School of Library Science at Indianapolis, I focused my studies and projects on technical services and academic libraries. I took both cataloging courses, as well as the Introduction to Technical Services course and Organization and Representation of Information and Knowledge. Other specifically academic courses included Education of Information Users and Academic Library Management. Projects in Collection Development and Evaluation of Resources and Services focused on academic libraries. I graduated after the summer term of 2009.
Cataloging appeals to me in several ways. First, there is the organization aspect of putting something in the place where it belongs. If library users want to access the information, it has to be where they can find it. If they can't find the information, it is almost as if they don't have it. The library where I am currently volunteering has only about 14% cataloged; many of the items that we have can only be found randomly.
Secondly, I like working behind the scenes. Throughout high school and into college, I managed some sports teams. I contributed, but only a few people who really knew our conference knew how much. Catalogers work out of the public eye as well. When a cataloger does a good job, nobody notices; when he does not do well, everyone complains.
Since finishing my degree, I have not been able to find library employment. Many of the positions advertised require experience (I have almost none); many others are cataloging and something else, such as serials control or metadata; some are exclusively electronic resources.
I am looking to do two things with the Certificate of Advanced Study program. First, I want to broaden, deepen, and refresh my cataloging knowledge. In the two cataloging courses I took, we only had one assignment covering serials (creating six records), one covering audio recordings (two records), and one covering video recordings (two records). Missing from coverage were maps, musical scores, and rare books. Although there was one assignment using ContentDM and DublinCore to describe photographs, most of what was taught used the MARC format. I need better training in metadata, serials, and non-print cataloging to compete with the other applicants.
Second, I want to use my time in the Urbana-Champaign area to gain actual hands-on experience. I was not able to find an internship when I studied in Indianapolis. I sought and found math teaching jobs for which I was already qualified. When I moved to Missouri after completing my degree, I moved to a location with only one MLS-staffed academic library within 70 miles in any direction. Champaign has at least ten universities or colleges within 60 miles, including those in Danville, Bloomington-Normal, and Mattoon-Charleston. Whereas I have been cataloging the collection at the Edgar Springs Community Library, I am the only MLS affiliated with it, and am not learning as much as I would with expert supervision. With assistantships available at the libraries of UIUC, the possibilities of internships with area institutions, and the practicum experience, I should have sufficient experience that hiring libraries will want to talk to me, and acquired sufficient knowledge in the course of my studies and work experience that one will want to hire me.
I am a member of the ALA and the Missouri Library Association. I have been working with a mentor through ALA Connect to improve the presentation of my cover letters and curricula vitae; the results have not been as impressive as I would have hoped. The MLA has regional networking meetings which I have attended, both in the Springfield and Columbia-Jefferson City area. I found out about one opening at the University of Missouri through a contact there. Less formally, I subscribe to Autocat and participate in #libchat on Twitter when I can. When I was looking for suggestions on how best to catalog the Edgar Springs Community Library with next to no budget (and no tax support), I sent requests to Autocat and the Listservs of MLA. An off-list reply from Autocat recommended LibraryThing, which is what I have been using. Most of the description required by AACR2 is there, but the format is not MARC. Since I am searching for employment in many kinds of colleges, including Christian colleges, I also joined the Association of Christian Librarians. ACL offered some mentoring, but since I was already working with an ALA mentor in the course of my job search, I decided to continue with just the latter until I obtain a professional position.
Last summer I began cataloging the Edgar Springs library. Most of the items have LibraryThing records available for copy cataloging, but not all. In some cases, I have to try four or five possible sources to copy the record if the item is not widely held. If all else fails, I can often find a record of the book from Amazon; those records are often lacking in detail, and original cataloging can be quicker. Depending on what is included in the copied record, I add Library of Congress subject headings (often copied from WorldCat) as tags, call numbers (often from OCLC Classify, but sometimes from an old copy of Dewey), and summaries for works of fiction. I usually have to add some elements of the physical description.
I am comfortable in an academic environment. I began my first master's program, mathematics, in the fall of 1997. The history of mathematics course used the library more than others. That course featured a library research paper ; I made use of the libraries not only at Saint Louis University, but also at Washington University for that paper. After receiving my MA, I looked to teach in order to determine whether it would be worth my time to pursue a PhD in mathematics. I found a full-time position in Virginia. As the years progressed, I discovered that my favorite courses to teach were ones where I could remember not knowing the material. I was more effective with the set theory and logic of the math for liberal arts sequence than with the introductory algebra I had known almost forever.
There are many courses available, both at GSLIS and through WISE, that would seem to help me achieve my goals. As I discovered the existence of the program, Meg Edwards mentioned some of the courses available and told me to contact Kathryn La Barre, who suggested others. After looking through the catalog, I found some others that might be useful when I achieve a library management position, and some that just sound interesting. The LIS courses I would intend to take include these (subject to change) :
- 452, Foundations of information (4)
- 590MD, Metadata theory & practice (4)
- 590CN, Cataloging nonprint materials (2)
- 590BC, Rare book cataloging (2)
- 590X42, Music cataloging (WISE from UW- Milwaukee : 3)
- 590DP, Document processing (4)
- 590I, Indexing and abstracting (4)
- 590TC, Thesaurus construction (4)
- 590S, HR management (4)
- 591, Practicum (2)
- CAS Project (8)
For the Project, my early idea is to do something with RDA (Resource Description and Access), the replacement for AACR2. By the time I finish my coursework, RDA will have been implemented by the Library of Congress, and other libraries will have either adopted it or made a definite decision not to. Many catalogers will be familiar with the new standards; all of those with brand new degrees will know RDA better than AACR2. A conversion manual should no longer be necessary; a study of how it has been implemented may be more relevant. Many of the complaints I am hearing relate to the cost of the RDA manual, the inadequacy of today's computer systems to handle the changes brought by RDA, and spelling out all the abbreviations.