It’s Official!

Having received the final evaluation of my Master’s Portfolio, my graduation is official!  I finished three degrees (and two certificates) in eight years, after returning to community college as a student over 40.  During that time, I moved three times, got divorced, raised my now-teenaged son, and, I guess, managed it all pretty OK!  Of course, I got lots of help from others, mentors, co-workers, my kid, my parents, U et al. (despite everything), and most especially, IUPUI CAPS.

Reflection: 2.3 Analyze and Evaluate Systems

The artifact I chose to demonstrate this standard is probably the one I enjoyed creating the most, and that I am most proud of.  It’s also the one I’m most likely to continue to keep adding to.  The Breadth and Depth of Digital Libraries assignment required me to evaluate many different libraries based on criteria such as purpose, information and services provided, and any other distinctive features.  This assignment demonstrates my ability to determine relevant and accurate knowledge and to respond to diversity in user needs.  It also required me to assess the impact of current and emerging situations on the design and implementation of services and resource development.

When locating digital libraries to evaluate, I did my best to find the most diverse resources possible.  This allowed me to become more familiar with resources that might fall outside the realm of my typical interests, allowing me to provide more relevant information to patrons, and to respond to diversity in user needs.

Emerging technologies impact the implementation of digital libraries, most often by filling information needs in more useful ways.  For example, Arnetminer uses cutting-edge technology to provide the most relevant information to users.  It is always updating.  Open-source or crowd-sourcing is having tremendous impact on digital libraries, providing access to, if not more accurate information, more niche information that is much more relevant to users as well.  For example, The Chinese Text Project is open-source and “the largest database of pre-modern Chinese texts in existence.”  The Free Quilt Block Library allows color and pattern swapping, and was created by a software engineer running on a platform that she created. Modern technology allows for this diversity of systems and services in a variety of settings.

Reflection: 2.2 Educate Users

The artifact I chose to represent my mastery of this standard was an assignment requiring me to evaluate the reference services of different libraries using different techniques and methods to retrieve, evaluate and synthesize information, as well as to interact successfully with the patrons.  This interaction occurred across three different technology platforms, phone, email, and chat, and for each platform I contacted multiple libraries.

On the whole, I found the email reference service to be lacking, and very often more a vehicle for promoting the institution than providing a successful reference interaction, if a response was received at all.  Phonecall interaction was somewhat better, but offered lists of resources that I, then, had no immediate access to.  Using the phone, I would still have had to go to a library or get on the computer to find a second time what the librarian had just found the first time.   Chat reference services I found to be the best of all, in one case offering excellent resources that were, for the most part, immediately accessible from the chat window.  In the second case, the pace of the chat conversation allowed for an excellent reference interview.

Evaluating these interactions, techniques, methods, and platforms from the perspective of the patron gave me insight into the best ones to use to help them locate  information resources and tools.  As a result, I believe this artifact shows my understanding and mastery of this standard.

Reflection: 2.1 Analyze and Identify Needs

The reader’s advisory and reference observation assignments demonstrate my ability to analyze and identify the information needs of diverse communities of users.  These diverse information needs are represented in the assignments by the fact that they each focus on a different type of information, reference vs. reader’s advisory service.  In evaluating the techniques of other professionals performing these services, I was able to better understand what worked and what didn’t.  As a result, I better understood the concepts, principles, and techniques of reference and user services.

Both assignments also provided examples of the methods used to interact successfully with individuals to provide consultation, mediation, and guidance in their use of information, in some instances, while providing examples of what not to do in others.  For example, during the reader’s advisory interviews, one professional was fairly helpful in finding what I was looking for, albeit after a rocky start, while the other paraprofessional didn’t understand what I was asking for, and did not seem to be familiar with a basic reference interview.  The reference observation assignment provided more examples of less than helpful service.

The reader’s advisory observation also provided examples of the techniques used to retrieve, evaluate, and synthesize information.  However, the techniques the librarian relied upon seemed to be simply her own knowledge.  This technique was more successful than I would have expected, although the paraprofessional who basically did the same was much less successful.  My own exploration with online, self-service tools seemed to yield better results.

Reflection: 3.1 Design and apply policies and procedures

All three parts of the Collection Development plan, given as separate assignments but taken together, demonstrate my ability to design and apply policies and procedures that support the selection and acquisition of information resources for particular communities of users.  In this instance, the community of users the resources are selected and acquired for are those interested in reading poetry.

The plan addresses concepts and issues related to the lifecycle of the collection, from evaluating its current strength and describing the strengths that would be desired, to setting out selection and deselection criteria.  The lifecycle is further addressed in the section relating to usage stats in both Collection HQ and evergreen, as well as the discussion of in-house use.  The methods of related to acquisition and deselecting of resources recommends basing an item’s lifecycle on its usage stats.

Discussion of the features and failings of Collection HQ and Evergreen demonstrate my ability to analyze technologies.  And because vendor evaluation is based on making spoken-word poetry available in the collection, this portion of the plan demonstrates my ability to recognize and implement relevant technological improvements.

Although I do feel the plan meets the standards of the ALA Core Competencies for this criteria, I can’t really say that I feel the assignment resulted in a comprehensive, formal plan.  I think that, were I to have to create a plan “for real,” it would look a lot different, although many of the same components would be included.  I would likely expand the documents here to include something about the organization, cataloging, and classification of the collection.

Reflection: 3.2 Manage Collections

Part 3 of the Collection Development Plan and the Video Recording Collection in Omeka demonstrate my ability to manage, evaluate, and preserve virtual collections of information resources.  The plan addresses concepts, issues, and methods related to the acquisition and disposition of resources, including evaluation and selection, as well as concepts, issues, and methods related to maintenance of collections.  The catalog demonstrates my developmental, descriptive, and evaluative skills needed to organize recorded knowledge and information resources, including mastery of the systems of cataloging, metadata, indexing, and classification standards and methods used to organize recorded knowledge and information.

In forming evaluative questions to ask regarding the collection within the plan, I address inclusion of a wide variety of perspectives regarding age ranges, ethnicities, and classes, among other social indicators.  I also recommend considering usage statistics when acquiring or disposing of materials.  These considerations might also apply to maintenance of the collection.  However, the section on resource sharing assists in maintenance as well, in filling gaps in the collection.

I used Dublin Core to catalog the video artifacts in Omeka, including most, if not all, of the 15 standard elements, thereby displaying the descriptive skills needed to organize recorded knowledge.  This system of cataloging requires the use of metadata adhering to classification standards to organize material and make it discoverable.

Taken together these artifacts demonstrate my ability to develop and manage collections.

Reflection: 3.3 Uphold Collection Standards

The associated portion of the collection development plan, (assigned in three separate pieces) represents my understanding of the ethics, values, and foundational principles of the library and information profession, as well as the legal framework within which libraries and information agencies operate.

The plan created includes not only a mission statement focused on community needs, but incorporates elements of the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights.  This portion of the plan commits to providing information to anyone without bias, either toward the requestor or toward the material requested.  It also asserts that the library will remain neutral, leaving choice of material and the responsibility for that choice, with the patron.  Additionally, the plan includes a process for requesting reconsideration of material, in order to preserve the best interests of the community as a whole, rather than catering to the preferences of one or a small group of individuals.  In this way, the library and information professionals fulfill their role in the promotion of democratic principles and intellectual freedom.

This portion of the plan also indicates an understanding of the legal framework within which libraries and information agencies operate, as it includes a fairly detailed analysis of the library’s position within the local government and the community as a whole.  The library described is a consortium member, a political division of the city, and a taxing entity.  Far from standing alone, the library is integrated with this structured, legal framework.  Taken altogether, this portion of the plan demonstrates my ability to uphold ethical and legal standards in acquiring, leasing, preserving, and providing access to information resources.

Reflection: 4.1 Perform Basic Managerial Functions

The artifacts associated with this standard demonstrate my ability to perform basic managerial functions.  One consists of a projected budget, working with a real-world example, and projecting 10% increase in funding.  The other required that I use a real-world job listing to create interview questions.

The budget assignment demonstrates my understanding of the principles of planning and budgeting in libraries and other information agencies, as well as the concepts behind, and methods for, assessment and evaluation of library services and their outcomes.  In order to project the budget with a 10% increase in funds, I needed to analyze the collection and facilities expenditures to determine how the budget could be better apportioned.  In the end, I eliminated microfilm purchases, reduced the budget for periodicals, left book purchases the same, and put most of the increase into building and equipment improvements.

The job listing assignment demonstrates my understanding of the principles of effective personnel practices and human resource development.  In crafting the interview questions, I tied talent characteristics directly to the qualifications and duties required of the open position.  I then tried to form interview questions that would reveal these characteristics.  Overall, I thought this a useful strategy for evaluating potential performance on the job, and believe the assignment prepared me fairly well for any future hiring I may have the opportunity to do.  Together with the budgeting assignment, I believe I can perform basic managerial functions with some competence.

Reflection: 4.2 Communicate Effectively to a Variety of Audiences

The associated artifacts demonstrate my understanding of the principles and methods of advocacy used to reach specific audiences to promote and explain concepts and services.  The “Social Responsibility” assignment relates the importance of advocating to and for a range of patron subgroups while focusing on the local service community.  The “Library History of Korea” assignment promotes and explains the need for significant academic study of Korean history within the field of library science to the specific audience of library historians.  Taken together, they represent my ability to communicate effectively to a variety of audiences.

Advocacy in library service can take several forms, either advocating for patrons, or for the library and its services, or both.  Communicating effectively on either party’s behalf requires understanding of both the audience advocated to, as well as the people and institutions we’re advocating for.  The ALA’s Library Bill of Rights provides a framework to assist with advocacy.  In the “Social Responsibility” artifact, I consider the recommendation to focus advocacy locally, as spreading advocacy too thin can interfere with that understanding.

Similarly, understanding of the audience advocated to and the institution advocated for applies to the Korean Library History project.  The arguments made and issues presented are tailored specifically to library historians, and focused more narrowly on Korea than the whole of library history, or even Asian library history.  I would argue that understanding of the community advocated to and for, along with a focused subject are necessary to communicate advocacy effectively to a variety of audiences, and both of my artifacts demonstrate that.