I’ve been gradually working on this post since my last Research (Reading) Week back in February 2009. What follows are a few tips for new MLIS students at Western, as well as a few things that I liked and disliked about the program.
- Buy a four-month, dry-erase wall calendar and hang it over your workspace at home. During the first week of the term when you sign up for presentations and other assignments, write the due dates on your calendar as soon as you get home after class. That will make it easier to spread out your assignments more evenly.
- In some classes, the prof has a list of 6-8 topic papers, each with a different due date, and you pick 2 or 3 to hand in over the course of the term. If there’s one optional paper due during the second week of class, hand it in and get it out of the way. In my third term, I had two courses that did this. I killed myself during that first weekend by writing two papers, but the rest of my term was much, much easier for it.
- It’s sad to say, but in most (but not all!) classes you need to hand in something exceptionally bad to get below a 70% mark. On the other hand, you have to hand in something well beyond what the prof asks to get 90%+. One exception is usually cataloguing (where you’re generally either right or so very wrong…).
- If you hate class presentations, the good news is that you’ll be much better at them by the time you complete your MLIS. :)
- Seriously, I hated public speaking before this program. During my first presentation I was a basket of nerves until I looked up and noticed that library students are the most curious, attentive, and polite audience you’ll ever have.
- If you’re presenting as part of a group, get a key to your classroom one evening or weekend and practice together using the projector (in the North Campus Building, the GRC will provide a key to unlock a class computer in exchange for a student card). Keep track of the running time and always have at least one person at the back of the room at all times to give feedback on the appearance of the slides and the speaker’s volume. Rehearse the transition phrases used to switch from one presenter to the next.
- When presenting, try not to look at the prof grading you. In one class, I thought I had bombed a presentation because the prof looked so angry when they were taking notes and reading my handout (and I had worked so hard to prepare!). I spent the next few days fretting about my grade…which turned out to be the best presentation grade I received over my three terms. Again: don’t look at the prof!
- If you don’t have previous library experience, I strongly suggest applying for co-op.
- If nothing else, get some interview experience by applying to jobs that may interest you, interviewing, and then not ranking any of them (just don’t tell the co-op office that you got this idea from me). A more polite option is to attend the Interview Workshop that is offered each term.
Recommended Courses (including the profs I had for each):
- LIS9200 – Descriptive Cataloguing Theory and Practice, a.k.a Advanced Cataloguing (Frank Lambert, now at Kent State): Unless you really, really didn’t enjoy 9002, take this. I wasn’t even actively cataloguing materials during my co-op term and I often referred back to what I had learned in this class. To be honest, I received my lowest mark of the program in this course (I messed up something on the final assignment) but I still rank this as one of my best classes.
- LIS9134 – Surveillance and Freedom in the Age of Control (John Reed): I took this class the first time it was offered and it challenged me like no other class in the program. Hands-down, this class provided the best class discussion, and the most challenging readings (at least for me, having never before read anything from Foucault, Deleuze, or Agre).
- LIS9133 – Information Equity (Ajit Pyati): I took this class at the same time as Freedom and Control and I found that the two complemented each other very well. The readings and lectures were excellent and the prof was very good at managing classroom discussion (e.g., making sure everyone got their say, very politely cutting off anyone that got long winded and threatened to monopolize the discussion, etc).
- LIS9506 – Managing Vendor Relations (Lorraine Busby – Distance Course): During my co-op term, I felt that I was lacking some knowledge about library vendors. I kept thinking that Western really needed a class that covered that topic – and was happy to discover that it did! If you haven’t worked in a library before, I highly recommend this course.
- Classes that I didn’t take but would strongly recommend: Collection Development (LIS9315), Web Design (LIS9723), Open Source Software (LIS9762).
- Jason Hammond said once on his blog that each term has its own theme (assuming three, 5-course terms): Anxiety, Anger, and Apathy. It’s very true. The trick is to harness the energy that comes from these states.
- Term 1 – Anxiety: Be anxious about your papers. Spend the first week of class finding the libraries on campus, photocopying all of the readings for the term, and brushing up on APA citations (if unfamiliar), general paper writing guidelines, and presentation tips. Seek out classmates as anxious as you for your work groups.
- Term 2 – Anger: Although I was pretty mellow during my second term, it seemed that everyone had one class or prof that they didn’t enjoy. Focus your angry energy on your assignments and just slog through the term.
- Term 3 – Apathy: Hand in as many assignments as you can before Research Week. Front-load your schedule so that when you’re at the end of the term and just want to leave, you won’t have a pile of assignments standing between you and your freedom.
- The Scot’s Corner pub (downtown, across from the main branch of the London Public Library) shows football (soccer) games. It has a semi-decent selection of beer but avoid the food (particularly the breakfast on weekends).
- I found London depressing as all hell. The city feels very segregated and there is a significant white supremacist population (fourth highest rate of hate crimes per capita, I was told). The glut of vapid SWGs (Standard Western Girls/Guys) on campus is not a banner advertisement for our species (see the archives of the now-defunct Overhead at Western blog for a sample of what to expect around campus, or the new Eavesdrop Western blog that has taken its place).
- That said, the campus is lovely during the summer term, at which time the undergrads all head home (including the SWGs).