Capstone: On to the last hurdle….

hurdleSo this is it, we’ve finally presented our Capstone project “General Practitioners’ Use of Open Access for Information Seeking in Patient Care: An Irish Perspective,” to people outside our little group and we’re down to one last hurdle after this marathon year. I feel like this is a really good time to look back and reflect a bit on the process so far.

This is my second Masters and I distinctly remember my frustration at this stage in the process during the last one. I was frustrated because I was working on a project on my own for such a long time that I was almost completely overwhelmed by it all. It just felt like it would never be over. This time around I have to admit I have felt a very small portion of that frustration but overall the Capstone process has been a much better experience for me. The reason it has been a better experience is because:

1)      I have a supportive and (to be completely honest) pretty awesome team around me.

2)      This project is a proper research project – something to really get our teeth stuck into and we have learnt ALOT and because we’re a team rather than individuals we’ve been able to go bigger and better.

3)      The presentation has reinvigorated my interest in the entire project just in time for that push for the end.

For me, the number one most important thing has been the team element (though in the beginning that was something I was really worried about). We have been involved in teamwork since the very beginning and we are all aware that sometimes teamwork can be a difficult thing; personality clashes, leadership issues, levels of commitment etc. can all make teamwork a little bit stressful. Thankfully, my team for Capstone have been brilliant. I think that comes from the great level of communication between us. Frustrations are raised and spoken about before they become bigger problems. Many of the group have been working and trying to do Capstone at the same time but emails, texts, adding to our blog and both formal and informal meetings have ensured that all members feel included and have avenues to raise concerns. We have also been happy to let people pay to their strengths or take on parts of the project that suit them better rather than all of us trying to do everything. I would go as far as to say if I was asked to speak to the SILS class next year and give them advice, it would be choose your team well or if you can’t choose your team, try your very best to ensure that there is good communication from the very beginning.

The group element has also allowed us to take on a relatively big research project in a short time period. In fact I have learnt so much from the project; we have taken on a literature review, surveys, interviews and of course data analysis. I think because we have 5 people to take on work it has meant we have been able to undertake a project that can really add to the body of evidence needed for the health library service in this country and can make truly relevant recommendations. Being involved in something this big, and hopefully useful, is really exciting.

The presentation, though terrifying, has been brilliant. The only person who knew anything about my previous Masters thesis was my supervisor but the presentation allowed us to show off our hard work and get some feedback. Sometimes, when you are really involved in a project, you can get a bit lost in it. Of course, you’re putting in the hard work so you think the project is interesting and useful but you are constantly nervous that others might not see it that way. I really felt that it was a fantastic opportunity to present our work in a professional manner and to hear from both academics and working library and information professionals. I really appreciated their inputs, as did the rest of the team. The feedback has really helped us to refocus and given us the push that we needed to stay enthusiastic about the project right to the end.

I’m really looking forward to finishing our data analysis and writing up the final report. I hope that our research is really able to add something to the health library service in Ireland because everyday I’m more and more impressed by the work that health librarians are doing in this country especially in the current climate.


Final Reflection on the MLIS

I have mentioned in a previous post that I had done my research and I was prepared when I began this course but even still this year has been surprising for many reasons. After completing my English MA in 2009 I felt that librarianship was the next step for me but student loans meant working for a few years in order to finance another year in college. One thing I have discovered about myself in the past few years is that when I am determined to do something I will put everything I have into making it happen. Starting the MLIS was such a great day for me because after three years of working in retail I finally felt like I was doing what I am supposed to be doing. This feeling of being in the right place has remained throughout the year and the support from lecturers, fellow students, librarians and other information professionals I have met at conferences etc. has only served to convince me that I was born to be a librarian.

In the first semester I took on four modules, Information Architecture, Management for Information Professionals, Information and Reference Services and Research Methods. Information Architecture was a really eye-opening module and I found it fascinating because it was something far outside my comfort zone. It was the first time I really realised the extent of an information professional’s skills and how they can be used in different careers. In semester 2 I took on Digital Libraries, Research Methods 2, Organisation of Information, Cataloguing and Metadata, Contemporary Issue in Professional Practice and Information Professional as Teacher and Collaborator. I had a class everyday and this semester was a lot of hard work and quite a bit of stress but I really enjoyed it because I really took a lot from the modules. Not to say that the first semester wasn’t very enjoyable but I found this semester I was truly immersed in the library world and I really began developing my thoughts on the profession and its future. I found Digital Libraries fascinating and it was a class where we were encouraged to read blogs and follow Twitter to follow the ever occurring changes and issues. Personally, I see librarians as teachers and collaborators so I really enjoyed my teaching module and I think that I learnt a great deal of relevant information in that class and the group work each week allowed us to be creative. However, it was my Contemporary Issues module that I was really encouraged to reflect and to go out into the world and attend events and conferences outside the MLIS bubble. This made the second semester very special for me because speaking with librarians and information professionals and being encouraged and supported by them means a lot to someone finding their feet and I only hope I will be able to provide that kind of encouragement to others in the future. There is so much benefit in having a network and I really appreciate the kindness and generosity of the library community.

I used to worry that my lack of work experience in libraries would hamper my progress in the course but I have learnt that my determination, hard work and willingness to learn and throw myself into new things is also very important in a career as a librarian. You have to be willing to adapt, ask questions and be aware of what you don’t know and find out. When I started I thought I was the opposite of tech savvy but after a few short months I can use loads of open source systems to create websites etc. I have used Google Sites, Omeka and of course, WordPress. Now I would love to do a Web Publishing course and I feel very confident that could master at least the basic of these skills.

There are a couple of things that I think would make useful additions to the course. I have mentioned I would like to see the Rare Books module brought back for those who are interested in Special Collections. Perhaps more collaboration between archives and SILS would be beneficial for both parties, where archivists could benefit from something like Digital Libraries and the librarians could get some archival expertise. I have just completed an environmental scan looking at copyright and DRM in the digital world. I feel like a module or at least some classes dealing with this would be very useful. Also, things like budgeting or proposal writing could be useful additions, even just some guest lectures by people with this kind of experience would be great.

At the end of the day I have gotten so much from this experience that I can’t even put it down in words. Like I have said, it’s been the hardest but the best year of my life so far and I sincerely appreciate all the people that have helped me get to this point. I especially want to thank my boyfriend Jono who is extremely supportive and helped keep me sane throughout the process. The next step now is the Capstone and hopefully to get some work experience over the summer to put my newly acquired skills to the test. I’m very excited about the future and although, times are tough, I truly believe this is the right career path for me so I’m more than willing to put in the hard work that is required and I know I’m going to enjoy every minute of it even when I’m stressed and tired.

So to sum up, its May, I’m finished classes and I’m exhausted, I’ve felt very stressed and under pressure for at least 4 weeks straight but I’m happy, I’m feeling prepared, I’m excited and I’m looking forward to the next challenge.

Digital Humanities

I have spoken previously about how technology is changing education and I have to say I think we are headed in a very exciting direction in relation to the humanities. Digital humanities is the study of how we can use computers and technology for arts and humanities research. It is a rapidly growing area and this is important for us as information professionals because there are gaps in this area that we are very capable of filling. Digital humanities is essentially all about engagement with information in a digital form. It is about allowing people to engage with a topic in a deeper way, creating visuals or stories that are interesting and interactive. Simon Tanner gave a very interesting talk on the subject at the A&SL Seminar in March, you can find it here. The talk was entitled, “To educate, enlighten and entertain – If you build it will they come and help?” I think this title outlines some of the important factors in digital humanities and why the area is so important for the future.

1. To educate – digital humanities provide us with the opportunity to educate in a way that wasn’t possible in the past. Imagine a architecture enthusiast being able to view digital renderings of some of the world’s most famous buildings for example, perhaps a history buff being able to view the maps around the building to see how the town had changed or maybe an artist being able to study the frescos inside without them ever having to leave their seats by a laptop. These things are all possible within the digital arts and humanities scope.

2. To enlighten – Although many could say that this is similar to education, I can see this going further; perhaps explaining parts of the past that we may not have understood before, teaching us things about ourselves, allowing for insight into the future even. Read this article about Gettysburg for example where spatial humanities and technology have combined to allow us to understand the ‘why’ of the situation.

3. To entertain – The interest people have in their own histories has been well documented in recent years with exponential growth in the genealogy sector. As a personal hobby people are looking into the past to find information about themselves, their families and little nuggets of history that tug on the heart-strings or inspire them. Take a look at The Diary of Mary Martin, although entertaining may not exactly be the right word, the diary is fascinating, whether you are studying Irish soldier’s in the First World War, or the 1916 Rising, or whether you just happen upon it and are caught up in this extraordinary story.

The thing I especially love about this area is that allows people to learn things they may not even have thought about; it allows people to see things in places they’ll never visit and go back through history; maybe even be inspired to learn more, write, create art etc. I also like how there is so much scope for people and communities to get involved. Crowd-sourcing is a hot topic here and I think it provides us with an excellent opportunity because we can see from projects like the Bentham Project that people are interested in helping and getting involved.

So if people can get involved and do the crowd-sourcing part, what are the opportunities for us? Well, we need to do the digitization, we need to think about digital preservation, how do people find your project, do the items contain relevant metadata, how is the crowd-sourced information edited and verified? There are plenty of areas that need a trained information professional.

For those interested in this area in Ireland there are PhDs available in Cork, Dublin, Galway and Maynooth. See here for more info. There are many more opportunities worldwide.

Final Round Up – Thursday and Friday

So today is the last day of #HLSDITL. It’s been a really enjoyable experience and it was great to see my own classmates get involved and to become someway acquainted with my peers in different countries. I found it interesting to see what different modules people were taking; like modules concerned with legal issues pertaining to copyright and business and management modules that deal with practical things like budgeting. I think some of these modules could be extremely useful but I guess completing a MLIS like this in one year means that some things need to take priority over others and these are things I can focus on when I begin working in the field. CPD is something I will be taking very seriously. I also want to do some CSS and I’d love to do some work on rare books.

I’ll give a very quick run through of my Thursday and Friday. Yesterday (Thurs) I had my Issues in Professional Practice module. For this module we have to build our PLN’s and e-Portfolios on WordPress. A few of my classmates were having trouble with creating menus so I volunteered to go in an hour earlier and help them out. I made up a tutorial sheet and tweeted about it and I’ve sent to some other MLIS-ers so I hope it helps. It took me awhile on YouTube watching tutorials to figure it out. I’ve only been blogging since late 2012 and I’ve taught myself a lot which is something I’m quite proud of and it makes me more hopeful that I will be able to keep up with changing technologies in my future career if I apply myself. The class was a workshop so I also got to teach a little bit. I think the teaching aspect of the librarian’s role is really important and I get a lot of enjoyment out of helping people learn. I think collaboration in courses like this, that are so intense, is really useful and I always appreciate help and try to help others if and when I can.

Today I had a class in my Information Professional as Teacher and Collaborator module which I suppose, considering what I’ve just written, is a really important class for me. Today we had a group-work session for the first hour. We were given a group of ‘users’ and we had to consider characteristics, information behaviour, information services that could be provided and barriers to offering the services. We were given Junior Doctors in an Acute Care Hospital. I found this a really interesting thought-experiment and it was particularly useful in that I’m really interested in medical libraries and the necessity of information literacy skills in relation to evidence-based practice. In the second half of the class our lecturer spoke to us about understanding the user. This is a very important part of teaching but it also important for ensuring libraries remain relevant. The user’s needs and wants have to be considerations.

It has been a really interesting week to be involved in #HLSDITL. I really enjoy blogging but I’ll be glad to go back to once a week. I hope anyone reading this has gotten a good idea of what it’s like to be a library student. It’s a LOT of hard-work but the learning is very rewarding. Some of my assignments that I will be working on over the mid-term include a cataloguing assignment, building a digital library on Omeka and creating an information literacy course (my ideas include either a college preparation course for 4th yr students or a course on social media networking for pre-graduates.) It’s going to be a busy two weeks but they sound pretty fun, if a bit stressful, so it’ll all be worthwhile.

Thanks for a great week Hack Library School!

Woo-hoo for Wednesday!

Yesterday we had our big table-quiz night. There wasn’t a huge turn out but I have to say I think everyone that did turn up had a great time! I was able to enjoy myself because I had submitted the big Qualitative Assignment due today and although there was some nerves, (and a bit of a pain in my stomach pressing the submit button) it was a great feeling to have it done. I was really happy with the rounds, there was a lot of laughter and all-in-all I think it was a great culmination of our hard work. Next week some of us are visiting Marsh’s Library as an InfoSoc outing so hopefully that will be just as successful. A lot of people in my class are on mid-term now but I still have two more modules today and Friday. The way my timetable works out I have a class everyday but I’m over halfway there and I really enjoy the next two modules so I don’t mind seeing people on their holidays already. (Well, I don’t mind too much!)

Yesterday we had A LOT of cataloging to take in but it was all really interesting so it wasn’t so bad. The first hour was RDA and subject terms. The next two hours we had some guest lectures talking about cataloging music, rare books and digital images. My favourite of these three was rare books and it comes at a very good time with the Marsh’s trip next week. Its very unfortunate (for me at least) that the course doesn’t incorporate a rare books module anymore. I know that technology is really important and all that but at the end of the day there’s always going to be need to catalogue and preserve rare books. At least I sincerely hope there will always be a need for it.

We were shown this YouTube video to illustrate the different vocabulary used in rare books.

I didn’t get into library studies particularly because of my love of books but I guess it doesn’t hurt. I’ve loved books forever and one of my favourite things is that old book smell. It’s a total comfort thing for me. In fact I have a perfume by In the Library perfume from CB I Hate Perfume.


Described as “a warm blend of English Novel*, Russian & Moroccan Leather Bindings, Worn Cloth and a hint of Wood Polish.” What’s not to love! I find rare books beautiful and fascinating. I know there are some courses in the UK that deal with rare books and I would definitely consider doing one at some stage but we’ll have to see where this takes me first.

After that we got a chance to play with OCLC Connexion, which is always fun. We have a big cataloging assignment due next week.

Today I’ve taken a bit of a rest this morning but now I need to figure out a way to help some of my classmates with WordPress. They’re having problems with the whole pages v. categories in menus thing. I think I’m going to do up some diagrams to help them out. I actually looking forward to today’s class too because I’ll be getting some feedback on my blog. I hope the class and my lecturer like it!
Kind-of sad that #HLSDITL is nearing an end but I got a lot from the week so far and I’ve really enjoyed it. Blogging is a bit therapeutic especially when you can see there are others facing the same stresses and worries.

Oh, and Happy Book Day! 🙂

A…maybe not so typical…Tuesday

I knew this year was going to be hard work; I had done my research and I was ready. However, despite having full-time jobs and already completing an MA, I guess I didn’t really know what hard work was before because this year has been an eye-opener and very tough going. You’d think this would be a negative thing but actually this has also probably been the best year of my life so far. I’m doing what I was made to do as far as I’m concerned. I’m on the road to my dream job and if that means working hard then to be perfectly honest I’m 100% okay with it. I’m learning every single day and I’m loving every minute.

Today has been one of those of those particularly tough days. This week we have to hand up an assignment that involved us interviewing people about their mobile use and observing mobile phone use in pubs. We had to transcribe the interviews and write up the field notes and everything needs to be submitted in a certain way so it’s been a little stressful trying to make sure everything is in order. I spent the first few hours this morning working on that, it still needs a little work but I’m not so worried now.

At 3 o’clock I had to be in college for a meeting with other members of the InfoSoc, an alternative society, for us SILS crowd. Although I have a lot going on I have decided to become a member of InfoSoc because I think it’s good to have some sort of work-life balance. Of course, it actually means more work for me but it also means a bit of fun for me along with everyone else and it’s a chance to get to know my classmates better. Also, some students have nominated me for a President’s Award for my work and I am very grateful to have something like this to add to my CV because I was too shy to put myself out there in this way the last time I was in college. Tomorrow we’re hosting a Table Quiz in SILS and I think it’s going to be a great way for us to relax a little after such a busy start to the week. I can’t tell you about the questions just yet but suffice to say there are some library related bits and pieces thrown in.

From 4 to 6 I had a lecture for my Research Methods module. This is the module where we learn all about qualitative and quantitative research. Although this module is really important for Capstone, and especially for me in my role as a Research Assistant, it is always a difficult two hours to get through. I haven’t done Maths since secondary school and while I’m lucky enough to understand everything we are doing, it can be a lot to take in when we’re focusing on statistics and it is definitely not one of my favourite subjects. However, I do get a bit of a kick out of the fact that I know that my secondary school Maths teacher would be very proud that I understand all this stuff and to be perfectly honest SPSS really isn’t the worst thing in the world.

After college I had to go get some prizes for the quiz. I’m home since about 8, my laptop has been out since; I’m working on stuff for the assignment, answering emails and Facebook messages, and having a look at various WordPress sites. It’s 20 past 9 now and I’m just about to have dinner. Exhausted but like I said I love every minute so I’ll be up and ready for another day bright and early in the morning. Might take the rest of tonight off now and watch an hour of TV. Tomorrow’s another long day.

A Twitter Monday

  1. Back to school today after a great wkend. A&SL Annual Seminar and NPD Ireland Event #HLSDITL
  2. Doing reading about Open Access for my Digital Libraries module which is great cos we’re focusing on OA in healthcare for Capstone. #HLSDITL
  3. Worked from home this morning. On the way to UCD now. Digital libraries lecture followed by work and Capstone meetings. #HLSDITL
  4. Trying to decide whether to do a project on Linked Open Data or Copyright and Intellectual Property issues in Digital Libraries. #HLSDITL
  5. On my way home now. Just finished a meeting about Capstone. We’re looking at use of Open Access by healthcare professionals. #HLSDITL
  6. Its going to be a long day 2mro. Research Methods assignment due this week. Transcriptions of interviews. Plus InfoSoc table quiz. #HLSDITL
  7. Health Libraries Conference coming up. Considering whether I can afford to go to one or two days. V. thankful for student rates. #HLSDITL