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TL v57 n1 Interview with Margaret Brown, and Sarena Cleeton, Bo Link
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Tennessee Libraries

Interview: Future Librarians
UT SIS Students

 

Scott Cohen, Interviews Editor

This issue's interview column consists of interviews with three University of Tennessee Knoxville School of Information Science students, Bo Link, Margaret Brown, and Sarena Cleeton.


Margaret Brown, Distance Education Student in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Tennessee

 

 I am a native of Nashville, and still live in middle Tennessee. I am married, and have three adult children and one grandson. I have an undergraduate degree in English from Randolph-Macon Woman's College, and a Master's degree in Human Development Counseling from Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. I presently work as a cataloger at the Williamson County Public Library in Franklin, Tennessee. I am in my last semester as a Distance Education student in the School of Information Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville.


Barbara Dewey, Dean of Libraries at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville :

What new skills will you bring to a job that current librarians may not have?

I am constantly amazed at the fact that I have learned so many skills and been exposed to so many concepts that are new to me, and perhaps to current librarians as well. When I began the SIS program, I had no idea what the letters "html" stood for. Now I know how to design a web site using either native html code or an html editor. I have a basic knowledge of metadata schemas, and I understand how to construct institutional repositories and digital libraries. I know how to set up blogs and wikis. I understand the importance of social networking sites such as MySpace and YouTube, and I can see that there are great possibilities for using these in library settings. I know the difference between social tagging and the Library of Congress classification schema, and I am concerned that the Library of Congress's move away form centralized assignment of classification categories and toward decentralized classification and folksonomies will ultimately have a negative impact on the findability of resources. However, I can see that concepts such as faceted browsing can be very relevant to users' needs. I can see advantages to each position, and I would very much like to be involved in helping find the balance.

What excites you about librarianship?

What excites me about librarianship is the way it is constantly evolving. As Ranganathan observed, "a library is a growing organism," and I have found it fascinating to discover the ways in which this is taking place. For example, as a cataloger I am watching with great interest the development of Resource Description and Access (RDA), as it is honed and polished, and I am very interested in the reactions to it from those who have been "in the trenches" working within the confines of the Anglo-American Cataloging Rules.

How will you approach your job with users in mind?

The overriding concept that I have learned in the SIS program is that "it's all about access to information." The primary function of librarians is to help users gain access to information. As a cataloger, the way I can and do approach this is to keep in mind the 4 (or 5) principles which the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) drafted, and made the core of the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records, or FRBR. These are: find, identify, select, obtain, (and navigate). It becomes my job to see that the OPAC is an accurate reflection of all the resources that the library owns, or has licenses to, and that these resources are cataloged in such a way that they are easily findable.

What is your vision for the future of libraries and librarianship?

My vision is that libraries will continue to be repositories of information, and that librarians will continue to be needed as guides to help users discover the resources they need. I think that the forms in which information is stored, and the methods for retrieving it, will change, as they should in our technologically advanced society. But I do not believe that even the most sophisticated search engine will ever replace a librarian with highly developed searching skills.


Marshall Breeding, Director for Innovative Technologies and Research, Jean and Alexander Heard Library, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee

How do the Web sites, catalogs, and other interfaces that you see in use in libraries today compare to your expectations as emerging librarians?

Before I became an "emerging librarian," I assumed that the interfaces that I saw in all of these uses functioned as they should, and I thought that any problems I experienced were due to my lack of skill in using them. Now I see that many existing Web sites, databases, and OPACs are badly designed, and lack a high level of usability. As an "emerging librarian," I expect better, and I am looking forward to doing what I can to make changes in the ones to which I have access.

How do you see your new generation of librarians advancing the state of the art in library technologies that will meet the needs of the next generation of library users?

The next generation of library users has grown up with computers as an integral part of their lives. These users expect instantaneous answers to their questions, and they expect that any information they want can be found online. Whether these expectations are realistic or even valid is debatable, but the fact remains that librarians have to try to meet them, in order to remain relevant in these users' world. The only way in which librarians can meet these expectations is to use the very technologies that their users employ, and to be in the vanguard in the development of new ways to use technology to connect users with the information they need.

That said, I think it is important to remember that not all of the latest class of graduates are members of the X generation. A large percentage of us are embarking on second or even third careers, and we bring with us skills and viewpoints that younger graduates have not yet acquired. One of my particular areas of interest is teaching information literacy skills to older adults. I have found that one of the most effective ways to help these users feel comfortable with technology is to model it, and I can do that more believably, because I am closer to them in age.

Name some technologies, services, or concepts that you have learned about in your studies that look most promising in helping libraries stay relevant in times where library users are quite content to rely on Google, Yahoo, Ask, Amazon, and other commercial providers for their information needs .

Library users are availing themselves of technologies, services, and concepts such as blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, podcasting, social networking, social tagging and folksonomies, virtual worlds, and other components that make up Web 2.0. These can also become components of Library 2.0, and we, as librarians, need to be aware of these concepts, and how we can employ them to reach these users. Many public libraries have developed pages in MySpace and Facebook to reach their young adult patrons, and many academic libraries, in partnership with libraries in other parts of the world, use virtual reference and instant messaging to provide reference help to their students 24/7. Ebooks and virtual libraries, as well as online databases, expand the local libraries' collections, and provide current, authenticated resources to their patrons. Some libraries are experimenting with faceted browsing in their OPACs, and there are ongoing efforts to find ways in which controlled vocabularies and folksonomies can be combined to make the collection more easily searchable by users whose first inclination is to Google rather than to ask a librarian.


Don Craig, Dean of the Library, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee

What kind of instruction did you receive in bibliography of sciences, social sciences and humanities?

The School of Information Sciences offers three such courses: Sources and Services for the Social Sciences (IS 531), for Science and Engineering (IS 532), and for the Humanities (IS 533). My classmates who have taken these report that they are all excellent.


Louise Kelly, Director of Library Services, Volunteer State Community College, Gallatin Tennessee

What kind of job are you looking for when you graduate?

I am looking for a multi-faceted job that challenges me to keep learning. I expect to find such a position in an academic library, but special libraries and large public libraries are places to look as well.

What kind of technology training do you receive in graduate school?

Technology training in graduate school happens in two ways, formally and informally. Formal training is provided in various elective courses, rather than in the core courses, and students have the option to concentrate on technological topics as much or as little as they choose. Some students have more previous experience than others; some have more interest in these areas than others. What we all share, however, is a level of competency in the basic skills that are required to operate in the SIS environment. This is particularly true of those of us who are distance education students. When one's only contact with faculty and other students is virtual, one quickly becomes adept at using the different tools that keep us connected with each other. We attend classes online using synchronous collaboration software, and we receive and turn in assignments using the University's course management system. We communicate with email, discussion boards, listservs, blogs and wikis, and we can set up meetings among ourselves in real time using text chat or voice over IP. The formal training we receive in the classroom, whether it be real or virtual, is of first importance, but just as much learning takes place outside of class in our virtual communities.


Steve Baker, Associate VP for Academic Resources and Library Director, Union University, Jackson, TN

What do your classes teach you about learning theory, pedagogical approaches, etc.?

In IS 557, User Instruction, we studied cognitive, behavioral, and humanist learning theories. We attended and evaluated instructional sessions, and designed instructional sessions of our own, based on these theories. We also studied and evaluated various kinds of computer-based training modules and online tutorials. The instructor of this class is an instruction librarian herself, among her many other duties, so she has vast practical knowledge to share with us.


Thomas Aud, former Library Director, (1975- 2006) Jackson-Madison County Public Library

What difference do you think you will make in your first library job?

I have, in fact, been in my first and only library job since before I started the SIS program. As I have progressed through the program, I have tried to share with my co-workers many of the things I have learned. What I, as a Baby Boomer, have tried to model for them is that it is never too late to learn new skills. I have been surprised at how fascinated I have become with technology, and how much my comfort level has increased. If I can indeed make a difference in my job, I hope that it is to encourage others to take advantage of the opportunity that I have had, and to show them the joy in its challenge.

How has the Internet changed your definition of what a library is or should be?

I used to think of a library as a place where one could find information in books and other print resources. The advent of the Internet has added a whole new dimension to the world of information, and to the world's information. Now the library has the added task of providing access to information in all its forms, and, more important, the task of organizing and representing it. The library's function is to help the user find, identify, select, and obtain the information that s/he needs, from whatever source and in whatever form it exists. The library is still a place to find information, but it no longer has walls.



Sarena Cleeton, May 2007 Graduate of the School of Information Sciences, University of Tennessee 

Sarena Cleeton is originally from Arlington, Texas. However, she has lived in Knoxville, Tennessee for 14 years. She received her undergraduate degree in honors anthropology from the University of Tennessee – Knoxville, and she will graduate with her master’s degree in information sciences in May 2007 from the same institution. During graduate school, Ms. Cleeton was a Hilton A. Smith Fellow, and she worked as a Graduate Teaching Assistant and Graduate Research Assistant for the School of Information Sciences, Graduate Assistant for the University of Tennessee Special Collections Library, and Student Reference Assistant for Preston Medical Library. Ms. Cleeton served as the TLA Student Chapter President for the University of Tennessee during the 2006-2007 academic year, and she is looking forward to getting married in June and beginning her career as a science or medical librarian this fall.

 


Barbara Dewey, Dean of Libraries at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville:

What new skills will you bring to a job that current librarians may not have?

Libraries and librarians have done amazingly well in adapting to the constantly changing technologies that they are confronted with each and every day. Most of the librarians that I know also do a wonderful job of keeping up with current trends and issues in the field. I see this from both my practical experience working in libraries and in my coursework. As a new librarian, I think I will bring a fresh perspective to the challenges that face the field today. Having a new set of eyes looking at problems or situations can lead to new ideas and new resolutions.

What excites you about librarianship?

What excites me about librarianship? It is definitely “the hunt.” When I am doing a search or looking for some obscure piece of information, I feel as though I am on a mission. As a librarian, I will enjoy facing new challenges and questions each and every day. The work is always new, and no day is like any other in this field.

How will you approach your job with users in mind?

I intend to always save the time of the user and do whatever I can to cause the user to leave the library with a positive impression of its services and staff. If users see that you are respect their information needs and are willing to go the extra mile to meet those needs, they will in turn respect you and your library.

What is your vision for the future of libraries and librarianship?

As more and more information becomes accessible electronically and people have access to information resources at anytime and from anywhere, I think librarians will begin to focus more on user instruction. Users will want to know how to access information and search databases themselves and on their own time, and librarians can teach them to do this effectively.


Marshall Breeding, Director for Innovative Technologies and Research, Jean and Alexander Heard Library, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee

How do the Web sites, catalogs, and other interfaces that you see in use in libraries today compare to your expectations as emerging librarians?

The catalogs and Web sites I see in use by libraries today vary across the board in terms of quality, functionality, and visual appeal. It really shows when libraries invest in Web and catalog development. All too often, library Web sites are cluttered and confusing to use for customers. Building on the genius of the “Google model,” I expect that in the future, library catalogs and Web sites will become more streamlined, straightforward, and easy to use. As an undergraduate student, I know that I had trouble figuring out where to go for needed information at the library. I think that librarians will have to confront this issue if they want to main relevant in a world where Google and Wikipedia are considered by many students as perfectly acceptable information sources.

How do you see your new generation of librarians advancing the state of the art in library technologies that will meet the needs of the next generation of library users?

Looking ahead to the future, I believe that librarians need to be on the forefront of research that attempts to connect the disparate sources of information available to users. We are already taking steps in this direction with features such as meta-searching that allow users to search across multiple library databases. However, I think that we need to go much further in increasing the variety of types and formats of information that are available through federated searching.

Name some technologies, services, or concepts that you have learned about in your studies that look most promising in helping libraries stay relevant in times where library users are quite content to rely on Google, Yahoo, Ask, Amazon, and other commercial providers for their information needs.

Meta-searching is one method that moves toward an easier to use system. Encouraging users to go to Google Scholar through library Web sites will allow them to immediately access library resources through link resolvers that recognize them as institutional users. Users get frustrated by the confusing features and overabundance of options on library Web sites, when they just want to be able to search and retrieve everything they need from one interface. While this may be an unrealistic expectation, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to move in that direction. We can always preserve advanced search features for librarians or expert searchers that need to perform more in-depth and comprehensive research, but we need to simplify the research process for the majority of users.



Don Craig, Dean of the Library, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee

What kind of instruction did you receive in bibliography of sciences, social sciences and humanities?

Personally, I took a course called “Sources and Services for Science and Engineering,” in which I learned about literature guides and searching in the sciences. I believe that the School of Information Sciences offers courses in the social sciences and humanities, but I was unable to take them due to scheduling conflicts.


Louise Kelly, Director of Library Services, Volunteer State Community College, Gallatin Tennessee

What kind of job are you looking for when you graduate?

I have already started applying to academic libraries across the country. I am primarily focusing on science or medical librarian positions in colleges, universities, and hospitals.

What kind of technology training do you receive in graduate school?

While I did not take a course specifically on information technology or computers, I believe that I learned a great deal in my other courses about the technologies used in libraries today. We learn about different kinds of software and hardware that relate to the topics that arise in our courses. I believe that the School of Information Sciences tries to keep its focus on education in the theoretical foundations of librarianship rather than training in specific technologies.


Steve Baker, Associate VP for Academic Resources and Library Director, Union University, Jackson, TN

What do your classes teach you about learning theory, pedagogical approaches, etc.?

As a graduate student, I took an elective course in user instruction, where I learned about the prominent learning theories, learning styles, and pedagogical approaches that are relevant to librarianship. We focused a great deal on active learning techniques. In this course, I also became familiar with information literacy standards and best practices. If I had not taken this course, I would not have been familiar with these important concepts.


Thomas Aud, former Library Director, (1975- 2006) Jackson-Madison County Public Library

What difference do you think you will make in your first library job?

I think that the difference I will make in my first full-time library job will depend upon where I end up and what type of position I take. In general, I hope to make a strong positive impact on my future workplace by interacting constructively with patrons and colleagues, applying my unique set of strengths to the job, and bringing an upbeat attitude to every task that I undertake.

How has the Internet changed your definition of what a library is or should be?

The Internet has dramatically changed my conception of libraries. When I was young, I thought that libraries were simply musty, old storehouses for books and other things that people felt that they had to keep. Now as an (almost) librarian, I feel as though libraries are dynamic and exciting places where the activities of librarians really make an impact on their communities. The Internet has radically increased the pace of research, and through using the Internet, librarians can assist users in accessing information much more quickly and efficiently than in the past.



Bo Link, Student in the School of Information Sciences, University of Tennessee

After graduating from Hillsboro High School in Nashville, TN, I bounced around between a couple of different colleges before settling in at Lambuth University in Jackson, TN. I majored in Communications at Lambuth, and I proceeded to find work back in Nashville as a graphic designer after graduation. While working for 5 years as a graphic designer, I kept being drawn more and more to the technical side of our business. This led me to learn more and more about web design and development. I figured a real education behind the techniques and processes used to organize information would be even more useful than just plain web design skills, so I decided to enroll at the School of Information Sciences here at UT. Now, after almost completing my first two semester, I am confident my decision to return to school will pay off once I graduate.


Barbara Dewey, Dean of Libraries, University of Tennessee at Knoxville:

What new skills will you bring to a job that current librarians may not have?

My previous experience working as a graphic designer combined with my communications degree should allow me to excel in creating opportunities for growth in web promotion and marketing techniques. One thing many libraries are facing today is increased competition from the Internet, so employees who are web savvy will be invaluable in the coming years.

What excites you about librarianship?

The fact that I can help people find the information they are looking for efficiently and accurately. There are many people out there who become frustrated while searching for a piece of information, and I take pride in knowing that I have the skills to create a positive experience for those users.

How will you approach your job with users in mind?

Libraries depend on providing a positive user experience. Ignoring user needs is tantamount to becoming obsolete in this day and age. Whether it's dealing with a reference question or designing an web interface, the user should always be considered in order to ensure future goodwill among the community.

What is your vision for the future of libraries and librarianship?

My vision for the future of libraries is for libraries to create worldwide network of interconnected resources that is easy for the general population to access. I would hope this network would include digitized copies of all materials and resources. I know this would be a huge undertaking, but it should at least be considered with the way technology advances are occurring so rapidly. The role of librarians in this situation will become more like content creators and aggregators in order to provide the network with up-to-date information


Marshall Breeding , Director for Innovative Technologies and Research, Jean and Alexander Heard Library, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee

How do the Web sites, catalogs, and other interfaces that you see in use in libraries today compare to your expectations as emerging librarians?

Many of the web sites and interfaces in use today seem to be behind the times when it comes to comparing these services to many of the latest web services like Gmail, Digg.com and Flickr. This gap is starting to shrink from what I've seen while exploring the upcoming upgrades for information systems. I know it's hard to keep up with the bleeding edge of tech advances, but it will be in the best interest of libraries to keep their users in mind by not falling too far behind.

How do you see your new generation of librarians advancing the state of the art in library technologies that will meet the needs of the next generation of library users?

Since the librarians of my generation will have grown up not knowing a world without computers, I think we are especially poised to combine new technologies with the traditional information organization styles taught in library schools.

Name some technologies, services, or concepts that you have learned about in your studies that look most promising in helping libraries stay relevant in times where library users are quite content to rely on Google, Yahoo, Ask, Amazon, and other commercial providers for their information needs.

I think federated search technologies combined with more digital library initiatives will allow libraries to not only stay relevant, but possibly leap ahead some of the search providers listed.


Don Craig, Dean of the Library, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee

What kind of instruction did you receive in bibliography of sciences, social sciences and humanities?

In many of the courses I've taken, there hasn't been much discussion of these topics. That is probably more of a result of my interest in business and technology topics more than a lack in the SIS curriculum.


Louise Kelly, Director of Library Services, Volunteer State Community College, Gallatin Tennessee

What kind of job are you looking for when you graduate?

I'm hoping to find a job in a more of non-traditional library role once I graduate. I'm exploring some different opportunities within the corporate environment ranging from media librarianship to information architecture. I also want to explore digital libraries before I graduate because I feel they are an emerging technology with plenty of growth potential.

What kind of technology training do you receive in graduate school?

Much of the technology training provided is more of an indirect or theoretical approach. There are a series of courses based primarily around information technologies. Fortunately, I've been able to build on my technical skills by becoming involved with web design project and through my own enjoyment of this sector.


Steve Baker, Associate VP for Academic Resources and Library Director, Union University, Jackson, TN

What do your classes teach you about learning theory, pedagogical approaches, etc.?

Again, my focus on technology oriented courses has sort of prevented me learning much about this area. We have discussed human capabilities and restrictions when it comes to designing user interfaces. We also touched on some of the ways people think about information when comes to basic cataloging.


Thomas Aud, former Library Director, (1975- 2006) Jackson-Madison County Public Library

What difference do you think you will make in your first library job?

I hope to bring a fresh outlook on providing information services to whatever job I obtain after graduation. I also think I'll be able to provide some guidance in utilizing new web techniques because I'm well versed in many of the emerging technologies currently being used by web designers and developers.

How has the Internet changed your definition of what a library is or should be?

Personally, I think the Internet has increased my appreciation of what libraries and librarians do on a day-to-day basis. I'll admit, I tend to rely on Google and web services for quite a bit of my information gathering, but I always know I can head down to the library if I get stumped. I also think libraries can start utilizing some of the latest Web 2.0 technologies and principals to create a larger sense of community among their patrons.


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