Newsletter of the Association of Library and Information Science Students (ALISS)
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DECEMBER 2003

Vol VII Issue VI


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An Enumeration of Questions Frequently Asked by the New Student (Abridged)

By Tom Dobrowolsky
Greetings New Information School Students! Speaking as the official liaison between the second-years and the first-years, I would like to welcome you to the Information School. I know that you are all bright and good-looking people; otherwise, you would not be here. And despite the fact that you are pretty good at finding things out on your own, you've been subject to the demanding reading and work schedules imposed upon you by your studies. You've successfully completed your first quarter now and you no doubt have a few questions. In response to your needs, young antelope, I have compiled this quick list of questions commonly asked by new students at the Information School.

Q. What's the deal with I-this and I-that?

A. I'm not sure and I wish it would stop. Perhaps it is a reaction to and a clever re-appropriation of the e-everything phenomenon. Perhaps it is a nod to Apple's innovative iMac and iPod lines. But that would likely be grounds for the handsome, though vicious, corps of attack dog trademark lawyers in Steve Jobs' employ to clamp their legalistic jaws down on us.

Certainly, "iSchool" makes perfect sense...as do some of those school e-mail lists. Presumably, this is how it started and/or spread. But, c'mon! iSalon?!? Cleanliness and sterility notwithstanding, it's just a standard student lounge, people. Now were the lounge outfitted with sconces, area lighting, an espresso machine, wall-hanging mohair tapestries in various tribal patterns and applications of facial mud masks by trained professionals -- all underscored by a throbbing electroclash beat -- then just maybe it could be the iSalon. Until then, however, no salon worth its volume in exfoliant uses barbaric florescent lighting.

Resist the urge, colleagues! Do not, under any circumstances, insert a gratuitous I in front of any noun, verb, adjective, or other part of speech, not even if it's in another language.

In fact, you should properly expand iSchool to Information School from now on. It sounds much more imposing that way. The kicky days of the late 90s are over; file your irrational exuberance away with the memories of foosball tables in the break room and managers who were pleasant people. The Information School sounds like a School of the Americas style bunker deep in the jungle -- where extraordinarily violent methods are used to reinforce the principles of information science. Doesn't that sound better already? Calling it iSchool is far too chic to convey the menacing fists of power you will possess if you graduate.

Q. The portfolio requirement seems difficult. I've heard there is the option of writing a Master ís Thesis. Can I do this instead?

A. You do not want to write a Masters Thesis. 

Q. I have to haul all of my possessions, books, papers, laptop, and writing implements with me all day long. Is there any place I can store some of my stuff, even temporarily? 

A. You are in a graduate level, professional program. You should learn to prioritize and streamline your necessities; you should learn to efficiently manage limited resources like carrying space. Such considerations will allow you to better cope with the realities of limited budgets and other resource allocation issues later in your career. 

Anyway, where do you think you are? High school? The School has no locker facilities. Consider a hiker's backpack instead; it distributes the load over your hips rather than your shoulders. A pack with an internal frame will allow you to pack the most junk. On the other hand, an external frame pack will let you organize and access your stuff with greater ease.

The Electrical Engineering building (EE1), due south of MGH on the other side of Drumheller Fountain, sports a vast reservoir of lockers. Some of those lockers are available to students in other departments, but they do charge a small fee and go fast. Rumors of temporary, informal storage in room 370K are just that: rumors.

Q. So LIS 500 is over and I still don't really know what a document is. We haven't talked about it since and I never really found out if an antelope was actually a document. Is this discussion over? 

A. Not if I can help it. If you subscribe to iChat, the informal chat mailing list, some people try to turn occasional discussions toward antelope-related issues every now and again. 

But the fact of the matter remains that a scene in the movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles was shot near the Antelope Valley in California. Kevin Bacon appeared in this movie. Since Antelope Valley is presumably named after the animal, antelope thus possesses one degree of separation from Antelope Valley, which possesses one degree of separation from Kevin Bacon. With a net two degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon, then, can it be that surprising that antelopes pop up so frequently in casual conversation? 

Q. It's only my first quarter and I've already got a ton of reading.  

A. Don't worry; most of the material won't be discussed in class due to some tangent thrown out in a class discussion, which will be debated on for the entirety of the class. However, the material might be handy to know when you are writing a paper. 

Q. Speaking of papers, how's the feedback on papers written for class?  

A. Being information professionals, Information School staff members have streamlined comments and feedback to razor-sharp perfection. Don't be discouraged by a terse comment such as "Good, well written essay" at the end of your 7-page paper. What it really means is:

" Well-structured essay written in an overall cohesive manner. Your mastery of concepts A and D clearly shows through; however, your explanation of concept B could have used a few more examples from the Svenonius article, as well as some synthesis from your own real-world experience. I like the part about Ramone, the donkey...very poignant. Although your treatment of the cause-effect relationship of concept Q on outcome P is a little thin, you demonstrated a good basic understanding of the material."

There...isn't the former comment easier to deal with? Your instructors are busy people with lots of research and other projects occupying much of their time. However, most of them will be happy to talk your papers over with you, especially if it happens over a refreshing, clarity-enhancing beverage.

Q. I need to take the edge off. Is alcohol served in the building?

A. No, the best place to grab a quick beer is the College Inn Pub, located on the corner of 40th & the Ave (University Way). It is a quick, 5-minute walk from Mary Gates Hall. Give up any hope of trying to be discreet about your 3 gin-and-tonic lunches, however, as the aggressive cigarette smoke of the Pub will embed itself into your pores and everybody will know where you spent the last hour. Barring that, Flowers on 43rd and the Ave is another good alternative. They offer fine draught beers and adequate liquor. Best of all, during the day Flowers offers a fantastic lunch buffet; it is even vegetarian. This way, you can not only pass off your alcoholism as mere "lunch", but you can also delude yourself into thinking that you are eating healthy. In any case, if you don't drink, consider starting. You will be putting in long hours, many of which will be devoted to group projects. Alcohol tends to dull the pain resulting from the wrangling, arguing, bitterness, and occasional violence of group work. 

Q. I've heard that there is a lot of group work. My spouse will be jealous that I'm spending all of my time with my little school chums on group projects instead of spending time with him and/or her.  

A. Tell your spouse to get used to it; it's something s/he will have to endure for the rest of your professional life. Librarians and information professionals are sexy people -- the sexiest on earth according to statistics I fabricated just now -- and must deal with throngs of admirers throwing their metaphoric skivvies in their direction on a daily basis. The sooner your spouse gets used to you spending lots of time with your sexy colleagues now, the easier it will be for him/her to deal with you spending lots of time with patrons and clients -- who aren't quite as sexy -- later on in your career. This might go over better if you teach your partner how to brag. Tell them that they can tell people at parties, "see that sexy librarian booty over there? Yup, mine." 

Q. I've heard that the Masterís Thesis, if I choose to write one instead of putting together a portfolio, takes much planning and coordination. When should I start working on the Thesis?  

A.These are not the droids you are looking for.
They don't need to see your Thesis.
Carry on with your portfolio.

Q. I have a Mac and I can't seem to connect to the student server. What sort of Mac support does the Information School have?  

A.Where do you think you are, the University of Cupertino? The Mighty Wizard of Redmond butters our bread generously and we shall not defile His temple with competing religions. Thus, Mac users are allowed to live only if they hide their aberrant tendencies and feel ashamed of their chosen platform. Use of a Mac anywhere within the Information School network is grounds for expulsion from the program. Keep your sexy Mac in the bedroom where it belongs.

That said, the Student Access & Computing Group computer labs -- located on the ground level of Mary Gates Hall and in the Odegaard Commons -- do have several token civilized computers. Mac users in these labs have a tendency to slowly disappear and never be heard from again. If you are using a Mac in the Odegaard computing commons, library staff members generally make the rounds around Midnight to check the IDs of all Mac users. If you find yourself in that situation, it would be wise to leave at that point. Be warned.

Q. Speaking of late nights in the computer lab, when should I start worrying about assembling my portfolio?

A. It is very important to start thinking about your portfolio from the very first day that you start taking classes. Consider carefully all of the important style and aesthetic issues: color schemes, layout, fonts, etc. This should occupy the back of your thoughts for your first 5 quarters at the Information School. Having established the important points, then, you can devote the remaining 3 weeks before the due date to actually filling in the content. Throughout your tenure at the Information School, you should be evaluating every aspect of your behavior to see whether or not you can use it for your portfolio. Every piece of e-mail sent to your friends vis-a-vis organizing a night out bar-hopping (leadership), every post to iChat (sustained intellectual argument), should be weighed in terms of its applicability to your portfolio. Adjust your behaviors and worldly outlook accordingly to conform to the grand vision of your portfolio. 

Q. That sounds like a lot of bother. I'd like to write a Masterís Thesis instead.  

A. Go speak to Harry Bruce, the Dean in charge of Research. He'll be more than happy to give you tips and ideas, outline the procedure and timeline of how your Thesis should proceed, and craftily talk you out of writing a Thesis and assembling a portfolio instead.

There. That should answer the major questions you might have for right now. Remember to have some fun and quit taking things so seriously. Grades are nearly meaningless in grad school and obsessing over them only takes the edge off your recreational drug highs or your alcoholic buzz. Take an elective outside the School. If you have any grievances that you would like to have addressed, I would be happy to see you during my office hours at any of the fine neighborhood cafes and pubs.

Good evening, my colleagues. Gods bless.