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DFW at Lake Washington Technical College
By John WN Buell
May 8, 2003

Many who have done Directed Field Work (DFW) will agree it is one of the most valuable experiences offered by the iSchool. I am doing my DFW at the Lake Washington Technical College Library and Media Center located in Kirkland, about 45 minutes from UW.

Lake Washington Technical College offers adult basic education, including English as a Second Language (ESL), professional programs ranging from the Licensed Practical Nurse program to a Multimedia Design and Production program and technical programs such as the Diesel and Heavy Equipment program. Supporting the students, staff and faculty of these programs is the Library and Media Center, staffed by three full-time staff members as well as several work-study students and volunteers. The library is small compared to most of the UW libraries, but has a lot going on.

Although I was a library technician in my previous life, I wanted more experience in a library setting, and chose to work here because of the Faculty Librarian, Paula Palmer, who was one of the people who had encouraged me to become a librarian in the first place. You may recognize Paula from the College Library and Media Specialist (CLAMS) listserv, as she is a frequent poster and past president. When I started, I told Paula I wanted a general experience to get as much variety as possible, and she has been very supportive. I have been given the opportunity to do just about everything a librarian is likely to do in a small library, including providing reference service, cataloging books and other materials, recommending new books for acquisition, culling outdated and obsolete materials from the collection, reorganizing and recataloging parts of the collection, helping develop and teach an information literacy course, etc.

One of the most valuable parts of this experience has been working with the users of the library. Every library user population is different, has different needs, and this shapes the kinds of services offered, nature of the collection, etc. The user population of this library is quite different than what you might expect at libraries at the University of Washington and other four-year colleges. For example, how do you support the information needs of students in the Diesel and Heavy Equipment program? What materials are they likely to check out? What electronic resources are available to serve their needs? How do you develop the collection to benefit this user group? After working here for several weeks, I am enjoying the pleasant experience of connecting all of the theory learned in classes to the actual practice of being a librarian. I enjoy those moments of epiphany when something "clicks"… "ahhh, so that's what Matt Saxton meant in LIS 520…"

I have really enjoyed and benefited from Paula's excellent supervision and mentoring, not to mention the wealth of experience from the other members of the staff here. My only regret is that I chose to do a DFW so late in my program. If I had it to do over again, I would do a DFW during the summer between my first and second year, and another during the last quarter of my program. The first would help frame the core courses I had taken in the first year and help me decide where to focus in the second year. The second DFW would also help me advance the skills introduced during the first DFW.

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Edited by Michael Harkovitch

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