Consider Directed Fieldwork?
If you want to
develop professional skills this summer, or you can't wait to put your
classroom knowledge into practice, you should start thinking about directed
LIS590, a variable-credit
elective, is open to any students with 30 credits who want practical
work experience. What kind of experience? And where can it be found?
Read on to learn how diverse these information science experiences can
Sandy at the
In her last year
of the evening program, Sandy Bennett negotiated a six-month Directed
Fieldwork position at Bellevue
Community College Library, where she was assigned to the reference
desk, as well as other instructional projects. Sandy gained teaching
experience in putting together a staff training video.
gave meaning to her coursework: "Working in the trenches, so to
speak, was enlightening. Up until then, everything was theoretical,
and I was still somewhat vague on my career goals. Doing this helped
solidify both the positives and negatives in an academic librarianship
career, while allowing me to finally apply some of the stuff I'd been
While evening students
may find Directed Fieldwork difficult to schedule, to Sandy it was essential.
"For someone like me, who came from a distinctly non-librarian,
non-information professional background, it provided experience that
I couldn't get any other way, as well as insight into the field."
student who gained perspective on a professional field is Kathleen Crosman.
She enhanced her content management skills in her first Directed Fieldwork
at the UW
Drama Library last summer. "I worked on converting sound effects
indexing previously stored in two different databases into one InMagic
database. I also created a web query to access the information.
Drama Library is small and because Liz [Fugate, Drama Librarian] was
generous with her time and experience, I gained a great deal of insight
into the operations of academic libraries. I decided to pursue further
education in archival studies as a result of this fieldwork.
"I would highly
recommend fieldwork. It can confirm your interests or change your direction.
In my case it did a little of both. My desire to have a connection to
the world of theatre was strengthened but the focus changed from librarianship
to archival services!" Kathleen will pursue her drama interests
in a second Directed Fieldwork this spring in the Manuscripts, Special
Collections, and University Archives. She will be processing the papers
of UW drama instructor John Ashby Conway, which includes glass plate
negatives, watercolors, and architectural drawings.
Noni wanted to
explore the profession of conservationist after LIS507, Preservation
and Conservation of Library Materials, so she took WSU
Special Collections up on its offer of a stipend to spend a month
learning the trade under conservator Gudrun Aurand. Student Services
Administrator Lynnea Erickson set it up for Directed Fieldwork credit
project was repairing a journal from the library of Leonard and Virginia
Woolf. The cover, binding, and the pages needed attention. The staff
had quite an interesting discussion about how to repair this old magazine
because Virginia Woolf had made the cover herself using stiff paperboard
and wallpaper! The stapled signatures needed to be separated, mended,
and sewn. I trimmed the tiniest bits of frayed edges from the cover
and reattached it with strong thin paper. Finally, I made a custom enclosure
to protect it from shelving and environmental degradation. Apparently,
her handmade covers are of interest to scholars; it was fun to work
on one that will be safe in its enclosure for, well, a long time.
"I liked so
many things about my experience! First, I was treated like an honored
guest rather than a lowly intern. Second, I learned so much good stuff
about book and paper conservation. Third, I got to roam the shelves
of the archives and inspect many precious old books. Gudrun Aurand is
a genuine master at her work and a committed teacher. The rest of the
staff, a dozen wonderful folks, shared their time so I could learn what
their jobs are."
situations are not all in traditional library-or even local-settings.
Lelia Boyd Arnheim knew she wanted to work as a National
Public Radio intern, and her experience at the iSchool helped her
land the perfect position: reference librarian to the staff of NPR.
She also updated their journal holdings records to determine what could
be substituted with digital access.
reference questions for NPR employees: reporters, hosts, producers,
editorial assistants, interns, and once for one of the VPs. I LOVE reference
work. And I particularly love the pace of reference work in a news library
like NPR's. It suited my MTV-generation attention span perfectly. I
had something new to do, something new to find out, every few minutes.
It was also particularly satisfying to hear the results of my labor
on the radio anywhere from minutes to days after I'd done the work."
Like the others,
Lelia's perspective on the field broadened considerably. "It's
impossible to quantify what I gained. I came to the MLIS program directly
from 10 years of work in the theatre and with absolutely no background
in libraries. The fact that NPR gave me a chance amazed me in the first
place. And Alphonse Vinh, my supervisor for the summer, made sure I
had every opportunity to learn. He let me fend for myself without ever
second-guessing the work I was doing, but was always happy to give advice
or to introduce me to new resources and searching skills. If you want
to learn how to be a reference librarian, I think the most effective
way is simply to do it."
is the Person to See
Administrator Lynnea Erickson manages Directed Fieldwork for MLIS students.
If you have a setting in mind, Lynnea will make the first contacts to
find an on-site mentor. If you don't know what kind of directed fieldwork
you want, she can give you ideas to get you started.
For two to four
credits, the student must work out a set of goals, achieve a certain
amount of hours per week, write a brief report of the experience, and
have an exit interview with Professor Sharyl Smith to discuss progress
on those goals.
choose public or academic library settings, but others have gone further
afield," says Lynnea. "Recently, we have had students do Directed
Fieldwork at EMP, King TV, and the Utne Reader magazine in Minneapolis.
The scope of possibilities is only limited by three considerations:
the mentor must have an MLS (or equivalent), the work must be at the
beginning professional level, and it must be a learning experience for
the student." Lynnea stresses the reciprocal nature of the arrangement.
"Our students get a lot out of it, but so does the institution."
She estimates that 40 to 50% of the MLIS students engage in Directed
For more information
on Directed Fieldwork, read Liisa
Rogers' and Drexie
Malone's previous articles about their Directed Fieldwork experiences
written up in Silverfish issues last fall. Visit the Directed
Fieldwork page to find out particulars, but remember: you need to
start at least 10 weeks in advance with Lynnea Erickson. Your future