Winter 2008 Directed Fieldwork Reflections
Compiled by Nancy Lou
We all know that getting hands-on experience through directed fieldworks, internships, and volunteering is essential and something that is constantly stressed in the MLIS program. This issue’s Alumni Survey reiterate’s the importance of getting practical experiences to complement the MLIS coursework.
The Silverfish has compiled the experiences of three current MLIS students during their winter DFW term. The experiences vary from a work in a youth detention library, a bookmobile, to a small federal government library.
If you’re looking for an instruction opportunity for your portfolio or an opportunity to work with teens, consider the Youth Services Center library. Working in a detention library isn’t as scary as it sounds. Really. Detention staff always escorts detainees and the detention officers are responsible for handling discipline. Yes, sometimes books are returned in less than pristine condition, but overall, detainees are respectful of the library and the librarians.
The library is an outreach branch of King County Library System that provides public library services to detained youth and detention staff at the King County Juvenile Detention facility in Seattle. Detainees visit the library twice a week, once for instruction on library resources and information literacy, and one free period for filtered computer use, music, and book check-out.
During my quarter of fieldwork at the YSC library, I assisted with information instruction sessions, as well as leading sessions for a worksheet I created. I also helped implement and promote the library’s new video game program, and had a chance to practice my reader’s advisory skills. Everyone reads in detention, so there’s always an opportunity for suggestions. Some detainees have read through enough of the collection they can suggest as many titles as the librarians.
A public librarian and graduate of the iSchool initially suggested fieldwork at this location to me. I was able to visit the site before I committed to fieldwork, to make sure it was a setting I was interested in working in. If you think you might be interested in pursuing directed fieldwork or volunteering at this library, I recommend contacting the site earlier than usual. There is a detailed background check that needs to be cleared before volunteers can start, as well as a detention orientation session.
Last quarter, I completed a DFW with ABC Express (KCLS), which is a bookmobile service targeting young children at daycares and in low-income housing communities in King County. During my DFW shifts, I usually accompanied an outreach technician driver on the bus, where we checked out/checked in materials, placed holds, and performed readers' advisory for children, parents, and teachers. I also worked on selecting picture books and juvenile fiction for the bookmobile collection, which was very fun! I loved the variety of tasks involved with this fieldwork.
We have a very ethnically diverse clientele, and many of the kids speak Spanish, Ukranian, or other languages besides English. Most make a beeline for the DVDs, but some still like to check out books--especially popular series such as Geronimo Stilton. I love the enthusiasm of the kids when they board the bus--one of my favorite moments was when two Mexican-American girls discovered that they could check out any materials they wanted, and jumped up and down together, saying "Awesome!!"
If anyone has questions, please feel free to contact me.
The NOAA Seattle Library is a small, federal library that serves government employees (as well as the public) at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA scientists conduct research on everything related to weather, oceans, fisheries, and coasts and use research to create policies and programs that are implemented at local and national levels. The library collection therefore consists of materials specific to the atmospheric sciences, oceanography, and marine pollution. The library is served by one librarian, Brian Voss, who is also an iSchool graduate.
I previously worked for the NOAA Fisheries Service and it was the experiences I had there that led me to pursue librarianship. I was always interested in connecting other scientists with the information they needed to complete their research. Thus, an internship at the NOAA library seemed like a natural fit and Brian was very open to setting up a DFW that addressed the things I wanted to learn.
During my DFW, I prepared an operations document for the library that allowed me to learn about all the day-to-day activities of running a small, special library serving a specific community of researchers. In a nutshell, working in a special library, especially one as small as the NOAA Seattle Library, was like having your own empire. You get to do everything, including interlibrary loan, web site maintenance, reference, cataloging, and even building shelves. The highlight of the experience was when Brian left me in charge for a week and I got to handle all the ILL requests and incoming materials. The hands-on experience was the most helpful part of the process and having to summarize everything into the operations document really solidified my understanding of the basic components of library administration and maintenance.
The DFW also allowed me to experience some of the challenges of working in a special library. The Seattle Library is one of two regional NOAA libraries whose budget is controlled from a headquarters library located in Maryland. While this seemed like a pretty sweet deal since the main library often handled many of the complicated contracts with vendors and other budgeting issues, it was also clear that the Seattle library had to compete for funds with other NOAA libraries in labs and offices around the country. Thus the library had minimal resources to expand the collection so even more careful budgeting and planning had to be used to acquire new materials.
If you’re interested in a DFW with the NOAA Seattle Library, don’t hesitate to contact the librarian. As a graduate of the program, Brian is aware of the program expectations and is very willing to work with you to develop a meaningful DFW experience. Past students have done user surveys, outreach materials, and subject guides for the web site so there are plenty of options. In fact, I hear he’s looking for some help with the web site. Don’t you need to get your technology requirement out of the way?? (hint hint)
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