Winter Issue 2001
     The Newsleter of the Association of Library & Information Science Students (ALISS)

The Silverfish is published quarterly by the students of the Information School at the University of Washington.

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The Silverfish Contents

ALISS Announcements
Upcoming Conferences

Directed Fieldwork
Professional Profile
Book Reviews
Alumni Profile
Request for Submissions


ALISS Elections

We are pleased to announce the election results for the 2002 Election of officers for ALISS. The list of candidates for each position was impressive as was the voter turnout. ALISS officers for the 2002-2003 term are as follows:

President: Amanda Hirst
Vice President: Aaron Louie
Secretary: Sandy Macke
Treasurer: Susan St. John

ALISS Booksale

The ALISS Annual Booksale will be held February 21-22 in the lobby of ByGeorge, in the basement of Odegaard Undergraduate Library on the University of Washington campus. Every year, ALISS uses the proceeds from the Booksale for a variety of worthwhile purposes, including memorials, conference fees, and student amenities not to forget the annual Spring Fling, our celebration of all things bright and beautiful (or at least informative) to which you all, as alumnae and alumni of UW's Information School are invited.

Upcoming Conferences

Directed Fieldwork & Work Study Experiences

We want to hear from you!

Are you currently engaged in a directed fieldwork experience or have recently completed one? If so, we would like to hear from you! Because so much of our program is theoretical in nature, we would like to hear about your experiences in the real world; how your skills form the iSchool are being utilized, what lessons are to be learned. If you are interested in contributing, please contact the editors, Ariel Johnson or John Buell.

Tamara Turner: Advice from a Dedicated Professional

Last month I had the great fortune to meet with Tamara Turner, a librarian with many fascinating jobs and experiences to share. Tamara shared with me a bit about her career but also offered many words of job-seeking advice that I thought would benefit all of us.

Tamara describes being a librarian as a great detective story and a great way to make a difference to other people. In fact, she credits a generous librarian with her first job as a library clerk which spawned a lifetime love of the profession. And Tamara has certainly returned the favor and touched the lives of many throughout her career.

Tamara started as a clerk in a public library and received her MLIS from the University of Washington in 1975. During her career Tamara has been a clerk in a law library, worked in the Oriental Institute Library's rare book room in Chicago, was a book binder in New York, worked in the Suzzallo reserves, was a staff librarian at Rainier School, and worked for 17 years as the Library Director for Children's Hospital. Continuing in her career as an information provider, Tamara is now the Controlled Document Manager for Northwest Biotherapeutics.

In addition to hearing about her career, I enjoyed listening to Tamara's job-seeking advice for librarians. During our talk, Tamara mentioned the following strategies to remain employed and employable:

Enjoy people! After all, isn't that what being a librarian is all about - helping and educating others? Tamara emphasized that successful librarians need to enjoy people and enjoy interacting with all types of people.

  • Look at what you can do in a job outside of the job description. Tamara advises that trying different things in a job will teach you new skills and ultimately make you a more valuable employee. One thing Tamara suggests is working on the organization's newsletter. It's a great way to keep abreast of what's happening and to make contact with others.
  • Libraries need "change makers." Don't be afraid to offer new ideas. Maintain the ability to shift gears in a job.
  • Keep your eyes and ears open! Tamara once found a job by approaching someone in a coffee shop that she had overheard expressing a need for help. You never know where and when opportunities will arise.
  • Keep your resume current but be sure to repackage it for each job you're applying for. Be sure that you address the specific needs of your perspective employer when applying for a position.

As Tamara stated, "Everything broadens the scope of opportunity." Keep active. Keep current. And keep your eyes and ears open. Thank you, Tamara, for your great advice. Certainly, we'll all have a chance to put it into practice soon!

Bryn L. Martin
Contributing Editor & MLIS Student

Book Review:

Brown, John Seely, and Duguid, Paul (2000). The Social Life of Information. Harvard Business School Press. ISBN: 0-87584-762-5.

No User is an Island

A few years back, it was not uncommon to be bombarded by enthusiastic advertisements heralding an information revolution, where the structures of society that held back freedom and innovation would crumble into the past, trampled by the stampede of progress. Many predicted that the US economy would be reformed from its foundations, that information would be free - free of corporations, free of organizations, free of the stranglehold of context. Ah, the empty promises and vain prophecies of the Dot-com era.

Yet why are things business as usual? A few behemoth corporations control the flow of money and information on the Internet. The same organizational patterns that make up businesses, universities, and government remain intact. It seems that we humans are creatures of habit. We cling to our social networks, to our reliable sources, to the organizations that give structure to our society.

John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid's insightful guide to the world information sharing, The Social Life of Information, seems to support this hypothesis. In 300 or so pages, they present the case that the social networks that make up the whole of human culture are quite impervious to changes in technology, economic upheavals, or the conjecturing of pundits. These social networks perform an unseen but vital function in the operation of society and its organizations.

Brown and Duguid begin with the humble document, in both physical and electronic form, and examine its role in the formation and maintenance of communities of practice. These communities are centered on a task, a common interest, or an occupation, forming the foundation of any organization, business, or user group. Information flows most efficiently through these channels. This mechanism facilitates and moderates the sharing of knowledge within and between social networks, and documents, say Brown and Duguid, are the glue that holds it all together. Contrary to the beliefs of the futurists, information must be intermediated, packaged in the social and physical context from which it came, to be useful and meaningful.

Information professionals would do well to heed the observations of Brown and Duguid. In a day when public support for many libraries is waning, there is a great need for strategies to reinstate the notion that libraries are essential to the healthy functioning of our culture. One such strategy is designing information systems and physical spaces that encourage social interaction. If we can identify and analyze knowledge sharing patterns among user groups, perhaps we can better meet user needs by building systems that mimic these patterns. Whatever the implications for practice, The Social Life of Information is essential reading for any information professional seeking to understand why context is so vital to library & information science.

Aaron J. Louie
Contributing Editor and MLIS Student

Alumni Profile

In this issue, we profile Paula Palmer, who graduated from the iSchool in 1994, when it was known as the University of Washington School of Library & Information Science. Although the curriculum has changed a great deal, Paula's experiences show what has not changed; the value of excellent training, a diverse background and active participation in our professional community. You may recognize Paula from her email announcements for the College Librarians and Media Specialists (CLAMS) of Washington State, which has an annual conference and for which she is a past president. Paula is the librarian at Lake Washington Technical Institute, located in Kirkland, Washington.

It's been a fast seven years since I graduated in 1994. The training that I have used most is in cataloguing and reference--in that order. Directly out of graduate school I catalogued the reprint collection of Heartstream, a local biotechnology startup. Because I had early exposure to HTML [remember Mosaic?] and citation reference software, I landed my first full-time job as Webmaster and reference librarian at University of Washington Health Sciences Library and Information Center. My experience at Heartstream and HSLIC prepared me for my current position as the sole, tenured librarian at Lake Washington Technical College Library Media Center where I am responsible for acquisitions, cataloguing, public services, reference and the web page. There are three full time employees in our library--director, myself and library technician.

Although our library is part of the state's community and technical college system, the collection serves a more diverse population than is obvious. Our patrons include staff and students of the college, students from the alternative high school co-located on campus, and the public. Course offerings vary from general education requirements to technical and vocational programs such as fitness specialist, environmental horticulture, precision machining, welding, engineering graphics, culinary arts and computer services and network technician. My educational background in socio-cultural anthropology has served me well because I interact with a very diverse population in terms of courses offered by the college and demographic makeup, e.g., we serve immigrants and those who are returning to the workforce. Typical reference questions I field in a day can include how to correctly cite an electronic reference, finding a transmission manual for a 1970 Ford Top loader, finding the contact information for the president of the Puget Sound Grant-writer's Association, helping an instructor find material for a course.

The most helpful advice I can pass along is to be flexible--you never know how your work might evolve or what you might learn-I've worked with ethnological artifacts, a fish collection, a special librarians archive, and drama resources. LWTC has a childcare center on site and I have a weekly story time with the pre-schoolers. Who could have known that I would charter the first chapter of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society at a technical college in Washington State or that I serve as chapter advisor? Attend professional organization meetings to find out what issues are important and to make important contacts, volunteer (you learn a lot) or serve as an officer (you learn even more). As past president of CLAMS (College Librarians and Media Specialists) I now know how to facilitate meetings, how to delegate, and how to coordinate successful conferences. There is a lot more I could include, but on reflection the other most helpful advice is to maintain a sense of humor.

Paula Palmer
Class of 1994

Submissions Requested

Are you interested in sharing your knowledge with the rest of the student body? Have you attended any conferences or taken an interesting or worthwhile class outside of the department? Would you care to review nearby bars for us? Send your Silverfish submissions to Ariel Johnson or John Buell.

Edited by Ariel Johnson and John W.N. Buell

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