Over the course of our library school careers, we complete dozens of assignments, from reading articles for class discussion to completing research papers and group projects. Many assignments blend together as our library school experience prepares us to begin a variety of careers in library and information science. Some assignments stand out, though, for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s a good grade, other times it’s a bad one. Group assignments can go amazingly well or crash and burn. Sometimes a research project, with a professor’s feedback and encouragement, becomes a published paper or a conference presentation.
Here are some of our most memorable assignments:
My most memorable assignment was designing and solo teaching my very own hour-long information literacy class in Fall 2013. I had to build the session from the ground up. I reached out to my local university and collaborated with a faculty historian to decide at which class I would present and what points I would cover. I created the slides (and a few memes), located a comical Internet video or two, and thought of a zanily memorable way to demonstrate Boolean searches using a red firefighter’s hat and a green St. Patrick’s Day hat. I gave assessments, performed search demos, and led a group discussion on database characteristics.
Transformative? No, but the students loved it! Even better, they benefited from my instruction. All the best assignments I’ve had in grad school have required—and inspired—me to develop real-world skills creatively and independently in an LIS context. More than ever, teaching this information literacy class assured me that I had made the right choice going into LIS. It was an affirmative experience.
The final assignment for the law librarianship course at Catholic was a case study. We were supposed to write about a problem from identifying the problem through possible solutions to implementation and assessment. The class was only 6 weeks long, so we were told just to make up any of the stages that we needed to. (Legal research by non-librarian: 45 minutes. By librarian: 5 minutes. Sure!) The problem I chose–the retirement and non-replacement of the librarian for the DC Office of the Attorney General (OAG)–gave me an excuse to discuss the library and position with contacts and to express my interest in re-creating the position. It also provided a structure for me to think about all the ways a librarian could support OAG even without a physical library. I’m now ready to present to the OAG leadership about why they need a librarian and why that librarian should be me. Plus, by asking a question on the law-lib Listserv, I got myself invited to a meeting of state attorney general librarians–all expenses paid!
I just wrapped up a tough, but incredibly valuable, assignment in one of my best classes ever, Preserving Digital Culture. (Seriously, if I were to write a Hack Your Program: Pitt Edition, I would tell everyone to take this class, no matter what your specialization.) Students were divided into working groups throughout the entire semester, each tackling a different theme across computing history, and each group built a web archive in Archive-It relating to that theme. The final assignment included a group presentation and written report on the web archiving process, as well as individual peer assessments.
Group projects are hard for me, as a bit of a control freak, but this particular assignment really helped me appreciate how each group member contributed different strengths and expertise — and challenged me to hold others accountable when necessary. I also became intimately familiar with the ups and downs of the web archiving process, which I’m already putting to good use as a volunteer archivist for the Feminist Scholars Digital Workshop. Last, but not least, this project exploded my old, simplistic views on digital preservation (we just have to…save things…right?) by forcing me to wrestle with the huge investments of time and resources, thorny appraisal questions, and intricate strings of dependencies that make digital records tick.
One of my stand-out assignments came in the Social Sciences Resources class I’m wrapping up this week. Back in mid-February, near the end of the class about history resources, the professor passed out a packet of information on how to conduct an oral history project. He told us to read through the material, conduct an oral history interview, and present it in class in three weeks. This was an unexpected assignment, not on the syllabus, and we weren’t told how much the assignment would count (if any) toward our final grade. My initial plan was to give it minimal effort, since my schedule was already pretty packed with the already scheduled assignments, as well as my full-time job.
Once I read through the packet of information, though, I was intrigued by the project, and arranged to take my boyfriend’s mother out to dinner, so I could interview her. After breakfast-for-dinner at IHOP, we talked for a good hour, starting with my first question but going off on some fascinating tangents. I learned things about her career in computers in the mid-1960s that I wouldn’t have known to ask about! I transcribed the best that I could, hoping I could read my chicken scratch later.
I was pleasantly surprised and pleased by the finished project, partly because I ended up caring more about it than I thought I would. I actually enjoyed the process, made easier by interviewing someone I knew for this first oral history project, but I still came away with some things I’d do differently, like using a tape recorder or laptop during the interview for faster recording. In addition to the things I learned from the project, I also got a big-time reminder that library school isn’t just about the grades. Sometimes, you don’t get a letter or number, but you get a great learning experience anyway.
So, what is your most memorable assignment in library school? What makes that assignment stand out?