The library and information science profession is truly a diverse profession. Men and women of every single race and ethnic group serve as librarians and other kinds of information professionals in many different ways around the world. Another group of people within the library and information science profession that contribute to the diversity of the profession as a whole are people with disabilities. Within this group of library professionals are individuals with “visible disabilities” such as physical handicaps and individuals with “invisible disabilities” such as learning disabilities and emotional and non-physical health disorders.
A smaller group of disabilities exists within the sub-group of “invisible disabilities” known as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on their “Facts About ASD” webpage defines Autism Spectrum Disorder as a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication, and behavioral challenges within individuals. It also states that each individual who has ASD is affected by their disorder differently ranging from mildly to severe. Currently, the CDC divides Autism Spectrum Disorder into three different separate categories of disabilities: Autistic Disorder, Asperger Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified or PDD – NOS. There are no statistics numbers as to the exact number of individuals with ASD that are library professionals. It is traditionally not uncommon for libraries to hire individuals with more severe forms of ASD to do basic library work such as shelving books. However, usually only individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome, less severe forms of PDD – NOS, and the least severe form of Autistic Disorder traditionally known as “High-Functioning Autism” are likely to become full-fledged library professionals. In fact, some library professionals with ASD may be un-diagnosed because it is only recently that some less-severe forms of ASD—particularly Asperger’s Syndrome—have been recognized by the medical community and subsequently society.
I am an aspiring librarian and an individual with ASD. When I say that I am an aspiring librarian, I mean that I am not quite a number in the percentage of individuals with ASD who are library professionals. Two springs ago, in May of 2012, I graduated from Wayne State University with my Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science (MLIS) and my Graduate Certificate in Information Management. Currently, I am still looking for a full-time librarian position or a part-time librarian position to supplement my current job as a part-time library technician at the library for the Wayne State University School of Law, also known as the Arthur Neef Law Library. Anyone in the library profession who has completed their MLIS knows that the road to graduating with your Master’s Degree in Library Science and then establishing your career as a librarian or information professional within the library profession is by no means easy. However, individuals with ASD like myself face our own unique difficulties that sometimes make the path to success within the library profession even more challenging.
In the next three blogs, I would like to tell you my story about how I decided to become a librarian and some of the many challenges that I have faced as I have sought to pursue what I truly believe is my calling. The purpose of me telling my story is three-fold. First, I would like to raise awareness for individuals with ASD that are part of the library and information science profession and for individuals like myself who are currently trying to become part of the profession. I want librarians and others within the library profession to understand that while individuals with ASD may appear to have certain shortcomings; with the proper guidance, we are more than capable of overcoming our challenges and becoming equally as productive as our neurotypical (non-ASD) colleagues within the library and information science profession. Second, I wish to help those who educate our future library and information science professionals to understand some of the unique challenges that individuals with ASD may face as they try to enter the profession. My hope is that my story will be able to help library and information science professors at colleges and universities with MLIS schools and programs to better identify the needs of their students with ASD. With this information, perhaps they can help these students overcome their difficulties so that that the students can have an easier time transitioning into the library profession. Finally and most importantly, I am writing my story to encourage other individuals who are affected by ASD and remind them that no dream or goal is truly beyond our reach as long as we are willing to work hard enough to attain it!
Please click on the links below to read Part I, II, and III of my blog!
As a child growing up, you could say that I was a true “library kid” or “library geek.” From the time I was four -years old, I was going to my local small town library with my mother on a weekly basis to check out children’s stories and other books on cars, trucks, machines, and other interests of mine at that age. By the time I was a teenager, while other young boys my age were outside playing roller-hockey or indoors playing Nintendo games, I was walking or riding my bike to the library on my own to entertain myself by reading whatever books and magazines that I could find on my favorite subjects that amused me.
Being a “library geek” wasn’t the only way that I was different from everyone else my age. When I was three years old, I was diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism (HFA); which is essentially equivalent to what we now know as Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). Thanks to an early diagnosis and dedicated parents who completely devoted themselves to finding all of the best treatments that they could at the time to help me overcome my disability, I have been able to overcome my Autism and almost all of the difficulties and hardships that it once caused me. Believe me; it took a lot of hard work on my part too! I had nineteen years of speech and language pathology that lasted into my early adulthood. Every bit of those nineteen years of therapy has helped me in some of the most critical areas of my life from having everyday conversations with people to writing my college reports and research papers. Moreover, I can still remember as a child that I had a terrible time dealing with changes in my daily routine and environment. When my family moved from West Michigan to the Detroit area, the experience for me was nothing short of traumatic. Now I marvel at the fact that I have lived on my own on two different university campuses for a total of five of my twelve years in college and I am now even considering relocating out of state to pursue better employment opportunities. I have also been driving for ten years as of recently. So as you can see, my local public library played an even deeper role in life than simply providing me with a place to go and read for a while. As I sat alone at the library reading about favorite interests, I was dreaming about how I would conquer and overcome my disability so that I could live the same kind of life that all of my peers were dreaming of living when they grew up to be adults. I was determined to graduate from high school, learn to drive, live independently, graduate with two degrees from college, and pursue a career of my choice. Most importantly, I was determined to learn to be more outgoing and less socially awkward so that I could make friends and relate to people on an everyday basis. As of now, I have achieved the first five of my above six life goals and I am currently working on conquering the sixth.
Why do I use such strong, war-like words like conquer when referring to pursuing my career of choice? Simply because I have had to work so hard to do many of the things that come so natural to many others. My decision to become a librarian has certainly been no exception. It was not my original intention to turn my love of libraries into a career. If I had intended to become a librarian from the start, I know for a fact that I would have spent the same amount of time reading every book that my local library had on libraries and how they function that I spent reading about fighter planes, Franz Liszt, and Frank Lloyd Wright. Instead, my childhood career aspirations were to be an aerospace engineer, a concert pianist and composer, or an architect. By the time I had entered college, I had discovered that aerospace engineering and music were not viable full-time career options for me if I wished to have a job in which I made enough money to live independently. So I decided to become an architect. However, when the post 9/11 economic slump did not recover, I realized that that there would not be many jobs for architects because the building industry rises and declines with the economy. It was time to look for another career to pursue. At that time that my parents and a few other family friends began to encourage me to consider becoming a librarian.
Actually, I had briefly considered becoming librarian after my second year at community college when I was greatly struggling with college physics and calculus. I had talked to two librarians at my local library and had asked them what educational requirements were necessary to become a librarian. I was surprised when they told me that you basically had to have a Master’s Degree in Library Science and that you could get your Bachelor’s degree in any subject that you wanted. At the time, this sounded like a relatively easy career path compared to the six years of difficult courses that I knew I would have to take just to get my Bachelor’s degree in Architecture; plus the tests required to become a registered architect. So when I began looking for other career fields to go into besides architecture, the idea of becoming a librarian quickly came back to me. After all, if I loved to visit libraries to look up my topics of interest, why would I not love being the librarian who helped other people discover the resources that would help them learn more about things that they were passionate about? From the time that I was little, everyone kept telling me that I was a “walking encyclopedia.” I could not think of a better job for a person with that gift than being a librarian. To be sure that I was headed in the right direction, I interviewed two other librarians, one at my community college and another at another public library near where I lived. Both confirmed that I needed a Master’s Degree in Library Science. They also convinced me that being a librarian was a relatively secure profession in spite of the rise of the internet. With this information in mind, I quickly switched my associate major from architecture to liberal arts and graduated from Oakland Community College with an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts. In the fall of that very same year, I enrolled in the History undergraduate program at Oakland University.
Part II »
Like every major chapter of my life from getting my Eagle Scout award to graduating from high school, pursuing my career as a librarian has never been easy. What really makes this chapter of my life so different from many of the others is that I have not struggled as much academically as I have in finding employment. This trend first became apparent to me the summer after my first semester at Oakland University. Around the very last day of finals, I had noticed a posting for a circulation assistant at the university main library near the entrance and I had immediately applied for the position. Within less than a week, I had received a call from the library for an interview and I succeed in landing my first library job ever as a circulation assistant.
At the age of twenty-five, this job was not only my first library job but my first professional job ever. Prior to that, I had worked for three summers as a floor-worker at a warehouse that sold lawn-sprinkling and landscape lighting equipment to contractors and at the time, I was still working as a part-time floor-worker at my local Rite Aid pharmacy. Neither of these environments were professional work environments nor did they prepare me for the professional environment that I would encounter when working at a library. A change in work environments is not nearly as challenging for non-Asperger’s individuals as it is for Asperger’s individuals since non-Asperger’s individuals generally do not struggle with learning the social rules of different work environments like Asperger’s individuals do. For me, the transfer from a non-professional work environment to a professional work environment was particularly difficult because the social rules at both the drug store and the warehouse were rather obvious and straightforward. In a modern professional environment, such as a library, the social rules may seem informal. However, there are many hidden social formalities in how you deal with people in this type of environment that are not obvious at first but nevertheless, still exist and quickly become apparent to just about everyone except individuals like me who struggle with social skills difficulties.
If this had been the only issue of difficulty relating to my Asperger’s Syndrome that I had been facing, I am fairly certain that I would have survived at this job. However, as in many times throughout my childhood, some of the major quirks that are a part of my Asperger’s Syndrome began to rear their ugly heads against me. First, there was the issue of social skills that I described above. Next there was the issue of multi-tasking. Usually, when I learn a job that requires me to do more than one major task at a time, I have to learn each task separately and practice them again and again until I learn them or write the job procedures down on paper so that I can look at the procedures as a fresh reminder whenever I have to do the job. Finally, there was the issue of learning the leadership hierarchy of the library system. Because I had never had so many immediate supervisors and managers directly above me in a workplace environment, I had a terrible time figuring out the chain of command among all of them. This led to my eventual dismissal from the library after only a year of working there.
I did the best that I could to fight to keep my job. Since I was receiving assistance from my state’s disability rehabilitation services at the time, I tried to see if there was any way that my counselor could intervene for me and explain my situation to my circulation manager and see if she could get my manager to let me stay. I also asked my counselor to provide me with a job coach to help me better identify areas where I was having difficulty and convince my manager to allow me to have the accommodations that I needed to perform my work successfully. However, my counselor was only able to convince my circulation manager to let me stay an extra semester longer. Furthermore, while I was provided with a job coach, the job coach only observed me for several weeks and then took the manager’s side telling me that I would never be capable of performing any multi-tasking jobs in a library or any other setting. I stuck around at my job for the full spring and following summer semester while simultaneously looking for another library job and continuing to work at Rite Aid. While I still feel deeply hurt and betrayed by the job coach’s lack of understanding, I lost all of my disability services when I turned 26 that summer and she would not have been able to help me after that anyhow. Meanwhile, I was very determined to find another library circulation assistant position so that I could prove all of my skeptics wrong!
It didn’t take long for a breeze of luck to blow my way. Near the end of the next spring semester, I received a phone call from someone I knew and trusted at the university telling me that the Educational Resources Laboratory (ERL), the department library for the School of Education, had an opening for a circulation assistant. She encouraged me to apply as quickly as I could. This I did. I got the job and my experience at the Education Resources Laboratory was almost completely the opposite of my experience at the university main library. Everyone there was more than willing to work with me and enable me to have all of the accommodations that I needed in order to do whatever job they asked me to do successfully. I proved not only to myself but to all of those around me that I could be a successful circulation assistant and that I was capable of doing the very multi-task jobs that my job coach had claimed that I was incapable of doing. More importantly, however, I proved that I was not only capable but very good at working in a profession that required me to interact with people on a continual basis. During the month of August, Jack’s Place for Autism hosted its summer camp with Joey Travolta—that’s right, John Travolta’s brother—on the floor below where the ERL was located. I don’t think we had a quiet moment that week as the ERL was flooded with young children with Autism ranging from ages six to thirteen all eager to check out the various books that the ERL had in its large children’s section. There are many different views among those of us within the library profession as to what truly represents what the library stands for. I myself believe that the library is truly at its finest during the week of summer children’s reading camp. During this time, the library is awash with young children of all ages discovering the joys of learning more about things that they are interested in and discovering new interests in the forms of things that they never knew existed. It’s all in the colorful “reading rainbow” of knowledge that exists within the pages of the books and many other forms of media that the library has to offer us.
All things must come to an end someday. I had begun my job as a circulation assistant at the Educational Resources Laboratory the summer before my last semester at Oakland University and the position was a work-study job. Consequently, when I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in the spring of 2008, the ERL was forced to lay me off. Everyone at the ERL was sorry to see me go because I was such a dedicated employee and I was very passionate about my work there. However, the ERL library director and a few of the other librarians that I had become good friends with at the university main library were convinced that I would be able to quickly find another library job. I had already been accepted into the Library and Information Science Program at Wayne State University; which I was slated to begin that fall. That summer, I applied for every library position that I could find that did not require a Master’s degree in library science (an MLIS); including library page positions. However, I was not successful in obtaining any of those positions. Fortunately, I still had my job at Rite Aid. So I kept looking while preparing for fall and the beginning of graduate school.
« Part I
Part III »
I entered the Library and Information Science Program at Wayne State University in the fall of 2008 excited for the adventures that lay ahead. This was after all, graduate school where I would ultimately be able to learn more about the library profession as a whole while focusing on developing my career and figuring out what aspect of library science I would enjoy most. However, to me, there was an even deeper and more significant meaning to this path in my education that I was now taking. Until this point in my life, I was merely a patron to every library that I entered. It mattered not that I may have been much more passionate about reading, learning, and research than the others in the library surrounding me. I still could only read the books, listen to the music, watch the films, and view the webpages on the online databases that contained important information on my favorite interests that I could not find anywhere else. These activities taught me little about how these print, sound, visual, and online forms of media came to be part of that wonderful world of discovery that I knew as the “library.” I wanted to know how the librarians that ran the library developed these expansive collections of media that seemed to grab my interest and prick my curiosity like very few other things in the world did. How did they know that adding a new book on fighter planes to the transportation section would ensure that I stopped by that section during every library visit? How did they know that I would be delighted to discover that they had a collection of classical music cd’s that was as large as their pop-rock cd collection? Moreover, how did they seem to know how to develop the library media collection in a way that also encouraged my desire to want to learn more and more? Now, I would learn how to become a librarian who helped create the world of the “library” that had enraptured me from childhood. Instead of being a visiting explorer, I would now learn to become the person that taught others how to love learning and knowledge and how the joys of learning could help them discover the great world around them. With all of the changes that the internet age was promising to bring to libraries, my role as the people’s guide to exploring the world of knowledge and information seemed to only grow more exciting.
However, not long after my first semester in library school began, the “Recession of 2008” hit metro Detroit hard. Suddenly, masses of people were unemployed and both the business and the government employment sectors were announcing freezes on hiring any new employees. This included many of the local public libraries in my area where I was initially hoping to find a job. If this wasn’t unsettling enough, I was totally unprepared for yet another greater ramification that caught me completely by surprise. Around the same time people were being laid off from their various professions, the enrollment rate in the Library and Information Science Program jumped significantly. Many of the new students who were entering the program were people of all ages who had come from various professions and had all been laid off or were in danger of being laid off. I had been hearing for several years that the nursing profession was being flooded with people who had been laid off from the automotive industry. However, it never dawned on me that those who did not want to become nurses might just choose to become librarians. Plus, there were many other unemployed professionals-turned students that quickly filled the ranks of the Library and Information Science Program’s rapidly growing online student population. During the previous fall, I had participated in the New Student Orientation with around one hundred new students all entering the program. Many of these students were former undergraduate students like myself and maybe an eighth of them were former teachers or came from business backgrounds. By the next spring, the enrollment of new students into the Library and Information Science Program had increased so much that Wayne State University decided to change the Library and Information Science Program from being an academic program under the Graduate School into an individual school of its own; the School of Library and Information Science.
So, less than a year after entering the path that was supposed to lead me to my profession, I was faced with a reality that translated into scant library jobs and more people than I had ever fathomed competing against me for these jobs. The obstacles didn’t stop rising even there. Articles began popping up in my library magazines about government municipalities on all levels reducing and even eliminating librarian positions. I even met a few grade-school media specialists who had been laid off or forced to become regular teachers due to school district decisions to eliminate all media specialists. My own state, Michigan, came very close to closing its own state library, the Library of Michigan, in the summer of 2009. Even this wonderful state cultural institution did not escape without a major reduction in both its size and its staff of librarians.
Nevertheless, I continued to persevere. During my second semester, I did find a job as an evening library page at my university’s law library. However, because I did not have a law degree, I was not allowed to assist patrons in answering reference questions because the library did not want me giving any form of legal assistance or advice to anyone due to liability issues. Consequently, I knew that I would quickly have to find a second library position or another library position altogether that would enable me to gain more experience in the library environment beyond shelving books. So I continued applying to every non-MLIS library position that I could find as well as every internship opportunity that the School of Library and Information Science offered. I had several interviews for a few of these positions and internships and I even went to several interview workshops that the university career services offered so that I could do well at each of the interviews. Unfortunately, even these extra efforts did not help me succeed in landing any new positions.
My lack of success in finding a new job both bewildered and disappointed me. Up until this point, I had been sure that being a library science student was the key to getting an entry-level non-MLIS library position. Moreover, unlike my fellow students who were choosing to become librarians as a second career or as means of guaranteeing themselves a job, I wanted to become a librarian because I love libraries and value their significant role as cultural institutions in American society. I was certain that this would be apparent to the library staff who interviewed me since I had gone straight from undergraduate school to MLIS-school. Much to my dismay, this seemed to be more of a deterrent than a plus for me. Because libraries were dealing with staff reductions and hiring freezes, they wanted library science students who had previous career experience and seemed to care little about the motives of the students they hired. What disappointed me the most, however, was that even the internship positions hosted by the School of Library and Information Science seemed to favor students with previous career experience. Wasn’t the purpose of these internships to give students like myself who were new to the field and had relatively little experience a chance to learn more about the library science profession and gain more experience? Yet, even the libraries that hosted these internships chose students with more career experience so that they could spend less time teaching and training them.
By the beginning of my third semester, I was starting to lose much of my passion for being a librarian that I originally had two years earlier. Things had really begun to come to a head the previous spring when an affluent community near where I lived, Troy, failed to pass a millage to fund its public library. I had volunteered at the Troy Public Library two semesters earlier and had come to know some of the librarians and other staff there quite well. The librarians there were very knowledgeable but also placed a strong emphasis on both patron service and community outreach. Moreover, never in my life had I ever seen a large crowd of people waiting outside of a library every day waiting for it to open like I did at the Troy Library. So it made no sense to me why a community that appeared to greatly support their library would vote against a library millage when their library was in danger of closing (I could write another whole blog about this story). All I could think of at the time was that we were entering an age in which our society no longer valued its libraries. If my hypothesis was true, then it seemed to me that my decision to pursue a career as a librarian might be as futile as my idea of becoming an architect over five years earlier. However, I was already too far towards earning my Master’s degree to quit or change my plans. So I chose one of the most forward-thinking faculty members in the School of Library and Information Science to be my academic advisor and took all of the courses that he recommended that I should take. I placed a particular emphasis on the courses that would make me the most marketable and versatile in the job market when I graduated. In addition, partially at the advice of my advisor, I decided to pursue a Graduate Certificate in Information Management in addition to my Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science so that I could pursue careers outside of the realm of library science in case I could not find a job as a librarian after I graduated.
Fortunately, the Wayne State University School of Library and Information Science does offer its students the opportunity to take practicum courses as part of their elective classes that they are required to take in order to earn their MLIS. This is one of several main reasons that I choose Wayne State University’s School of Library and Information Science over other MLIS programs. These practicum courses are semester-long library internships that are set up like a hands-on library course. The courses are divided by the different fields of library science such as public libraries, academic libraries, school media libraries, and archives. Students can sign up to take one practicum course each semester in a particular field of their choice and the School of Library and Information Science will find a library in that particular field that is located within the area where the student resides that is willing to host the student as an intern for the semester. The student then spends the semester working at the library where they are placed and is graded based on the assessment of their performance by both their professor and their host library. I took a public library and an academic library practicum course in my third and fourth years as a student. During both practicums, I was able to land my internships at the libraries of my choice. Both of my host libraries provided me with wonderful opportunities to practice some of the skills that I had learned from the library science courses that I had taken as well as the opportunity to learn new skills. However, these two practicum internships were the only opportunities that I had to practice some of the different library science skills that I had been learning over the previous few years. All of us need to practice new things that we learn after we learn them to a certain extent or we will lose them. Individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome like me not only need opportunities to review and practice new skills and concepts that we have learned right after we have learned them but we often need to practice them on a consistent basis for a short time after we have learned them so we can fully understand what we have learned. The reason for this is rather complicated but I will try to explain it briefly. People with Asperger’s Syndrome or other forms of ASD have a tendency to focus very heavily on the minute details in certain areas that they are learning. This often makes it very difficult for them to see the bigger overall picture of what they are trying to learn. For example, if I am taking a course in library collection development during a certain semester, it is very helpful if I have an internship at a library during the following semester where I am required to work with the librarian who is in charge of collection development on several of her collection weeding or enhancement projects. Note that I say several and not just one because I will need to work with her on more than one project so that I can see how the collection development skills that I have learned—which not only involves library budgets but sometimes politics as well—apply to different library workplace scenarios. This is why I tried so hard from the beginning to find a good consistent entry-level library job. I knew I needed a work environment where I could practice all of the new skills that I was learning on a consistent basis in a working library environment.
It took me four years of hard work and studying but I finally reached the finish line and graduated with both my Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science and my Graduate Certificate in Information Management in May of 2012. Then I proceeded to join the masses of new MLIS graduates looking for prospective employment. Fortunately, I have been able to keep my part-time job at the Law Library for the time being so that I can pay for my daily expenses while I look for a better paying job. While I have had my share of dull moments, I have continued to take advantage of every opportunity that I can to continue to build upon my library and information science education and learn what I was not able to learn previously due to time or lack of opportunity. Last summer, I took my first post graduate course on Information Literacy and How It Relates to Libraries. This past spring, I took yet another course on Social Media Awareness for Information Professionals. In addition, I am currently volunteering at a local library and I am finally having the opportunity to practice some of the library skills that I learned several semesters ago. I am also learning other basic library science skills that I feel that I somehow missed when I could not find any jobs or internships immediately.
So here I am today pleased with what I have accomplished so far but also wondering if there is something that I could have or should have done differently that would have enabled me to become the full-time professional librarian that I envisioned I would be by now. Many people tell me not to be too hard on myself because the local, national, and global economy is poor and there are many people looking for work or working in jobs that are far below their qualification level. However, when I see many of my peers from graduate school at the different public and academic libraries that I visit working as part-time or full-time librarians, I have a hard time believing that I am just the victim of bad luck. I probably should have done things differently! Right now I am not exactly sure how I could have taken a different path but I am fairly sure that I should have chosen a different undergraduate major that would have enabled me to pursue a career without requiring me to go to graduate school immediately. If having previous career experience was the key that helped all of my friends obtain their current library jobs, then maybe that is what I should have done too! There are a few of my friends in the librarian world who did go straight from undergraduate school to getting their MLIS and still were successful in obtaining library jobs. However, almost all of these people had jobs both in high school and in early college at their local public libraries as library pages. I applied to be a library page at my hometown library several times throughout high school. However, your parents had to be heavily involved in the Friends of the Library organization at my library before the library would even consider hiring you for a page. My parents worked so many hours that neither of them had any time to be involved in any community organizations. So there was no getting in that side door for me. I could blame everything on my Asperger’s Syndrome as I have done in the past. Maybe I didn’t ask enough questions or talk to more librarians ahead of time and consequently, I missed out on some social cues unique to the library profession that I should have picked up a long time ago that held the keys or secret code needed to open the right door that all individuals who wish to have a successful career as a librarian must enter.
Oh well, I am wasting too much time dwelling on “what ifs” and it is getting me nowhere. I must go on now and figure out what I have to do to pursue my career that I know that I will enjoy at a public, academic, or specialized library wherever it may be. In the meantime, I will start to look outside of my profession to see if there is any place where I can find a career that I can put my information management and research skills to use while continuing to grow in other areas as an individual. There are those along my course of life that have tried to tell me many times that my goals are too lofty and that Asperger’s individuals like me just do not belong in the professional workplace or in environments where we are required to interact with people on a consistent basis. However, I will not be daunted by such nonsense! I have worked too hard to overcome my shortcomings so that I can be a part of the society of our world and humanity where people told me I did not belong in the first place. Hence, I will not take “no” for an answer from those who think that they can convince me that I do not belong in the sub-societies of the library profession or even the professional workplace. I am capable of doing and becoming anything that I put my mind to and I will find my place of respect and influence as the people’s guide in that wonderful world of knowledge and information known as the “library” as it continues to grow and change in the greater world of the unknown that we call the 21st century!
« Part II
You have probably heard the phrase “libraries are more than just books” uttered more than once. In fact, I have heard this cliché so often since I entered the library profession four years ago that I am convinced that it has become the 21st century mantra for librarians and their libraries. It is true that the growth of the internet and more recently, the rise of e-readers, have forced libraries to actively reinvent how the public perceives them. For many librarians, this means drawing the attention of their patrons away from the stacks of books and emphasizing the library’s computer stations, both which serve as the gateways to many online resources that those patrons could normally never access on their own home computer without going through the library’s website. However, there is a new trend in public libraries across the United States that is expanding what libraries have to offer beyond the realm of anything that is traditionally associated with libraries. Have you ever imagined a library that offers bike-repair sessions, electronics workshops, book writing and publishing sessions, or even 3-D printing and fabricating laboratories on a weekly basis? Well, you can actually find libraries that offer and host weekly activities like these and much more in the form of “maker-spaces;” a new invention that may revolutionize how libraries serve the public in the near-future.
Maker-spaces are not entirely without precedent. In 1905, Francis Jenkins Olcott, the head of the children’s department at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburg, assisted in the establishment of home libraries in working class houses within the surrounding communities. In these home libraries, Ms. Olcott organized crafts such as sewing and basketry for local kids. In 1976, the city of Columbus, Ohio used a federal community development block grant to start the Rebuilding Together Central Ohio Tool Library, which served as a tool-lending library. The Tool Library entered a second phase in 2009 when the organization Rebuilding Together Central Ohio took over the operation of the library from the city of Columbus. Today, this unique library continues to lend out tools to the people of Columbus and the other surrounding communities within Franklin County.
In 2011, the first true library maker-space, known as the “Fab Lab,” opened at the Fayetteville Free Library in Fayetteville, New York. The Fab Lab, short for “Fabulous Laboratory,” was the brainchild of Fayetteville librarian, Lauren Smedley. While still in graduate school, Ms. Smedley wrote a proposal calling for the creation of a “maker space” within a public library where people could collaborate, create, and make things. The Fayetteville Free Library was so impressed with Ms. Smedley’s idea that they hired her to make it a reality. As of today, the Fab Lab has expanded to offer Makerbot 3D-printers, video cameras, podcasting equipment, and other digital media equipment all for the purpose of providing members of the community of all ages with the opportunities to collaborate together with their creative ideas and make different things. Currently, the Fayetteville Library is remodeling a wing of its building so that the Fab Lab can have a larger space to offer people a wider variety of resources so that they can put their creative resources to use.
It hasn’t taken long for other libraries across the United States to catch on to the fact that Fayetteville Free Library might really be on to something. In April of 2012, the Detroit Public Library opened a maker space in its HYPE Teen Center located at its Main Branch. The HYPE maker space provides a wide variety of workshops featuring activities that teenagers can participate in such as bike repair, electronics, graphic design, sewing and crafts, and Arduino robotics. Cleveland Public Library and Allen County(IN) Public library launched similar maker-spaces of their own several months later. During the previous year, Chicago Public Library had launched its own unique collaborative learning center located at the Harold Washington Library Center known as YouMedia. YouMedia originally began as a vast learning space filled with computers and other digital media where youth could read, play games, and create their own media in many different formats. However, the Chicago Public Library recently received a huge grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to create a maker space of its own that will feature 3D printers just like the Fayetteville and Cleveland libraries. This addition of a maker space to YouMedia might just enable the Chicago Public Library to set the standard for learning and collaborative creativity for the digital age and the 21st century! Library maker spaces are by no means limited to public libraries or large cities. The University of Nevada Reno has opened a maker space in its DeLaMare Science and Engineering Library and the Connecticut suburb of Westport has recently started a maker space at its public library.
The resources for any library aspiring to join the maker-space movement are quite plentiful. The Institute of Museum and Library Services has awarded grants to several large public libraries such as the Chicago Public Library and the Free Library of Philadelphia to start maker-spaces. There are even some private non-profit organizations such as the Maker Education Initiative that are attempting to start maker spaces at both libraries and other community gathering venues. In addition, there is even a magazine, Make, which has been publishing since 2005 and is entirely devoted to promoting science-based innovation and hands-on-learning in a collaborative environment. Many of the idea’s in Make could easily inspire the workshops and activities that many public libraries are currently hosting in their new maker spaces. In fact, around the same time Fayetteville Free Library was in the process of creating their Fab Lab, an article appeared in Make titled “Is It Time To Rebuild & Retool Public Libraries and Make ‘Techshops’” that outlined many of the basic ideas behind the public library maker space.
However, perhaps the greatest contribution that the library maker space has to offer both libraries and the communities that they serve besides ensuring that libraries will be able to remain institutions of free education, learning, and inspiration for creativity into the distant future is the opportunity to promote community involvement in the education of their children and even adults. Yes, there are currently a number of federal and private funding sources that are available to assist communities that do not have the funds to start a library maker space with all of the latest digital and electronic technology. Nevertheless, in the case that a community is not able to obtain enough grant funding needed to create the most up-to-date maker space, there is still an opportunity for the members of the community to come together with the resources available to create a collaborative learning environment at their library that can still be of great benefit to everyone. While 3D printers and the most advanced forms of digital media may be too expensive for a library to afford in a community, or educational institution that is economically limited; a maker space that features bike repair, sewing and crafts, and even electronics is not out of reach if the members of the community are willing to come together to donate their time, energy, and even their own resources to make it happen. The internet and digital revolutions have brought us many new educational resources that have expanded our ability to learn and even expand upon our creativity. However, we have also entered an era in which people have become overly-reliant on the newest and latest digital innovations for both their learning and entertainment to the point where they may not know how to sustain themselves without their devices. Moreover, although the digital revolution has not replaced hands-on-education, it may be causing people to lose site of the value of hands on learning and the unique perspective that it brings to our lifelong educational experiences.
So for those of us in the library community, we have the opportunity of a life-time to take part in an educational movement and offer our communities a service that will enable us to prove that we are truly “more than just books;” re-engage our communities and get them involved in the education of our children, teenagers, and adults; and promote and maintain the value of hands-on-learning and education beyond the digital revolution and whatever other changes our future may bring. If your library does not have a maker space yet, now is the time for you, the librarian, to encourage them to start creating one and then go out there and help make it happen! Maker-spaces are the greatest innovation that has come to the world of libraries since Benjamin Franklin’s first book lending library and the invention of children’s programming. We have too much to lose if we as librarians even think of not joining in.
Good, T. (2013). Manufacturing Maker Spaces. American Libraries, 44(1/2), 44-49. doi: http://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/features/02062013/manufacturing-makerspaces
McCue, T. J. (2011). First Public Library to Create a Maker Space. Forbes. Retrieved from
Detroit Public Library. (2012). HYPE Makerspace. Retrieved from http://www.detroitpubliclibrary.org/hype/hype-makerspace
Institute of Museum and Library Services. (2012). IMLS Awards $249,999 to the Chicago Public Library Foundation to Create a Maker Space. Retrieved from http://www.imls.gov/imls_awards_249999_to_the_chicago_public_library_foundation_to_create_a_maker_space.aspx
Springen, K. (2011). What’s Right With This Picture?: Chicago’s YOUmedia reinvents the public library. School Library Journal, 57 (3). Retrieved from
Westport Public Library. (2013). Maker Space. Retrieved from http://www.westportlibrary.org/services/maker-space
K. Steele. (2013, February 28). The Free Library of Philadelphia: A Maker Corps Host Site Providing Meaningful Experiences for Teens [Web log comment]. Retrieved from http://makered.org/2013/02/28/the-free-library-of-philadelphia-a-maker-corps-host-site-providing-meaningful-experiences-for-teens/
Maker Media. (2013). Management Team. Retrieved from http://makermedia.com/about-us/management-team/
Torrone, P. (2011). Is It Time to Rebuild & Retool Public Libraries and Make “TechShops”?. Make. Retrieved from
FFL Fab Lab [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MaTC0s3PeI4
Detroit Public Library HYPE Makerspace [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Daq2x5kIY2I
3D Printers at the Westport Library – Dan Kain- CBS – Channel 3 Hartford [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sA0uz36D_RM&list=UUXwRa0gwXtnPuxYlJnD_t7g&index=3
It is no new news that there has been a dramatic increase in the rate of individuals diagnosed with the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) here in the United States. As recent as last year, the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report stating that 1 in 88 children have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. At the same time, colleges and universities across the United States are seeing a major increase in the enrollment rate of students with ASD, particularly individuals with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome (Asperger’s). While there are currently no statistics with exact numbers pertaining to the increase in the enrollment rate of college students with ASD, disability service providers in a number of colleges and universities are reporting an increase in the number of students with ASD—particularly Asperger’s—requesting accommodations for their disability.
Going to college can be a major life changing experience for anyone. However, for individuals with Asperger’s and other forms of ASD, making the transition from high-school to college can be especially challenging because of some of the unique difficulties that individuals with ASD face particularly in the areas of communication and socialization skills. Many individuals with ASD also have different kinds of visual, auditory, and physical sensory problems. Unless they receive therapy to help them overcome their sensory problems, these sensory problems can present them with as much of a challenge as their social skills difficulties; which makes adjusting to any kind of new social, living, or work environment nothing short of daunting. The college campus and classroom environment is no exception.
I can say this from a first-hand experience because I myself am an individual with Asperger’s Syndrome who has just graduated from Wayne State University with my Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. Because I was fortunate enough to receive a diagnosis at an early age, I was able to receive many of the necessary therapies needed to help me overcome a number of my different sensory and communication problems during my childhood. By the time I reached college, I no longer struggled with any serious sensory challenges. However, I still struggled with some difficulties in the areas of social skills. Although I am a very outgoing individual, there were times when learning to adapt to the college campus and classroom environments could be a bit overwhelming. Fortunately, I knew that there was a place at every college that I attended where I could always go in between classes to relieve myself of any social, emotional, or academic stress that I might be experiencing. For me, that place was the college library; also known as the academic library. Within the four walls of the academic library, I found a world that was generally quieter and less stressful than the rest of the campus environment. Moreover, the library was full of books and other media on almost all of my favorite interests. I found that there was nothing more soothing and intellectually stimulating in the middle of a busy, stressful college semester than to read through a book on my favorite classical-music composer or architect. If that wasn’t enough, the library was staffed by some of the most laid-back, intellectually open-minded, and knowledgeable people on campus; the librarians. If I had a question or needed more information to help with a subject that I might be struggling in, I could always ask the librarian at the reference desk and he or she would patiently help me find the best sources available on the topic that I was trying to learn more about without making me feel stupid in any way. While social interactions with college peers and even professors required me to learn a whole new series of social rules; at the library, all I had to do was be polite, pleasant, and keep my voice down in order to win the respect of my new librarian-acquaintances. This sense of familiarity in a world that was completely new to me served to remind me on a weekly basis that I belonged at college regardless of how difficult it sometimes was for me to fit in anywhere else.
I must admit that I would have never turned to the academic library as my place of sanctuary if it hadn’t been for the fact that my mother took me to the library on a weekly basis as a child and instilled in me a love for reading at an early age. Later on, as a teenager, I continued to visit the library on my own as often as I could to entertain myself by reading about my favorite interests. So by the time I reached college, it was only natural for me to head straight to the library as soon as I set foot on campus. This was not just because I was curious to discover the resources that it might have on my favorite subjects but because the library has been such a mainstay in my life.
As a graduate student pursuing my Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science so that I myself could become a librarian, I often wondered how many other college students with Asperger’s Syndrome or other forms of ASD viewed their college library as a sanctuary of quietness and familiarity from all of the confusion and challenges that college life must present to them. Many of my peers with ASD that I have met over my twelve-year span of college life were not blessed with an early exposure to their local library or the love of reading from childhood as I was. Furthermore, many of these same peers—especially those with Asperger’s—were not diagnosed until they were almost adults. Consequently, they were not able to receive all of the therapies that I received during my childhood and teenage years and many of these individuals still struggle with some of the sensory problems that plagued me as a child along with their communication and social skills difficulties. Almost coincidently, because my peers with ASD did not frequent libraries when they were younger, they did not have the opportunity to master their “library etiquette” during their childhood and teenage years as I did. Because I knew my “library etiquette” inside out by the time I reached college, I was able to quickly gain the respect of all of the librarians at every college campus that I attended because they saw me as an eager learner rather than a nuisance. Many of my peers with ASD who struggle just as much with knowing the proper behavior skills expected of patrons in a library setting as they do with other basic social skills might find the academic library to be equally as unwelcoming as the rest of the college campus.
By the time I reached my final year of graduate school, I could no longer simply reflect on how my fellow college students with ASD might view the academic library; the place that had come to be such a critical and integral part of my college experience. As an aspiring librarian, I begin to feel as if it was my duty to play a role in ensuring that students with ASD would have the opportunity to experience their college library in the same pleasant and rewarding manner that I had experienced libraries throughout my life. But how could I do that most effectively? Sure, I could go out of my way and try and give every college student with ASD that I met a good thorough tour of their college library along with a crash course in “library etiquette” prior to the tour. However, I do not recall as a college student meeting new students with ASD on an every-day basis. Of the students with ASD that I did meet, very few of them would have been interested in me giving them a personal tour of their college library even if they had never visited it themselves yet. Nevertheless, if students with ASD are enrolling in colleges and universities across the nation at an ever increasing rate as I mentioned earlier in the article, librarians at the academic libraries of these institutions must be encountering more and more of these students both inside and outside of their libraries on a regular basis. So really, the best way to make academic libraries a welcoming and resourceful environment for students with ASD is to educate the librarians about these students and their unique needs. The question is: how many academic librarians are aware of the existence of students with Asperger’s and other forms of ASD within their institutions and how well equipped do these librarians feel that they are to meet the needs of this unique population of students?
During my final course in library and information science, which was a course on research within the library and information science profession; I had a chance to turn my concern into a research proposal for my final assignment. The purpose of my research proposal was to survey reference and information services librarians at various colleges and universities throughout the state of Michigan. The survey itself consisted of a questionnaire with five open-ended questions followed by nine multiple-choice questions. Both sets of questions ask the survey participants if they have any experience working with students with Asperger’s or other forms of ASD and if they are familiar with the social and communication skills problems that students with ASD may have. Finally, the participants are asked if they feel that they would be able to respond to these students in spite of their social and communication difficulties and provide them with the assistance that they need. Based on the answers provided by the participants of the survey, I hoped to get a good glimpse of how familiar academic librarians are with ASD and in what areas could they be better educated about the difficulties that students with ASD face in an academic library or even a college campus environment.
One of several important components of a research proposal is the literature review. The purpose of the literature review is to give the individual writing the proposal the chance to review any major literature that has been previously written about the topic that the individual wishes to research. A lack of literature on a given topic or proof that the existing literature written on the topic is inadequate provides a great argument for the need for further research on that particular topic. In my literature review, I reviewed all of the literature that I could find on ASD relating to libraries. I discovered that while there have been articles written about how public libraries and school libraries can serve individuals with ASD and articles and even research reports on how academic libraries can serve individuals with physical and intellectual disabilities; there has been no literature at all written about academic libraries and how they can serve individuals with ASD. Hence, if my research proposal is ever carried out, whether it is in Michigan or any other state; my research survey will be the first study ever that attempts to evaluate how well prepared and equipped do academic librarians feel they are to assist students with ASD at their academic libraries.
In the meantime, librarians at academic libraries are left by themselves to try to assist these students as best they can on an individual and daily basis. However, I did not spend four years of going to graduate school to earn my Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science so that I could join that profession while leaving all of my life experiences as an individual with Asperger’s behind me, never to be mentioned or revisited again. No, I intend to use my experiences as a former college student and frequent college library patron to help my colleagues in the library and information science profession better understand other individuals with ASD and how to better serve these individuals in spite of their unique needs. So I am going to make the following suggestions as to how academic librarians can better meet the needs of these unique students that they encounter within their libraries whether or not they fully realize that the individual has some form of ASD. These recommendations are based on my personal experience and observations from four years of library and information education, five years of working at three different academic libraries, and almost thirty years of being a regular patron at my local public libraries.
1) Be patient with any student that appears to have difficulty verbalizing or clarifying what they are asking for or struggles with processing multiple step instructions.
2) If a student asks you to repeat the answer to an obvious question several times, be willing to repeat it until it is apparent that the student understands your answer.
3) If a student that you are assisting appears to be too shy to follow your instructions, offer to break down your instructions into simpler steps and offer to personally show them how to find whatever they are requesting.
4) Do not take it personally if a student asks for help and gives you the impression that they are intimidated by you. In fact, be especially kind and understanding to these students because one compassionate and understanding librarian can often help them overcome whatever phobia they may be experiencing (including the fear that they don’t belong in college).
5) If a student in your library appears lost and at the same time too afraid to ask for help, don’t be afraid to walk over to them and nicely ask them if they need any help finding anything.
6) If a student is engaging in disruptive behavior or behavior that deviates from the established social norms of “library etiquette,” try advising the student in a nice way about acceptable behavior rather than immediately reprimanding them. Only if the student continues to be disruptive to others around him or continues to break important library rules should you begin reprimanding them and reminding them that they will be asked to leave if they do not change their behavior.
7) If you see a group of students bullying another student because that student is behaving or handling themselves in a manner that is social awkward, do not hesitate to intervene in the situation and tell the students involved in the bullying to stop or leave the library. If you are forced to order the antagonizing students to leave the library, make sure that you tell the student who was the victim that they are welcome to remain in the library and ask them if you can help them with anything.
8) Make sure that you have at least one or specifically several quiet areas or rooms in your library that students with ASD who have sensory problems can go to in order to study or spend time in an environment that is free of distractions and annoyances. Make sure that these areas of the library are kept free of things that might annoy these students such as flickering fluorescent lights, excessive noise, and strong smells.
9) If you notice something in your library that could potentially bother a student with ASD who suffers from sensory problems, try to have it fixed or remedied as soon as possible.
While I acknowledge that these suggestions above do not fully cover all scenarios in which academic librarians may assist students with ASD, hopefully they will help lessen some of the challenges that academic librarians assisting these students may find themselves facing. Another wonderful source that librarians should consider consulting is People with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD): What You Need to Know by the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library (ASCLA) Agencies, a division of the American Library Association (ALA). This recommendation-sheet is one of fifteen online pamphlets that the ASCLA has published on library accessibility for individuals with disabilities and it does a wonderful job of covering other important areas in making libraries more accessible and welcoming for students with ASD. Most importantly, however, we in the academic library field must remember that we are not merely here to assist students with ASD with finding the resources that they need. As with public and school librarians, academic librarians too have the capability to help these students discover themselves, their interests, and their ability to overcome their challenges so that they can excel both as college students and as individuals within our society. I know that I would have never gotten to where I am today without my school libraries, my local public libraries and the academic libraries at all three of the institutions of higher learning that I attended. Together, each of these libraries and their librarians kept me in touch with a world of information resources that never failed to remind me that I could achieve anything that I set my mind to and that with hard work; I could overcome my challenges in life to become a respectable contributing member of our society. We in the academic library field have the opportunity to make the same difference in the lives of other individuals with ASD and other disabilities.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Community Report From the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network: Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) Among Multiple Areas of the United States in 2008 ADDM Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network-2012. Atlanta, Georgia.
VanBergeijk, E., Klin, A., & Volkmar, F. (2008). Supporting more able students on the autism spectrum: college and beyond. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 38, 1359–1370. doi: 10.1007/s10803-007-0524-8
Graetz, J., & Spampinato, K. (2008). Asperger’s Syndrome and the Voyage Through High School: Not the Final Frontier. Journal of College Admission (Winter 2008), 19-24.
Zupon, P. (2012). Assisting Students with Asperger’s Syndrome and HFA in an Academic Library. (Unpublished research proposal). Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan.
Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies. (2010). People with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD): What You Need to Know Library Accessibility Tip Sheet 6. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/ascla/sites/ala.org.ascla/files/content/asclaprotools/accessibilitytipsheets/tipsheets/6-ASD.pdf
Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies. (2013). Library Accessibility–What You Need to Know. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/ascla/asclaprotools/accessibilitytipsheets
Practicums! Career Experience for You!
There are many reasons why I chose the Wayne State University School of Library and Information Science over fifty-five other American Library Association (ALA)-accredited Master’s programs to acquire my Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science (MLIS). One of the main reasons was because the Wayne State University School of Library and Information Science offers its students the opportunities to take practicums. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines the term practicum as follows: a course of study designed especially for the preparation of teachers and clinicians that involves the supervised practical application of previously studied theory. At the School of Library and Information Science, practicums allow students the opportunity to gain a hands-on learning experience by working in a library for a semester while earning the same number of course credits that they would earn by taking a single course. The practicums are divided into categories based on the different fields of library science such as public libraries, academic libraries, school media libraries, and archives. Students can sign up for one practicum each semester in a field of their choice. Upon completing their application, the School of Library and Information Science will find a library in the particular field that the student has chosen and is located in the area where the student resides to host the student as an intern for the semester. As a student, I have always learned as much if not more from being able to apply the academic principles that I have learned than from just simply studying them. I knew that I was entering a profession that was highly competitive and that jobs and internships in libraries would have more candidates than positions that they could fill. So I welcomed the opportunity of being able to do practicums because it would enable me to gain experience working in different types of libraries during my four years as a graduate library science student.
My first practicum was at the Brighton District Library; a medium-sized public library located in Brighton, Michigan which is a semi-rural suburb forty-five minutes north of Detroit. I had become well acquainted with the Brighton Library director, Dr. Nancy Johnson, over the previous few years. She had always been helpful in providing me with advice in planning my career and choosing my course of study as a library science student. So when I applied for this particular practicum, Brighton District Library was on the top of my list of libraries that I wished to intern at and I felt very lucky when the Brighton Library agreed to host me. Both Dr. Johnson and the other librarians at the Brighton Library were wonderful hosts to me. All of them worked together to provide me with as many different experiences as possible working in and observing the different daily functions of a public library. Since I had expressed a particular interest in learning more about reference and advisory services and working with the library’s historical collection, I spent half of my internship days at the Brighton Library observing the reference librarians at the adult services reference desk as they assisted the adult and teenage patrons. It was interesting to see the many different areas of advice in which people still sought help from reference librarians. We got a wide variety of questions ranging from readers’ advisory to property and zoning ordinances within the local and surrounding township areas. I spent the other half of my days working with the library’s historical artifact collection located in the Brighton Library’s history room; also known as the Brighton Room. Everything from obituary indexes on microfilm to historic maps of Brighton and the surrounding towns and townships can be found in the Brighton Room. My primary project with the historical collection involved cataloguing two scrapbooks of local obituaries known as the “Whalen Scrapbooks” using a Microsoft Access-based database. When I was not observing at the reference desk or cataloguing the Whalen scrapbook, I had the opportunity to participate in other routine library projects such as weeding the popular fiction section.
My second practicum was at the Ennis and Nancy Ham Library. The Ham Library serves as the main and only academic library for Rochester College; a small private four-year liberal arts college located in Rochester Hills, Michigan. While I could have interned at a larger or more specialized academic library at a larger public university nearby, I chose a smaller library at a smaller college because I felt that I could get a better overall view of all of the many different roles that an academic library serves in a college campus environment. The staff at the Ham Library was equally as hospitable to me as the staff at the Brighton District Library. However, because the Ham Library had a much smaller staff than the Brighton District Library, they had certain important projects that they needed me to help them complete because they had no other way that they could hire anyone else to do them. My previous job and volunteer experience at other libraries enabled me to help them with these projects without them having to train me extensively. One of the biggest projects that I helped participate in was updating the online catalog records for the Ham Library’s print and microfiche periodical collection so that the library could participate in MeLCat’s new Article Reach program. I also ran the circulation desk during some of the weekly evening shifts so that the reference librarian on duty could focus on her reference work and collection development projects. Nevertheless, all of the staff went out of their way to find time to show me some of their daily projects. The library director let me sit in with her on one of her morning cataloguing sessions, one of the reference librarians let me observe her while she taught an information literacy class to students, and one of the other reference librarians allowed me to participate with her on her inter-library loan projects for the day and also showed me her collection development project for the Ham Library’s history collection.
In the end, my two practicums proved to be my most beneficial experience throughout my whole course of study as a library science student. They provided me with the opportunity to apply the different skills that I was learning in the courses that I was taking in a real-life setting. You can learn and study the theories and skills required for your profession for as long as possible. However, if you do not have a chance to put what you have learned into practice in a real-world environment, you will never be able to see how your newly-learned skills apply to different situations and you may not retain what you have learned. Thanks to my two practicums at a public and an academic library, I have been able to put-to-practice what I have learned in my courses and I now truly feel prepared to begin my career as a librarian. So my advice to all of you prospective library and information science students and aspiring librarians is to make sure that you include at least one practicum in your course of study. More importantly, when choosing your MLIS program, make sure that you choose a school that is both ALA-accredited and offers practicums as part of its featured courses; such as the Wayne State University School of Library and Information Science.
Wayne State University School of Library and Information Science. (2013). Practicum. Retrieved from http://students.slis.wayne.edu/classes/practicum.php
Merriam-Webster Online. (2013). Definition of Practicum. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/practicum
Library, B. D. (2002-2007, June 10, 2010). “About The Library.” Retrieved from http://www.brightonlibrary.info/about/index.html.
Library, B. D. (2002-2007, June 10, 2010). “Brighton Room.” Retrieved from http://www.brightonlibrary.info/brighton/index.html.
Rochester College. (2012). Promo – Rochester College Photos. Retrieved from http://photos.rc.edu/2009-2010/Marketing/promo/8037785_VVzRxW#!i=769942160&k=qSQpQtD&lb=1&s=M
Rochester College. Location of Rochester College. Retrieved from http://www.rc.edu/about-rc/location-of-rochester-college/
Rochester College. RC at a Glance. Retrieved from http://www.rc.edu/admissions/undergrad-admissions/rc-at-a-glance/