Special Libraries Summer Class Debriefing
August 11th, 2017
Last week, my summer teaching semester ended for LSC 888, the Special Library/Information Center, at the Catholic University of America Department of Library and Information Science. It was an intensive experience: two classes a week for six weeks (other than July 4th); each for three hours and ten minutes. Although there were only four students, it was a lively and engaged group. Each student brought a varied set of work and educational experience to the class, and they developed a strong rapport with the guest lecturers who joined us throughout the semester: James King, National Institutes of Health Library; Marie Kaddell of LexisNexis; Kimberly Ferguson, Library of Congress; Amanda J. Wilson, National Library of Medicine; Karen Reczek, NIST/National Institute of Standards and Technology; and Polly Khater, Smithsonian Libraries.
There were two major assignments, each 10-12 pages with a brief in-class presentation; and accounting for 40% of their final grade:
• Site Visit Interview Project. Each student chose a local special library to visit and interviewed someone knowledgeable about the entire library’s operation. The library had to be one where they had not worked in the past or currently work in, or where they had a personal relationship.
• Virtual SLA Conference Project. Each student monitored online, after the fact, the 2017 SLA Annual Conference in Phoenix; via the SLA website, blogs and social media. They also had to contact two librarians who attended the conference they did not know previously, for brief interview profiles.
Although we did not use a textbook, there were a number of article readings for each class, many of them from SLA’s publication Information Outlook. We covered such topics as Management, Leadership, Careers, Copyright/Intellectual Property, Library Value, Project Management, User Experience/UX, Reference/Research, Marketing, Systems Thinking, Budgeting, Big Data, Digital/Virtual Libraries, Competitive Intelligence, Knowledge Management, Cataloging/Indexing/Taxonomies and Data Curation.
Much of the coursework was a foundation for the 20th Special Libraries Symposium, which was held one week before the last class. I produce the symposium in each of my teaching semesters, exclusively for the class and invited guests. Panelists from a variety of special libraries and related settings interact with the students about careers, job seeking, day-in-the-life work experience and the state-of-the-art in the profession. Next week, I will follow up with a post about the event.
During the final class, I reflected on aims and goals of the course, beyond the specific subject matter:
• Students ideally learned not only from me, the guest lecturers or the symposium panelists, but from each other (from class discussions and presentations)
• The importance of networking to career success and ongoing education
• The class was an immersive experience
• Learn from the major thought/action leaders
• Take advantage of volunteering, writing and leadership opportunities
• Learn about potential jobs and internships/practicums
• Systems/holistic/enterprise-wide thinking
• Good writing and overall communications skills
• The necessity of moving the profession forward in status, pay, respect and other measures
• Creative approaches to problems and goals, individually and organizationally
• Identify the major issues and meaningful buzzwords
• Choose and mix elements of the course into potential models for careers
• Assigned readings will be an advantage in studying and preparation for Comprehensive exams
• Subject matter came together and made more sense than it did on the first night of class.
Finally, I hope that the students will approach their future classes and careers with an expanded sense of potential accomplishments and contributions.