Information with a Capital I

It’s more than somewhat embarrassing to re-read last year’s entries from about this time about the School of Information, actually.

I still feel, a year later, as though the school is emphatic (occasionally over-emphatic) in its attention to Information with a Capital I. This means lots of computer-related coursework, lots of technology, lots of econ, lots of cognitive psych.

But this is not a bad thing, on reflection. I have myself become far more attuned to and interested in those areas in the year that’s passed, and I don’t think you can seriously consider a career as a librarian and not have more than a passing acquaintance with them.

I have worked almost for a year in the UM Library’s Scholarly Publishing Office, which is about, among many other things, transforming books that might not otherwise move off a library shelf except to be placed in another storage unit somewhere — and getting them into a digital format in which they are given new life and new readers. I fill orders almost daily from people around the country who want to see and read nineteenth-century texts about (among other things) religion, the railroads, the Civil War, and cooking. They would not know about these texts if SPO did not have them available online to search, to view as PDF images, and to purchase in printed form (as hardcover books or spiral/unbound paper). This is just one example of how coming here and being educated here has changed and expanded my view of what libraries are and what they can be.

The group-work thing, which I found annoying in my first days (and still have butterflies about), is also, on reflection, an important thing. I thought when I started school that the group-work concept was a construct, a gimmick. But it’s not; it’s the way librarians work. Anyone who expects to get anywhere as a librarian (in my experience, anyway) needs to know how to collaborate and needs to enjoy it. I still have a lot to learn, but I definitely see the point of group work in a way that I could not possibly have seen it last year.

Even the Foundations courses, which inspire a great deal of grumbling and gnashing of teeth, have a point, and they are crucial, I’d say. I don’t think any of the rest of what you experience at SI makes much sense without them. Even 503, the Search and Retrieval class, which gave me many sleepless nights and bouts of anxiety and indigestion, I now see as having been a significant addition to my knowledge base.

There’s no way I would have been able to recognize all of this as a confused neophyte a year ago. And I’m definitely glad I’m not repeating that particular element of the grad school experience: the first weeks of stress, confusion, despair, and borderline panic. I may be buried in work this coming year, but at least I’ll know it has a direction. And I do enjoy the experience, most of the time.

I’m grateful to the University of Michigan (with some help in loans from the federal government) for making the experience possible. I feel very fortunate.