Sent in the last bits

Sent in the last bits of my application for grad school in the University of Illinois Library and Information Science program. Nice to have it done with. Now I just wait to hear from them. I did miss the deadline though. For some reason when I read the deadline I saw March 15, not March 1. So I put that on my calendar. Then I was on the UI site on Feb 28 and saw my mistake. Yeah, not so good on the reading comprehension!

Anyway, here is what I wrote for my essays:

Visit a library, community network, corporate information center, or other setting that employs information professionals (except your current place of employment). Interview a staff member to identify the three most significant issues related to information services in this setting. In your essay, discuss what you learned, including:

1. What questions did you ask?
2. Did you learn anything unexpected? Anything that changed you review of the library and information science profession?
3. How do you think your educational experience at GSLIS might prepare you to address the issues you identified?

My mother retired in 1993 as head librarian for the Municipality of Anchorage, Alaska. When I took up this assignment, I compared the answers I received from my interviewee to the things I remember from the �goings-on� of the library administration in Anchorage; the politicking, private meetings, budget woes, and lack of staff.

In pursuit of my query to finish this essay, I went out into the cold, cruel world to a nice coffee shop to interview Matthew Kubiak, director of the Bloomington, Illinois public Library. From the interview, I realized not much has changed even with the information technology boom that happened after my mother retired. Not much has changed because public libraries can�t afford to be a part of the boom at the same level as a corporate, or university library, and politics will never go away.

The following is the result of the interview, plus a follow-up questionnaire via email.

MO: What has been/continues to be the most difficult process/part/issue related to providing information services?

MK: Resources and funding are most often at the base of it. There are many ways that this manifests itself. Such shortcomings have consequences and have many ramifications. Politics, funding, censorship, the Internet, and MLS salaries continue to be issues that we deal with on a daily basis.

MO: What are some successes with which you have been involved? What made it successful? What challenges were overcome?

MK: We have been able to establish an excellent management team. One hires the best people available. This may surprise you. I�ve seen safe-choices being hired; folks selected who may be perceived as docile or not smarter, not more knowledgeable, and non-threatening with the knowledge they possess. However, one needs different points of view and strong personalities in the mix. When one is in place 15 years, the opportunities come to select the best from the applicant pool.

I�ve been fortunate in this respect. In addition, the staff in place has been encouraged to develop and most have. I feel that this is the base for success. They chose this (LIS) profession, and they don�t want to stagnate. That�s the key. We can make a difference. We can drive the organization and the process. We initiate. We create our future. Things don�t just happen to the library.

Probably the greatest challenge was to take a library that was perceived as successful and redirect just a little bit some of the workplace culture. The challenge now is move forward as an institution after the resignation of the board president and after a new building plan (three, intense years in the creation) has been put on hold.

There have been many successes. We have a partnership with the Boys and Girls Club. Adult programming has become a major bragging point. We recently received an Illinois First Grant to build a computer lab. BPL staff developed the Tale for Two Cities program, in coordination with the Normal Public Library. Our Project Next Generation (PNG), a state funded computer initiative for at-risk-youth, is recognized as the best in the state. The spin-offs and partnerships that have come from PNG are great.

A number of departments have been streamlined and overhauled from the inside; from the bottom up. Our reference questions continue to grow, annually, and of late, we have been able to increase of circulation numbers. We�ve placed special emphasis on good customer service.

I cannot remember when the last time was that BPL didn�t have a staff member attending library school. Twelve or so years ago, we initiated a program with citizens in the five other townships to form a public library district which contracts with BPL for library services: all the service without the overhead.

Overall, this was an interesting exercise. I appreciate the opportunity to �get out� and come to a better understanding of the LIS field. This essay requirement is a nice change from the normal, �tell us why you will choose us� essay.

I plan to follow the Management and Consulting for Information Systems and Services concentration. I believe this will help me to understand and work within the constraints, specifically politics and funding, mentioned above. I already have some informal background in change management, leadership, and information design. Pursuing this degree will allow me to take my skills and competencies to the next level. I don�t mean that in a corporate-manager-speak way either. I feel ready for a challenge that will allow me to test what I know, learn more, and create more professional opportunities than I currently have.

In addition, please submit a one-page essay concerning your pervious academic work in your proposed or allied fields of study, including course work, other educational experiences, teaching or relevant employment, publications, and your plans for graduate study and a professional career.

My mother sent me an envelope filled with newspaper clippings, as she is often wont to do. There is never a note as to why I would find anything she sends relevant of course, but that is part of the fun of discovery. Last fall she sent a clipped ad from a magazine promoting the LEEP program. I had just recently stopped pursuing the idea of going back to school because I would have to quit my job to do it. Library and Information Science was, quite honestly, not even in my mind as a possibility. However, when I read the ad, something just clicked.

My Bachelor�s degree was in Liberal Studies with an emphasis in writing. The only thing from the degree that prepares me for graduate study is that, �with a liberal studies degree, you can do anything,� as one of my professors was apt to say. This is the gift and curse for the liberal studies degree-wielding graduate. I can do anything, so what do I choose?

After graduating five years ago, I find myself ensconced in corporate culture, designing user interfaces for Web applications. I started out in State Farm as a technical writer (mostly developing Help), and then quickly moved into interface design. I have taken many company-sponsored classes in human-computer interaction:

� Web and Interface Design from Dr. Susan Weinschenk
� User Interface Specialist Training and annual user interface updates from Dr. Robert Bailey
� Cognitive Walkthrough from Dr. Andrew Dillon
� Interviewing Techniques from Ginny Redish
� Advanced Usability Evaluation Techniques from Jeff Rubin

I am also a member of ACM/SIGCHI , UPA , and STC . I helped start the local STC chapter, and I am currently an editorial board member for UPA�s magazine User Experience.

I know that I can bring many of the learning opportunities from the LIS program back into my current job. However, as I go through the LIS program I will be looking for ways to grow professionally. I would like to move into information management, focusing on human factor issues. Not just figuring out ways to organize information, but focus on how people (both groups and individuals) access and more importantly understand the information. I am also quite interested (perhaps more interested) in teaching/researching at the university level.