When I started on the path of the Masters of Library and Information Science program back in 2005, I had no inkling where it would take me. At the time, I had been working as a web developer for nine years and had survived the dotcom booms and busts. With the last startup failure, I began to examine where my career was going and if I wanted to continue pursuing the bleeding edge lifestyle. By then, I had worked for one extremely lucrative startup, and one that failed after many late nights and sacrificed weekends. At that time, and it holds true today, I could not imagine spending the rest of my working life chasing another successful startup.
While an undergraduate at San Diego State University, I worked for a year at the Love Library; the passion I felt being around books came bubbling to the surface. I have a Bachelor’s degree in English with an emphasis on creative writing, thus I have a deep connection with literature. I also felt with the digitization of books and periodicals, my experience and background in web technologies would make me competitive and valuable in the field of library science.
Once in the program, I discovered the many different aspects of librarianship and how technology was saturating the field. I had to work full time while pursing this degree, so I took my time at getting into the swing of being a student. This meant I spent four years in the program with the added benefit of not needing loans. The downside is I was not able to do an internship or volunteering due to the intensity of my career. This might be a hurdle for me in my future job search. Hopefully my technical experience will continue to hold me in good stead.
Several semesters ago, I decided to take the E-Portfolio option instead of a thesis because I wanted to have a more comprehensive project at the end of my studies. I was concerned of my focus and employment background being overly technical, which might put me at a disadvantage when looking for positions. The E-Portfolio project has been extremely enlightening. The breadth of work I have accomplished in the past four years both surprised and delighted me. I found myself becoming enamored again with the second career I had chosen for myself. At the end of such a long and intense program, I had grown blinders and was only able to see the small set of classes I was working on at the time, rather than the much larger field. For some of the competencies, I read and researched in order to have a complete view of it. All of these steps have broadened my view of librarianship and information science.
Before I started the project, I began consolidating all of my work from several different computers and many file systems. I discovered I was missing all of my work from 200, though that has proved to not be a problem. Once all the files were in one place, I sorted by class number and name, which allowed me to familiarize myself with the documents. With this done, I was able to go through each folder and look for likely evidential candidates. For each of the competencies, I reviewed the artifacts I had chosen and any printed material in my possession. I usually spent several days thinking and reading before I began to write. In the resulting essays, I wrote about what I thought the competency meant, how it related to my work or school experience, and finally discussed the evidence. I discussed each piece of evidence in relation to the competency to show my comprehension as well as practical application of that understanding.
The incendiary force that started my studies in library and information science was the uncertainty of my career as a web developer. Over my years in school, I continued to learn and grow in my field as well as acquire new experiences and knowledge. I wanted to work at a California university or community college as a web librarian since I felt this would be the best combination of both skill sets. The majority of my classes have resulted in copious amounts of digital projects, which certainly proves the continuity I was seeking for in my career change. The classes I enjoyed the most were not digitally focused. Cataloging and Reference were deeply satisfying both as an intellectual exercise as well as a task. Meanwhile my web development career has advanced with new challenges and more engaging work. At the end of my E-Portfolio project, I am left with nearly as many career path questions as when I started.
When I entered the program, I wanted to work at the college level. At the end of this program, California is embroiled in a massive budget crisis and all education systems are in dire straits. As a result, I have not found many open positions for new graduate librarians. However, brick and mortar libraries are not the only employers in need of information organization skills. Companies in the private sector are also realizing the need for managing and organizing the copious amounts of data produced every day in corporate America.
This burgeoning field falls directly into both my web career and my studies in library science. My current position is a Senior Web Developer with more of the overseer tasks of the Webmaster of old. I code, but I also work on site integrity and viewing the site as a complete product rather than compartmentalized into subsections such as the front-end or back-end. “This specialization focuses on the organization and description of resources and files in all formats.” (Information Organization and Description, 3¶, http://slisweb.sjsu.edu/classes/infoorg.htm) Whether I am utilizing the skill in a library or private company, this is the kind of work that thoroughly engages and interests me.
A good example of using my technical and library skills occurred at my office last week. The company I work for runs an online shopping website that gives cash back on our customers’ purchases. The site displays screenshots of the merchants’ websites. We needed a better way to review the 1200 images than manually visiting every merchant’s page to look. I was tasked to track down all the bad images and to create a tool to consolidate for monitoring purposes. I wrote several pages in JQuery to look in the database, pull up all the images and display. I also created a category page to sort based on shopping category. This will help our merchants have deeper views into this set of images. An additional project for me will be to create an interactive set of pages to give the customer a graphical display of all our merchant images based on a set of criteria. I have already created one that displays favorite stores as a filmstrip with information about the merchant and cash back. These sorting and organizing skills are deeply rooted in my cataloging classes with an overlay of programming skills. This is where I believe my information organization and technical skills make the most impact. It is also an arena with plenty of professional opportunities in myriad companies or non-profits or hopefully, libraries.
My studies and work in the program lead me towards this professional emphasis. The classes I enjoyed the most were combinations of the digital and paper world. Digital library artifacts make up a large portion of my E-Portfolio. I have done extensive work with XML, metadata and cataloging. The group project of creating a database of YouTube Photoshop tutorials is a good example of taking a large existing body of work and applying an organizational filter to add usability for the patron. Designing vocabularies to be used in back of the book indices or for Dublin Core projects were engaging and challenging projects, for both group work and individual projects. A continuing career in web development may not have been what I originally had in mind for the end result of my studies, but I find I am excited to bring my new skill sets to a career path with which I was feeling frustrated.
As a web developer who is involved with the information organization and description of websites, I hope to influence web community by creating usable and accessible websites. In a small way, I would like to give back to the Internet users by creating better web experiences and continuing to mentor new web developers. Instructing and mentoring the next wave of web developers will have a lasting impact on the community. My other goal is to find a volunteer or part time opportunity at a library. I would like to spend some time in an actual library using the skills I have developed over the past four years. I know many libraries use volunteers to teach evening classes to their patrons. For example, the Berkeley Public library needed an instructor to help tutor patrons on Microsoft Office and Windows. One of the historical and fundamental aspects of librarianship is the dissemination of information and providing equal access for all. On a smaller scale these are also duties of a web developer, such as making the site compliant to the 508 Standards of accessibility for those with disabilities. I feel it is vital for the developer to make sure the customer has the best experience possible on a website. The information they want must be findable and useable within a reasonable amount of time.
Ultimately, I would like to work in a university library. In the meantime however, I can make a difference in my current career by applying what I have learned throughout this program. Here, I will have the opportunity to be a better developer and experiment with technologies. I may also discover that I prefer my current job because I have so much more to offer than I did previously.