Notes from the Field-Special Edition

This week we have our first in our “Notes from the Field” series, where we learn about one student’s field study experience. In this special edition we have guest blogger and iSchool alum, Joanna Gadsby. Joanna works as a reference and instruction librarian at the Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery—a position which she got in part because of her field study experiences.

This edition coincides with yet another development in our Field Study Database. Many of you know that field study position announcements typically go out to one of our iSchool listservs. To help cut back on the number of emails that go out and create a central list for advertised positions, we’ve added the “Additional Opportunities” tab to the database. Once you’ve logged into database you’ll see listings for specific positions that have been sent to us. Postings in the “Additional Opportunities” area are typically for specific positions within an organization and have an application period. Don’t worry if you don’t see anything there that suits you. You’ll find plenty of institutions to contact to arrange a field study in our “Institution List.”

If you’ve got questions about the Field Study Database, the course requirements, or anything else, feel free to ask in the comments area or send an email to Lindsay Sarin. If you’re interested in writing a guest post for blogMLS, field study related or otherwise please contact Lindsay Sarin.

And now Notes from the Field

My experience in the University of Maryland library school program taught me that field experiences are invaluable for later success in a library career. I am currently working as a reference and instruction librarian at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC),  and I attended the library and information science program from 2005-2007.

After my first year of library school back in 2005, I decided that I needed more practical experience to go along with my immersion in information theory. I had never worked in a library and wanted the opportunity to apply what I was learning.   To fill what I perceived as a gap in my experience, I sought out more information about a possible field study.

Since I was changing fields from elementary education to library science, I knew that field study could only provide benefits. I would gain some experience working in an actual library and that would help me determine the type of work in which I was interested. In addition, a field experience would allow me to put some manner of library work on my resume, which seemed absolutely necessary to eventually secure a library position.

After registering for the field study seminar, I showed up on the first day of the class hoping for ideas for placement.  Thankfully, the professor of the course was a librarian at UMBC and knew that there were opportunities for library school students at that location.  She helped me make the initial contact needed to arrange for this field study. For the next eight weeks, I learned more about conducting reference interviews, finding answers to student questions and other reference duties. I also helped to run a usability study for the existing library website, which was undergoing major revisions.

These experiences were extremely valuable for me since I gained hands-on experience in a library environment and applied theoretical knowledge learned in my coursework. Additionally, they cemented in my mind the idea that an academic librarian job was probably the best fit for me considering my teaching background.  Also, this field study allowed me to make contacts that eventually helped me get a job in the UMBC library several years later.

This field study was so positive for me that I arranged to complete a second experience during my last semester of library school in the following spring.  This time, I did not have the luxury of having time off from my full-time job so I registered for a one-credit independent study that did not have an accompanying seminar to attend. The professor from my field study seminar agreed to serve as my mentor for this second experience and we set the course requirements together.

During this second field study, I helped to foster collaboration between librarians at Goucher College’s library, faculty in Goucher’s education department and pre-service education students in an effort that would eventually build the collection for the current Curriculum Resource Center.  I created a wiki that provided a space for improved communication between the various interest groups. During this field experience, I also recommended books for this center, which gave me experience with collection development.  While still in an academic library, this second experience allowed me to practice a different set of skills entirely.

Without these two field studies, my library school experience would have been adequate. However, with the addition of these opportunities, I was able to make more informed decisions about the type of library and the type of work in which I was interested. I also gained library experience that I would not have otherwise had and made connections that eventually led to my future employment in a library. I encourage all library school students to take advantage of the field study opportunities that are available to you during this time. Your next job could be just beyond that first click.

Joanna Gadsby is a reference and instruction librarian at the Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery at University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She received her MLS from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2007.

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