library science

Vengeful Librarians

Stereotypical librarian

Don’t mess with librarians, ok?  Behind our messy buns, glasses on a chain and supernatural “shushing” abilities, we have real skillz. Mad skillz. We are so skilled, in fact, that the CIA has a team jokingly called “Vengeful Librarians” whose purpose is to scour  the Internet, Facebook posts, blogs, Tweets,  news sites, etc. in order to take the pulse of a region and build profiles used by the White House.  Important stuff.

While I was in library school, I often was asked what I learned.  How to shelve books? The Dewey Decimal System? Frumpy Dressing 101? Seminars in perfecting the librarian glare? I assumed the real question was more along the lines of wondering what was so hard about working in a library that it required a Master’s degree.  I’m cynical like that.

The article beautifully illustrates what librarians know how to do: find information.  Analyze it.  Disseminate it.  We are drowning in information, and we need librarians more than ever to cut through the noise and help us make sense of it all.

The article also notes that this team is analyzing mood and making predictions based on what they discover.  This is huge.  Professionally I’m very interested in text analytics and what it can reveal. Sentiment analysis is becoming a must-have part of text analytics for organizations monitoring and analyzing comments about their brand in social media.  It’s great that people are talking about you, but are they talking positively or negatively?  Overtly positive or negative comments are easy to interpret,  but overall, sentiment analysis is difficult.  I remember that when SAS’s social media monitoring suite came out a few years ago, it was a big deal because it included sentiment analysis.  I’m sure it also had a big price.

Predictive analytics is hot right now and is also something in which I am interested and researched in, yes, library school.  Much of data analysis is backwards-looking in order to answer “what happened?” You see this often in social media when a major event happens and tweets and posts are mined to put together a timeline of events as in this article on the genesis of the #OccupyWallStreet hashtag.   While that type of analysis is useful, imagine how much more powerful it would be to be able to figure out what’s going to happen next and be able to put together an action plan.   While such abilities may conjure up images of crystal balls and tarot cards, some companies have figured out how to do it.

My point is that what this group is doing is cutting edge.  Instead of being an obsolete profession, this group is demonstrating what modern librarianship is all about.  And all it requires is a Library Science degree and a smile.  Ok, ok, and knowledge of a few foreign languages. You get my point.

So give your librarian a hug today.  You never know how s/he might be saving the world.

5 Years of Hard Work and All I Got Was This (Not So) Lousy Piece of Paper

I was so excited to see this in the mail yesterday when I arrived home from work:

My diploma!

I officially graduated on August 8, 2011, but there was no ceremony since it was the summer session.  The weird thing was that I received no notification, no “congrats” email or anything.  It felt anticlimactic, and all I was told was that my diploma would arrive sometime in October.

I spent 5 years in graduate school.  I decided to apply to graduate school at UNC in September 2005.  The deadline was coming up quickly, so I had to rush to take the GRE, obtain recommendations, and fill out paperwork, but I received my acceptance letter in November.

I took my first class in January 2006.  I decided to pursue the MS in Library Science degree in the School of Information & Library Science.  The school has an Information Science curriculum and a Library Science curriculum, and I decided on the Library Science side because I worked as a web developer and was looking to change careers and the IS side seemed like it would pigeonhole me.

I liked the Library Science curriculum because it was more than just Cataloging 101.  It was very broad – more about information and how to organize it – and I could take courses on the IS side too.   More importantly, the courses seemed interesting.  I had always wanted to obtain a Master’s degree, and I had looked at MBA and other programs.  The problem with them was that they didn’t really interest me, and I didn’t want to spend time and energy on a program that I had a half-hearted interest in.

I work full-time and the program does not have a part-time (or online) option, but thankfully my employer is flexible, and I was able to take the courses I needed.  I took one but no more than two courses each semester. Most semesters I had to drive to Chapel Hill weekly although there were a few semesters in which some courses were online. I took summer school courses that always seemed to have me sitting in RTP traffic at rush hour.  I liked the classes that met weekly for 2.5 hours, especially the evening ones, but it was an hour each way, and even though my class ended at 8:30, I usually got home at 10. I met  my thesis advisor (also my advisor) in person twice.

School was a good distraction from our infertility. We discovered our infertility and pursued treatments during this same time period, and I remember sitting in class when we started to consider surrogacy, crunching numbers to see if such a crazy idea could work.  When F was pregnant with Daniel, my Online Social Networks professor and his wife had a baby a few weeks into our class, and I wanted to say “hey, me too!” but it felt a little weird. I took off a year when Daniel was born.

I didn’t make any friends.  I participated in no clubs or activities.  Piles of paper accumulated everywhere in the house the closer the end of each semester came (I am a champion pile maker). Most students in my program take around 2 years to complete the 48 hours required, so I saw a lot of turnover.  I often felt like the invisible student, plugging away.

But now I’m done, and I feel so free! It’s like a major constraint has been removed.  No more drives to Chapel Hill (confession: I don’t really like Chapel Hill).  No more assignments.  I threw away my thesis research over the weekend in the Great Fall Purge.

So what happens now?  Am I planning to quit my job to become the public librarian or academic librarian I had thought I might become when I started the program?  Not likely.  What I learned can be applied at my job.  Was graduate school worth it?  Yes.  I learned a lot and perhaps more importantly, I achieved a goal I had set for myself.

A huge thanks to J, our families and friends and Daniel for their support and understanding over the last 5 years.  This diploma belongs to you too because I couldn’t have done it without you.