Student Experience Panel Discussion – October 22, 2015

Student Experience Panel Discussion
Thursday, October 22, 2015

During this webinar current USC MMLIS online students share their personal experiences with online learning, engagement with faculty members and other classmates, and with individual assignments and team projects.

Featured Guest Speakers:
Laurie Carl: Spring 2016 Expected Graduation
Michael Granger: Spring 2016 Expected Graduation
Jessica Demas: Host
Kendall Hammond: Enrollment Advisor
Sylvia Riddick: Enrollment Advisor

Presented by University of Southern California’s Master of Management in Library and Information Science Online program. 

— TRANSCRIPT —

Jessica: Good afternoon and welcome to today’s webinar.  It’s our student experience panel discussion.  Today our webinar will go as follows.  First I ask if everyone could please make sure they keep their phones in mute just to help prevent any background noise for our presenters.  They would be greatly appreciated.  Also I do ask if you do have any questions throughout today’s webinar, please feel free to type those questions in the Q&A box.  Lastly, just to let you all know that a copy of the presentation and a recording of the event will be available and sent to all attendees after today’s call.

Okay.  Hello again, my name is Jessica Demas and I will be your host for today’s call.  I am the student support services coordinator for our MMLIS program.  I will today be – this is our agenda and this is how it follows.  We will have a student experience panel discussion.  Our presenters today are Laurie Carl and Michael Granger.  We will discuss their experience in an online program.  We’ll go over networking, time commitment, courses and assignments, investments, Q&A at the end, and then also our contact information as well.

As I mentioned we have two student presenters today.  I’d like to get started with Laurie.  If you could just tell us a little bit about your background and introduce yourself, that would be great.

LaurieHi everyone, I’m Laurie Carl.  I have been with USC for the last year in the program, but my background comes from – I have a bachelor’s in psychology and sociology from Towson University, which is in Maryland and which is where I currently live.

In Maryland, I have worked at the Baltimore County Public Library for the past 20-some years in various different circulation capacities.  I started off shelving library books when I was in college and managed to, over time, work myself into a management position in one of the branches as a circulation manager.  So I oversee the account records, and public service related to the library card, and fees, and the circulation of the library material.

Also I have about six full-time staff that I oversee and I have about 14 part-time staff that I oversee.  That kinda ranges depending on the branch.  Then along in that branch, there are also librarian staff and I am directly overseen by my branch manager.  As part of the program, I became the vice president of the American Library Association Student Chapter for USC.

Jessica: Thank you Laurie.  I’m gonna turn this over now to our other student presenter, Michael Granger.  If you could go ahead and share Michael, that’d be great.

Michael:  Yeah, so hi.  My name’s Michael Granger and Laurie and I are actually part of the same cohort and I feel that we didn’t coordinate our biographies otherwise I would’ve noticed that I’m also the president of the American Library Association Student Chapter, but Laurie ironically would be much better suited to that job title.  I think she let me have it because she’s too busy with her own work.  Laurie’s experience is vastly more library-centric than mine.

I kind of come to the library science degree from the opposite background.  I was a teacher in public education for ten years in California and I decided to take a big leap and make a career change.  I have just a little bit of experience in libraries.  Obviously, I was a student in libraries for a lot of time, but I’ve only logged a few hours of volunteer time behind the desk, so to speak.  My primary interest in librarianship is actually more on the information science side of things.

So I’ll be pursuing a career most likely in either freelance work or working with a third party corporation that manages information either for companies or for libraries and provides data services to libraries.  So you can think about companies like ProQuest or I guess other companies that you nor I have ever heard of that provide, as I said, data management things.  So information science is kind of what drew me into this degree more than librarianship, so I have a completely different take on that.

Given that my background as a public educator, I also don’t have much experience in that right now so I’m also looking to turn my degree into a job rather than use my degree to move up in an existing career field like Laurie.  So as my slide said I’m currently pursuing self-employment as an independent information consultant.  That’s kind of where I’m headed right now.  I’m also a contributing writer for the student-run blog, Hack Library School, which hopefully you’ve heard of and read, and if not, you might check out.  There are people much brighter than me who contribute there.

Jessica: Great, thank you Michael for sharing with us.  The next thing I wanna move on to is our online experience.  I’m definitely gonna be turning this over to Laurie and Michael to share about their experience, but the first question I have is what was your opinion about online learning prior to you applying to the program?  I’ll leave it open to either of you to respond first.

LaurieSo before I applied, I kinda thought that an online program was gonna be something where I was gonna really be doing this kinda thing all by myself and that I really wasn’t gonna get to know anybody else that was in the degree program.

Michael: Me too.

LaurieBut there was gonna be there large numbers of individuals all kinda working alongside me, doing the same thing, but not as much interaction.  I think that the biggest change for me is that I’ve really developed a connection with not only my cohort and the group of students that are following me from class to class, but even with the teachers, and also some of the other speakers that have come out of it.  You really get that sense of connection there that I didn’t expect.

MichaelYeah, I would agree with that.  That’s probably the biggest difference between my expectation and reality as well.  I really think that.  And Laurie and I know each other again because we’re in the same cohort, and I really think of Laurie as a friend.  If I saw her on the street someplace, I’d certainly recognize her and say hello, even though we’ve never met and we live 3000 miles apart.  In fact, that was my experience.

Laurie, I don’t know if you remember this, but we had the project a couple semesters ago where Louise and I met face-to-face, so I had the opportunity to meet with somebody in my part of the country, in southern California, and we actually did part of a project together.  We had to interview a library leader.  When we met, I thought that it would be strange and it turned out to be the most natural thing in the world because we had been text messaging back and forth, and you see each other in video meetings, so you know what each other looks like and what you sound like, and your mannerisms are familiar.  It was actually the most totally normal thing to interact with this person in real life.

That’s kind of been the big surprise for me, that online learning isn’t now the way it was when I had experience with blended programs or online classes ten years ago, where I would never see another person, I would only interact with people on the discussion boards, and that was it.  Because of the team focus of a lot of our projects, and because of the advancement in technology, and because of the face-to-face live sessions I think too, largely, I think we’re as close as any friends that I’ve made in any other program.

LaurieYeah, I would agree.

Michael: Yeah.  The other big difference for me is I didn’t realize how much of the program was gonna be synchronous.  When you think of an online program, you think you do the whole thing at your own pace.  I remember being really surprised when I first got into the program because there were, kind of, arranged meeting times.  Because you’re doing teamwork, you have to coordinate with people.  You can still do it at your own pace, you can still choose your own schedule meeting times.  Laurie and I just arranged a meeting with another group member for later today and it’ll be at the time we find convenient, but you do have to meet with people.

Then there are those class sessions, which are recorded, so you can always pick them up after the fact but it’s best to be there.  So it’s sort of like the best of both worlds for me because I’ve been able to go to class and interact with a professor and interact with the students, but from the comfort of my own home and if I ever can’t make it, there’s a video recording of the class that I missed.  So that was also really surprising to me and really pleasant.

JessicaThanks so much guys.  We’re gonna move on to the next one.  The next one is on networking.  How are you able to engage with your peers and classmates both while in the program?

LaurieAll kinds of ways.  We interact with each other in multiple different ways using all different kinds of technology and it really depends on what works best for you.  There’s stuff that USC kind of has set up so that you can use, but then we’ve used sites, we’ve used social media, we’ve used Google Hangouts, text messaging, email.  You work that out with the individual that you’re interacting with.

I know specifically from our cohort, we’ve really done a great job of getting to know each one of us in the little group, and you do get to follow – there’s a certain core group of individuals that go from classes to classes with you, so you already have an idea of the people that you’re interacting with.  It’s so helpful because I find that if I’m stuck with something, or if I have a question about something, I can easily reach out and send a text message to some of the group chats that I’ve got going on and somebody knows the answer.  The networking is really great and learning from the different professors and some of the speaker series, it’s great to hear a different perspective.

I think that’s really important for me ‘cause I’ve worked in public libraries all my life, not all my life but the majority of it, so it’s really interesting for me to see outside of that box, which I value highly.  Being able to see what happens in the academic world and outside in the business world.  It’s helping me expand my knowledge base.

Michael: Yeah, I would agree with that but I would put it the other way as well.  I think a lot of us benefit from having you and Adam in the cohort, who are really entrenched in the library system.  You guys know circulation inside and out, and when we have class discussions, you bring those perspectives into the discussions.  For someone like me who hasn’t spent more than a few hours working in a circulation capacity or for someone like Lisa, who’s never even really been much in a library and isn’t interested in that kind of work, hearing that perspective is really valuable.  So we get that on the discussion boards, we get it on social media.

If there’s a particular assignment that’s very much about a library, I know that I can go to you and get a perspective on that.  Like I mentioned Lisa, if there’s a question that’s about meta data or organization of photos and things like that, I can go to her and she’s got experience there.  Because we can all kind of connect with each other, there’s somebody who can answer every question usually, is what it feels like to me and their professors.

Jessica:  Yeah, I was gonna say it brings us to the next topic.  You were saying professors and it made me think of our faculty which is a very important – obviously as a student in a program, we wanna look at what’s your faculty experience been.  What I wanted to know is how has the faculty positively impacted your online learning experience?  Is there a faculty member – which faculty members have stood out to you as being remarkable, and how has the faculty supported your professional ambitions?

Laurie: The faculty has positively impacted my learning experience by really just being available.  They’re reachable, and much different from an in classroom where you’re just sitting there and you have them for that hour that you’re there and maybe there’s some office hours.  But the online program, you can reach out to the professors via email and some other different methods.  It’s encouraged.  So you can kinda get answers to questions almost 24 hours a day.  I mean, there’s a delay, definitely.  It’s usually not more than a day or two.  Usually it’s within that day that you get you answer or you’re able to have a discussion.

The professors often will have live sessions where you can actually just ask you questions, be there to answer any of your questions, which is really helpful when doing assignments, but then also engaging us to talk about different topics and some of the professors are really excellent at that.

Michael: Yeah, we’ve had some great professor engagement.  I’m thinking of Curtis’s class.  Professor Curtis’s class, which was easily the hardest class I think we’ve all taken.  I mean, he was so available.  No matter how lost you were, you could shoot off an email and get something back that would have an absurdly detailed response that would answer your question and the next six questions you were gonna have.  That’s a great thing.

Then professor Golden, who we’ve had for two classes now I think, and then we’re gonna have another class with, so you develop a relationship with faculty and those kinda thing, which is my favorite thing about it.  As much as I feel that I have connections with all of the people in our cohort, I also feel like I know he faculty members and if I saw them on the street or saw them in an interview, they would recognize me and I would recognize them and we have a relationship, which is a very cool thing I think too.

LaurieYeah, I also think Professor Philadelphia was also really good in helping –

Michael: She’s amazing.

LaurieGet us talking, and really getting to know each other, and working in the teams.  She was really instrumental in, I think, helping to build some of that very beginning.  We had her the first semester and I think it was very helpful to have her in the first semester.

MichaelYeah, I think she’s the reason that we’re as close as we are because of the projects we had to do in that class.

LaurieYeah, and I think Professor Shin, he is really good at talking with us about and discussing his topic, which is information technology related which can be kinda dry or difficult to understand if you don’t know the topic and the pieces.  So I think he does really good with drawing that information out and really taking the experience that we each have in our background and helping to enhance the class by getting us each to kinda talk about some of that information.  For example, he asked me to talk a little bit about the specific program that my library uses for circulation and item information and stuff like that.

Jessica: Great.

Michael: Yeah, it has been fantastic.  I was gonna add an anecdote too.  Dr. Haycock is the same way, right?  Really giving and generous with his time.  This weekend I’m going to part of a conference with a contact that he put me in touch with, someone that he knew and knew might be valuable to me in my own career pursuit.  So he shot off an email in the first week of class and put us in touch and the person invited me to join her at a conference that’s just a few hours away.  So I have a professional connection now because of a professor who just reached out on my behalf.  That’s insane.

To me, that’s something that not many other professors have done in my life and it’s the kind of thing that makes you value the personal connection you get when you’re in a cohort that’s really small.  We’re not hundreds of people in the program, not yet anyway.  That’s been really beneficial to us because it does feel like we know each other, and the faculty know us.  Because they know us they’re stepping out on our behalf.  It’s a great thing.

Jessica I have to say I love hearing that too, especially considering Dr. Haycock is the program director.  So to see that not only from just a faculty member but someone who’s the director of this program as well, says a lot about the school too.  It’s really great that you mentioned that as well.  All right, I’m gonna move on.

Laurie:  I was gonna say he is really approachable.  It seemed, because of his title to me, like, “Oh, goodness,” and got a little nervous, and then I started talking with him the first time and I was like, “Oh, I can completely get through any question about this and he would help me out.” You got that feeling, so I’m really enjoying his class and I’ll probably be taking a second class with him next semester.

MichaelI think me too.  In large part just because I think it would be such a valuable experience to even have the class with him again, but I mean, that’s a great example.  Instead of having one big class, we had a bunch of one-on-one meetings.  So each of us had our own little video conference with the guy.  That’s like having a sit-down with your professor.  That’s a great thing.

Jessica: That’s great.  Excellent.  I’m gonna move on to the next topic, which is time commitment, and I think Laurie and Michael you guys can both attest to this, that it’s probably one of the hardest things, especially for new students.  It’s hard for continuing students, but definitely that seems to be one of the topics that’s most challenging.  How to balance being actively involved in your studies if you have family, a job, how do you balance all those commitments in your life?  What I wanna know is how did you learn about effective time management?  What did you learn about how to be good at managing your time?

MichaelLaurie’s the expert in time management, that’s pretty fair.

Laurie:  You know, I probably am focused on what is ultimately important to me and to make tough decisions because it is very challenging, but at the same time it’s very rewarding.  So it’s easy to make some of those changes to your life and things, but you just take it one step at a time.  The classes are all broken out for you and you can access all of that information from the beginning of the course.

So one of the key things that I do is at the very beginning of the course, I take a few minutes and look over the syllabus.  Look at what the main projects are gonna be.  See where the things are that are gonna take up a lot of time.  You wind up prioritizing a lot of the work for things like time, things that are going to be highly graded, things that you know you need to do because they’re valuable and you break it all down, but you also have to think about not just the schoolwork, but also your outside life because you’ll get burnt out if you just keep focusing on the schoolwork, so it’s so important to make sure that you take time for yourself.  You have to really schedule and stay ahead of it.

Constantly look ahead a week or two and that’s what I’ve found is valuable.  Really kinda keeping an eye on the future so that you know what’s out there, so that you’re not kinda caught off guard by a project that’s gonna take a lot of time and staying ahead of the game.  Also keeping your professors knowledgeable about situations that you’ve got going on.  They’re really willing to work with you, to help you out if you need an extension here, or are having trouble with something.  So you can work through some of the other things that are gonna happen in your life.  They’re definitely gonna happen, so just kinda taking it one step at a time.

I do a lot of planning it out and look at what I need to do.  At the beginning of each week, I’m always looking, also scanning the next week or two just to see what’s coming up.  That way I can organize my time.  Also if I’m the team leader of a group, I’m able to say, “Oh, I need to call a meeting.  We need to talk about this project so we can start working on it,” and you’re not doing it alone with a lot of the things.  You’re working with other people.  As scary as that might be sometimes, it’s been one of the most valuable pieces here.  So when we’ve had to work on things one-on-one, I’ve missed the teamwork and the connection.  So I think that’s what covers my time commitment.

Michael: Yeah, I would second all of that too.  I think Laurie made a really good point and one that took me at least a semester to learn, by saying you really reap a lot of benefits by looking at all 15 weeks in week one.  The course doesn’t open until, I think 12:00 on the first day of the first week of class.  You don’t get a ton of time, but that first day it’s always beneficial to sit down and spend some time that night.

Laurie said a few minutes, it totally takes me a few hours, but I sit down and go through the full syllabus and look at every week and kind of see where the land mines are.  I look at the grade book and see where the big assignments are at that are gonna be valuable because oftentimes something sounds big but then isn’t worth that many points or isn’t gonna be that big of a deal to do.  So you kinda gotta look at all those different things, but it pays such dividends so plan all of that in advance.

The other thing that you said Laurie that I was surprised to hear, but I think is very true for all of us, I’m thinking of Rose’s Facebook post from earlier this week about the need to balance family and how hard that gets sometimes.

I was startled in the program by how blurry the lines can become between your personal life and your academic life.  Because you’re sort of making your own schedule, you’re not going to class at a specific time, class is sort of every time and homework time is all the time.  Text messages come in from the group at – not just all hours of the day, but all hours of the day in three different time zones.  Like Felecia texted me this morning, I think it was like 6:00 am, or 5:00 am California time.  It was like the middle of the morning for her on the east coast.  Vice versa, I’ll send messages that are just obscenely late at night.

If you’re not careful about figuring out how to manage that – are you gonna turn off your phone, or using do not disturb, all that kinda stuff – if you’re not careful about managing your on time and your off time, I would agree.  It can feel very overwhelming for a while.  It took a good semester to get a good grip on how to manage the freedom of an online program.  Freedom sounds like a great thing, but you have to learn how to manage it too.  Those are good lessons.

Laurie:  It is something that you can do.  It took me a semester too, but it’s manageable.  It’s something that if you just put some planning ahead and make sure that you’re hitting those things that are really important to you, and maybe cut out the dinner that were planning to go to so that you can work on a homework assignment, but go to your best friend’s birthday party.  You know?  Make sure that you go watch a football game, whatever it is that you’re into, but you have to make time for that as well because otherwise you won’t be able to focus on the schoolwork.

Michael: Yeah, I would agree that it’s manageable.  It’s so manageable that in the end, I’ve decided to pursue a course of self-employment.  It’s something that I want to keep doing for the long run or at least for the foreseeable future.  It took some time to learn how to manage my time but now that I’ve started, it’s something that I want to continue doing.  Good thing.

LaurieAlso I do things like break things down.  You can’t always work on a project or a homework assignment all in one sitting.  Sometimes you just have to break it down and work on things little by little.  Say, “Each day I’m gonna devote an hour to this type of assignment, or to this activity,” and it makes it a little bit more manageable that way too.  That way you’re not trying to focus it all in one or two days.

Because I work 40 hours a week in a traditional type of time frame, my times that I have available to work are Saturdays and Sundays.  I think that the way the program is set up, it allows you to have assignments where most of them are due on Tuesdays, which means you have the full Saturday and Sunday, if you work full-time, to be able to devote more time to some of those activities at the same time you’re working little bits during the week.  So I break things down.

An example is this semester I’m taking a research class and each week we have an exercise and I completely break that down into each of the individual questions and try to do like one a night because that way I’m not sitting there for a long time doing the one thing, and letting the other things slide.

Michael Yeah.  We can move on.  We can talk about time management forever.

Jessica: I’m gonna go off script here for a second.  I wanted to ask you guys a question.  One of the things – and I know from when I joined USC, you guys had been quite a few semesters into the program, but one of the things as a student support advisor and as I mentioned when I introduced myself, that’s my role here with the program, is I work with our new students and our continuing if they have questions, on ways to manage your time.  Just kinda be an additional support system.  I guess my question is, not to sound self-congratulatory or anything like that, but just some feedback.  What’s your experience been with your student support advisor in general throughout your program so far?

Laurie:  It’s been really good.  Just having that support and being able to talk with someone, I think that’s a complete new experience.  I know that when I’ve had questions about the program and the status of different things, I feel completely able to reach out to student services and ask those questions and I get valuable information back very quickly and timely, and even sometimes just as a sounding board, to let student service know if you’re having trouble with something.

I’ve made little – even something as simple as, “I can’t seem to access the course programs,” or, “I didn’t get my book.  What happened to them?” All that is able to be easily answered and they always do it with such a pleasant attitude and very helpful.  It’s something that I didn’t expect to have coming into an online program, and I’m so glad that I have that as a service.  I know it’s there in the background and even if they can’t answer the questions, they’ll direct me to who I need to go to.  So I find it really valuable.

MichaelYeah, the administrative staff that I’ve worked with from the – you can help me out with this Jessica, what would Gina’s title?

JessicaShe was your enrollment advisor at the time.

Michael: My enrollment advisor right through every single one of those people.  I guess there have only been four of you, but Gina, who was my enrollment advisor at the time, and the Kelly, who was your counterpart before you joined us, and then you and Alexis have just been instrumental in my happiness and success in the program.  I can’t overstate it enough.  I think as valuable as the professors.  I would say I have a deeper relationship with both you and Alexis than I do with any of the professors too because you stay with us semester to semester and you’ve helped us out of a lot of tight spots as a cohort.  We’ve come to you as a group, we’ve come to you as individuals.  I know you guys check up on us.

If for some reason we feel uncomfortable talking to one or other of you, there’s the two of you that we can always go to – I guess what I’m saying is that sometimes Alexis feels a little official, like, I am a little afraid of Alexis, but I always feel fine calling you, Jessica, or calling Kelley before.  Having that student services advisor – student support coordinator.  I’m not sure what the title is, but having the person who’s not responsible for my grade, who’s not making administrative decisions about my status, or scholarships, or whatever, but somebody who’s just there to be a support.  That’s an incredible thing.  That’s been really fantastic for me too.  I would agree on all points.

Jessica: Thank you and thank you for sharing.

MichaelYeah, you totally led us into congratulating you on that one.

Jessica:  Well, I figured it’s part of the student experience so I thought I’d ask.

Michael It is, it’s true.

JessicaHow often do you think I reach out to you?  Do you feel like it’s every few months pretty much, somewhere around there?

LaurieYeah.

Michael Not as much as we reach out to you.

Jessica: You guys are funny.  Thank you.  I’m gonna move on to the next part, the student learning experience.  If you guys could just elaborate on some of your personal experiences with individual, and team assignments, and projects.  What did you enjoy the most?  What was the most challenging?  What are some highlights from your student learning experience?  What was your experience with the online management system, the LMS?  I’m gonna add one last question.  I know our 591 A through E are threaded courses.  They’re a little bit different than a lot of the standard programs.  It’s a little different.  What has your experience been with those threaded courses as well?

MichaelThat’s a lot.  I think I could sum most of it up with just the two points that Moodle is better than Blackboard by a lot and the single word teamwork.  Teamwork, teamwork, teamwork in terms of our learning experience.

LaurieYeah, teamwork was one of the things that I was gonna say I kinda dreaded coming into the program, but then I’ve found it to be the most valuable piece to the entire thing and has been so valuable in the whole experience.  There’s been lots of very interesting assignments and programs.  Lots of things that have been challenging, but enjoyable at the same time.  Each of the classes has their own assignments.  While you have an assignment, you also have the ability to make it your own, so you might get a prompt but then you can really change it and make interesting One of the prompts that we had that Michael mentioned a little bit ago was we had to investigate a library and then create a suggestion for purchase list for materials to be added to the collection.

Michael: Oh, that project.

LaurieIt was a really interesting project.  It was a team project, Michael, and I, and another, Louise, was our teammate.  They got to meet an extraordinary woman over at the Huntington Library and got a tour of the facility.  I was so jealous because being in Maryland not in California, I did not get to participate in that part of it, but then really delving into not just that part of it but learning about the ins and outs of a museum / library because it’s a research library, and an art museum, and a botanical garden.  It was just a really interesting place.

Then coming up with some suggestions for purchase for that, which involved really finding material and suggesting why it should be added.  We got some really interesting stuff out of it to be added and it was really old, rare stuff, but then also some digital things.  We talked about all kinds of stuff.  We thought, “Could we add a piece of art?” Brainstorming was really fun with that one too.  So that was definitely one of my highlights.

MichaelYeah, I would agree with that.  I think what was cool about that project, I think you – I know I have a number of times, is we were actually able to make that project, that research at the Huntington double for the other class.  We had that class with Hunt-Coffey and then we had the other class with Golden.  Because you can kind of craft the topic to your own interests, we were able to make that one experience where we were investigating the Huntington double for both classes and just kinda looked at it in two different ways.

So we were doing collection development in the one class, and then we were doing an investigation of the leadership structure in the other class.  What ended up happening is we all walked away with a really deep understanding of that particular library.  Also I think two team assignments which could’ve been really tedious sort of became sort of one bigger research assignment that was much less tedious and much more interesting and allowed us all to work together, which I guess is something that we haven’t mentioned.

You’re usually in the same team across all three of your classes.  I think that’s really valuable.  Just for the record I should say that it’s a great thing and it’s attributed to a much improved group work situation from what I think most people think of when they think of group work because no.  1, you don’t have a lot of groups.  You only have one group where you have to manage the dynamics and learn each other, and how to work together.  But no.  2, you have huge investment to figure it out with this group.  Like huge, huge investment to work well together because you’re together for three classes.  It’s not like, “We’ll just do this one assignment and then we’re over each other.” We’re together for 15 weeks for three classes, you know?  Figure it out.  And you do, and you become friends.

I remember when we first started working together being really nervous about working with you because I’d had a great experience with my previous group and we should tell people, I guess .  Laurie and I have worked together, I think, in groups for three semesters now, right?  You and I just happened to have been together?

Laurie: Yeah.

MichaelWith several different groups, so Laurie and I have been together – I’ve been with you more than I’ve been with anybody else.  I was really nervous working with you.  I’d had a great experience with Kayla and Bonnie, and starting a new group, you know.  You come from a very different background and I was really nervous at it.  I think we didn’t work together as smoothly in our first days as we do now, but because we’ve been able to work together in multiple classes over lots of periods of time, we’ve been able to build a real working relationship, which is what you have to do in the professional world too.

So I guess it’s a nice simulacrum for what happens in the professional world.  That’s great stuff.  I’m kind of digressing and talking more about group stuff.  Moodle.

JessicaThank you guys for sharing on that part.

Michael: It’s a big part of the program.  Sorry, just to finish that thought, it’s a big part of the program and it’s what would’ve made me most nervous hearing about.  If I were in the position of listening to students in the program talking about it as I was thinking about coming in and I heard group work and there’s lots of it, I’d have been really nervous.

But I think that first class that we had to take – I don’t know if you remember it very well Laurie, but the class where we had to learn about teamwork and Dr. Haycock had a series of presentations that were recorded and we had to learn it.  We called ourselves teams instead of groups.  That major emphasis on teaching the community of students how to work effectively in teams.

And Marion Philadelphia’s presentations on personality types and kind of working out a very different way of understanding how people work when they’re under pressure and all of that kind of instruction, how to work well with teams, I think has contributed to some of the best teamwork experiences I’ve ever had in the program with lots of different people, not just with you, though I like you best ‘cause you’re here.

JessicaYou know what, going off of the student learning experience, what can you guys share about the relevance of the curriculum?  Is it up-to-date?  Do you feel like it’s relevant?  Current?

LaurieI do.  I find that one of the things that I value from the program is that I’m using stuff that I’m learning in classes in my job and to further my career aspirations.  I want to run a branch.  Maybe even one day run a system, a library system, who knows?  It’s helped me to be able to say, “Oh, I’ve done two projects on building designs for libraries and I feel like I really understand and know what is out in the world for building designs,” and that led me to request to be on a system-wide cross functional team and my library system and I am facilitating the facility’s cross functional team.

So I plan to use some of that information that I’ve kind of learned and gained through these two or three projects.  To do things at work that will get me noticed and hopefully will allow me to shine and to be seen and to accomplish goals for my library system and for what I’m doing.

And likewise, another project that I’m working on this semester has to do with performance measures, and inputs and outputs, and a lot of specifics that libraries are recording, so I’m really learning a lot about that.  My library system is in the process of making some changes and move into different direction and I feel like I’ll really be able to contribute to those conversations and to those discussions and also gain information from my organization which I’ll be able to kinda add into my assignment.  I find that there’s a lot of relevant information that I’m able to go back and forth with.

MichaelSee how amazing Laurie is?  Just for the record.  All these committees.  I would agree.

LaurieYou make me blush.

Michael: I think the curriculum is really up-to-date too because we’re learning from working librarians for the most part.  Most of the professors that we’ve had, I think, are working right now in libraries or certainly have been working in libraries recently.  Some of them are just stunningly up-to-date and stunningly knowledgeable.  I’m thinking of some of the three lecturers Laurie, which were just so hard to follow.  They were so intensely knowledgeable and up-to-date.

I think I did more listening to her than any of the reading that we did in that class.  I think a lot of that stuff is up-to-date.  I would say that for the first three semesters I really felt like it was all very library-centric and so if you were somebody like Louise or somebody like Lisa who wanted a career that was gonna be a little bit less traditional, you were doing a lot of projects that were pretty traditional library stuff.  But as we’re getting into our fourth semester and even a little bit last semester, we started talking finally more about some of the information science side of things apart from librarianship.

That’s the beauty of being able to choose your own topics with a lot of this stuff because even as we’ve been in those classes where the packaged projects that you have to do are really library-centric, you’re always free to take that and apply it in a different context.  The professors are really encouraging about that and also pretty knowledgeable about how to make that happen.

LaurieI completely agree.  If you want to do a topic on something that’s not traditional library work, you talk with the professor and they will help you craft a project that’s going to fit their requirements but also your interests.  I mean, we talked about the Huntington library and its collection, but the person could have completely done something like a total digital library and done it in a different way.  We chose that particular one but it could’ve been something completely different and it didn’t have to be as traditional.

Michael:  I think the part that’s been great about connecting us to outside sources that are related to that – I’m thinking of conversations with leaders and rarely in the conversations with leaders, which is sort of an extracurricular lecture series, rarely do we hear from somebody who works in a traditional library.  We hear from people who are in all digital libraries or people who are in some sort of weird academic situations, people who are running their own businesses.

That’s how I learned about the kinds of things I’m interested in now is through that series and a lot of the mentors that I’ve got in that field, I got through professorial recommendations because people, even though they’re not necessarily doing that work, they’re connected to the field and they can put you in touch with people.  So yeah, I would say it’s easy to be connected to any particular branch of librarianship that you’re interested in.

JessicaGreat, thank you.  All right, we’re gonna move on to our last piece, which is our investment.  So my question is how will this program help you achieve your career objective?  What learning objectives were the most valuable to you?  I know Michael you’ve kind of elaborated on some of this already, but if there’s anything else to add, and how will this program help you be able to compete for the most valuable positions in the workplace?

Laurie: I think for me one of the things that I’m interested in doing is I’m interested in going from the circulation side of things to the librarian side of things in my library system, but I’ve been a manager for many of those years in the circulation department and I don’t want to lose that piece because I really like managing others.  I mean, there’s good days and there’s bad days, but I think there’s more good than there are bad, so I like that piece of it.  I think that this program provides me with the ability to really enhance some of these skills I’ve learned over the years.  These leadership skills.

We’ve talked about teamwork, well, one of the things that you’re doing when you’re a team is you pick a  leader and that leader helps to facilitate all of the projects, and assignments, and keeps it going, and gets you started, and does all that stuff.  So it’s already made for me to be able to really push more further into a leadership position within my own organization.  So when I’ve talked with some of my co-workers about management in libraries and other programs that are library programs out there, there’s not as much of that management piece out there, is what I’ve heard, and they’re looking for that.

I really value that, but I always value a lot of the other aspects of librarianship that has actually broadened my viewpoints.  It’s made me think, “Well, it’s something.” It’s made me keep my eyes open.  Maybe I will wanna do something outside of the traditional public library experience.  I realize that I have many more options.

One of the things, I know we haven’t mentioned this yet, but the student services always puts out are job announcements that they find and if find that when I look at them, I’m expanding my viewpoint and saying, “Hm, that sounds really interesting,” and it’s not the traditional public library experience that I definitely came into with that focus.  I still have that as a focus but I’ve definitely said, “Well, my options are open,” ‘cause it’s the kinda way I’ve seen it.  I have more options, I’m going to keep them going.  You feel a lot of the things in there, so there’s lots of valuable experience.

I’ve mentioned before that, for me, I’ve actually been able to use some of the course information in my personal work that I do and I’m able to kind of go back and forth with it.  It has really helped propel me toward the future.  I’m always kind talking up the program when I talk to people ‘cause it is a relatively new program and they’re generally interested because they haven’t heard of it and they’re interested to hear about the management piece of it, and how it is different than some of the large groups of class sizes and how you go through the cohorts and stuff, so I found it to be really helpful.

MichaelYeah, I think it’s a little unfair for people to be hearing from you and I now that I think about it because both of us are pretty comfortable with leadership positions.  I’m thinking about other people in our cohort who aren’t.  I had a conversation with Louise at one point.  She was saying, “I’m not necessarily looking to be a library leader, I just want to work for a great leader and be a really invested follower.”

I think the program alerts you to what good management and what good leadership look like and helps you to not only foster those things within yourself, but I think it gives you tools for fostering those things in other people and for recognizing them in other people.

I don’t know if that makes totally perfect sense, but I’m thinking of how much each of us have grown in the cohort over the course of the – I guess we’ve known each other for just over a year now, but in the course of that year, all of us, even those of us who aren’t – there are definitely leaders in the cohort, people who, who kind of are nominated in the rare instances when we can nominate leaders, including you Laurie.

I think there are also people who don’t tend to step into those roles automatically but I think even those people who don’t necessarily seek leadership roles or management roles, those people are more able to, I guess, lead themselves, and more able to be actively engaged followers.  I can’t preach enough about the virtues of good followership and I love that entire concept and I think it’s super valuable.

I don’t think we talk about that nearly enough as a culture, but I think taking a management program seems to have – by engaging even those people who are more inclined or desirous to good follower positions, it’s given them a new vocabulary for how to talk about what they want and then also new skills for how to get what they want ‘cause you’re ultimately, always gonna be responsible for managing yourself, whatever version of librarianship you go into.  I think that management perspective to the program has been very valuable to all of us as I look around the cohort and think about how we’ve all grown and changed.

Jessica:  I think that –

Laurie:  Oh, go ahead.

Jessica: No, that’s okay.  If you wanna add your last bit, that’s great.  Then we’ll wrap things up.

LaurieI was just gonna say the leadership part, even if you don’t wanna be a library leader, the leadership part – you can lead from any position that you’re in.  It doesn’t mean that you need to be the one that’s in charge, but you can help to share your ideas and perspectives.

I think that this program, by going through some of the management stuff, or leadership stuff, helps you to really see and do those pieces, so you become, like Michael said, a really good follower.  Because I know when I personally am looking for people to work for me, I’m looking for someone who’s going to not just take my idea and do it, but to tell me what their idea is and have me help them achieve that goal.  I think you find the most valuable stuff that way, and I think the program, by developing these leadership skills from the beginning, it has helped you to become a better employee.

We have to do things like recording yourself and doing presentations that way.  While personally that was completely scary to me the first couple times I did it, the more I did it, the more comfortable I was with it.  It’s always gonna make me a little nervous, but at the same time it’s a very valuable skill that I can see that I’ll be able to use in the future in my position and even in other positions if I didn’t stay with the library.

Jessica:  Thank you Laurie.  All right, so just for the sake of time, as you can see here we have our enrollment advisors, Kendall Hammond and Sylvia Riddick.  They will available.  I noticed no one had any questions in the question box.  Please feel free to reach out to both of them or either of them with questions regarding anything that we may not have covered today or just more information you’re looking for on our program.

Just a side note, classes.  Our spring semester is accepting applications and spring starts January 6th, so there is still time is you’re interested in joining our program.  I really wanna thank Laurie and Michael for your feedback today and for taking the time to discuss your experience in the MMLIS program and to those of you that have joined the call and listened in today, thank you for your time and hopefully we’ll be able to speak to you soon.  Have a great rest of your day.  Thank you all.

Laurie: Thank you.

Michael Jessica, do you want us to just stick around take questions for anybody who lingers?

Jessica: No, I think that’s okay.  Thanks Michael.  If anybody has questions we’ll have them just follow up with Sylvia or Kendall.

Michael: Great.

Jessica: Thank you.

LaurieThank you.

MichaelThank you.

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