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Archive for the ‘Internship’ Category

Internship Wrap-up

Over the course of 8 years I was the pastor of three different churches in three distinctly different areas. When I set out on that career from seminary, I was confident I would become a pastor who would be in a town for 25+ years, marry, bury and baptize generations of families, teach and counsel and whatever else was necessary to become a positive influence in people’s lives. I wanted to give people encouragement and good news on their journey, to be there with them in the great joys and deepest sorrows of their lives.

But three places in eight years tells a much different story. And each time I left, I was glad I was leaving, and relieved that ordeal was over. Each time I left, I left behind a little bit more of my faith, my confidence, and my identity. By the time I left the third church it was all but a formality. I no longer had any identity as a minister, and no faith to share. All of the study I had done in preparation were essentially out the window, and I have yet to really fathom what this was all doing to my marriage at the time.

I could spend all day analyzing what went wrong but ultimately there is only one reason: I was all wrong. I could never play the part I was expected to play or be the person I was expected to be. I was too liberal, asked people too many questions to make them think, despised doing all the things I thought I would enjoy doing, and critiqued things I was told I shouldn’t. There was no place for me in such a shallow, hollow place. So I never regretted leaving.

I’ve thrown out a lot of things from those days, and the rest, mainly theology books, I sold on Amazon. Yet as I look back I realize the core essential things of who I am has stayed and only the context is different. I realize my mom taught me about giving to others even when you don’t have much of your own resources to give. She showed me sacrifice and perseverance and love. I am always ready to help, or try to help, anyone at anytime not because she told me to but that’s how she lived. She had a lot of flaws, as we all do, but never pretended to me more than she was.

I had a couple of high school English teachers. One was very good at making me think and ask questions about the text I was reading, the other gave me freedom to write, with no judgement of what it was or how good it was at the time.

My professors in college and seminary taught me how to think and articulate for myself in grander ways. Thinking about how to teach, present, and craft a paper was not just an assignment but a task in formation.

I found teaching to be a true joy, whether it be adults, teens, or children. This probably comes from being in a family of teachers, having inspiring professors, and also from having so many things to study that were too interesting to keep to myself.

I have found fellow travelers along the way: colleagues and friends who for some reason listen to my stories even though they can’t imagine many of them.

I think of high school students who hang out in the library and chat with me. After divorce, some of them got me Red Sox tickets, while others made sure they stopped by and asked me every day how I was doing. They didn’t have to do any of that, but they did.

My ex-wife showed a lot of patience as I often became too absorbed in other people’s problems, became depressed often, and then became restless in trying to figure out where I fit and going back to school for yet more degrees. While the end of the story was not good, I would never have gotten to this point without her love and patience.

And now I come to the end of this summer internship, thankful for Steve and Sarah for making this happen, and the rest of the library staff for their welcoming spirit. Sarah has taught me so much, Steve has made me see things from a context and perspective I would never have had. I have many thanks for them. This is one of the few cases in which I don’t want to leave as I will miss these people and this place. I have felt more at home here, more fulfilled and confident than at any time that I can remember. This is truly a great place. I can now see myself in a career where I can draw upon my experiences with teaching, helping others and interacting with all sorts of people. I can ask questions and explore things, even things ambiguous with few answers.

It is almost as if life is beginning to have some sort of clarity. I have a long way to go, literally and figuratively. Some time is left before finishing the MLIS. Where will I go? What will I specifically look for? What are the possibilities? I feel alone as I see through a glass darkly, yet beyond the darkness are people, places, and things I have not yet connected with, seen, or imagined.

Oh, and Steve, thanks for the gyros you got us that day. I was saving the best comment for last.

Well, actually, I just forgot to mention it. But it fits well here anyway. And it was good.

Maybe the most important things to learn are just simple pleasures.

 

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Yesterday was a really good day with lots of challenging things.

Sarah gave me a problem-based assignment to figure out. Recently, a professor had come in requesting help getting copyright clearance for some pages in a book to put on Blackboard for using in an online class. I watched as we went through the process for requesting the permission, and it was submitted last week. Sarah received the response, and the request was rejected. She showed me the sheet and asked if I could figure out how I could still get a hold of that material for the professor. She had already accomplished this and wanted to see if I could do it.

I first looked up the book to see if we had it electronically in one of the databases. That was a no. I then thought about contacting the publisher directly, which I was sure was not going to be productive, but maybe here we have an inside track. Or, maybe inter-library loan was a possibility. But I had no conclusive proof on how I would get this. Part of the confusion is that I did not understand the reason for the rejection, despite its explanation being given in a box on the bottom of the page.

If I had read this more carefully, I may have figured it out. None of my ideas worked. Sarah then had me look up the book on Amazon, and did the “look inside” to the table of contents. I then realized this book was edited and the chapters were actually articles which had been published elsewhere. So, then going back to the rejection explanation, I realized it mentions where this article was coming from, and we actually found a free version of this online. The trip looked all too easy from the destination side, but I realized I didn’t know which road to take to get there.

Copyright is an area I have no experience in, and needless to say this is something which doesn’t get a lot of discussion in a high school library.

Later on the instruction piece which may/could/might/maybe happen, did. Sarah heard from the professor during lunch, and he had already told his students ahead of time to go straight to the library. We were expecting his classroom, so this presented a unique challenge since the lab is still under construction. IT set up a laptop and projector and 10 chairs were set up. Then nobody showed up. One student came in, then a couple of stragglers, then the professor, who was looking for others. We wound up starting this with only 2 students who were not very talkative. I showed the library page and contact info, databases page, then went into Ebrary. While showing the different features of an ebook, about 4-5 more students came in. So I finished going over this, then showed the rest of them how I got to where I was. I then showed Pro Quest Social Science Journals and emphasized this database is specifically geared towards the field they are researching in. I introduced Boolean and asked for a subject someone is researching. I was given “gender roles,” then explained the AND, OR, NOT features. I challenged her to give me an AND, which she gave as “cross culture.” So I explained the two big terms being merged and what we have in common are those search results which have been narrowed. I challenged her to use OR for gender roles, but instead we settled on the OR for cross culture, which became “multi culture.” That expanded the results. For NOT, we used “men,” thinking maybe we were doing research just on women. It was pretty interactive and seemed positive. I concluded with Quicksearch, showing a bigger database and the narrowing which needs to happen.

I forgot to bring in notecards for them to write an evaluation, so Sarah suggested we have them write on the board what 1 thing they learned which would help them in researching their project. Then they went on their way. Afterwards, I grabbed a tablet and took a picture of it.

sociology_7-30-13

Some of the rest of the day was spent working on my final paper and reflecting on all that has happened this summer.

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Time has gotten away from me and I realize this entry I started 3 days ago is still not done. Actually, I put the title on it and that was all. Now I have the unenviable task of trying to remember things from last week that I have scribbled here and there. Time is running out on my internship, and all of these experiences and profound thoughts will somehow come forth in a majestic, APA styled paper. So now, backing up the bus…

The lesson for the communications class on 7/25 went well. I did as much as I could without referring to notes. I’ve rarely ever done that. Every sermon would be a manuscript which I would produce in 16-point font so I could check  it at a glance (it would probably have to be 20 point today), but would rarely ever read word-for-word with the exception of a story. Teaching hasn’t always been that way, however, as I like the dialog that happens and usually find myself covering everything I wanted, whether I went in order or not. But anyway, doing that in this context is brand new, so this is progress to not rely on the notes.

I showed Points of View, Ebrary, and Quicksearch. I had been under the impression they were researching either “social networking” or “freedom of speech,” only to learn those were topics with the previous class, not this one. So when I asked someone for a topic idea, no one replied with anything. Then a girl said she was researching “upside down trees.” Everyone liked that. I then used this in my searches, showing “trees” was too broad a topic. One guy, who said he was in an earlier class I taught this summer, gave me “trees and sap,” which narrowed results some. I put in NOT Vermont, just to eliminate those fine Vermont trees that always come up. Actually, I have no idea what I used for NOT, but it was something like that.

But I think we had good give and take, I used their ideas, interacted with them, and got positive responses, particularly from the student who has seen this before, who said I seemed more comfortable. I’ve always felt comfortable, but smoothness is another issue. Not relying on notes was helpful.

I may have another opportunity tomorrow with a sociology class, but we have not gotten confirmation of this. Sarah wanted me to prepare by not telling me what databases I should teach, rather I look up the books the professor has on reserve, get a feel for topics in sociology, and come up with my own outline.

I’ve done some other various things like going through books on reserve to see if any are available electronically. A few are.

Sarah, Steve and myself walked one of the 2 mile-something trails that go around the campus. Steve does a good job wearing the historian hat and pointing out things I’ve never heard of. He does that with films also. And ethics. Philosophy. Even baseball history. Yeah okay, anything actually.

Sarah is also an unofficial travel guide and has added input into some vacation ideas for August I ran by her.

I’m already beginning to miss this place and the great people I’ve worked with this summer. These experiences have been invaluable.

The student from Niger we worked with popped by this afternoon, all aglow about the paper we helped him research. He wants me to have a copy when he is finished. It is due today. When you step back and look at what your life is accomplishing, you realize there are people like this who are grateful for what you do. He probably best illustrates what this career is all about, as the librarian provides not only the resources but also the encouragement to the student. A very rewarding experience.

Refreshing myself of the things needed in my final paper. There will have to be a lot left out. I tend to ramble.

That is all for now.

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I am working on what will most likely be my last instructional lesson of the summer. Summer is flying by. Unless you’re in Vermont, then it is basically already over, so I’m told. But I digress. I am preparing the lesson for a communications class, a 15-minute displaying of a few databases for their project, which will either be social networking or free speech. I’d be interested in seeing something which combines the two. Great time to be a lawyer with lawsuits over tweets and such. But now I really digress.

I read a really stimulating post by the folks over at the “In the library with the lead pipe” blog, a blog which puts my philosophical ponderings to shame. The latest entry is all about the philosophical, social, and psychological factors involved in weeding. Non-library people just don’t get what is involved in the decision-making. It can be like moving grandma to a nursing home and having to sell her house. Things don’t feel right. We depend on tradition and familiarity, and in the non-profit world, you have the idea of someone’s very life at stake and you have exactly what they need. You never know when someone is going to need those old milk jugs you have in the garage, so you hold on to them. Maybe, as the blogger envisions, that book about 14th century death rituals in Italy will be exactly what a grad student needs for his thesis. Some things are easier to get rid of. Upon arriving at my high school library position, my assistant and I began a program we decided to call “Bitch-n-Pitch” as many useless, outdated, and disgusting books lined the shelves. I even found what I believed to be a petrified…apple maybe. We created plenty of empty shelves which, considering what little budget there is, are still empty. Funny how some would object to empty shelves while being just fine with moldy encyclopedias from the 70’s. The attempt was to make more meaning out of what remained.

Many items are not that easy. You have the feeling they still has value, or you don’t have enough knowledge about them to know what they really are. We all like to preserve things, and perhaps I like libraries so much because it gives me a sense of the awesomeness of human existence. Elton John’s words: “There’s far too much to take in here; more to find than can ever be found.” There is this sense of being small in the grand history of thoughts and ideas of humanity. We can’t encompass it all, but libraries do better than most at the attempt. Digitally, while all the world is at our fingertips, we don’t get a sense of the vastness of knowledge. We inject books with deeper meanings and they become our identity. Perhaps it is in fear of our own mortality, the blogger ponders, in which we want to pass on this wisdom to the next generation. You wonder what the digital world will do to this as well. But for now, there is safety in this community of thoughts and ideas, in whatever format. Much like our own personal collections of memories, we have a desire to create a place of meaning. They are a part of us.

But then again, some books just plain suck and you have to dump them to make better use of space for better ideas.

Yet this sense of safety and belonging is probably why many of us go to libraries or seek careers in its vast ocean. It is a place for intellectual, emotional, and psychological stimulation. While humanity still battles itself over race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age, and whatever else I’m not thinking of, the library (for all its imperfections), is one place anyone truly can be welcome. I could preach that “everyone is welcome to this church,” believing that fully myself, yet representing a religious tradition known for its exclusionary message and emphasis on what rules you need to follow to “be like us.” In the library, I no longer have to apologize for the organization I represent, and when someone needs help finding information, they will not be told by me that their information doesn’t agree with my subjective viewpoint.

Now I’ve really digressed even more and need to get back to what I think was the main point of this post.

Libraries have this sense of continuity and connection, and I find myself absorbed in it unlike anything else. Available to me are the histories, thoughts, and reflections of folks down through the ages. If I don’t understand what an author says, I can probably find someone who explains to me what they are saying. And now, digitally, I am connected to millions more, where those ideas are searchable and findable within seconds.

Throughout much of my life, these few things defined me: faith, church/ministry, and marriage. I am not sure where the first one is. Ministry is long gone and church is an empty shell of what it once was. I am a few days away from an anniversary that is no longer celebrated, and divorce happened nearly a year ago, nearly coinciding with it. These were where my identity was located, and I began weeding many things, and not just the physical stuff for the yard sale. Many things go. Meaningful things remain. Perspectives change. New meanings emerge. Books and thoughts and ideas come and go, but they are here for our reflection. Yet identity is still in the seeking than in the finding, the reaching rather than the grasping.

As I watch the Red Sox, I realize they have been more constant than anything in my life. I remember spending time in the library looking up books about baseball and Red Sox players. It gave me a place to belong. I am connected to a history…a community. And I remember James Earl Jones in Field of Dreams:

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America

has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a

blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.

This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all

that once was good, and that could be again.

 

Oh good, there’s still a copy on the shelf. I hope that never gets weeded.

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Monday was a fun day as the cast and crew of the library had their annual picnic. Lots of good food and fun. That night I taught some of the databases and Boolean stuff to a communications class. It all seemed to work pretty well although I did stumble on the “physical Boolean activity.” To demonstrate, I had students stand if they were students, guaranteeing 100% participation. Then I asked how many commuted more than 20 minutes. A student in the class was familiar with Boolean, so I had her chime in and steer some of the ship. So this illustrated “students AND commuting 20 minutes.” I then did the OR and NOT and somewhere in there my mind went totally blank and I could not remember which one I had just done. But we made it through. This one needs more practice and I wonder which way is the most effective for illustrating the concept. But the cards they filled out for assessment were pretty complimentary. Overall I think it went well.

There’s probably a great reflection in this somewhere, but I am not finding it. I seem to have trouble putting two thoughts together today, so I’ll have to wait until something profound comes to me.

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It has taken me a couple of days to even begin explaining my latest ponderings. I find myself even pondering my own ponderings. I am having a blast at the internship in which I work with fascinating people whose very presence brings me into new experiences and understandings I could never have had otherwise.

I realized at the beginning of this week that it probably will not be long before I am down another waist size. I do not consider this a problem as millions wish they could say such. Once reached, this will be 4 sizes since a year ago at this time. My reflection is one of identity: that this really does make you a new person. I have the usual testimonies: feel better, feel healthier, feel better about looks, etc. Those are all true. But what I am reflecting on is the bigger picture of identity and how identity often hinges on weight, height, overall looks, and body figure, but also on income, job position, educational attainment, and the list could go on. Or we could say we let our identity be wrapped up in such things. Once I reflect on this, I will connect it to the library world. But don’t quote me on that.

So divorce, one of the biggest identity shake ups possible, happened almost exactly a year ago. Much of what I understood about life went by the wayside, and combined with leaving the ministry and losing faith a few years before, meant the two parts which made up the whole of my life were now gone. Naturally, appetite was not there; in fact it has only come back a little since. Going for a burger and fries to this day leads my stomach to a protest over what I am doing to it. But as the weight came off, which I certainly did not complain about, I simply kept track of what I was eating, counting calories, and getting on to a 3 mile walk every day. I am over 50 something pounds now. This became a topic of conversation as people of course noticed. Keeping track of the calories can become obsessive, but I also see that I had no other structure in life at that point, and this was something I could control. Or at least have the illusion of control. My life had some sense of structure and meaning in feeling good about myself. I was changing, and not just in trying on clothes that just might fit, but in how I saw myself and the world around me.

Someone recently told me they did not trust skinny people because they could not possibly be having any fun. I find it is easy to go that route. You can be conscious of every calorie and obsess about it to the point of where you reach a similar scenario as the religious tradition of much of my life. Instead of focusing on what you believe or enjoy eating, you define yourself on what you do not do or what you do not eat. Yet, as I believe a Buddhist philosopher once pointed out, you can feel good about yourself for not eating meat and saving the planet, yet as you boil your vegetables in a pan, you are killing perhaps thousands of organisms living on them. Well, doesn’t that just deflate your balloon?

I have found I have only recently begun the transition from identifying myself from what I am not, to what I am becoming. I am discovering my sense of identity and my emerging passion are being joined. I am having fun. Today’s teaching of a literature class was just more confirmation. The years of preaching, teaching, counseling, youth and children work, and even administration, have led me to this point of finally feeling content with who I am and what I can do. Showing a few databases to help them do their research, showing them resources they didn’t know existed, giving them brief guidelines for doing quality searches, brings a sense of fulfillment to me. The environment is challenging and intellectually stimulating. The students (who were only 4 in number) answered that they were 1) glad to see the research guide  2) see the large number of databases  3) enlightened to see the many resources the college has available and 4) know there are other databases besides Ebsco. This makes the experience worthwhile and a feeling of accomplishment.

Steve also gave me some responses from the evaluations the ethics students filled out. In answer to the following question, “What impressed you about the course?” were gathered these responses (paraphrased):

* How to research on the library website.

* Learning about the library and how to use it. The fact three librarians were present.

* Resources available, like the professor and embedded librarian (2 comments)

* How easy it is to talk to a librarian

So these are positive responses which reflect well on all of us in the library field. The library, like many institutions, also goes through identity crises. We librarians can view ourselves as the keepers of information and the hoarders of books and knowledge. Now, information is available everywhere, and in many formats. So the emphasis moves from keepers to investigators helping the patron know where to look. We have defined ourselves by what we are not: that being the old lady shooshing people. We have to define ourselves according to user needs, which are encompassed above: easy to talk to, present, available, instructive, and helpful.

In an information field of rapid change, it is hard to know how best to identify ourselves. The jargon changes, and new technology becomes dated fast. Yet our passion is what brought us to the field: a passion to connect patrons to information in many formats, whether it be books, articles, databases, etc. and to community, or a space for learners. The passion of seeing a student enlightened and inspired by the library, perhaps for the first time, is what we all really strive for. I like the model of the “embedded” librarian who interacts with the class instead of waiting for them to come in.  That is fun.

And you don’t have to count calories.

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Today I think I finished the CRAAP sheet revisions for evaluating websites. Not sure about it, so we’ll see how it looks. I started working on the lesson plan for a possible Thursday teaching opportunity in a literature class. I would be doing a 15-minute lesson on information they can find on the research guide, as well as Literature Online, J-Stor, and Contemporary Authors. This is a class of 5 hearty souls. I like in that I get to present some different databases this time around.

I assisted in the weeding of the reference collection and am glad to see others struggle with the relevance issue of a book as I have at the high school level. I have found at the high school level, as I moved the average age of the collection from 1983 to 1997, that no one really misses anything you toss out, unless they see an empty shelf and freak that something they’ve never used is gone and it doesn’t look right. Print reference is a regular conversation item on the listservs and at the conferences, with opinions all over the place on what to do. Space is limited and needs to be utilized for the 21st century, yet having everything only online is not the answer. Steve’s “pruning the tree” analogy is a good one. We can have a respectable collection, although it will never be used the way it once was. I actually compare this to what theologian Marcus Borg once said about the Mainline Protestant Church: we won’t have the attendance or be what we used to be, but we can be meaningful today with who we are and what we have. He said something like that in a lecture one time, anyway. I know it. Yeah, I’m sure now. Sounds good anyway.

And so it goes…

 

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