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Kari Larson

MLIS ePortfolio

Reflection

Intellectual Freedom & Censorship

LIS 7010 Introduction to Library & Information Science

In this introduction course, I learned the importance of intellectual freedom to the library profession. This project allowed me to learn more in depth about various aspects of this concept and of information access (SLO 1). My research on the U.S. Patriot Act as well as my group members’ research on book burning (Libby Wambheim), censorship in public libraries (Liz Bastyr), and the rights of minors (Eve Johnson) helped me understand various reasons why people try to ban books and censor information (SLO 2). The research I did for my individual paper reminded me of the panopticon, a style of prison design, which I learned about at some point earlier in my education. After refreshing my memory on the topic, I realized that the concept of the panopticon provides a good explanation of the effects that the U.S. Patriot Act can have on library patrons (SLO 3). The group nature of this project required discussion, listening, coordination, and participation of my team and me (SLO 11).

Subject Heading Cross-References: Global Warming

LIS 7030 Organization of Knowledge

In this course, I learned about various methods, tools, and systems libraries use to catalog their information. This project examines the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), a standard method for organizing and facilitating retrieval of documents in libraries and other information centers (SLO 2). I used classificationweb.net to search for and browse subject headings related to global warming, which I evaluated for completeness and consistency (SLO 4). I thought that the global warming-related subject headings could be improved, so I applied LCSH principles to create additional cross-references between the related subjects in order to improve the organization and retrieval of information (SLO 2, SLO 4).

Mental Health Resources for the Homeless or Those With Critical Housing (SQL Database)

LIS 7510 Database Management

This course and assignment helped me understand how advancements in technology allow for the management of increasingly complex information in structures such as relational databases (SLO 1). I learned how we can store and organize information and applied this knowledge to a list of resources for people experiencing housing and/or mental health challenges (SLO 2). Liz Bastyr and I designed and developed the database using SQL, with hopes that it could be helpful to a population of library users who are often underserved and may have difficulties finding the information or help they need (SLO 6, SLO 8). Making this database with Liz required collaboration and coordination (SLO 11). I enjoyed the challenge of this course, and after completing this assignment I decided I wanted to continue exploring, learning, and practicing the technological aspects of library and information science (SLO 12).

Introverts as Leaders: It Can be Done…Successfully

LIS 7700 Management of Libraries & Information Centers

This was the final paper for Management of Libraries & Information Centers (LIS 7700). As an introvert, I have never desired to be a manager or be in charge of other people, so I decided to do a literature review about introverts as leaders (SLO 4). It is common for people in our society to think of leaders as outgoing and to hire people who are more extraverted than introverted for managerial positions, but I wanted to learn more about why and how introverts can do just as well (or better) in these jobs (SLO 7). Writing this paper was very informative for me. While working on it, I was able to reflect on my personality and work experiences and use the information I read to think about things I could have changed and how I might handle hypothetical situations in the future (SLO 11, SLO 12). I learned a lot of tips that will help me excel because of my introverted personality.

Budget Resources for the Budget Novice

LIS 7040 Information Access Services

Many libraries use LibGuides or similar platforms to gather and share resources on particular subjects with their patrons. This assignment helped familiarize me with the tool and this method of communicating information (SLO 2, SLO 5). I chose personal budgeting as my topic because I felt it could benefit most people in some way. Understanding how to manage one’s money is an important skill that can help people be more self-sufficient and successful in society (SLO 9). Since subject guides are not meant to comprehensively cover all available information on a topic, but cover some key start points for learning and research, I had to search and evaluate for the resources I thought would provide the best information and tools, and could be helpful for as many people as possible (SLO 2, SLO 4). After I chose the resources I wanted to include, I organized the information and added descriptions in order to clearly communicate the purpose of the LibGuide and help users understand what each resource could provide them (SLO 6).

Self-Disclosure on Facebook: Why we Share & How to Protect Yourself

LIS 7690 Information Technology, People & Society

This paper takes a step back from focusing specifically on libraries or information centers, and focuses on how people use social media platforms such as Facebook as part of today’s society. I reviewed scholarly literature to find out more about how and why people share personal information online and measures we can take to protect ourselves (SLO 4). I thought this was an interesting topic to look at because of the ever-increasing amount of social media we use today. It surprised me to learn that there are so many different reasons people post personal information, and I definitely reflected on my online activities. Learning about some of the risks of self-disclosure on social media while writing this paper, other discussions we had in this course, as well as stories from the news convinced to me review past activity of mine on Facebook and other social media and eventually canceling my Facebook account altogether (SLO 5, SLO 9). I think it would be beneficial for society if there were greater awareness about the pros and cons of our social media use, as too often people do not thoroughly think about unintended consequences that might occur.

Mental Health Resources for the Homeless or Those With Critical Housing (PHP Scripting)

LIS 7963 Topics: Advanced Databases

This project expanded on the database project I did with Liz Bastyr in Database Management (LIS 7510), this time working alone. Throughout this course, I learned how to write PHP code, which is a language commonly used to connect the front-end of websites with back-end databases that store information. Since I already designed the information architecture in Database Management (LIS 7510), I didn’t need to focus on that, but instead thought about how people would interact with the information (SLO 5, SLO 6). When I was deciding how I wanted people to search the database, I thought about the intended audience of the website: people experiencing housing and/or mental health challenges. There are a lot of barriers that can come between this population and accessing information online, so I wanted to make searching the database as easy as possible for them (SLO 2, SLO 5). While I was watching classmates present their projects, I saw one who had already taken Database Management (LIS 7510) and Internet Fundamentals & Design (LIS 7530), and used his PHP project to tie those classes’ projects together. I loved that and decided I had to take Internet Fundamentals & Design, because I wanted to do that, too. I was already interested in the course before this moment, as I enjoyed the small amounts of HTML and CSS in this project, but seeing my classmate’s presentation really confirmed that I wanted to learn how to make websites (SLO 12).

Intellectual Freedom Opinions and Political Leanings - Data Analysis

LIS 7050 Research Methods for Library Information Science

Creating a survey, collecting responses, and analyzing the data for this assignment was a fascinating experience. Diane Lochner and I used what we learned about research methods in this course to write questions to find out if there was a relationship between respondents’ opinions about intellectual freedom and their political leanings (whether they lean more to the left or the right on the political spectrum) (SLO 3, SLO 4). It was more challenging than I was expecting to word our questions in a way that was clear and didn’t imply that certain answers were better or worse than others. Even with the careful consideration we put into the survey design, however, we discovered afterwards that we still may have inadvertently created some confusion about our meaning for the concept of “accessibility.” I found it helpful to work with another person to design this survey because Diane was able to think of ways to word things or find problems with questions that I wouldn’t have thought of myself. I think that survey creation is a good example of a task that is good to do in a small group because everyone has different experiences and thinks differently, so more design issues are likely to get caught than if a single person wrote the survey (SLO 11).

A Wrap-Up of my Semester of Data Visualization

LIS 8010 Special Studies: Data Visualization: Exploration of the Art & Science of Communicating Abstract Data

I spent a semester doing an independent study about data visualization, a topic I was interested in and wanted to know more about. At the beginning of the term and to a lesser extent later in the semester, I spent a lot of time reading about the foundations of data visualization, why it can be helpful, and how to successfully communicate information. An important aspect of data visualization is how we perceive and process visual elements like shape and color, and how these elements affect the effectiveness of a chart or graph. Additionally, it was interesting to read about how sometimes people use charts to skew or misrepresent data, a practice that can be seen as unethical (SLO 1). After doing my initial research, I spent time working with a real dataset that I got from the Pew Research Center website. There are many tools available for visualizing data, but I focused on two: Microsoft Excel and Tableau (SLO 2). I created various graphs to explore the dataset, comparing my experience making the same charts in both programs and concluded that Tableau worked better for what I was doing (SLO 6). I really enjoyed learning Tableau and feel like learning about data visualization helped me expand the ways in which I am able to communicate information with others (SLO 11). Doing this work inspired me to do additional learning in my spare time. I started teaching myself statistics, Python, and the statistical software R. I realized that I was interested in data analysis and researched it as a career option. I joined some relevant groups on LinkedIn, subscribed to some email lists, and even went to a couple Meetups related to data analysis (SLO 12).

Head Home

LIS 7530 Internet Fundamentals & Design

I would have to say that the website design assignment was my favorite from my time in the MLIS program. I enjoyed and appreciated many of the assignments I did over the past 4 ½ years, but this one really stood out to me. In addition to the LIS aspects of information finding and organization that were present in nearly every assignment I did at St. Kate’s, making my website, which I named Head Home, had the additional element of visual design—something I’ve been interested in for as long as I can remember. For this assignment, I built the user interface for the projects I did in Database Management (LIS 7510) and Advanced Databases (LIS 7963), resulting in a complete website connected to a database. In the earlier stages of the assignment, I did more formal thinking about my intended users than I did in my previous classes. I did this in the form of personas and usage scenarios, which really helped me assess the needs of my users and the requirements for my website. Thinking about the specific needs and life situations of my users led me to determining the best ways to include information on my website so that it would be as effective and easy to understand as possible (SLO 10). Part of the assignment was to incorporate accessibility standards into the code and design of the site, making it possible for people of all abilities to have access to the information. Access for all is one of the core principles of the LIS field, and in some cases is required by law (SLO 1, SLO 6). This class and assignment were big “Aha! moments” for me in terms of what type of career path to do down. One sign that web development would be in my future was my ability to sit in front of my computer for hours at a time working on my website, while needing reminders to myself that I needed to eat, blink, and probably talk with my loved ones. I was totally engrossed. I shifted my focus from data analysis to web development and now regularly research related topics online. I have been teaching myself technologies like JavaScript, jQuery, and Bootstrap, and am over halfway done with a web development bootcamp course on Udemy.com (SLO 12).

Conclusion

Overall, I loved the Master of Library and Information Science program and am very glad I did it. Part of me is (almost) sad to finish because there are a lot of courses I didn’t have the opportunity to take that I would have liked to. This program invoked so many feelings for me—some good and some not so great. I feel like I finally found “my people”—others with many of the same interests, beliefs, goals, and even quirks. Going to class was so mentally stimulating, and even if I didn’t always actively participate in class discussions my mind was always engaged. Learning and talking about information access, unintended consequences of technology, intellectual freedom, and the many other topics of my courses often required me to wind down for several hours after I got home, despite being exhausted. The program provided many challenges as well. Trying to balance school, work, mental health, family, friends, and fun often left me in tears saying I was going to quit. I’m very glad I stuck with it, though. Finishing my MLIS is one of my greatest achievements.

This program has done wonders for my confidence and mental resilience. When I first started, for example, my social anxiety was almost crippling. I would feel physically ill before presentations and never spoke up of asked questions in class. When I was required to present for an assignment, I had to write down my script word-for-word, otherwise my mind would go blank because of fear and forget what I was saying. As I progressed through the program, however, the constant requirement to do presentations gradually helped me feel more comfortable speaking in front of others. I would still prefer to not have to do it, but it affects me much less than it did in the past. By the end, I even did some presentations with just a few notes jotted down. Only five years ago, I would have never thought that was possible for me.

I was able to participate in several job and internship opportunities because I was a student in the MLIS program. The most interesting was definitely my time spent as a Research Intern at the Center for Homicide Research. The Center works to better understand why and how homicide happens, with the hopes of preventing and, ideally, eliminating the issue.

I’ve always had a love for books, reading, learning, and organizing things, and the MLIS program confirmed all of those. Because of the classes I took at St. Kate’s I discovered that I also love coding. I love that it combines building something, puzzle solving (“why doesn’t this work?”), research (“how can I do this?”), creativity, and technical thinking. Finally, the sense of achievement I feel when my code works the way I want it to is exhilarating.

Career Goals

I would love to get a job involving the technological aspects of a library. I am currently wrapping up my degree with my Practicum (LIS 7993), which I am doing with the Web Development Department at the University of Minnesota Libraries. I love what I am doing there and would like to do this (or something very similar) as a career. As I’ve been looking at job postings, some positions that stand out to me have titles like Systems Librarian, Library Technology Support Specialist, and Digital Initiatives and Literacy Librarian. I am also open to similar types of jobs outside of a library setting as well as more general web development jobs. I plan on taking some time off from formal learning and enjoy being able to have actual free time while not at work. I’m considering eventually enrolling in a programming or web development bootcamp, but I am not going to rush into that right away.

Getting my MLIS was a great experience, and I learned more than I ever thought I would.