3/09/2015

in the dark place, or adventures in higher education

Its inevitable higher learning will get you in the end despite your rationalizations of  "I don't need it, I'd rather catch a venereal disease than go back to University or College".
 My excuse is little less melodramatic. 
I went because it was free and I really actually wanted to know if there is something beyond the boundaries of the public library desk.
This presented a problem; 
one) it meant leaving the comfort zone of the public library and its warm but dust covered embrace. 
two) a bit more prosaic - I would have to admit that I did in fact not know everything there is to know about librarianship and the practicing thereof. 

Admittedly my experience was entirely practical, based on real world experience but a little theory to sharpen the skills wouldn't hurt.
 So like in most kung-fu flicks where the hero has to check his ego if he wanted to learn something, I resolved to be an empty vessel and allow a higher learning institution to fill my possible leaky, definitely rusty cup. 

Which brings us to number three) the brain fart can be a wonderful thing. 

Its the wrong headed decision that can yield surprising results in both a positive and negative way. At one point people called it serendipity but really, the word is way to long and melodic to exist outside an Ed Sheeran song, so brain fart it is. 
The brain fart was That-Place-on-the-Mountain - and yes it is actually built on a mountain as the quiver in my knees, legs and back can well bear witness too in front of a court of law. 

That Place has a good library school that specializes in heaps, oodles, googles of academic research in the field of librarian stuff. I hated it immediately.
 I was the plucky first mate on the good ship Public Library and here came an upstart Captain who had only sailed briefly when he fell back onto a boogie board in the family swimming pool. 

At registration, everyone was annoyingly jovial and downright friendly devoid of the snobbery that one would expect from people who worked that close to The Mountain.
To my horror, the jovial friendly air continued well past registration and into the first week of classes. 

This wouldn't, couldn't stand.
 So now I shall endeavor to recap (slightly) some of the things I've learnt in the hopes of detecting any "Let's teach the Public Librarian the wrong things" shenanigans. 


So.

This weeks classes dealt with the research process, and the research problem. Now research to me is the problem, however the word problem here just means trying to find out the root  cause of an occurrence through an empirical means of collecting data and information to come too some sort of answer.

(Really it seemed quite straight forward, except the part where I think dialectic methods of instruction should just replace writing stuff down but that's just me being picky.)

The second lot of classes all focused on identifying documented and undocumented information sources, and testing the ability of a catalog to display the necessary information that will make you sleep all warm and fuzzy because what the catalog told you was that this reference source was totally ok, and had not contracted ebola at all. 

 That little exercise is up a public librarians alley and right on the dinner table - we live and die by our choices; that fraction of time spent looking up a book for someone, means that your brain has to check the edition, publication date, publisher and when it last circulated has to contend with a queue of borrowers who also want their time with you, the faster you move, the  more harmonious your interactions. More harmoniousness is one thing librarians would like to have tattooed on their bodies but we're just fraidy cats about that sort of thing. 

The week ended with a rather animated decision about copyright - Good God, what is it good for?!
The protections that copyright afford printed media is absolute except for mucking around from the big corps when copyrights lapse but other than that, regular people have fair use to copyrighted materials  without selling your arm, or banking on Cousin Clara's musical talent in Idols.
 Copyright is lovely when you have words on actual paper, the problem arises when those words sit on a database somewhere, behind a firewall that requires Cousin Clara's kidney's. 
Digital Rights Managment Systems, pay to enter firewalls and licensing fee's are the gatekeepers to authoritative research, and if your don't have the means to circumvent these protections ie. money, you will not be producing the next miracle polymer that can turn sweat into Chanel no 5. 

Ugh. I hate it. I hate the fact that South Africa has to pay to jump through the hoops when it comes to digital information like journals and eBooks.  It galls me that licensing costs are so high, and they are clearly a major factor world wide for public libraries. In South Africa, the licensing cost for one best selling author could run a library for about a year, or so I was told.....By someone else that does not work for the local authority. Honest

All in all the week was against my better wishes: enlightening. I await next week - where there will be rertorts, rebarbs and sharp witticism flung to put the ineptly schooled students in our place. Please?

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