Retro Post—27-Aug-03

[It’s aSquared’s First Birthday … we’re celebrating by looking back at events from a year ago … skip these retro posts if you’re not into sentimentality.]

Immersion …

Orientation: Day One

Well, Orientation Day One is over and I can report that ….. it’s gonna be a busy two years. They had us all in one big room in Michigan Union to give us the obligatory introductory remarks from gathered faculty and administrators, after we we dispersed to West Hall to have “specialization meetings” tailored to our particular interests.

The way the School of Information is divided is that there are the traditional library school specializations, library and information services and archives and record management, alongside more future-tech specializations like HCI (human-computer interaction) and IEMP (information economics, management, and policy).

In the large room where we all began, the occupants were about evenly divided among genders. Once we dispersed, though, the disparity was glaring: in the library science group I attended, I counted about 7 men (including myself) in a room of 30.

I went over to the room across from this to stop in on the archives session and the number of men was similarly low. The other thing that was glaring (at least to me) was how young everybody was. I saw five or six other people who seemed to be my age or older. Most everyone else I saw was in their early or mid-twenties.

I was also apparently overdressed. I wore khaki slacks and one of my short-sleeved shirts, which would have been a perfect combination for my SF office job. Here, I looked out of place. Everyone else was dressed in jeans, if not T-shirts, and shorts were not uncommon. I don’t know what to wear. Shorts and T-shirts make me feel as though I’m trying to look younger than I am. What I wore today made me feel older. So it goes.

The curriculum sounds great, though I can’t say I’m too thrilled about the first part of it, which is a series of four “Foundations” courses that all students are required to take (an odd similarity there to the first-year courses that all law students are required to take). Nobody is really giving much detail on what these courses will entail, which concerns me, but they seem to involve a lot of time-intensive group projects. I suppose the purpose of all of this will become clear to me eventually, as promised.

The faculty seem energetic and committed, at least the ones who spoke at our pep rally and in our sessions this morning. One of them came in a shawl and draped it over her head to imitate a stern librarian stereotype inculcating the students in the real purpose of information school: to train you to run a quiet library where everyone behaves. This inspired general hilarity (I laughed too, especially after remembering the Archie McPhee Librarian Action Figure “with amazing push-button shushing action” that Steve showed me online the other night). These are the kinds of jokes that make roomsful of librarians laugh, which is a good sign, I think.

Most of the students also seemed refreshingly shy and somewhat geeky, which comports with what Scott predicted I would find, and although there seem to be a couple of stuck-up snots among the crop, that would be true in any group. I didn’t have my appointed faculty advisor session until 5.15, which gave me roughly 25 minutes to run down a flight of stairs and get registered for fall term. All of my classes are available, though not on the days or at the times I had hoped they would be. I’ll be taking 13 units, which is a full load, and I’ll probably have to look for a part-time work-study job as well.

Like I said, it’s gonna be a busy two years.

Still, the whole process is exciting. It’s exhausting, it’s overwhelming, and I have no idea how I’m going to make it through two years of this. But it’s still oddly encouraging (or validating, or something) to hear words like those spoken this morning by the dean of the school, who said that in most professional schools, you have a clear idea of what you’re there for and where you’re going when you get your degree. Here, that won’t be the case, necessarily, because the information profession (if such a phrase can be used) is by definition a malleable and changeable concept; what is a valid career today may be an entirely invalid career tomorrow, there may be entirely new job descriptions two years from now for skills that you are learning now, and that ambiguity is part of what learning about information—and what information itself, along with all of the permutations of what constitutes information and its dissemination—is all about.

I’ll write more after tomorrow’s session.

—Posted by Frank at 21:36:46 | 27-Aug-03

And here are the photos from Day Fourteen:


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