After three years and some change, I feel it is time to look back on my time in library school with experienced eyes. What helped me? What hindered me? Have my ideals changed? How has my outlook on the profession changed? The answers to those questions are: writing grants and cataloging, hours of discussing how to make policy, hell yes, and "They called the library the ship of dreams." I am half kidding on that last part. I believe the public library as an entity will always exist in some form, just not the form I enjoyed in my youth. But that's another topic for another time. The topic of this week's "What Did I Learn In Library School?" is Computers. Cue the spooky music!
As I learned it so many moons ago, the history of computing goes like this. Lots of philosophers, either on their own or separately, starting talking about thinking toasters. A few of them theorized that thinking toasters were a good idea, even sketching out ideas based on how we would make thinking toasters. Thinking toasters became rage in scifi books and movies. Then TV came along, and everybody was like, "let's make shows about thinking toasters, particularly from or in outer space." Then the military along with some other people, made thinking toasters. Then they let the toasters talk to each other. Then vanilla mortal folks wanted in. Seeing pitchforks and torches in their future if the public were denied, the government let them. Thus, Usenet was born. Usenet then met with a bunch of tubes, had too much to drink, and nine months later what we know of as the Internet was born. Since then, Rule 34 has ruled. What I learned about the history of computers in library school is that you do not have to know, nor does it help you appreciate, computers to use them.
Do you remember that time in your life when the World Book Encyclopedia was king? Cool full color pictures, even those ones of the body that were see-through and had wee-wees and hoo-ha's on 'em?. That really neat page that showed the landscape of the moon and had every detail mapped out? Article after article of interesting stuff to plagiarize for those last minute assignments? I do. Well that crap ended about the time companies decided to digitize and allow for easy searching. And by easy searching, I mean you really did have to be a college graduate in truncation and faceting to find most decent criteria. Tweens need not apply. And by the time I got that down, here come da Google, here come da Google. What I learned in library school about databases was that they are nifty inventions for categorizing data that will soon be eclipsed by the next new technology.
OPACs (Online Public Access Catalogs) were once the library's way of saying: "Look at us and how we fit that big cabinet of cards into the TV screen!" Now, they are the library's computers that failed computer camp. These computers are so slow, ancient, and useless that they can barely operate the mouse. These computers access one page and one page only: the library's. That's how it is supposed to work. Somehow, that little jerk kid with the headphones is still able to access his gmail account. What I learned about OPACs and how they work from library school could fit between the "A" and "S" keys on one of these ancient machines, right next to the cheeto crumbs and nail clippings.
MARC (Machine Readable Catalog) is one of the most useful things to learn about libraries, even if that's the only thing you take away from library school. Using these records is like using a title page; they give you all the info on a specific book, plus often the library's history with the edition. What I learned about MARC records is that I really like MARC records.
I honestly still do not have an inkling about what the hell this does or means. And I wrote three papers on it. I may have even used it in my thesis. No clue. Not one. What I learned about FRBR in library school is that I can B.S. a paper on any topic, even at a graduate level.
I learned a lot about torrents and file sharing from library school. Hypothetically speaking, you could say I learned too much. Hypothetically speaking. Mostly from an ethics class, too. I learned some law, too, speaking simply as an observer of technology, not a crazy Pirate from the Bay or anything. dot com