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Discovering The Inner Nerd

September 13, 2010
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Got a cool email the other day (one of those that remind me why I like to teach); basically, one of the Fall 2010 students had the ah-ha! moment and knew this work was where it was at. This happened to me in January of 2007 during my LIBR 240 course taught by Heather Ebey.  At that time I was 45 and had done a variety of things to make money, but had never really enjoyed the actual tasks involved in the job. Turns out I should have been a computer geek my whole life. Then I found out there were more advanced classes (LIBR 246) I could repeat with different topics; I could take 246 – php/MySQL, -JavaScript,  -XML,  -AJAX and LIBR 242 -DB Management.

I stopped taking “library” courses and instead took only tech courses.

This path through the MLIS was infinitely more enjoyable for me, but it made the e-portfolio more burdensome; I had no evidence for many of the competencies (eg, intellectual freedom, collection development, teaching, etc). I didn’t care. If you are finding you like this stuff and don’t want to take any more “library” classes you too can do as I did, but it’s worth reiterating the downside of having way more work to do to complete the culminating experience. And, another valid way to get more “tech” is to take community college courses (also much cheaper than the SJSU courses) and you can do it after you graduate.

Part of the cool email was, “what do geek librarians do?”  They do everything and the ability to create and manage web content is increasingly a requirement for library jobs.  But before you even graduate there are opportunities from the school: two of my former students are Graduate Assistants to the web technologist (Heather Ebey). I had this job for 1.5 years and it pretty much covered the cost of the degree (it pays about $15/hour). Part of what goes on in LIBR 240 is that the students are auditioning for GA positions. A paid gig you can do at any hour of the day from your home is quite a prize in this economy. Beyond school is an entire world of jobs where the “nerd” is highly sought after.

The biggest upside to all of this is I learn every day and work on problems which stimulate my intellect and curiosity. It’s also worth noting there is no end point to the learning; there’s always another language, another methodology, another level of code turtles until you get to machine language. I figure I’m about 3000 hours into my 10k for basic mastery and it is only now that I’m coming to grips with just how big the “computer world” actually is…and it’s always getting bigger. What a great time to learn the way of the coder, eh?

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. KPrice permalink
    September 13, 2010 5:37 pm

    I like/am scared by what you say about being roughly 3000 hours into your 10k and still “coming to grips with just how big the ‘computer world’ actually is.” I’m only on week 4 and already I’m a bit bogged down knowing that I’ve only experienced a tiny, itsy-bitsy drop in the bucket. Well…bogged down, but excited as well! Guess I’ll be feeling like this for a while since you’re still feeling this way. I’ve certainly learned in grad school that the more I learn about a subject, the more I realize I don’t know. 🙂

    • clementmunns permalink
      September 13, 2010 6:10 pm

      Being “scared” means it’s important! Cherish the sensation of knowing how much something means to you.

  2. Andrew M. permalink
    September 13, 2010 7:01 pm

    This is reassuring and kind of exciting and kind of terrifying, as both of you indicate. Homework in this class is already more fun than my other two and it’s only been a couple of weeks. Monkeying around contentedly with my snippets of code and then experiencing the zoom out to a much larger conceptual frame does make for an interesting mental experience.

    But I’m procrastinating from cascading things.

  3. Andrew M. permalink
    September 16, 2010 8:25 pm

    Also, I’d like to add at this stage that this sort of page formatting makes way more intuitive sense to me than list management in any sort of word processor.

    • clementmunns permalink
      September 17, 2010 8:26 am

      Interesting point; I find the nested list thing in Word or Powerpoint to be wholly frustrating. Maybe there’s some issue with data structures and lists of lists? Hard to believe as that seems—a list of lists is just an associative array with arrays for members of the parent array.

  4. Nicole Hester permalink
    September 17, 2010 7:54 pm

    I’m taking a break from the assignment, which has me both wholly exuberant and frustrated at the same time. I’ve had quite a few “aha!” moments in this class, especially this week.

    The reason for this post however, is that I was just navigating a site with a TOC that didn’t function the way I thought it should. Before this class I may have noted that and been frustrated, but this time I immediately went to view the HTML and CSS source.

    Does this make me a geek in training?

    I’m enjoying the mental stimulation, even if it is leaving me a bit sleep deprived.

    • sharon permalink
      September 18, 2010 11:20 pm

      I just had the same kind of experience, Nicole. I was working on my ePortfolio google site and the formatting of text wasn’t working, and I was able to go into the HTML and make the change I needed. Hooray for the application of new skills. Now I shall start reading for Week 5 and learn even more, I’m sure. Hoping I can keep up with it all and still get sleep!

  5. October 2, 2010 9:34 am

    This long-overdue post is one seeking more advice…
    So it’s true that I have a nerd inside of me that is very excited to come out; but how exactly to do that? Looking at the courses available in the slis program, I think I have an interest in 246, because it’ll be more of this sort of stuff, right? But what about 242, 243, or 247? What’s 251 and does it have anything to do with this? And what about the fact that 202 was really the worst class I’ve ever had to endure? Does that negate all this?

    • clementmunns permalink
      October 2, 2010 9:56 am

      Well, the 242 is great as that’s where you learn SQL and RDBMS theory and it was one of my favorites. I took all the 246 courses I was allowed to take and I loved 202 (my prof was Twining which I seem to be the only person to have liked). But whatever you like is what you like. I wouldn’t be afraid to explore.

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