Jonathan Leff e-Portfolio

Sections:

  1. Introduction
  2. Structure of the e-Portfolio
  3. The Process
  4. Statement of Professional Philosophy
  5. MLIS Core Competencies
  6. Conclusion
  7. Affirmation

Introduction

I present my e-Portfolio, which is my culminating project for the Master of Library and Information Science program at San Jose State University.  The e-Portfolio represents a sampling of the work that I have created in pursuit of the MLIS degree, and that I have submitted as evidence of mastery of the competencies required for this degree.

The evidence represents work on a variety of subjects pertinent to library science from theories about intellectual freedom, lay conceptions of the nature of information, and education, to more practical subjects, such as the organization of information through cataloging, the design of systems to provide electronic access, management practices, and the creation of reference tools for library users.

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Structure of the e-Portfolio

1.     Statement of Professional Philosophy – this is located immediately below this introduction.  In it, I describe the values and beliefs that inform my understanding of the library profession.  This is based not only on what I have learned in this program, but also on my own personal experiences.  This statement also describes how my philosophy influences my future professional goals. The Statement Of Professional Philosophy was created using Word 2008 for Mac, and has the DOCX extension.  However, it can still be read using previous versions of Word. Click on the icon to open it.

2.     Competency Matrix – this grid is divided into three columns, with fourteen rows below the header row.

a.     The column on the right contains the wording of the competency that I am addressing through the competency statement in the middle column.  The competency statements were created using Word 2008 for Mac, and has the DOCX extension.  Click on the icon to open it.

b.     The column on the left has two to four pieces of evidence that I submitted to demonstrate mastery of the competency in question.  Some evidence is posted in the PDF format, and readers will need Adobe Reader to view it (click here to download for free).  Others are hyperlinks to websites that I created as part of my coursework. Click on the icons to open the pieces of evidence.

3.     Conclusion and Affirmation – in this document, I sum up my experience in the MLIS program, as well as my plans for professional growth and development.  I also affirm that I have created all the evidence myself (except where indicated in groups), and have undertaken good faith efforts to protect the privacy of people mentioned in my work, and that I will limit access to the e-Portfolio through password protection or invitation by email to specific viewers.

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The Process

The process of composing the e-Portfolio was a fairly organic one, though I had done my best to organize the information I wanted to present before I began the actual work of composition.  It began by attending an online orientation via Elluminate, and by reading the e-Portfolio handbook and viewing the tutorials.  I created a “competency-course matrix” spreadsheet in which I had all the competencies listed in the column on the left-hand side, and the courses I took through the course of the program in the row at the top.  I reviewed the course greensheets to see which competency each course fulfilled, to make sure I had enough evidence.  I created this spreadsheet during the semester prior to taking the e-Portfolio.  After I actually began putting it together however, the process became flow more freely.  I had started to post some evidence to the e-Portfolio site in anticipation of using it, but as time went on, I made many revisions to which evidence I wanted to use.  Some evidence was presented as written, while other pieces were compilations of multiple assignments, or postings to discussion boards.  I wrote one competency statement at first to submit to my advisor to see if I was on the right track, after which I attempted to submit two to three at a time.  I found that the most logical structure for the competency statements was to state my understanding of the competency in the first section, list my evidence and the criteria for selecting them in the second section, and write a conclusion that summed up the competency and what I learned in the last section.

I tried to set aside weekends for work on the e-Portfolio, and tried to work on it every week, though sometimes I skipped weekends due to the demands of other schoolwork, or just plain fatigue.

I would like to thank Mary Ann Harlan, my advisor, for providing, positive, truthful, and above all timely feedback throughout the process.  Receiving feedback and knowing either that I passed competencies – or that revision was needed – during the course of the e-Portfolio helped me stay motivated and provided a view of the finish line.

I would especially like to thank my partner Scott for his love and support throughout this process.  He is a former graduate student himself, and knew exactly what I was going through, and what it felt like, and most importantly, how much space I needed.  His home cooking also helped me have something to look forward to after hours of typing. Most importantly, he convinced me to actually apply for the program, and always had confidence and faith in me and in my abilities. I could not have done this without him.

Was it a difficult process?  Yes.  Did I get tired of writing? Yes.  Did I feel like my brain was going to shut down and that all I wanted to do was sleep?  Yes and yes.  But I did it, and I am proud that I have.

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Statement of Professional Philosophy

“Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.” – John Milton

“This institution will be based upon the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.” – Letter, Thomas Jefferson to William Roscoe, 1820

My professional philosophy is that libraries should be safe spaces for personal intellectual exploration for their users, and that nothing should stand between users and free and equitable access to information.  The role that libraries play in providing access to the accumulated learning and knowledge of centuries is crucial to users’ personal growth and empowerment as well as the healthy functioning of our democratic society.

I intend to pursue a career in public or academic libraries, as I feel that these types of institutions will allow me to put my values and professional philosophy into practice.  I love helping users find information, and teaching them how to incorporate information into their own personal worldviews.  Public libraries would allow me to work with users from all walks of life.  Many public library users come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and may not have access to resources – in particular the Internet – that contain a wealth of information.  For users from such backgrounds, the library therefore becomes an important connector to the world, and a means economic advancement.

I have undertaken an internship at an academic library, which I have enjoyed greatly. I feel that they offer an opportunity to more directly incorporate information literacy into the educational sphere, and interact with users – both students and faculty – to bridge two aspects of education that may seem separate.  I believe that many students think of libraries as a place to get the books assigned by the teacher.  Academic libraries provide an opportunity for students to learn information literacy skills that they can take into the world with them after graduation.

I decided to become a librarian, as I wanted to guide people to knowledge.  I wanted to be in a position where I could help people learn how to learn.  A good friend of mine of many years is a librarian, and I credit him with being my inspiration, especially due to his enthusiasm for the profession, and for life in general. I admit that I had some preconceptions about librarians, and that some were negative.  My friend’s warmth, openness and sense of humor did a lot to counter some of these preconceptions.

My undergraduate education was in history and English literature.  Even though I knew they would probably not be lucrative, they were (and still are) my passions.  I grew up in a household where reading was encouraged.  My mother took me to our local branch of the New York Public Library to get me my first library card when I was 5 ½ years old.  It was on white paper with a green border and had a perforated edge. My name and address were typewritten on it.  My parents encouraged me to read anything I wanted.  I grew up in an apartment full of books in every room so I had plenty of reading material.  This was also the case in the homes of all of my close relatives.  I received the message that reading was not only valuable, but natural as well.

My love of history came from listening to my parents and grandparents tell stories of their youth, which was completely different from mine.  I would go to my grandpa’s house after school and he would tell me stories of growing up as the son of Jewish immigrants on the Lower East Side of New York City in the first two decades of the 20th Century.  He told me about the day World War I ended and everyone was let out of school early, as well as the first time he saw an airplane. These stories and this history gave me a sense that I came from somewhere in particular, that there were events and situations that took place years before I was born that affected not only how I lived, but also how others lived. Also, growing up in New York City, which to me was the epitome of the “Great Melting Pot”, allowed me know people from all ethnic, social and religious backgrounds with roots, origins and histories of their own.

I also learned from an early age that history could be cruel and unfair to many groups of people because of prejudices against their religious views, beliefs, the color of their skin, their gender and their sexual orientation, and that it was important never to repeat history’s mistakes, and to right history’s wrongs.  From school and my family I received the clear message that the freedoms of speech and the press were the best guarantees our society had of making sure that all voices and opinions were heard, now matter how unpopular they may be.

The fifteenth and final competency for which SLIS students must demonstrate mastery is competency O: “Contribute to the cultural, economic, educational and social well-being of our communities”.  Libraries are not mere repositories of books and other materials.  They provide open and equitable access to information on a diverse array of subjects that reflective the communities they serve.  Libraries provide access to works of literature, fiction, art, films and music that represent the creative and cultural output not only of our society, but also of the world.  Libraries provide resources that help users learn skills and make decisions regarding finding employment if they are unemployed, or embarking on new a professional, vocational or educational undertaking.  For newly arrived immigrants, they provide access to information about becoming citizens.  Libraries also serve their communities by providing materials in the languages spoken and read by their users, as well as accommodations for people who have special learning and accessibility needs.  They also present programs featuring speakers discussing topics of cultural relevance to the community and provide classes in which users have the opportunity to learn new skills, or even partake in recreational activities. While these individual sets of services increase the well-being of the individual groups to whom they are geared, libraries serve the well-being of the community as a whole in that people from all walks of life enter through their doors and encounter others whose paths they might not have crossed in the course of their everyday lives.  In other words, libraries bring people and the communities they serve, closer together.

The aspects of librarianship that resonated most with me during my studies at SLIS were those dealing with the societal impact of access to information.  The evidence I chose for my competencies reflect research I did around these issues. Through LIBR 200 (Information and Society) I was introduced to the Library Bill of Rights, which states that all library users have the right to free intellectual inquiry, and need to be guaranteed equitable access to the library materials of their choice, regardless of its content.  It is the librarian’s duty to help users find information regardless of whether or not they agree with the user’s opinions or the content of the material being sought. The philosophical origins of the Library Bill of Rights derive from the perspective of utilitarianism, which states, in essence, that freedom of speech provides the greatest good for the greatest number of people.  Additionally, the Library Bill of Rights derives its principles from the United States Bill of Rights, with its guarantees not only of freedom of speech and the press, but also of privacy, as well as the Universal Right to Free Expression.

For people to feel truly free to seek information, they must feel that they are free to do so without scrutiny from others.  Restrictions on materials or judgments about the types of materials being sought by a user can cause them to question whether or not they are truly free to pursue whichever sources of information they desire.  Protecting user privacy also extends to protecting their records from scrutiny by government or other agencies.  Freedom to speak, write and think what one feels extends to the free and open pursuit of information.  These freedoms are dependent on the right to privacy and freedom from scrutiny in such pursuits, whether by the government or private entities. In LIBR 234 (Intellectual Freedom Seminar), I was able to further examine the ways that libraries act to ensure freedom of access to information, including actively resisting requests for records that impinge on users’ privacy, and the attempts by individuals or groups to restrict access to materials through attempted censorship.

Library services continue to evolve, and the advent of the Internet as a tool for sharing information on a worldwide scale has increased the variety and reach of these services.  Libraries are able to provide remote access to catalogs and databases, allowing users to access a far broader range of information resources than ever before.  In LIBR 240 (Information Technology Tools and Applications) and LIBR 251 (Web Usability) I learned of the means that libraries use to make information accessible to users through modern communications technology, but also the need to make sure such tools are usable.

In LIBR 250 (Design and Implementation of Instructional Strategies for Information Professionals), I learned how librarians and teachers can collaborate in developing the best strategies to help students not only gain access to information, but to learn how to develop and apply critical thinking skills to the evaluation information of information resources.

I want to help people gain such skills, and public and academic libraries are good forums for teaching skills that people can use in everyday life.  Having critical thinking skills and the ability to evaluate information for oneself is not only very empowering on a personal level, but is also key in ensuring that a democratic society continues to be comprised of citizens who are free to make their own decisions as to what kind of society they want to live in.

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MLIS Core Competencies

Each graduate of the Master of Library and Information Science program is able to…

Competency A: articulate the ethics, values and foundational principles of library and information professionals and their role in the promotion of intellectual freedom

Competency B: compare the environments and organizational settings in which library and information professionals practice

Competency C: recognize the social, cultural and economic dimensions of information use

Competency D: apply the fundamental principles of planning, management and marketing/advocacy

Competency E: design, query and evaluate information retrieval systems

Competency F: use the basic concepts and principles related to the creation, evaluation, selection, acquisition, preservation and organization of specific items or collections of information

Competency G: understand the system of standards and methods used to control and create information structures and apply basic principles involved in the organization and representation of knowledge

Competency H: demonstrate proficiency in the use of current information and communication technologies, and other related technologies, as they affect the resources and uses of libraries and other types of information providing entities

Competency I: use service concepts, principles and techniques that facilitate information access, relevance, and accuracy for individuals or groups of users

Competency J: describe the fundamental concepts of information-seeking behaviors

Competency K: design training programs based on appropriate learning principles and theories

Competency L:  understand the nature of research, research methods and research findings; retrieve, evaluate and synthesize scholarly and professional literature for informed decision-making by specific client groups

Competency M: demonstrate oral and written communication skills necessary for group work, collaborations and professional level presentations

Competency N:  evaluate programs and services on specified criteria

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Conclusion

This has definitely been one of the most interesting courses I have ever done.  My undergraduate work ended in December 1992, and I undertook no formal higher education between then and 2008 when I started the MLIS program here at San Jose State University.  Needless to say, a lot had changed in the intervening 16 years.  I had to get used to an entirely new learning environment and learning technologies than I had used during my last round of education.  I was completely new to the experience of distance learning, and indeed I was somewhat prejudiced, as it brought to mind images of “correspondence schools” of days of yore.  While I expressed confidence that I could adapt to this new world of distance learning, secretly I was not so sure.  Would I be able to keep up with all the academic demands, including the pressure of deadlines and time constraints?  Would I even understand what I was supposed to learn? What if I didn’t get it? However, I actually found the experience rather enjoyable, despite the academic demands, and I gained a whole host of skills and resources, not to mention a whole new perception of the world of libraries than I had previously.

My strengths lie in the fact that I am adaptable and a quick learner, and I am not afraid of technology.  I learned new technical skills and tools – everything from HTML, to Web 2.0 applications and web design principles – that are vitally important to the early 21st Century library.  I now know the principles behind effective searching of databases and online public access catalogs (OPACs) and how to synthesize the information found therein into a larger understanding of a given subject.  Furthermore, I understand the ways in which these skills can be taught to library users, and I have indeed endeavored to teach them to students that I have encountered at my internship at an academic library.  I understand the principles behind creating effective reference tools, such as pathfinders, that can help users find sets of information, and as well as the need to give my utmost attention to each and every user so that they know that their information needs are important, no matter what they are.  My personal strengths include an interest in the world around me, an interest in all forms of knowledge, and an awareness and understanding that people use libraries for a variety of reasons.  I also look forward to learning new things not only from my future colleagues, but also from library users.  Everyone has skills, knowledge and information that is valuable in some way.

At the conclusion of this program I will embark on my quest for employment as a librarian in either a public or academic library in the Bay Area.  I will be looking for an environment that is dedicated to service, as well as fostering creativity, innovation and most importantly, intellectual growth.  I intend to stay in the Bay Area, as it is a unique center of learning and culture.

I am a member of the American Library Association and many of its associations and round tables such as the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), Public Library Association (PLA) and Intellectual Freedom Round Table, as well as the California Library Association (CLA) and the Special Libraries Association (SLA), and regional library networking groups such as BayNet (Bay Area Library & Information Network).  I have participated in networking opportunities with the SLA and BayNet, and will be participating in more of their events in the coming months.  I also look forward to regularly attending meetings of the various library associations of which I am a member, and I also have made contacts with several fellow students and professors in the MLIS program.

What more can I say, now that I am at the end of this experience?  Before I entered the MLIS program at San Jose State University, I was floundering for many years in jobs that were just “jobs”, but that meant nothing to me personally.  I knew I wanted to do something important and intellectually challenging to help people, but I could never figure out what that was.  After many years of people saying, “you should become a librarian”, I finally gave in, took the plunge, and applied for the MLIS program.  I am definitely glad I did, as in addition to new skills and new knowledge, I have also gained confidence, and a new sense of purpose.  My partner has stated repeatedly that I have found my niche, and though it didn’t always feel that way through all the schoolwork, I know he’s right.  I am genuinely excited when I hear about new services that a library is offering, and have become a proselytizer for libraries amongst my friends, family and former co-workers.  Undertaking the MLIS program was like a preparation for a journey, and I now feel ready to set sail.

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Affirmation

  1. All introductory, reflective, and evidentiary work submitted is mine alone (except where indicated as a group or team project), and has been prepared solely by me.
  2. I have respected the privacy of others by removing mention in this e-Portfolio of information that could lead to the disclosure of the identity of students or employers, and I have made good effort to obtain permission from all group members for group projects submitted as evidence, as well as permission to identify them by name.
  3. I am protecting the privacy of the contents of my e-Portfolio by password protecting it or by keeping it “private” in Angel or my own personal website to which I may migrate it in the future.

Jonathan Leff

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