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Virtual Student Foreign Service (VSFS) Opportunity for Students (Deadline 22 July 2014)

The following is an interview with Nancy Faget, Federal Librarian at the Army Research Laboratory, about the Virtual Student Foreign Service (VSFS) eInternship. More information can be found at http://www.state.gov/vsfs/ Deadline for this year is July 22nd.

For more information, please read below.

1) What is the Virtual Student Foreign Service (VSFS) eInternship? How did VSFS eInternships come about?

A few years ago, the State Department noticed that there were thousands of students volunteering to do projects. The students were quite talented and interested in contributing to State Department to convey their message around the world. Bridget Roddy now runs the VSFS program hundreds of projects available at multiple agencies. (See their video.)

From my perspective as a military librarian, I was interested in a large pool of candidates who might have language skills and interest in science research. VSFS seemed a good way to get the word out about our projects for academic credit.

There are more virtual jobs being offered in Federal government. For example: Take a look at the virtual teachers that DoD Education Activity are hiring

2) What kinds of projects have participants been responsible for? Are links to these past projects available online?

I’ve sponsored virtual internships for a number of years now by advertising them through the library schools. It was great to see that the VSFS program allowed me to advertise internships there, too.

Some projects were similar to the ones I was doing at my military library (Army Research Laboratory) like this one for the Buenos Aires embassy (“Increase awareness of U.S. initiatives in science, technology, and innovation by finding open source materials to highlight on the embassy’s Virtual Science Corner website”). It seemed like a good idea to post my project there so we’ll see who applies there and who emails me directly to apply.

A full list of projects from past students and available for future students can be found at http://www.state.gov/vsfs . Apply for one of the 2014-15 projects by July 22nd!

 3) Who is eligible for the VSFS eInternship? How do students apply?

U.S. citizens who are enrolled undergrad, grad, or post grad student can apply. Students pick the projects they want to apply to by submitting application via USAJobs.gov at https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/373688600
4) Who do eInterns work with? How do they telecommute?

Each person with a project who seeks a student must define how the student will work with them. In our case, I provide access to commercial databases, web based training, collaboration via phone/email, and mentoring along the way as the work product develops. Additionally, I think it important to teach the student about Federal librarianship, help them network within the community, and promote their work.   Sometimes I have one student in a semester, sometimes more working on a project as a team. The students finished that project with a webinar and a presentation at an annual conference on their work.

5) Have former eInterns found positions in government? What kinds of opportunities can a VSFS eIntership provide?

I can speak about my former virtual interns. One University of Maryland virtual intern entered Federal government as a contractor, and now she works as a Federal employee at the NIST library. One University of Washington virtual intern works at the U.S. GPO.   One former VSFS student is coming to work for me in a few weeks in our new Library Fellows program. It looks great on a resume when you have completed a project for a Federal agency.

The student projects have provided great benefit to our library. One student project resulted in our getting an additional $187,000 in funding. One student project resulted in a better engagement strategy when our scientists met with the Italian delegation. If anyone wants to speak with me or a former intern, just email me at nancy.g.faget.civ@mail.mil.

6) Is there any advice that you would give to someone applying for the VSFS eInternship, in terms of applying to be an eIntern and in terms of having a successful internship?

You’ll have to be a self-starter to be successful in a virtual internship. It’s an opportunity to help solve real world problems, so take it seriously. Have faith that the work you do enhances your resumes, increases your experiences, and helps the Federal government. All that while earning credit? What an opportunity!

If you were approaching someone to offer you a virtual internship (and yes, you can suggest one to a military librarian), please do so early enough that the paperwork can be properly filed with your school so that you do earn academic credit. All of the VSFS State Department opportunities can allow you to earn academic credit, so ASK. You are a professional working on behalf of the Federal government, so put your best foot forward.

You’re proactive, or you wouldn’t apply for such a program. Network, learn, and leverage the opportunity as much as you can.

Posted in Continuing Education, Guest Posts, News0 Comments

Military Libraries Workshop

This post is written by Angela J.A. Kent.  She was this year’s winner of the Student Stipend Award.

I had the honor and the pleasure of attending the Military Libraries Division‘s Military Libraries Workshop as their Student Stipend Award winner. The workshop touched on a number of issues in librarianship including, Copyright, Big Data, Social Media, and Virtual Libraries.  The workshop also featured SLA President, Deb Hunt, and topped off with a 60th Anniversary dinner at Huntsville Alabama’s U.S. Space & Rocket Center.

Most of the presentation slides are now available and are worth reviewing.

Takeaways
Branding
This was the top takeaway for me. Although I missed Deb Hunt’s presentation, her point about investing in your own professional development was echoed in each session — including the 2-minute presentations vendors! Marcy Phelps emphasized the importance of branding your value-added research and analysis in big and small ways.

From an organizational standpoint, Jane Killian (from the Defense Forensic Science Center) showed how her virtual library still needed to be supported by physical presence and branding. Jane talked about taking different routes in the office so that she would run into her patrons and have the opportunity to share an article or research topic. And, like any good brander, Jill carries a signature style (a teapot!) that quickly connects her to the library.

For both the professional and the libraries that they represent, it is worth taking the time to think about your professional signature and how you can better brand and market their services. Organizing your professional online presence, then, becomes an important consideration and an issues that was raised in other presentations.

Harnessing (and keeping up with) technology
Steven MacCall’s presentation on social media raised the key points of technology adoption and deployment. And, as is certainly the case for military libraries, this means barriers related to cost and security. To address some of these challenges, the last panel provided lessons learned from their own libraries. Both of these presentations made think about a complementary session from the SLA Annual Conference: Strategic Leveraging of Social Media Content. What I find interesting about social media management is understanding through how the many online applications can (and should) serve different purposes.

Margie Hlava’s presentation on Big Data was representative of the true scope of what it means to try and harness technology. It also spoke directly to the work of librarians: extracting and making sense of data; organizing data through metadata cataloging and taxonomy; and data visualization. Margie touched on a number of key topics important to any library and information professional.  It reminded me of a course that I’d been meaning to take over at School of Data: A Gentle Introduction to Extracting Data.

Copyright
While not quite a featured component to the workshop, Gretchen McCord‘s presentation on copyright was an update on issues that are of personal interest to me. Along the same lines as “keeping up with technology,” information professionals need to keep up with copyright — particularly as they relate to Fair Use and Open Access.

Doing more with less and learning from one another
While certainly not unique to military libraries, the final panel represented just how well military librarians are practicing resiliency and adaptability. Panelists shared lessons learned, best practices, and solutions to overcoming everything from budgetary constraints to security limitations.

 

 

About Angela

Angela is an MSc. MLIS Candidate (The Catholic University of America). She holds a Masters in Security Studies from Georgetown University, a B.A. in International Political Economy, and a certificate in Apprenticeship in Teaching (Georgetown University). Her areas of interest include open source intelligence & grey information sources, information policy (open access) intelligence analysis, and international & defense relations. Angela is from Toronto, Canada.

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Big Data, H.P. Lovecraft, and common sense

hplovecraft

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”  — H.P Lovecraft, “Call of Cthulhu,” Weird Tales, 11, No. 2 (February 1928), 159–78, 287.

While it is obvious that H.P. Lovecraft could not know about big data, this quote is very relevant.  Alexis Madrigal of Nextgov’s Big Data blog thinks so as well.  That is where I first saw this quote and its being linked to big data.  There are many things about big data and how it can be used that are very scary.  We have seen recently where is is actually difficult to limit how much data you may end up collecting because of how hard it is to separate out what you need from what is found (ie. NSA and FISA).  It is important to not blame the technology as the problem.  The problem is its application and use by human beings. 

There are many “Big Benefits” from the use and application of “Big Data.”  Look at the growth and maturation of the field of bioinformatics and its use in medicine.   Sequencing of the human genome is the application of big data.  Genomics will change how we are treated for disease. 

Big Data will help us in the battle to overcome global warming.  Increasingly accurate weather forecasts and improved computer models of the effects of global warming are all applications of big data.

Big data is now showing up in all the hard sciences and in the “soft” such the social sciences.  It is impossible to get away from it.

All of us in special libraries, especially in business, technical and research libraries, have seen our jobs change because of interest in big data and because many of us are directly involved in the exploration, analysis, and manipulation of big data sets. 

A bit of common sense will help us avoid us the fate suggested by H.P. Lovecraft of  “mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”  As with all technologies, big data is not in itself good or bad.  It is in how it is used.  As librarians we can help direct its use into positive directions.

Note: These are my own opinions and not the opinions of SLA, Military Libraries Division of SLA, my employer, or the U.S.Air Force or DoD.  — Bill Drew

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Oyster Books: Worth the Price of Admission?

Oyster is a new IOS app being hailed as the Netflix for books. It involves paying a monthly subscription fee of $9.95 per month to gain unlimited access to over 100,000 eBook titles.  The service is only available on an Apple iPhone or iPad.  An Android app may be released in the future, but no release date has been announced.

The service launched on September 5, 2013 to a start-up company based in New York. Currently there are 8 employees, none of which are librarians.

This new service has over 100,000 books from a small handful of publishers, HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Workman and Smashwords. They are adding new titles frequently.

Continue Reading

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Thinking of creating a Facebook page for your library? Consider these important details.

This was originally posted on the UNYSLA blog  by Jeremy Cusker and is reposted here with permission.

Many otherwise well-informed, technically savvy librarians can miss important details when it comes to Facebook. This is especially important when librarians consider setting up Facebook pages for their institutions. 

1.) Not everything (perhaps not even most things) you post on Facebook will reach all subscribers. This is especially true for a page with many followers. If your whole experience with Facebook is communicating with friends and family, this fact can take some people by surprise. It simply is not possible for a Facebook page with many, many followers (perhaps more than 50 or 60) to receive every update made to a given page. The sheer volume of data would be unmanageable.

Instead, Facebook’s algorithms determine what makes it through to each user based on a joint consideration of that users’ expressed interests, the nature of the post (see below), and the volume of posts made by your page (also see below).

If you want all posts to be seen by all subscribers, every time, then what you want is either Twitter or a blog with RSS, not Facebook.

2.) It is especially unlikely that your posts will make it through to the majority of users if you do not make regular updates. When deciding whether or not to start up a Facebook page for your library, be advised that for it to work well, it will need to be constantly updated–at least once every day or so. As described above, failure to regularly post content will cause updates to your Facebook page to become that much less likely to make it through to individual users. Facebook’s algorithms will ‘de-privilege’ your updates and posts to appear in the feeds of fewer and fewer of your followers.

3.) If you do not regularly interact with followers who like or comment on your updates, it becomes more unlikely that your posts will make it through to your users. Again, if you are looking for a way to merely make announcements about what is going on in your library, then Facebook is probably not the tool you want. Facebook’s algorithm improves the likelihood of your updates appearing in people’s feeds based not only on how often you update, but on how often you interact with your followers. Do you ‘Like’ their posts? Do you respond to comments?

Again, it bears emphasis: Facebooking is, if not a full-time job, then certainly not a light time commitment.

4.) It’s better to post or re-post things from within Facebook itself than from ‘outside’. Want to pass along an interesting news item to your followers? Go to that news source’s own Facebook page, find that article and cross-post it from there. Facebook consciously de-privileges posts of content that come from sites outside of Facebook itself, making it that much less likely to show up. It does this both because such cross-posts eat up more memory and also because it adds more clicks and fractional revenue to Facebook itself.

5.) Overall, consider what you want your Facebook page to accomplish for your institution and how much effort you want to devote to it. It’s easy to create a Facebook page, hard to keep it going on a daily basis, reaching users. A Facebook page is not a perfect analog for a traditional organizational website, nor as a straightforward means of publicizing news and events. Consider Twitter and/or a traditional site with RSS tagging if those are your goals.

 

Have questions? Contact Jeremy Cusker at Cornell University Library, jpc27(a)cornell.edu.

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