Applying theory to pratice: hands-on experience for library students

As a student of the Master of Information (MI) program at the University of Toronto, I have the opportunity to take practicum courses, which provide students with on the job experience. Hands-on experience with some class time was a useful combination in my education and I would strongly advocate for administrators to encourage more on the job training and students to participate. Those who I have spoken to about the benefits of practical and theoretical experience value the time they spent learning about librarianship in class, but always emphasize how much they learned once they could apply (or attempt to apply) theory in the workplace.

During the Fall 2016 semester, I enrolled in INF2158, a 45-hour practicum course, and signed up for a position hosted by the Ontario Library Association. Essentially, the position involved migrating InsideOCULA articles onto the Open Shelf website and setting up a tagging taxonomy for the Open Shelf website. Until this point in my academic career at the iSchool I had not fully explored how I could contribute to the magazine publishing industry in the library and information field. Between course work, school events and part-time jobs, and my position at the online literary magazine Sewer Lid, my days were booked back-to-back. Since the practicum project was a grade for one of my courses, I could dedicate time to a hobby of mine and explore this side of the magazine publishing world. Working on this two-fold project, I recognized how I could apply my interests in digital platforms, writing, and magazine publishing to my field.

Not only did I practice my business writing with the work plan and final report for my course, I also expanded on my digital skills while using WordPress, my knowledge of Creative Commons Licensing, my ability to organize metadata, and my knowledge of the role of the OLA and OCULA and of magazine publishing in librarianship. The work plan encouraged me to consider the quality of work I could achieve within forty-five hours and manage my time accordingly. As I migrated, formatted and analyzed various articles, I had a chance to skim through them and get a sense of the various popular topics in the library and information field. Many of the class discussions and lectures I have had in the MI program were reflected in the subject matter of the articles. Topics such as community mapping, the interior design of library spaces, makerspaces, and privacy concerns popped up in the posts. The articles made me wonder about how the editors intended to move forward with the magazine and how they decided to incorporate these topics.

At first I felt a bit intimidated by WordPress as I had not used it as a content management system for an organization before. The team I collaborated with—the Marketing and Communications Coordinator at OLA, and the Editors of OLA and OCULA and the instructor of INF2158—were happy to help and made themselves easily accessible. I was able to build connections with people much more fluent in librarianship than I am. This network extended even further when I presented my practicum project at our class’s exhibition organized by the course instructor. While there, I perfected my elevator speech and asked as many questions of others as I was asked.

I am grateful for the chance to have collaborated with so many skilled and helpful people. My positive experience with OLA and OCULA motivated me to apply to the Open Shelf Digital Editor position and I look forward to participating in other magazines such as InsideOCULA in the near future. I hope more on-the-job training is incorporated into the courses at the iSchool and other library programs across Canada. If not, I hope to be a part of making that happen.

Nikolina Likarevic is completing the Master of Information program at the University of Toronto. She is the Digital Editor of Open Shelf and also the Associate Editor of Sewer Lid, a magazine of urban art and literature.

Photo Credit: Nikolina Likarevic on exhibition night, courtesy of the University of Toronto Faculty of Information Facebook page.