Category Archives: Pursuing the PhD

Thoughts on the Fall Semester by an LIS PhD Student

Kyle Jones shares some reflection on his first semester at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Library and Information Studies (LIS) doctoral program:

With good timing, a friend recently contacted me about his own interests in pursuing a PhD in library and information studies.  Knowing that I had just wrapped up my first semester and wanting to hear specific parts of my reflections, he sent me a few questions to answer.  Happily, he allowed me to turn these questions in to a reflective post for all to read.

What has taken you by surprise?

I was very much used to a study schedule that could be done last minute, to readings that could be skimmed, and to writing papers the night before on a pot of coffee.  Non of this works now and it would be amateurish to try it.

My assignments require close reading and constant reflection.  It’s quite easy to see well over 100 pages a week assigned, if not more.  And writing responses, while they vary in length depending on the professor, are always supposed to be critical and insightful – no summaries here.

Would you do anything different to prepare for your first semester?

I did try to prepare for my first semester by catching up on academic journals, honing my close reading, and picking up texts of a difficulty level that I thought I might be presented within my first term.  In hindsight, I would read much more about theorists that pertained to my research interests and begin to create an extensive reading list in advance.  Doing so would have saved me valuable time in research for my longer papers and cut down on some stress.

Also, I would emphasize the need to get into a strict schedule.  Over the semester, I struggled to discipline myself, which led to times of sleep deprivation and, again, increased stress.  If you can get yourself into a very controlled schedule for reading, writing, meal times, and relaxation it will most definitely help you to succeed.

Have you found anything (really anything) to be expected of you that took you by surprise?

I knew my program would be challenging.  Pursuing a PhD is not something you should compare to some minor in your undergraduate experience.  That being said, I really got blindsided by the amount of reading.  It took me several weeks to understand that I was entirely responsible for all of the reading and to be ready to respond to minutiae of the texts.

Motivations of Scholarly Bloggers

Kyle Jones sent this to me:

Kjellberg, Sara. “I am a blogging researcher: Motivations for blogging in a scholarly context” First Monday[Online], Volume 15 Number 8 (14 July 2010)

Kjellberg conducted in-depth interviews with researchers who blog for the study. Take a look at the findings and discussion for some strong evidence for sharing and blogging the research process online as a researcher. Part of the conclusion:

The analysis brings out at least three motivations for being a blogging researcher: the blog helps the researcher share with others, it provides a room for creativity, and it makes the researcher feel connected.

I had similar results from analyzing the data from the 2005 “early adopting” librarian bloggers study I did for my dissertation.  The model looks like this:

Find more here:

Download the whole thing here:

The Pragmatic Biblioblogger is in IRSQ

modelI realized I hadn’t blogged this, but my article “The Pragmatic Biblioblogger: Examining the Motivations and Observations of Early Adopter Librarian Bloggers” is in Internet Reference Services Quarterly, Vol. 13, Issue 4, p311-345.

It’s been a long time since November 2005 when 238 hearty bibliobloggers took my survey. The changes since then are incredible.


Congrats to Dr. Margaret Lincoln!


Ten winners of the inaugural Carnegie Corporation of New York/New York Times I Love My Librarian Award were recognized at a ceremony hosted by the New York Times December 9. The award, administered by the ALA’s Public Information Office and the Campaign for America’s Libraries, recognizes public, school, and college librarians for service to their communities, schools, and campuses.

Among the ten is my dear colleague and fellow UNT doctoral graduate:

Margaret “Gigi” Lincoln, Library Media Specialist, Lakeview High School, Battle Creek, Michigan

Checkout the video! A big congrats to Gigi!

(Via ALAFocus which highlighted Gigi’s picture in the mailing – very cool.)

Brian Kenney Dissertation Defense

Just got a note that my fellow IMLS cohort colleague Brian Kenney is defending his dissertation next week. Go Brian! Looks like a great research project.

Brian Kenney – Dissertation Defense

 “The Transformative Library: A Narrative Inquiry into the Outcomes of Information Use”

  • Monday, October 13, 2008
  • 11:00 a.m. (CT)
  •  Room D202
  • UNT Discovery Park

My Dissertation Bound


My Dissertation Bound, originally uploaded by mstephens7.

I just received three bound copies of my dissertation from ProQuest.

For those who might be interested, you can download a PDF version here:


TTW Contributor Lee LeBlanc provided these links:

From the conclusion:

While Gorman (2005) defined a blog as “a species of interactive electronic diary by means of which the unpublishable, untrammeled by editors or the rules of grammar, can communicate their thoughts via the web,” I believe the biblioblogger’s potential role is one of bibliography. Wilson (1979) wrote: “… a complete bibliographical job involves all four elements. Search, selection, description, organization: these are the four most general components, of bibliographical work….The librarian is concerned with the presentation not only of information about sources of information, but with the sources themselves. The librarian is concerned both with the discovery of information sources and with the delivery of those sources to the library’s users.” Constantly scanning via the tools of continuous computing, the pragmatic biblioblogger seeks to redesign library services in an era of enhanced technology. These librarians open comments and engage with other bloggers to discuss and examine events, new technologies, and the LIS profession within a community they have created with a common goal: improving libraries.

Reinvention – Free Range Librarian Style

Haven’t had a reinvention post in a while. I was tickled to read about Karen Schneider’s new position with Equinox.

As of June 23 (just in time for ALA!), I’m the Community Librarian at Equinox, the support and development company for Evergreen, the premier, industrial-strength open-source integrated library system software.

What, you ask, is a Community Librarian? It’s a chief blogger, presenter, evangelist, community liaison, birds-of-a-feather organizer, strategist, branding specialist, user-experience person, project management advisor, and whatever else happens to need doing. (I wrote the job description, and I think that hits the high notes.)

After sixteen years in LibraryLand (more, if you count college and high-school jobs), I want to be working on the future of libraries. It’s time. For nearly two decades I’ve watched libraries struggle with closed legacy software, and the advantages of open source — particularly in a highly-scalable system — are obvious to me.

Making the advantages of open source obvious to YOU will be part of my job.

Congrats, Karen!

It does my heart good to see folks take on opportunities and challenges. Karen was instrumental in helping me decide to dive back into school for the doctorate. Now, I’m so excited to see Karen embark on this new path AND evangelize the advantages of OSS to libraryland.

A Long Overdue Note of Thanks

Thank You

A post that is long overdue. I want to extend public thanks to Jennifer Graham and Scott Smith for the invaluable assistance they provided me as I finished my dissertation. In a way, it’s also an acknowledgement of how powerful these informal blogging connections can be. In the space of a few months Jennifer and I both suffered losses. I could hardly breathe some days as the summer slipped away. Requests for formatting and clarification came from the University Reader at UNT when I least expected it. Jennifer and Scott were there for me — to assist and offer support that was much needed. I thank them for the help. I could not have finished without them.

This speaks to me as well about how we can help each other – how we can and should get along. It doesn’t have to be as a result of loss — remember you can reach out and share anytime. These tools — just tools — enable connections that I am still trying to understand. Is it ephemeral? Is it strong?

It’s also a reminder to reach out not only across the blogosphere but across the hall to that department that you’ve been feuding with. An offer of support, an offer to help, an attitude of “share the work” seems to me to go a lot farther than a locked door or sign on that same door that reads “Is Your Visit Business Related”?

So, thanks to Jennifer and Scott. Be well.


Modeling the Role of Blogging in Librarianship: Your Blogging Journey

Measuring a phenomenon requires attention to reliability and validity. I used John Creswell’s Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches (2nd Edition) as a valuable guide to the process. Creswell noted the need for validating qualitative research and describes several primary strategies of doing so, including triangulation, member-checking, use of rich, thick description, clarification of the bias of the researcher, presentation of negative or discrepant information, peer debriefing, use of an external auditor, and prolonged time in the field of study (p. 196).

For my study, I chose to clarify my own biases, detail my prolonged participation in the “field” of the biblioblogosphere, and to present “negative or discrepant information” (Creswell, p. 196) from the study to demonstrate the breadth of responses. My favorite bit was describing my own blogging journey as my prolonged time in the field. I wanted to share it with you here – and ask anyone reading to share as well.

Statement of Bias

Because of the nature of this study, it is important to also self-evaluate. I have been a blogger since 2003, have spoken at library events “evangelizing” the use of blogs by libraries and librarians, and have written extensively in the professional literature on the topic. Connections exist between myself and many of the survey participants. However, the survey was conducted anonymously and only once did a participant identify himself in the response section – with a statement that he knew I would recognize as well as an emoticon smile ?.
Throughout the coding process I reminded myself to be open to all opinions stated by respondents. I am reporting the results fairly and without bias.

Prolonged Participant in the Biblioblogosphere

I recently spoke on a panel at the Massachusetts Library Association meeting in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. The panel, entitled “Blog’s Eye View,” consisted of Jessa Crispin of, Jenny Levine of the Shifted Librarian, and me. We were asked to discuss our blogging history and reflect on the practice and our participation. This was a useful experience to prepare for this statement.
After learning about blogs and blogging in 2002, I was inspired to begin blogging in April 2003. I learned as I went along, creating posts, adding links, and sharing my thoughts. Once in awhile, I would get a link from another blogger, pointing traffic my way. It was a thrilling time.

In 2004, I attended the Public Library Association meeting in Seattle and was surprised at the lack of any mention of blogging in the technology sessions. I also applied to an IMLS-funded distance independent doctoral program at the University of North Texas, discussing in my application essay my blog and research interests centered on blogging. Once accepted, I created a new category to blog my experiences in the PhD program. At this time I was also presenting workshops in Indiana libraries about blogging.

I realized Tame the Web was a useful tool, first and foremost as a way to keep track of the links and bits of knowledge I encountered reading LIS blogs. Using categories to organize posts as well as the built-in archive feature made sense for me. 2005 was the year of the Michael Gorman editorial discussed in Chapter 1 and marked my second year in the UNT program. I taught blog workshops at Purdue University Libraries, at the Internet Librarian International conference in London, and at various other conferences that year. Tame the Web continued to generate traffic and response from other blogging librarians as well as multiple comments from readers. I started teaching as an adjunct at Dominican University’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS) and introduced my students to blogging in LIS753, Internet Fundamentals and Design.

In 2006, I applied for a full-time tenure track position at Dominican GSLIS. My presentation for the interview was an overview of library blogging and what it means for the profession. I was offered the position and started teaching full-time in August 2006. That summer I taught blogging workshops in New Jersey, in Connecticut (with Jenny Levine), and via Web conference to a library meeting in New Zealand. I also participated in the opening session of the Public Library of Charlotte Mecklenburg County’s Learning 2.0 program, keynoting a session on social tools with Michael Casey, author of the Library Crunch blog.

I continued blogging and working on this study in 2007. After my proposal defense in April, I put my own blog writing on hiatus until after my dissertation writing was complete. A series of guest authors provided content for me. It was interesting to note that the day I wrote the post I felt sadness, as though I was losing touch with something important. It amazed me how ingrained in my life the act of blogging had become.

Negative or Discrepant Information

While performing the content analysis, negative responses were encountered and noted. Some instances even became part of the coding categories. Respondents pointed out that people could be mean in the biblioblogosphere. Another, when noting what had been learned stated: “While the blogging community is large, it seems too frequently to function as a group of small and ince$tuous cliques.” Another respondent in the same question category stated: “LIS blogosphere is a giant cluster—-.”

Those were the methods I chose to prove the validity and reliability of my phenomenological study. What might your own blogging journey be?