Google Earth and nostalgia

I know I just posted that I really prefer ArcGIS, but after seeing my finished Google Earth map, I really enjoy the look and feel I can achieve with Google Earth. And since the program is free, I really do recommend downloading it and exploring some of the really cool things you can see. For example, you can explore a lamp shop in the medina at Marrakesh, Morocco. That sight brought a fun rush of memories from my exchange visit there in 2007. I may have even been in that particular shop, though the medina is huge with multiple shops offering the same types of wares, so there’s no way to know for sure.

For my Google Earth assignment I decided to explore another bit of my history and present my favorite places in Staunton, VA (where I spent much of my later youth), including the Blackfriar’s Playhouse (a replica of the playhouse where Shakespeare first worked) and Sunspots Studios and Glassblowing (where you can watch glassblowing demonstrations for free). Anyway, I thought I’d share an image of my map with you. It won’t be interactive, since you need Google Earth to see it. If you happen to get Google Earth, let me know and I can send you the KMZ file.

From Gypsy Hill Park to Blackfriar’s Playhouse to Wright’s Dairy Rite, there’s something for everyone in Staunton.

I think the most amazing unintended side-effect of this assignment is that it made me appreciate all the great things my hometown had to offer. It also made me think that as a resource for the public, why can’t libraries offer suggestions for day tours of their area? The idea, of course, would offer a way to get people into the library who might not have gone there otherwise and also let the library publicize the great things about the community that supports it.

Mapping my future

When I began to realize that I wanted to become a librarian, I spent some time exploring all the different jobs that librarians hold. I was floored by the sheer number of ways I could go with this career path. It’s overwhelming, but in a good way.

This being my first semester – which officially kicks off with orientation on Sunday – I know I shouldn’t have all the answers. It’s one of the things I’m trying to do differently this time around. While I value my time spent as a journalist, I know I locked myself out of some futures by being so set on a particular path. It’s also why it took me so long to admit to myself that I was unhappy and it was my career that was making me unhappy.

But while there are a lot of people with poor views for the future of library students, I see the variety as opportunity. With a MLS, we future information professionals can do any number of things. We can’t be pigeonholed. There are the obvious suspects – public, academic and K-12 libraries – of which I’ve mainly focused on the role of the academic librarian. But there are also special libraries – medical, government and law libraries, mainly – as well as a whole slew of positions utilizing MLS skills in non-traditional settings. I won’t bore you with a whole list, but here’s a quick look at some job titles I’ve seen recently: intelligence analyst, digital manuscripts project manager, freelance researcher, metadata specialist, records management manager (at a law firm), copyright education/compliance manager and GIS (Geographic Information System) map specialist. Some of these roles are held at libraries, but obviously some are not. From the government to law firms to private corporations, information professionals (read librarians) are needed everywhere.

Which is why as I begin my journey into this huge and exciting field, I’m trying to keep an open mind. Yes, I would love to do exactly what my mentor does (she’s a reference and instructor librarian at a public university), but why limit myself when the possibilities are limitless?

To that end, I just completed the first week of a short online course called “Getting Started on GIS.” And here’s the promised first reaction to the course:

I have to admit that this course is a step or two outside my comfort zone. My previous online learning experiences have been slightly different ways to use programs I already know inside and out, such as InDesign. For GIS I had to learn two whole programs from scratch – ArcGIS and Google Earth desktop. And while the basics are easy to learn, there is so much more to these programs than what you can begin to learn in a three-week course. It’s a little overwhelming but also comforting that I am able to pick it up so easily.

This particular course, offered by the Library Information Technology Association (LITA), which is a group within the American Library Association, consists of prerecorded lectures from Eva Dodsworth, a librarian at Waterloo University in Canada, program tutorials and three assignments. Essentially, Dodsworth explains why and how we should use GIS technology, some cool features of ArcGIS and Google Earth and how to make maps that are useful for librarians. Each week we make a duplicate of one of her maps and then create our own from scratch. For the first week, we mainly used ArcGIS. I made a map highlighting a few dog-friendly areas near where I live. So far I prefer ArcGIS, but this week I’ll have to get chummy with Google Earth.

I can only imagine that when grad school begins, I will be way outside my comfort zone. Which is why I’m glad I started with this course. I thing it’s getting me in the mind set I need to be in to excel in grad school. Every day I wake up either terrified or excited about the proximity of grad school, and most days I wake up with a weird mixture of both. But that’s how I know this is what I’m supposed to be doing. It’s not worth it if it doesn’t scare you, right?