Two Years Post MLIS: What I’m Glad I Learned and What I Wish I Knew

by Megan Kennedy
Leslie and Irene Dubé Health Sciences Library
University of Saskatchewan

I graduated from UBC iSchool (SLAIS) nearly two years ago. In many ways my time at SLAIS feels like it was just yesterday and in many others, library school feels like a distant memory – time really does fly! I thought I would take this opportunity to reflect on some of the things I learned in library school that I am so glad I did (whether or not I was glad at the time is another thing) and some things I wish I had known before jumping into an academic library career.

Things I learned in library school:

  • My least favourite courses I took during my MLIS were Foundations of Bibliographic Control and Cataloguing and Classification; to say that I loathed these classes is not an exaggeration. For many boneheaded reasons, I didn’t believe that I would actually need to know about any of it, there were cataloguing librarians for that kind of stuff. All I can say to my past self is, “HA! You are so wrong and you have no idea”. The foundations I learned in these courses have become some of the most important and frequently called upon skills I have in my arsenal. Granted, I am definitely not constructing and enhancing bibliographic records or creating cataloguing systems, but knowing how these things work facilitates more effective and systematic information retrieval on my end (a.k.a. permits me do the thing that librarians do best which is to find-all-the-things!).
  • Love it or hate it, there was a lot of group work in library school. We’ve all had groups that were awesome to work with – collaboration was free flowing, people were eager and able to meet up regularly (but not everyday) to discuss the project, everyone agreed instantly and got on with their work, etc. On the other end of the spectrum is group work that was…less awesome (perhaps to the point of testing your already fragile sanity). Whether or not I always agreed with the pedagogical constructs of group work, I can see how this is was excellent preparation for real life librarian work. The work that we do as librarians does not happen in a vacuum, often our work requires careful and extensive collaboration with one (or many!) stakeholders and colleagues whom have their own schedules, priorities, commitments, and visions for a project. Learning to navigate the choppier waters of group work, rather than always coasting on serene waters, has made me a more effective collaborator in my current work.
  • Project management was an interesting course because unlike some others (see my first point), I saw an immediate practicality. Perhaps not always the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a librarian’s role, but managing projects (big and small) is becoming more and more important and it is not necessarily a natural skill everyone possesses. Teamwork, communication, management of time, costs, people, risk, etc., these are all things that fall under the “project management” umbrella and all can have a huge impact on the success of a project. My biggest takeaway from this course was gaining an understanding of the scale of work required to see a project through to completion and compartmentalizing tasks into manageable chunks in order to get it done – I do this even with small projects (like managing my daily workflow).

Things I didn’t learn but wish I knew:

  • Meetings. There are a lot of them and some will be more useful than others.
  • Emails – see above.
  • Imposter syndrome is a real thing. My imposter syndrome mostly relates to research because, frankly, I have no idea how to go about getting started with the whole process. I feel like it should be as easy as “have a great idea, research it, write about it” but I know that getting from A to B to C is definitely not that simple. I took one research methods course during my MLIS but the “use it or lose it” element of this learning has indeed meant I lost it. Luckily, I am surrounded by fantastic colleagues carrying out interesting research of their own who kindly let me pick their brain – also the great resource that is C-EBLIP!
  • Finally, mentors are the best and you really should have one (or maybe even a few!). I have learned A LOT about being a librarian from the people I’ve worked with thus far in my career and I’m not sure there is any MLIS course that could ever give me that unique experience.

This article gives the views of the author and not necessarily the views the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

Reflecting on Our Biases

by Denise Koufogiannakis
University of Alberta Libraries

Reflection is an important part of evidence based practice. The principle has been embraced by those who aim to practice in an evidence-based manner because being an evidence based practitioner is not just about the evidence itself, but about the process of how and why we use that evidence. To date, reflection has generally been inserted into the evidence based process towards the end of the cycle, prompting one to look reflectively back on what was done in order to reach a decision. One reflects on such questions as: what evidence did I find and use; what evidence was lacking; what happened during the decision making process; did the chosen implementation work; what did I personally learn; what would I change next time? Reflection has also largely been considered an individual and private act that a professional undertakes for self-improvement.

I’d like to propose that we begin the process of reflection earlier in the process, specifically as it pertains to the biases we have in relation to a particular question or problem at hand. And, since library decisions are frequently made in groups, we should make reflection on our biases a shared act with colleagues who are also engaged in finding a solution to the problem. As we strive to incorporate evidence into our decision making, it is important to be aware of the biases that we all bring to finding, interpreting, weighing, and using evidence. We work in organizations, large or small, with others – we all have different perspectives, motivations, and desires. Decision making as part of a group is not easy! We need to be conscious of how the biases of each group member and the collective dynamic might influence the process. Through reflection and openness, we may be able to limit our biases and therefore make better decisions.

In practical terms, what this means is being upfront with our colleagues, and where a group has been tasked to make a decision or put forward recommendations on a specific new initiative or review of an existing area, that we have conversations about our biases from the very start. This requires that each person reflect on how they are considering and approaching the problem or question, what their initial reaction was, what they hope will be the outcome, and any other preconceived notions they have related to the issue. It also means that collectively, the group discusses and acknowledges the various biases, and consciously moves forward with the intent to address all biases so that they do not adversely affect the final decision. Doing this may be a bit risky for each individual, but it creates a climate in which trust can be built, and the group can proceed with an open and transparent approach to their decision making. It means that in all likelihood, more sources of evidence will be sought and considered, potential solutions will not be dismissed out of hand, and a sound approach will be chosen.

Here are some common biases people have, and without being aware of them, they may adversely affect our decision making:
• overconfidence bias – when people think they know more than they actually do
• confirmation bias – when people gather information selectively in order to confirm what they already think
• framing bias – when people make different decisions depending upon how information is presented
• representative bias – when people rely on stereotypes and predict outcomes based on past situations
• anchoring bias – when people rely too heavily on one piece of information
(Robbins, 2005; Greenberg and Baron, 2008)

For more on biases within the workplace, I recommend this brief overview by Rykersmith (2013) who provides a list of 5 biases in decision making, based on the research of Lovallo and Sibony (2010). While taken from business, the advice soundly applies to decision making within libraries, and provides ways for us to spot these biases and overcome them.

Recognizing your own biases or those within your group is important. Here are some questions to ask yourself and your group, in order to identify possible biases and discuss them.
• What is my natural inclination with respect to this problem? Do I already think I know the answer for what is best?
• Am I picking and choosing evidence that only suits my predetermined notion?
• If I have passionate feelings about this topic, why is that? Is there an important ethical or professional principle that needs to be considered within the decision?
• Are there other people with opposing views that I find difficult to discuss the problem with, and this is clouding my judgement?
• Am I reacting due to my own motivations/desires? Is a potential change going to impact me personally and therefore I am afraid of it?
• Am I easily influenced by one particular piece of evidence? Why might that be? Why did that piece of evidence impress me?
• Do I stand to gain or lose based on the outcome of this decision? Is this potential change influencing me?
• Have I gathered the types of evidence that would help, or just what was easy? Have all possibilities been considered? Have all perspectives been represented?
• Is the evidence sound or just based on anecdote and sentiment?

Once a bias has been brought to light, it is much easier to deal with and proceed with a higher level of consciousness. Such reflection is sure to bring us closer to better decision making.


Greenberg, J., & Baron, R. A. (2008). Behavior in organizations (9th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Lovallo, D., & Sibony, O. (2010). The case for behavioral strategy. McKinsey Quarterly. Accessed 15 Feb. 2015

Robbins, S. P. (2005). Essentials of organisational behavior (8th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Rykrsmith, E. (2013). 5 biases in decision making – Part 2. The Fast Track Blog. Accessed 15 Feb. 2015

This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.