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What's Your Purpose

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MLIS SoP Critique? [Nov. 19th, 2011|05:21 pm]
What's Your Purpose


I'm hoping to apply to the Library and Information Sciences program at various schools and was wondering if anyone could offer help on my statement of purpose. I've included a few of my concerns after the essay, but any manner of feedback anyone is able to give is absolutely welcome!

I'm the person everyone rightly thinks could be a librarian for all the wrong reasons.

There are certain commonly held views on what a librarian is like, and what makes one suited for the work. So when the career was first suggested to me by my father―an out of the blue utterance as we sat on the couch on a Saturday night―I was mildly insulted.

Sure, I'd been watching an entire football game with a copy of Crime and Punishment in my hand, eyes turning downward between plays. But that didn't seem like a good basis for a career, even if a librarian's entailed either of these activities, which I had a sneaking suspicion it did not. When suspicion turned into curiosity, though, I found I'd discovered a career more multifaceted and suited to my interests than anything involving stuffily translated Russian novels.

I learned that librarianship is a field ever-changing with technology, requiring workers eager to adapt to advancements in the ways information can be stored and distributed. Though most all jobs change with technological advancement, the Internet and other developments in the digital realm impact librarians more immediately, profoundly, and frequently than many. Most appealing of all for me, the bottom line of technological advancements in libraries is not how it affects the way employees perform their jobs, but the exciting new ways advancements allowed librarians to help the patrons and communities they serve.

During my time as an undergraduate English major, I chose to emphasize in the study of linguistics rather than literature, simply because it interested me more. Though it may seem out of following with my future profession, one of the aspects that interested me most in my study of linguistics was the various barriers between certain linguistic groups and information and resources they could benefit from. I was excited to see that librarianship engages with something potentially similar. Technology may break down many of the physical barriers between the community and access to resources, but librarians still strive to lead people through the less palpable barriers such as usability, sometimes even in addition to the linguistic or political barriers that engaged me in class.

Since my decision to peruse librarianship and obtaining my BA, I have been working as a page in a public library, doing some circulation work when needed. Currently, I am witnessing my library's transition to a new eBook and eAudio provider and the enthusiastic response from our patrons. My language learning and translating hobby has lead me to involvement in the Digital Manga Guild, a project intended to revolutionize how Japanese comics and light novels are adapted for speakers of other languages by using online localizer communities and digital distribution. Though the project is still new, I look forward to taking part in the experiment and seeing how DMG continues to adapt to readers' expectations as digital distribution of manga becomes more widespread.

Still, while I posses some experience with libraries and digital information, I believe further education is vital toward my obtaining the manner of librarian work that will most engage me. The University of Texas's school of information appeals to me particularly for its status as an iSchool and the large body of courses it offers involving not just information and technology but how they interact with the people and societies we hope to serve.

Though I am most interested in classes under the umbrella of librarianship and information architecture, I hope my future schooling will provide me with a better understanding of the various specializations I can take as a librarian and the areas that interest me. Additionally, I hope for a chance at more practical experience in library work to solidify the knowledge I obtain in the classroom and improve my prospects in the job market after graduation. My preoccupation with language, culture, and access to information has me currently interested in involvement with Librarians Without Borders, but my exact career aspirations will likely develop through my schooling.

When I tell people I plan to be a librarian, they look at me consideringly for a moment before saying, "I can see that." It's still not my favorite reaction. I have to try not to smile as I see how their eyes rest on the glasses, the overstuffed bag with the spines sticking out, the sensible shoes.

Except when the person who I'm talking to is a librarian. When I tell a librarian what I want to be and hear back "I can see that," I know it's not my thick frames they are taking into consideration. This is perhaps the most satisfying reaction, and one I would be grateful to see the University of Texas school of information deem fit to give me.


As to my concerns... Overall, I was sort of wondering if the SoP is supposed to be a little more direct in it's "why you want me" message to the readers than I've sometimes made it here. I've read advice that says "don't answer questions/go through your qualities like a laundry list" and tried to avoid that, but I wonder if I went a little too far?

For example, I've got a personal anecdote in the beginning relating how I became interested in becoming a librarian, but such an only semi-relevant story I would usually only try to keep to a few sentences. It got a little more page space (maybe too much?) because really I was sort of trying to use it to show I'm not the impractical sort that thinks the job of a librarian is to sit in a quiet room and really, really, really love books (occasionally hoping others do as well), but I wonder if this is a too roundabout or lengthy way of showing that?

In the following paragraph, too, I worry because it was meant to come off as "these are the challenges of being a librarian, and I find these challenges interesting and something I am suited to doing," but I wonder if just comes off as "this is a paragraph about what librarians do. not that you don't already know that" and doesn't make the "and I'd be good at it" connection strongly enough... The portion related to my linguistics classes was meant to further show my interest/dedication to the kinds of issues I would be facing as a librarian, but I wonder if that came off muddled as well. It's a little unsettling that the parts of my essay I'm least confident with are...the entire opening half, hahaha.

And then there's the closing two paragraphs, which came out when ending at the preceding paragraph felt too abrupt, and which might be nice in that they bring back more of my personal touch and tie back to the beginning, but I wonder if is a little vacant of meaning/persuasiveness otherwise and would be better gone? (Would it be to abrupt to end at the third to last paragraph? Or would it need a different sort of closer?) One of my former professors who read this commented very favorably on the sense of humor in the essay, and I imagine these paragraphs are a part of that, but... I do wonder if it is too long a digression? (I shy away from asking the professor, as she has already done me the favor of writing rec letters, and also had invitation ample chance to offer critique on the essay if she was willing, but did not. I suspect she is very busy, and I would rather not press.)

Finally...length. If you can't already tell from my "concerns" section here, I'm usually a bit on the long-winded side, and really tried to reign that in for this essay. The one for this specific school has no length requirement, so I figure I'm good (at just under 800 words)? But...as it turns out one of my schools requires this essay to basically be split into two different essays which should total to 500 more words than I have now! So if you've got some suggestions for places to expand, I'd be very grateful. It's hard to get my motor ruining again after all that time trying to keep things short...

And thank you for reading the small book I've posted for you here! My ability for net babble...it is a sickness, I swear.

[User Picture]From: ornithorhynque
2011-11-20 07:05 pm (UTC)
I think you're good at the presenting challenges you can get through part, but the opening could certainly be taken as a bit insulting.
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