I’ve had a pretty easy library school career. I’ve enjoyed or seen the value of most of my classes. I was one of those people who had an easy time getting a co-op position (some people never got one) at a place I really enjoyed (which some people did not, though they have very funny stories why not). I’ve had good experiences with different student groups. I have friends. But now I’m in a course that I’m not sure if it’s really for me.
It’s a class on data visualization and analytics: taking mounds of data and converting it into graphical forms people can play with. I love the idea of making this stuff, like Hans Rosling’s look at national life expectancy and income levels over the past 200 years.
I mean, seriously, you look at that and it’s pretty neat, right? The class assignments involve doing a project analyzing a dataset of my own choosing, and we get some training in some of the tools for making these things. I’d be able to do so much cool stuff with baseball stats with some of this expertise (though my project will probably involve analyzing independent publisher information I can get from Comic Book DB, since that’s a bit more applicable to libraries than baseball analysis).
The applicability of this in my career is the big issue. The course seems to be much more focused on hardcore academic analysis of research questions for PhD students in information science. That ain’t me. The very first class gave an impression that we’d be focused on splitting hairs and using the correct definitions for things rather than making cool shit.
The thing is that I don’t really need need to take this course. I’m going to have to take a course in the summer anyway and this is kind of my fifth one for this term (four plus a directed study that might end up being a lot of work). Doing another in the summer wouldn’t be overwhelming (assuming I can get into summer courses). And now I have the reading list for doing data visualization which could be most of what I’d need. Though I wouldn’t get training in the software tools if I drop the course. But I can usually teach myself software.
So yes, there we have it. This course would be neat and esoterically useful and provoke a bunch of good discussions, but it has a focus that isn’t really where I want to direct my energies. I think I’m probably going to drop it, but am willing to be talked out of it. If you have an opinion, please share in the comments. I have until January 16 to decide (that’s one more class session).