As (I think) only the second social science major to chime in on this
thread, I want to second everything Karen said about the value of a social
sciences background when doing systems work. I went to a hippie college
that didn't have majors per se, but I have pretty strong backgrounds in
sociology, psychology, and political science. Most of the social sciences
will teach you to figure out how people really work, whether as individuals
or small groups, (psychology), as large informal groups
(sociology/anthropology), or as formal institutions (political science).
And how people and groups really work is almost never how they work on
paper, how you think they work, and/or the way that you think would be most
rational for them to work. Ethnography is definitely one really good way to
figure out what people are actually doing so you can design systems that
will work for your users in reality, not just in theory. But if you're more
quantitative the social sciences can also teach you good experimental
design, good survey design, and good statistical methods for figuring out
what your users are up to and how you can design systems to help them
achieve what they want to achieve.
As my boss and I both say on a regular basis, "Technology is easy. People
are hard." That's not to say you shouldn't take CS classes -- you
definitely should take some of those -- but for many kinds of technology
work a course in, say, cognitive psychology is going to wind up being more
useful than a course in, say, automata and formal languages.
As an aside, if you think you might ever want to move into administration,
I highly recommend political science and/or sociology as undergraduate
majors or minors. Being trained to walk into an institution and figure out
the flows of both formal and informal power within it, knowing how to shift
the institution's formal agenda, understanding how informal culture shifts
happen and how you can and cannot facilitate them -- these are incredibly
useful leadership skills, especially when you're trying to lead from a
position of weakness, which is usually what library and IT folks are doing
within their organizations.
Thus endeth my commercial for the value of the social sciences. But
seriously, if you want to know more, just ask!
Social Studies and Data Services Librarian
Grinnell College Libraries
1111 Sixth Ave.
Grinnell, IA 50112
On Thu, May 29, 2014 at 8:58 AM, Karen Coombs <[log in to unmask]>
> I have an BA in Anthropology and Music from a small liberal arts school as
> well as my MLS and MS in Information Management from Syracuse University
> While I sometime wish I took the computer science path, there are just as
> many other times when I'm super grateful for my cultural anthropology
> background. IMHO, if you are going to build systems that work well you need
> to understand your user's needs. How the system is going to be part of
> their lives. Good troubleshooting can benefit from this thinking as well.
> Studying and watching people in their lives is a big part of cultural
> anthropology. Being able to know how to do ethnography and put on that hat
> when building systems has been a godsend. I feel like the another virtue of
> my liberal arts education was the fact I had to develop general critical
> thinking and analytical skills which I find invaluable in my career.
> Whatever you degree you choose to get, get real world practical experience
> as much as possible. Every internship I've had has been worth its weight in
> gold. Through one I found out what I DIDN'T want to do which saved me
> countless $$s and time.
> Best of luck,
> On Thu, May 29, 2014 at 8:46 AM, Maura Carbone <[log in to unmask]>
> > I'd echo what others have said and say either CS/CSE or MIS/IT. You might
> > want to make that choice depending on the school you go to--my
> > MIS program is fantastic but I know a lot of people weren't as happy with
> > the CS department. I'd also like to +1 what Lisa said about what you want
> > to do as a systems librarian. I worked as a systems librarian in a public
> > library and I most definitely did not need a CS degree, but MIS or IT
> > have been very useful. Look at job postings, see what sounds like what
> > want to do, and then go from there. Also see what you like in terms of
> > classes! You might find the CS theory stuff less interesting than more
> > hands-on type IT work, or you might fall in love with Physics (you can
> > always grab a minor in CS, since there's quite a bit of overlap for the
> > eds).
> > I also wouldn't completely ignore the liberal arts--if you want to work
> > libraries, being able to communicate with your co-workers and with
> > is VERY important. While you might get a job that's just IT or
> > work all day, more than likely you will have to interact with non-tech
> > people. Being able to coherently express yourself, and being able to
> > things down for people, is crucial to having a good working relationship
> > with your co-workers. At my public job, I was also the person who more
> > often than not helped patrons with their tech questions, from computer
> > trouble shooting to setting up an iTunes account, to even helping someone
> > build a website once.
> > For the record, I was a history undergrad who took a few CS courses, who
> > then got an MLIS and took a few more CS/IT/Tech courses. I work at a
> > university, which means I have the benefit of being able to take free
> > classes (which I plan to take advantage of to take some MORE CS classes
> > :-D).
> > Good luck!
> > -Maura
> > On Thu, May 29, 2014 at 9:16 AM, Pikas, Christina K. <
> > [log in to unmask]> wrote:
> > > I highly recommend a Physics degree. 1) not as many required courses as
> > > engineering so more electives, more opportunities to study the
> > > Russian Literature you might need as a surgeon :) 2) heavy math, heavy
> > > computer science but in a solve-a-problem sense, not in a
> > maintain-a-server
> > > sense which gets out of date quickly 3) fascinating stuff in class 4)
> > > people who graduated with me went on to PhDs but others went on to do
> > MDs,
> > > law degrees, and some started work immediately as computer scientists
> > >
> > > Christina, BS, MLS
> > > Oh, and adding a BS after your name is fun, too!
> > >
> > > -----Original Message-----
> > > From: Code for Libraries [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf
> > > Riley Childs
> > > Sent: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 11:17 PM
> > > To: [log in to unmask]
> > > Subject: [CODE4LIB] College Question!
> > >
> > > I was curious about the type of degrees people had. I am heading off to
> > > college next year (class of 2015) and am trying to figure out what to
> > major
> > > in. I want to be a systems librarian, but I can't tell what to major
> > I
> > > wanted to hear about what paths people took and how they ended up where
> > > they are now.
> > >
> > > BTW Y'All at NC State need a better tour bus driver (not the c4l tour,
> > the
> > > admissions tour) ;) the bus ride was like a rickety roller coaster...
> > 🎢
> > >
> > > Also, if you know of any scholarships please let me know ;) you would
> > > my BFF :P
> > >
> > >
> > > Riley Childs
> > > Student
> > > Asst. Head of IT Services
> > > Charlotte United Christian Academy
> > > (704) 497-2086
> > > RileyChilds.net
> > > Sent from my Windows Phone, please excuse mistakes
> > >
> > --
> > Maura Carbone
> > Digital Initiatives Librarian
> > Brandeis University
> > Library and Technology Services
> > (781) 736-4659
> > 415 South Street, (MS 017/P.O. Box 549110)
> > Waltham, MA 02454-9110
> > email: [log in to unmask]