It’s my first semester at UIUC! So far it’s going pretty well, and I’m excited about all the new things I’m going to learn. It’s been three years since I’ve been in a university environment, and I really like that feeling of knowing that every day you are going to learn something new, and that there are people all around you who just want to help you learn and advance.

Also, this city freaking loves board games. There’s the iSchool board game group, the multiple board game Meetups, the board game design group/competition, board game conventions… just all the board games. I just hope I’ll have enough time to indulge in all the board gaming while still committing enough time for my classes.

Speaking of classes, I’m starting my master’s with three fundamental courses that will hopefully set me up well for the rest of the degree:

  • IS501: Information Organization & Access
  • IS452: Foundations of Information Processing
  • IS490DB: Introduction to Databases

I’m also auditing a philosophy course, just for fun… but also because I think it could come in handy.

  • PHIL103: Logic & Reasoning

Time to introduce these courses and what they’re all about!

IS501: Information Organization & Access

IS501 is a basic intro to library & information science class at UIUC, and one of two required courses for the MSLIS degree (the other being IS502: Libraries, Information, & Society). IS501 focuses on the information itself, on the systems used to organize information, and the lifecycle of information. IS502, on the other hand, focuses more on libraries and issues specific to professional librarians.

Course Description

This course provides an intensive and thorough introduction to fundamentals of information organization and access from the point of view of the field of library and information science. The course is not an introduction to LIS as a whole or to the profession of librarianship–the focus is squarely on information organization and access. 501 aims to acquaint you with the principal problems of information organization and access, the main streams of thought, and the key thinkers and contributors. The material covered is broad in scope and applicable to a wide variety of settings and systems. The course emphasizes the central position of people, communities, and information users in problems of information organization and access.

  • Emphasizes information organization and access in settings and systems of different kinds.
  • Traces the information transfer process from the generation of knowledge through its storage and use in both print and non-print formats.
  • Consideration will be given to the creation of information systems:
    • the principles and practice of selection and preservation,
    • methods of organizing information for retrieval and display,
    • the operation of organizations that provide information services,
    • and the information service needs of various user communities.

Central Themes

  1. Who uses information, how they use it, and what constraints shape their use of information.
    • Week 3: Users & information needs
    • Week 4: Research methods & evaluations
  2. How recorded knowledge can be organized and structured.
    • Week 6: Metadata
    • Week 8: Subject analysis & languages
    • Week 9: Structures & standards
  3. Ways of providing access to the world’s knowledge
    • Week 2: Collections
    • Week 5: Preservation
    • Week 7: Interfaces, searches, & discovery

Learning Objectives

  1. To provide a foundation for further study in library and information science, including an appreciation for forms of systematic research in LIS.

  2. To introduce central concepts, theories, principles, research issues, and people associated with the practice and study of information organization and access.

  3. To advance a common set of ideas that help to define the profession’s orientation toward problems of information organization and access.

My Initial Impression

This class seems to be focused more on the information science side of LIS (whereas 502 will focus on the library science side of LIS), and thus will be pretty in line with my interests. I think it will provide a good theoretical and philosophical foundation to the more technical information science classes I will be taking, and may also dive into the history of information organization - which would be very interesting to me!

Personal note: I should go back and review the chapter/section about the origin of writing and libraries in “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari. It would be interesting to compare his take to the readings and lectures from class.

The class will also likely provide an overview of some modern technologies or tools that we will use on the job to organize information. It seems that some of the Thursday lab classes are focused on a few of these.

Finally, I think there will probably be a bit of an ethics component - readings or discussions around issues like open access, privacy, duty to the public, etc. As librarians, we should always remember that our job is to help people by providing information or empowering them to access information on their own. Computers are merely the means, while people are both the beginning (creators of the accessed information) and the end (beneficiaries of the information). We are not gatekeepers, but guides.

IS452: Foundations of Information Processing

IS452 introduces students to programming with python, and focuses on the skills that would be useful for the digital humanities.

Course Description

This course covers the common data and document processing constructs and programming concepts used in library and information science. The history, strengths and weaknesses of the techniques are evaluated in the context of our discipline. These constructs and techniques form the basis of applications in areas such as bibliographic records management, full text management and multimedia. No prior programming background is assumed. The first half of the course will focus on programming essentials in Python, and the second half will have us explore other applications and how to integrate the fundamentals to solve more complex problems.

  • Covers common data, document processing, and programming constructs and concepts.
  • Focuses on problem solving and abstraction with a programming language.
  • By the end of the course students will be able to design, develop and test a moderately complex computer program to manage full text, bibliographic records or multimedia.
  • The course prepares students for working with applications in data analytics, data science, digital libraries, text mining and knowledge management.
  • No prior programming background is assumed.

Learning Objectives

  1. To become familiar with programming essentials in Python

  2. To be able to apply Python fundamentals to solve problems

  3. To be able to design, develop and test a moderately complex computer program to manage full text, bibliographic records or multimedia


Primary Textbook
“Python Programming: an introduction to computer science” (3rd Ed), by John Zelle

Publisher’s Site

Secondary Textbook
Python for Everybody, by Charles Severance

PY4E HTML book LibreTexts version

Python Cheatsheet
Living document hosted on the GitHub repo


My Initial Impression

This class seems like it will be a good introduction to Python… hopefully this time it will stick! I have previously taken an intro to python class at a local community college, but I didn’t find it to be super engaging. I need challenges and projects that I am personally invested in, so my brain gets hooked into trying to make the code work.

I am curious to see how much the online aspect of this course contributes or detracts from my ability to learn the course content. I find it hard to stick with online classes and stay engaged (computers contain many distracting things), but I’ve also never had a synchronous online class where everyone is online and the class is happening live. It should definitely be a valuable experience to work with the teleconferencing software.

I’m also really intrigued by the fact that the professor hosts a Meetup at the local Makerspace for working on python projects, and that will be a really good resource for when I struggle on bigger projects (because I will struggle!).

IS490DB: Introduction to Databases

IS490DB introduces students to working with databases - both creating/designing databases and querying databases with SQL.

Course Description

The course provides students with both theoretical and practical training in good database design. By the end of the course students will create a conceptual data model using entity-relationship diagrams, understand the importance of referential integrity and how to enforce data integrity constraints when creating a database. Students will be proficient in writing basic queries in the structured query language (SQL) and have a general understanding of relational database theory including normalization.

This course focuses on good database design and covers:

  • conceptual modeling
  • the relational model
  • the structured query language
  • normalization.

Learning Objectives

  1. Develop a general understanding of databases, and specific understanding of the relational database model.

  2. Gain experience with both the theoretical and practical aspects of good database design

  3. Develop proficiency with entity-relationship modeling

  4. Develop proficiency in creating tables, primary and foreign keys and attribute constraints

  5. Write working queries in the structure query language (sql) Understand general concepts involved in database operation


“Fundamentals of Database Systems” (7th Ed), by Elmasri & Navathe

Publisher’s Site

My Initial Impression

This class is a little bit intimidating… I’m worried about how much technical skill it assumes I will be starting with and how fast the course will progress. I’m also really interested in learning how to design databases, and I know that it will provide me with important technical skills going forward. I just hope the process of acquiring those skills isn’t too painful!

I’m curious to see how well it will integrate with the python class. Will the information I learn in this class help with the python class, and vice versa? Will learning both sets of material enable me to produce more advanced projects? Will I be able to overlap the final assignments?

I’m also… apprehensive… about the textbook. It appears to be the only textbook/resource we will be using, and it has not received the best reviews online. Many people said they would only purchase it if they had to for the class, that it was highly theoretical/technical and hard to understand, and that it wasn’t useful as a reference book. I will reserve judgement until I read it for myself, but I can’t say I’m enthusiastic about it.

PHIL103: Logic & Reasoning

This course is a basic introduction to formal logic - specifically propositional calculus. Also called zeroth-order logic, propositional calculus is first order logic without variables/quantifiers, and acts as the foundation for first-order logic and higher-order logics (according to Wikipedia). Zeroth order languages are both complete and compact. Sometimes zeroth order logic can include constants, operations, and relations on non-Boolean values (according to Wikipedia).

Course Description

This course aims to teach you to understand the basic logical structure of English sentences and arguments, draw and evaluate inferences in a formal language, and gain familiarity with the basics of the probability calculus.

Topics to be covered

  • Introduction to Logic
  • The Concepts of Logic
  • Validity & Soundness
  • Formal Syntax & Translation
  • Symbolizing arguments
  • Semantics
  • Logical Truth & Semantic Equivalence
  • Validity Testing
  • Entailments & Shortcuts
  • Introduction to Inductive Arguments
  • Features of Inductive Arguments
  • Monotonocity & Relevance
  • Probabilistic Truth Tables
  • Conditional Probability
  • Inductive Strength
  • Heuristics & Biases


“Modern Logic” by Graeme Forbes

HTML book

“Introduction to Logic” by Gary Hardegree

HTML book

My Initial Impression

This class seems like a pretty basic intro to logic, and should be a lot of stuff that I’ve already seen before in less formal settings. Since I’m auditing the class, I’m really just taking this for my own entertainment/edification. Based on my initial impressions from the first class, there are going to be a lot of students taking this class so they don’t have to take a (more difficult) math class, and that may push down the level of material the professor will be able to cover. Also coming to class olfactibly high on weed… that could also push the level of the class down 🙄. Oh, undergrads…

So, we will see how the class goes. And if it turns out to be less useful than I’d hoped, at least auditing it is a pretty low-risk way to learn the material (no tests or assignments).