Confessions of a TOG

John M. has posted some reflections on reaching the halfway point of the MLIS program as a part-time student.  He started in the same term as me which was Jan 2006 but because he's only taking 1-2 classes per term, he isn't scheduled to finish until August 2009.  As someone who did the program in the least time possible (one year), it's interesting to compare and contrast our experiences. 

In the post, he also happens to quote from the “Mature Student” profile in my The Twelve Types of Library School Students where I say “[The Mature student] believes the class is a personal dialogue between them and the professor.”

I hope John doesn't think I was referring to him with this line!  The truth is that this was a reference to something going way back to my own long ago undergrad days.  At the time, a friend and I were joking around and came up with a term for the mature students who were in many of our classes and who exhibited this behaviour – “Token Old/Outspoken Guy/Gal” or “TOG” for short. 

The ironic part?  When I returned to library school ten years after convocating as a undergrad, I have to admit that I became a bit of a TOG myself.  I didn't sit front row centre but I did frequently find myself saying “Well, when I was working with this writer…” or “Actually, in my experience, Acccess Copyright does this…” or “I was planning an event once and <tip> really helped make a difference.”

I thought a lot about it and realise now why this happens (since I'm now such a wisened old man compared to the snot-nosed punk I once was). 

A big part of it is that is really is a reflection of mature students honestly having more real world experience than many of their younger colleagues and wanting to share this knowledge.  Another reason (which John mentioned) is the discomfort factor.  Many mature students are returning to University after a long absence and there is a need to assert that we belong somehow.  Finally, some mature students really are egotists who love to hear the sound of their own voice – even if it probably sounds like an adult in a Charlie Brown cartoon to most people in the class.

[Edit: 2008-01-10 – no one will likely ever see this – if you *do* read this, please post a comment so I know people actually occasionally read old articles on this site – but anyhow, I came across an Onion article titled “Guy In Philosophy Class Needs To Shut The Fuck Up” which I thought would be an appropriate addition here.]

Comments 6

  1. Anonymous wrote:

    Hi Jason, I had a good laugh when I first saw “The Twelve Types”, especially about “The Mature Student”. Many of the reasons for it that you mention above are true for me too, so I don't mind at all being lumped there. I'm kind of enjoying the role of being an older guy (not old though!) Have a good day.

    Posted 18 Oct 2007 at 12:04 pm
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    The thing about library school, is that there are plenty of outspoken people and although I do recognize the “TOG” as a type, I think that most people who come into this program probably have pretty strong opinions.
    I often found myself saying things like “well, in my experience working at a library…” and I suppose I was 'mature' in the sense that I had been out of undergrad for a couple years..I just always thought, perhaps mistakenly, that speaking up about my personal experiences might help a fellow classmate, especially someone who had never worked in a library before. As we all know libraries can be complicated places.
    I suppose my point is, and I do have one, is that the voice of experience is not an unwelcome one, as long as you present your thoughts and ideas without a really strong & annoying “I-know-everythingness”.

    Posted 18 Oct 2007 at 1:45 pm
  3. Anonymous wrote:

    Yes, because goodness knows that there are many people who participate in class “discussions” with a know-it-all attitude, who DON'T have the experience to back up their statements. Perhaps that's the biggest difference between the TOGs and the less mature students; the former can tell the difference between contributing to a conversation and speaking to hear one's self speak.
    Usually. 🙂

    Posted 18 Oct 2007 at 2:30 pm
  4. Anonymous wrote:

    Glad to hear it. I live in denial that I was a mature student but a lot of that characterization was about me as much as anyone else!

    Posted 20 Oct 2007 at 7:05 am
  5. Anonymous wrote:

    I think another factor is that the library school (at least at FIMS) tends to attract an older student on average than perhaps even other Masters programs do. So there's a higher than average chance of having both TOG's and people who know what they're talking about if they do a lot of talking.

    Posted 20 Oct 2007 at 7:07 am
  6. Anonymous wrote:

    That's a better definition of a TOG than the one I gave – thanks Barb!

    Posted 20 Oct 2007 at 7:08 am

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