Unexpected interdisciplinary connections are always the best.
Last semester, Fall 2017, I took a course in Discrete Mathematics at Towson University, where I work. It is a prerequisite of the M.S. Computer Science program, which I am dipping my toes into while trying very hard not to commit to it in any binding way.
The course, luckily for me, deals in abstract concepts and teaches the language of mathematics, rather than the rote series of arithmetic problems and stupid errors that peppered my earlier math education.
While I did once or twice wish I could remember principles from high school algebra, or kick myself for missing a step, I unexpectedly enjoyed math as a new language through the lens of this course. The concepts were broad enough, and logic foundational enough, that the deeper I explored its symbols and syntax, the more it came alive for me not only as a language, but also as a language shared by the sciences. Maybe I had heard that, thrown around as an axiom, but it became real.
Library and Information Science… at times I’ve reflected on how much of it is more of a service, an art, or a social good than a science. And yet when Boolean logic, basic algorithms, and sets appeared, my mind went back to 5 years ago, in an introduction to boolean searching with Simmons College Library treasure, Linda Watkins (now retired after 35 years).
Underlying library science, several turtles down (and believe me, it is turtles all the way down; okay maybe more like 5 layers of abstraction realistically…), is data, the way data scientists before us have structured it, with mathematical rules and physical constraints applied to it, with functions defining it and manipulating it. It was a privilege to explore those rules and the mathematical principles that underlie them over this course.
Other less flowery observations:
Would I recommend it to other librarians? Probably not. I think a database management class, or a workshop on APIs and how they are changing life as we know it, might be more illuminating - but if you’re interested in seeing the abstract side of math (which is, by the way, gorgeous and full of symbolism as rich as cake!) – then by all means, go for it.