A Short But (Hopefully) Sweet Farewell, and Three Small Bits of Advice

20/05/2013 § 1 Comment

With my program finished and graduation looming, I have officially reached the end of my short but happy tenure as a Hack Library School contributor. It was a fabulous experience, and I’m grateful to have had it. It was a two-shot privilege – not only did I have the chance to collaborate with HLS’s  talented writers and editorial staff, but I had the  opportunity to engage in meaningful professional dialogue with other library students. That’s pretty hard to beat.

Before I go, I wanted to toss out a few bits of parting advice, (hindsight being 20/20, and all).

1. Career Research. Start researching potential career paths early in your program, in your first semester if possible. Choose your courses wisely and with the long view in mind. Keep a running list of important projects that can be used on your resume. Most of all, stay flexible and open to new opportunities, ideas and career possibilities. If your program has a career center, check in with it early and often.

2. Internships. Do one! Do at least one! If you can possibly do two, do two! If you don’t already have a library job, and don’t have one waiting for you, do an internship. Really. They are invaluable. I mean it. Invaluable.

3. Network, network, network. Believe me, I know. You’ve probably heard it a million times, but networking really is really important. Really. And I say this a networking-resistant, committed introvert. Connect with people in your classes, join listserves and comments on blogs. If you’re able to, go to conferences and talk to people. It all gets you out there, participating in the profession and making connections.

So, that’s it. The sum total of two and half years distilled into 3 heartfelt pieces of advice. Good luck to all of you as you rock through the rest of your programs, and thanks for letting me contribute to the academic and professional dialogue here at Hack for the past few months. I wish you all the best!

Congratulations! Now Get A Job.

19/04/2013 § 12 Comments

Image courtesy of goliath-merchandising.myshopify.com

Image courtesy of goliath-merchandising.myshopify.com

Last week, I submitted my final portfolio and had it approved by my advisor. So that’s it – I’m officially graduating in May. Naturally, this is super exciting, but I’m also kind of surprised. Sitting right next to my much-anticipated relief is a big helping of worry and, dare I say it, mixed feelings.

Yes, I’m thrilled to have my degree, and I’m over the moon that my portfolio is done (and done well, if I do say so myself). But mostly, I feel anxious and cut adrift. If I’m honest with myself, it’s because there are no more projects and papers standing between reality and me. It’s time to get a job. In a discouraging economy. Of course, I saw this coming, but I kept my view hazy, even as I researched different career paths. So, now that reality has finally arrived, how does a freshly minted graduate go about finding her first LIS job?

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The Portfolio, or Ending with a Bang and Not a Whimper

25/02/2013 § 5 Comments

Image courtesy of the Ohio University Libraries

Image courtesy of the Ohio University Libraries

Let’s just say that you’re in your final semester of library school. It’s an exciting time, the end is near, you’re anxious to start the big job hunt, or if you’re lucky enough to have a library job, maybe you’re looking forward to moving up the library ladder. Nothing stands in your way now, except for one thing. The culminating experience – the academic gatekeeper that vets your qualifications and once and for all declares you ready to enter the world of paid (hooray!) librarianship. No pressure.

In the SLIS program at San Jose State University, we have our choice of two possible routes through the culminating experience, which is what our department calls the final, cumulative project of our LIS career. Any SLIS student wishing to graduate may either write a Master’s thesis or complete a portfolio, which is a comprehensive overview of your work in the program. Though I was tempted by the in-depth nature of writing a thesis, I decided early on that it would make more sense for me to do a portfolio because it would explicitly tie my strongest accomplishments together while requiring me to review everything I had learned in my courses, thus helping prepare me for job interviews along the way. It sounded like a no-brainer in my first semester, and it was definitely the right choice for me, but its a lot to bite off – an amazingly-lot to bite off – and it’s best to lay the groundwork early and often.

So, for those of you in the middle of your culminating experience, whether it be a portfolio, a thesis or something else entirely, here is what I’ve learned (so far) about keeping your sanity through the process. And, for those of you have yet to tackle this wily beast, read on for a little advice about how to start preparing for it way, way, way in a advance.

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[Series] So What Do You Do? Historical Collection Evaluation

24/01/2013 § 6 Comments

This post is part of a new series called “So What Do You Do?” in which LIS students talk about their experiences as interns. We want to showcase the wide range of things people are doing in the world of library and information science.

Tell us a bit about yourself.


Books patiently awaiting evaluation.

I’m Madeleine Mitchell, and I’m lucky enough to be contributing to HLS during my last semester in library school. I’m earning my MLIS at San Jose State University’s School of Library and Information Science, a program that’s conducted entirely online. While my experience with the online format has been quite good, I would say that the hands-on nature of my internships has been crucial to my professional preparation and training. I earned my BA in English Literature and an MA in Comparative Literature, so librarianship felt like a pretty natural step to me, and I’m also a writer – mostly short stories, but occasional articles make it past the gates, as do various blog posts and book reviews.

So what do you do?

I’ve done two internships during my time at SLIS, but the one I’m going to focus for this post was at San Jose State University Library in the Educational Resource Department. This internship ended in December but I’ll be continuing on with the project as a volunteer, which is why a lot of this is written in the present tense. The ERC department is meant to contain K -12 curricular materials and California’s state approved textbooks, but due to budget cuts, it’s grown to unofficially include the King Library’s large collection of historical textbooks, and even larger collection of historical children’s materials. These collections have been collecting dust, (literally), for years, mostly because the job of evaluating and re-cataloguing them is huge. Undaunted, my supervisor stepped up to the challenge and put out a call for interns, which is where I come in.

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YA Librarians: Born or Made?

28/11/2012 § 4 Comments

I’m going to tell you a secret – not a super-secret secret since I’m writing about it in a public forum, but a semi-secret all the same: I very often don’t know what I’m doing. I get tugged in all kinds of different directions by various and disparate interests and while I realize that this isn’t the end of the world, I feel that, at this point in my education, rounding out my second-to-last semester at library school with two internships under my belt, I really should know what I’m doing, or at least have a very solid clue. Amy addressed a related issue not long ago, and I’m guessing this sort of thing is pretty common. Still it’s not the most comfortable feeling. What inspired this, my most recent bout of not-having-a-clue? A discussion prompt for a class I’m taking on YA services and programming. Here is the prompt in all its existential glory:

Do you think YA librarians are born or made?

That’s it. Seems kind of innocuous, doesn’t it? But it’s actually an interesting question. Is there something inherently critical in the personality of a YA specialist – some vital, natural quality that cannot be learned?

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