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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