How to Spend Your Last Summer Before Library School

31/05/2013 § 5 Comments

Two years ago, I had just graduated from my undergrad program and was eagerly awaiting moving to Indiana to start library school. I read Hack Library School and anything else I could get my hands on that might provide some glimpse of wisdom. What should I do? How should I feel? I wasn’t exactly sure, and that made me nervous.

If you’ll be starting library school in the fall, here are some ideas for how to spend your summer, in no particular order. (If you’re a year in, you may enjoy Topher’s post on how to hack your summer vacation.)

Start looking at job descriptions you’re interested in. Librarian resumes and CVs, too.

Nicole just wrote a great post outlining several reasons why you should start looking at job ads now and I agree with her ideas one hundred percent. You probably aren’t exactly sure what you want to do, and that’s fine—you’ll just have a wider pool to research. Keep an open mind and look at many different types of job. Job descriptions can help shape the two years (give or take) that you spend in library school.

As for the librarian resumes/CVs, these serve a dual purpose. Not only can you see how someone in your field progressed from job to job, you can also see the variety of ways librarians choose to format these documents (which, as anyone who has ever puzzled over their CV knows, can be extraordinarily valuable). Just google “public librarian resume” or “academic librarian CV.” Or get more specific: throw in digital, instruction, reference, archivist… whatever career path you want to learn more about. Many professional librarians post these documents online.

Manage your expectations.

I have spoken to several students who came to library school only to be swiftly disillusioned. It’s possible that your program will not align with your expectations, for better or worse. Understand that your program is first and foremost a business, and that it won’t necessarily deliver you with everything you need to become a gainfully employed librarian upon graduation. You’ll want to take what your program provides to you and supplement it with jobs, internships, conferences, networking, and self-directed learning. I can’t emphasize it enough: library school (your program, classes) is just one component of your library school experience.

Decide what you want out of library school.

So, after managing your expectations, what do you want your experience to be? Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about the value of the MLS. I think it’s helpful to know that there is a vast number of opinions out there. I recommend reading the following blog posts. (Don’t forget the comments! My goodness, those are almost more telling.)

As you’ll read, there is a lot debate about the merits of practice vs. theory in library school curriculums. Understanding the variety of opinions can help you shape your own experience, and that is always a good thing. Hopefully you will not leave library school disappointed with your MLS.

Lose your complex.

We all have our hang-ups, usually that we are hopelessly inadequate frauds and that everyone knows more than us. I want to convey very clearly right now that this is not the case. Whether you think you’re too old or too young, have zero library experience or “just” paraprofessional library experience—whatever the case may be, comparisons just don’t matter. They’re useless and they’ll slow you down, and inaction’s the real killer. Trust in your own competency and put yourself out there.

Understand your finances.

I know, I know, nobody wants to ponder this. So many of us are sinking into debt for an MLS. I’m a fan of looking the debt square in the eye while considering whether you have any options for reducing it. Are there scholarships on the horizon? (Apply for them, even if you don’t think you’ll get it.) How can you position yourself to be competitive for them? Is there funding available through your program?

Enjoy yourself.

I really hope you didn’t just read this post and think, “OH NO I am so behind! I’d better stress myself out now about how much I need to do!” Stop yourself this second if that was your reaction! Knowledge is power, and doing a little thinking about these topics before the craziness of orientation, a new city, and new faces can do wonders. Be flexible and know that you can set up a framework for what you want to get out of library school—and that it will probably change. This is a good thing. Don’t be nervous.

If you’re starting library school in the fall, what questions do you have? Current library students and librarian readers, what advice would you give? 

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§ 5 Responses to How to Spend Your Last Summer Before Library School

  • Meg says:

    Job shadow, volunteer, or otherwise find a way to talk with professionals in the field, especially if you aren’t sure where you might be headed. Generally, librarians jump at the chance to help you out. Have great questions prepared to ask. A day, half day, or even a few hours of conversation with people who actually do the work will be invaluable in helping to set up pathways for you to consider. You will also get a good sense of the kinds of things you will definitely, maybe, or probably not need to know. Don’t shy away from the big questions, because those will be much more telling to help you direct your studies than simply observing day-to-day administrative details.

    Who knows? Maybe one of these interactions will result in an internship, even before you start school. It did for me.

  • Steve Ammidown says:

    All great points! One thing I would add (and maybe this seems obvious given where you’re reading this!) is to engage with the field online. Read the blogs, follow some of the movers and shakers through social media, that sort of thing. Whatever you read in a library magazine or journal is old news to the online community.

    Also, engaging with library folk through venues such as Twitter gets your name out there, which is a vitally important element of the library school experience Brianna mentions.

    • Haha! I did almost add this to the post. It’s true–the online library world can be a lot of fun and very informative. It definitely helped me feel more at home within the profession.

  • I want to second Meg, especially if you don’t have any library experience. Interning or volunteering, even part-time for a few weeks, can help you decide what area or specialization you would like to concentrate on in library school. It can also help you gain connections and decide if library school is really for you.

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