The Scariest Things We’ve Done In Library School

17/03/2014 § 5 Comments

When I was a freshly-declared English major, just beginning to flex my college reading and writing muscles, one of my professors told me something that has stuck with me ever since: “If you feel like you’re out on the tightrope and it’s swinging, that’s good. That’s where life is.”

As I recall, she meant that specifically in relation to making strong arguments and taking intellectual risks; if you feel like what you’re saying is risky, that’s good because it means you’re really making an argument. But I think we can jump easily from writing guidance to life advice (and my professor did so often). When you step out onto uncertain ground—take a risk, that is—you open to growth and new experiences. If it feels scary, good, you’re doing something important and it’s called living.

I’ve felt like I was “out on the tightrope” many times during library school and, as uncomfortable as it is, I’ve tried to embrace the feeling. Instead of letting fear cripple me, I try to use it as a motivator to find some extra courage within myself and continue on whatever nerve-wracking track I’m currently on.

Sharing the things that scare us, while adding some initial vulnerability, can be motivating and empowering. And so, some fellow hackers and I would like to share the scariest things we’ve done in library school and what we learned from the process.

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Committee Work: Not So Scary After All

14/02/2014 § 6 Comments

Here at Hack Library School we talk a lot about ways to further our LIS educations outside of the classroom, including pursuing part-time work, completing internships and practicums, joining student and professional organizations, and attending conferences. These kinds of experience are essential for shaping professional interests and developing skills. Throughout my time in library school I’ve tried to consider new opportunities to learn and grow as a librarian-in-training, and I want to share an option that I hadn’t thought about until more recently: joining a committee.

Initially, the idea of joining a committee sounded a little scary to me. Up until a few months ago, I had a fairly formal mental image of committees; I imagined intense, stately people talking about intense, stately things (when I thought about committees at all, which wasn’t too often). I hadn’t really considered the possibility of taking part in a committee as a student, so when one of my supervisors suggested that I join the conference planning committee for the librarians’ association at UNC, I was a little taken aback. But, not wanting to turn down an opportunity, I decided to give committee work a try.

My experience on the conference planning committee has been really great so far, and certainly not the intimidating endeavor I might have imagined. During our first meeting I realized that a committee can be as simple as a group of people trying to figure something out and get something done. Not scary, right? Too often I imagine that the professional librarians around me have everything together and know exactly what they’re doing all the time. Serving on a committee has been a good reminder for me that even the most brilliant librarians are constantly figuring things out. We all experience new challenges and problems to solve all the time and I think that’s a good thing.

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Tools for an Organized Job Search

16/10/2013 § 15 Comments

“Job search prep” has been on my To Do list since mid-summer. I’m an aspiring academic librarian graduating in May and I know that the job hunt can be a very long and involved process. I’ve been updating my resume and keeping track of job ads that interest me in an attempt to prepare ahead of time. But now as fall whips by, “prep” is looking more and more like actual searching. I have Rafiki’s words from The Lion King echoing in my head as motivation: “It is time!”

There are so many resources available for job-seekers and, as with most things on the web, the volume can be pretty overwhelming. My aim here is to round up some of the tools and resources I’m utilizing so far, and to open the floor for more tips and sharing.

Image via photologue flickrCC

Image via photologue flickrCC

1. An RSS Reader. I did not fully appreciated the power of an RSS reader until I began to look at job adds. Essentially, RSS (rich site summary) readers allow you to aggregate “feeds” of content from various websites. So, instead of obsessively checking every site that posts jobs, you can check your RSS reader for new content in one place. I’m currently using Digg, which a friend recommended to me, and I think it’s clean and easy to use. There are, of course, lots of other options out there.

This page has information on library job sites. Try your regional ALA chapter and library school sites as well. Unfortunately, not every job site offers their content as an RSS feed, but it’s a great place to start.

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Working, Volunteering, or Interning Before Library School

23/09/2013 § 6 Comments

If you’re considering library school, if you’ve been accepted, and especially if you’re already there, I would strongly recommend getting hands-on experience as soon as possible. An internship or even just a bit of volunteering will help you to build a foundation of knowledge and skills as you pursue your degree. Other hackers have written on finding opportunities and making the most of them, but I’d like to address some key benefits of getting pre-library school experience in the first place:

Identifying Interests and Goals

Before starting library school I had never been paid to work in a library. However, I had spent considerable time interning and volunteering in them and had been an enthusiastic patron for as long as I could remember. During college, I spent two summers in a small academic library and one semester in my college archives, building an understanding of various kinds of library work. In addition to providing me with a basic ’how things work’ familiarity with many areas of academic libraries, my internships helped me to identify some of my interests and strengths, and to identify areas of librarianship I wanted to explore further. For example, after spending a lot of time by myself with boxes and files of papers in one internship, I decided that it would be important for me to pursue positions with more collaboration and patron interaction in the future. Figuring out what you don’t enjoy can be just as useful as discovering what you do.

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Mentor-Making

05/09/2013 § 3 Comments

In an effort to tap into my happy childhood memories of summer reading and perhaps to evade some adulthood stress, I’ve been re-reading Harry Potter. It’s been lovely comfort reading and a very welcome frame for some of my library-related thoughts. You see, I’ve been thinking a lot about mentorship. The power of a great mentor like Albus Dumbledore has had me thinking about how to seek out mentors and make the most of their advice and encouragement during library school. What do we look for in mentors? What lessons and inspiration can they provide? A mentor can be a powerful motivator and guide. But now, as I begin my second year of a two-year master’s program, I’m also thinking about mentoring from another direction: the peer leadership of Neville and Ginny, and of course Harry, Ron, and Hermione. How can we, as students and budding professionals, be effective mentors for each other? What does good peer mentorship look like and involve?

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Photo © Joy A. Feerrar

Peer mentorship is especially useful within the context of a master’s program. The relative brevity of library school means that we’re put in a position of being “in the know” pretty quickly; whether we feel it or not, we have lots of useful knowledge (advice on selecting classes, navigating work opportunities, directions to various campus locations, library policies) to share with fellow students. Furthermore, learning doesn’t just happen in one direction within mentorship—taking on mentoring roles gives us opportunities to reflect on values and goals, to hone interpersonal skills, and to think about professional and academic questions in new ways. Being a good mentor doesn’t mean having all the answers and providing perfect guidance (I mean, even Dumbledore made some big mistakes). I like the idea of a “let’s figure things out together” form of peer mentoring; it makes sense to me within the collaborative context of library school and librarianship.

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