Self-assessment and Identifying What You Want to Know

Self Reflect

Take the time to self-reflect

Self-assessment is a life long learning tool that helps guide us in identifying what our personal strengths and weaknesses are.  Whether you are a working professional or a student, this is a valuable skill to have and to work on. Taking the time to reflect on what you’ve learned and what you still want to learn is essential for self-growth and development. For a student like myself, who is in the middle of my MLIS degree, doing this was crucial for planning the rest of my curriculum. Being able to identify what gaps I had in my own experiences helped me to make some decisions about what I need to do in the upcoming year.

Some people go into library school knowing exactly where they want to work. In fact, it’s usually an ice breaker question, “What kind of library do you want to work in?” On the other hand, I’m sure it’s normal to change your mind a few times once you’ve become acclimated to the library field. I have definitely shifted my personal goals since I started my program. I went from being sure I wanted to be an art librarian, to realizing I should be more flexible and I started looking into digital libraries. I had to ask myself where I want to be once I was done and what kind of work I want to do. As a result, I needed to shift my coursework to match my goals.

To help me prepare, I spoke to a professor who specializes in digital libraries to see what he thought was important for students to know and learn. He was kind enough to recommend some books and classes, but what really helped me was some job postings that he printed out for me. He underlined all the skills and qualifications that were required to show me what employers are looking for. I also recommend that all students do this because this is how you can identify what else you want to learn while you’re still in school and whether your program can teach you those skills. It can be a little intimidating to look at a list of qualifications that are full of acronyms (XML, PHP, MODS, METS, EAD to name a few), but once you break each one down, it is actually manageable. If you don’t know what something is, most professors or librarians in the field are willing to give you their advice or explain any program that you don’t recognize.

Let’s be honest, it’s unrealistic to expect to learn everything that you’ll need to know in school. In a 36 credit hour program, there just isn’t enough time to cover everything. More than likely, you’re going to have to make sacrifices and look elsewhere to supplement your learning. My program doesn’t offer classes in metadata, database design, or XML, so instead, I looked outside my program to see where I could learn a little more on my own. I was able to find some cool workshops taught by the IT department in my library, in addition to taking a summer course in metadata taught at a different campus. There are plenty of ways to make up for any gaps that you may have, like volunteering or interning somewhere that will help you gain experience. The most important part of that is being able to identify what you need to know and figuring out how you are going to learn it.

For all of those who have recently graduated, what did you do to close the gaps in your education? How about students who are either beginning library school or in the middle of their coursework? Do you think it’s feasible to learn most of what you need to know to do the job or do you have to supplement your education?

12 replies

  1. I’ve started to think about this topic too, since the end of my first year in library school is almost up. I decided not to take classes this summer, but to continue learning, mainly through reading books, listening to podcasts about library science (Library of Congress has a lot), and staying current through the Twitter/blogosphere.

    Continuing education is also a plus for your resume, if you do it – I think hiring committees like to see that you’re dedicated to continually improving your professional knowledge and ability.


  2. Great post! As I just finished my degree, I’m starting to do a bit of assessment, as well, of what I wish I had taken. Like you said, there is never enough time for everything and there are a few electives I kind of regret taking. However, what I learned from those electives is what I wasn’t interested in so maybe that was valuable as well. There seem to be some good Continuing Education options at Simmons so I’m hoping to take advantage of those in the future. I really wish I knew more about digital libraries so that is something I’m going to try to teach myself a bit about in the coming year…


  3. I became interested in digital libraries sort of accidentally. I volunteered at the Internet Archive before I started applying to grad school, just to help out. The experience I got there, helped me get my job now, and my current job is what really sparked my interest in digital librarianship. I had to really stop and think about what I wanted to do with the rest of my degree.

    Additionally, I know that even after I graduate, I will probably still need to be trying to learn new things. It never stops but that’s a good thing if you’re committed!


  4. Between school and my old job I’m pretty familiar with CSS, XHTML, and XML but those seem to be very basic requirements for digital library or digital services positions. With so many library jobs out there looking for IT skills I’ve started looking at “For Dummies” type books to learn more about Javascript, MySQL, and PHP.

    I’m not a terribly good programmer and it occurs to me that if I had been one, I’d make twice as much at a software company than I would as a librarian.


  5. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, now that I’m about a week away from finishing my degree. Lib school has done well to point me in the direction I think I might want to go, but there’s still a lot I want to learn about. It’s my goal once I’ve graduated to learn something new every month in order to keep myself grounded in the field while I’m looking for a job. I’ve been pretty much skating through library school just trying to finish, so I haven’t done much in the way of self education, but it’s never too late to start, right?
    I plan on looking into free webinars and tutorials online, as well as going to as many local educational/networking events as possible. Oh, and don’t forget books!


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