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?