Transition: Student to Professional

About a month ago I wrote a post titled: Some thoughts from a #n00brarian. The day that post went live, I was offered the position at my dream job as the Library Director of Muir Library in Winnebago, Minnesota.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t announce it because it had to be approved by the City Council, but that’s neither here nor there anymore.

I have a job and I love it. I’d like to just play with the idea of my transition from student to professional for a few minutes. (Spoiler Alert!! If you’re looking for a post about how easy the transition is, don’t read this one)

  • I didn’t learn everything I needed to know while I was an MLIS student. I don’t think this is a surprise to anyone. We all know there will be gaps in our education. Whose fault is that? I’m taking responsibility for some of that. As much as I tried to give myself a well-rounded MLIS education, I missed out on some lessons I’m sure I could have learned in school (example: children’s literature – selecting fiction and non-fiction for the collection). And how am I now making up for that as a professional? Well, I’m reading a LOT of children’s literature and I’m finding resources (people, books, blogs, etc.) to teach me as I go.
  • As a student I was constantly surrounded (heck I even lived with) librarians or future librarians. There was always someone to bounce ideas off of. It’s like I lived at Library-Hogwarts and got to practice my librarian-magic on other witches and wizards (errr… librarians) before heading out into the real world full of Muggles (errr… the public). Now, I’m lucky if I talk to another librarian (via phone) once or twice a week. That’s partly because I’m in such a rural area – but I’m certain that the transition from student to professional is still “lonely” because you’re not sitting in class or on the boards having discussions. You’re working. Whereas it was nice to get away from homework and Tweet or check Facebook or write a quick blog post as a student, I find myself not leaving time to do that now that I’m working.  I already know the library (and I) need time to talk to other librarians — which is why I absolutely love #libchat and try to get there every week.
  • Some people told me (when I was a student), that when I hit the professional-side-of-libraryland I would get a huge wake-up call about being too idealistic and optimistic about the library its patrons because I haven’t worked with them and I just don’t know what it’s like out there. Well, I’m on the professional side now – I’m still fresh – just a month into the job. But, I would say this to those people — I’m STILL optimistic! I’m STILL advocating for the library every day and I’m STILL going to give everyone who walks into my library a chance (even if I know their card is blocked because they have too many fines). I may not know how to develop my collection for children yet, but I am STILL going to help them find something to read when they come into the library after school. Frustrating days are part of life, but they can’t ruin hope for the next day or the next day.

The former library director at Muir Library stopped in after I’d been on the job for a couple of weeks. She gave me a pin that has a beautiful globe on it and says READ. She got it at a meeting for the Summer Reading Program earlier this spring. I’m sure it is a generic pin that everyone received, but it means a lot to me that she gave it to me as I started my professional career. I have worn it every day since then. I am going to wear it until it breaks or someone gives me something better because it reminds to think about the big picture (long-range plan as some administrators would say). Whether I’m a student or a professional in libraryland, I’m always going to remember that the world is a big place and I’m just one person – transitioning from moment to moment – helping someone find something to read.

Categories: Professional Life

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14 replies

  1. Thanks so much for this! Every time registration season rolls around, or I talk to classmates about their schedules, I worry that I won’t graduate with the exact right skills and knowledge I need for my perfect job (whatever that might be). Thanks for reminding me I won’t learn everything (how fun would that be anyway?) and that people still are finding and getting jobs they love. Congrats!


  2. Bravo Heidi! Thanks so much for this refreshing perspective about transitioning from student to professional in the LIS field. I think its very important to hold on to the ideals in order to create innovate projects and programs. It is especially important that students/new graduates have an awareness for competenties that are needed beyond the MLS program. In my opinion, Hack Library School is a fabulous platform to advise and guide students/future professionals on how to gain these skills. Keep up the OPTIMISTIC SPIRIT!


  3. Congratulations on graduation and the new job! And thanks a lot for this post – it’s inspiring and just what I needed to read at this point.


  4. This is a wonderful post. Honest and focused. Library school teaches us the technical, while we learn the practical from our patrons and colleagues. Keep at it Heidi. You will do wonders.


  5. Thanks so much for sharing your story. I have 4 classes left on my MLIS program and I truly felt everything you said. I so needed to read this today. I often wonder (and worry) about the transition from student to professional. My friends in the field quickly remind me its alot of on-the-job training because you never know what you’ll need up doing. Congratulations on you’re new career path. And thanks for the encouraging words of wisdom.


  6. This was a great post, Heidi, and very encouraging. I’m in the same boat, and while professional life is exciting, it’s a completely different journey! I believe that we can keep our optimism for as long as we choose to, and while it’s harder to find the time for professional development and librarian interaction, we’re going to be figure out the right balance for us. And it’s really not THAT scary figuring out our gaps – librarians have to continually learn and adapt, so we’ve got the advantage there!


  7. Heidi, thank you for this beautifully honest and inspiring post. Reading it made me realize how much I miss you in library(school)land but I totally look forward to joining you in the real libraryland very soon. You are doing (and will continue to do) great things at Muir. Take it one day at a time and before you know it, you’ll have a moment or two for some Facebook Scrabble and a killer children’s collection too!
    P.S. Love the pin!


  8. How wonderful that you got your dream job already! 🙂 Congratulations! And thanks for the insightful post. It’s encouraging and refreshing to know you’re still optimistic!


  9. Congratulations Heidi! Very encouraging post. Like others have mentioned, I too worry about being well-rounded and taking “enough” classes. It’s good to be reminded that we are always learning and gaps can be filled through on-the-job training. Keep up the optimism — it’s contagious and definitely encourages others to look at library services in a positive light. :o)


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