[Series] Library School Starter Kit – Questions and Advice

This is a collaborative post between Teresa Silva, who is entering her first year of library school at the Pratt Institute of Information and Library Science, and Turner Masland, who is entering his final semester of Emporia State University’s School of Library and Information Management.

Teresa: Finally, after months of waiting, I’ll be a student once again. I’m excited and eager to get going. Following various blog source recommendations including a recent post, I’ve started a blog, I have a twitter account, and after years of having a cell phone solely for dialing and texting, I’ve upgraded to a smart phone. I’ve registered for my classes, all core, which I figure will give me a better idea of what I’d like to concentrate in, so come second semester I’ll be able to take classes with more of a focus. Now it’s just a matter of attending orientations and various introductory activities before school at the Pratt Institute School of Information and Library Science officially begins on August 29th.

The next two years will be dedicated to learning as much as I possibly can about the realm of information and library science. I’d like each class that I take to be challenging, to learn how to effectively relay information to the public in which ever concentration I choose, to be able to engage with my professors and classmates and develop strong professional relationships, and to reach my goal of graduating and finding a job in something that I enjoy.

Now, I’d like to ask my fellow collaborator, Turner Masland, some questions about his first year experience.

1. How was your orientation to library school?
2. Did you feel you were given all the information you needed during your orientation?
3. What expectations did you have upon starting school?  Were those expectations met by the end of your first year?
4. Was there anything unexpected that occurred and you wished someone had told you about?
5. What advice would you give to someone who is about to enter his or her first year of library school?

Turner: Let’s start first with Teresa’s questions:

1. How was your orientation to library school?  My orientation was a whirlwind! With a lot of information thrown at me, it was pretty overwhelming. We had a panel of current students and  alumni who spoke to us about their experience and offered advice, with them mostly telling us the importance of getting a job in a library, getting involved in professional organizations and networking as much as possible. This was a lot to take in. But it was good advice, especially if you understood that you weren’t going to accomplish it all in the first few weeks (or even the first term) of library school. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your career. It is going to take time.

That first day, I remember sitting down next to the girl with the most tattoos, because she seemed like an interesting person. Little did I know that she would become one of my closest friends.  It will be important to get to know your classmates: they are going to be your collaborators throughout your time in school, your networks as you enter the profession and some of the only people who are going to understand what you are going through. In many ways, they are your support group and they are  important to the process.

2. Did you feel you were given all the information you needed during your orientation?  Great question! If I did, it went in one ear and out the other. There was just so much information thrown at us, it was hard to take it all in. Listen to what your faculty, advisers and fellow students have to say, and try your best to jot down what seems most important to you.

3. What expectations did you have upon starting school?  Were those expectations met by the end of your first year?  My expectation was that library school was going to teach me everything there is to know about being a librarian/information professional. Looking back, that was a silly expectation. Library school is the start of the process of developing your career, and it is going to set you up with an excellent foundation. But it can’t teach you everything. You will learn just as much (and in some cases more) once you start managing information in your first job/volunteer gig/internship.

4. Was there anything unexpected that occurred and you wished someone had told you about?  Not to scare anyone, but I did not expect it to be as hard as it was. This is a pretty subjective view, because some people in my program thought it was too easy and others didn’t make it through. Juggling work, school and life became a challenge. Seeking out help and talking regularly with my *amazing* adviser got me through the program. I realized that it was okay for me to slow down the program a bit (I’m finishing the program a semester after many of my cohort members), and was thankful to have a wonderful support system with my family, classmates and professors. My advice: don’t be afraid to ask for help!

I also wish that someone told me to join Twitter earlier! The blogs/articles/opinions/insights shared there have directly contributed to many of my classroom experiences! There would be many times when I would join a discussion with the line “Just the other day, I saw on Twitter…”

5. What advice would you give to someone who is about to enter his or her first year of library school?  Teresa asked some amazing questions, which has already covered a lot of what I would say here: Know that this is a start of a journey; library school will prepare you, but prepare to learn outside of the classroom; don’t be afraid to ask for help.

I think the biggest piece of advice that I would like to offer is to remember that librarianship and information management is a collaborative process, and this concept manifests itself in many ways. The most direct way you will experience this is working with your classmates. If your program was anything like mine, every class incorporates group work. You will also need to network and get your name out there, as that is how you will most effectively land a job: through people you know and through people who know you.

You also need to pay attention to what is happening in the industry at large as well as what is happening in the areas in which you want to focus your career. There is a constant conversation happening on Twitter, Facebook, Google +, Tumblr and on blogs. Librarians love to share their stories and their observations, be sure to tune in and share your perspectives. Being open to collaboration is going to not only advance your education and careers, it is also going to prepare you to handle a profession that is never going to stop changing.

The most important piece of advice I can give you: Have Fun! This is an awesome profession comprised of fascinating people and it is very welcoming to new students! The learning process that you start in library school is going to continue throughout your career and you are going to be amazed at the places it will take you!

Turner and his classmate Serenity Ibsen at Emporia's graduation. Even though Turner finishes his program in December, he walked with his cohort. Photographer credit: Marta Murvosh

12 replies

  1. Great advice! No one told me about Twitter, I joined last Feb. to see what the big deal was. I didn’t understand the appeal at all and now I’m addicted. Also, it put me in contact with so many great people. The best part about my orientation was the awesome tote bag with rainbow straps that they gave out. Now you can spot a SLIS student a mile away.


  2. I agree with all of this advice (great post, you two!), and for #5 I would add: pretty soon after starting library school, start using Google Reader (if you don’t already). Along with librarian blogs, start adding job feeds into it – LibGig, ALA Job List, etc. Look for jobs that really interest you, then look at the skills/qualifications needed to be hired. Then start acquiring those skills! When you’re just starting school, you have an advantage, because you can plan your time more wisely. You can do extra internships, take on side projects, plan to take a particular class, etc. because you knew you needed a particular skill for your future job. Good luck, Teresa and the class of 2013!


  3. Same here Annie. I joined Twitter after my first semester and it’s totally changed my trajectory. It’s a library school must in my book.


  4. Great post! When I started school last fall, I didn’t understand the fuss about Twitter or RSS feeds either. But I am learning they are essential tools. I just set up my Google Reader last month (and thanks to Lauren’s tip, I’ll be adding job feeds!).


  5. Teresa – I’m in my last semester at Pratt SILS and will be at the orientation Wednesday. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me there or anytime. Students involved in our “clubs” (Pratt student chapters of SLA, ALA and ASIS&T) in particular are happy to talk to newer students.


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