You Are Now an Information Science Professional: First Year Reflections

I’ve just completed my first year of grad school at the University of Tennessee School of Information Sciences. It has been an incredible experience. At various times and sometimes simultaneously, I’ve been overwhelmed, frustrated, excited, angry, amazed, and bored. Yet, through all these emotions, I have grown as a person and as a professional in more ways than I can count.

I recall early in this semester being so overwhelmed with new concepts and material that I felt utterly hopeless. I felt like my little concrete, objective, engineer mind simply couldn’t grasp the abstract concepts I was being introduced to. I also remember not being able to foresee how I would ever qualify to apply to any of the data curation jobs I saw coming across the job listings. I expressed this frustration to my adviser at a meeting in early February. Her response was one that I will never forget and was a paradigm shift. She said, “I know this may seem hard to grasp now, but you need to realize when you complete your first year of grad school, you will no longer be a beginner. You will have more knowledge than many people in this field. You have to start thinking of yourself as an expert instead of a beginner.” She was right. Now that I’m finished with one year and I’ve completed my first data curation course, I see that I have a knowledge base now that is leaps and bounds beyond what it was at the beginning of this semester. I’ve made contacts throughout the country that will help me moving forward in my career. This is actually a pretty big accomplishment for me, as introverted as I am. In fact, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed making these connections. I find that librarians are quite a helpful and friendly bunch, so that made it so much easier.

When my adviser said that to me earlier in the semester, she was talking about data curation in particular, but it applies to the wider field of library and information science, too. After the first year of grad school, you are no longer a beginner. Believe it or not, you probably already have enough foundational knowledge to work in most small libraries, save a few specialized skills, which you can learn on the job. It’s time to stop thinking of yourself as a lowly student. Granted, you still do have much to learn, but you are already most of the way there.

You are now an information science professional. Start thinking of yourself this way.

6 replies

  1. I really loved your blog! Gives me so much more confidence. I am super new to this field. I graduated in 09 with a B.A. in International Relations/English Lit. with no idea what I wanted to do. A few years later I figured out what I have should have known all along that I wanted to be a Librarian. I didn’t have the greatest GPA for Grad School so I actually am going back for a B.A. from Clarion University in Education with an LIS concentration. Since I have a B.A. I will be done next semester, this was my first semester and I was so nervous because I knew next to nothing about the field. I’ve now observed at a few libraries here in town and I’ve learned alot from the classes I’ve taken so far. I definitely have so much more to learn but even from one semester I feel like I’ve learned so much and I can’t wait for Grad School! I keep thinking the way you were thinking but then I reflect on what I have learned so far and I’ve tried to keep up to date on issues and with different groups and Listservs and I have to sit back and think okay I am climbing this little ladder to knowledge and I’m not at the same place I was a few months ago so thats good right? I have a long way to go but I am so excited about it 🙂 Great encouraging post, thank you!


  2. When I first read this post, I thought, “Well, I certainly don’t feel like an expert.” I’m also finishing up my first year of a dual-Master’s program that will take me awhile to complete. Sometimes it seems like my education moves at a snail’s pace, but really I have learned so much in the past year and am now part of a profession. Thanks for putting things into perspective!


  3. Great post, Chris. I’ve definitely looked at job postings and felt as though there’s no way I can do everything they require by the time I finish my degrees, even though I’m doing as much as I can. I’ve realized that I’m a lot harder on myself than I am on my peers; when they express their worries I have so much confidence in the great things they will do, but I still let my own worries rule me at times. I appreciate your positive message–I think we’ve all done more than we give ourselves credit for. And goodness gracious I still can’t believe it’s been a year since I started library school…!


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