Goodbye Library School, Hello High School

Well, this is it, kids: my time in library school is over, and so too ends my time writing for Hack Library School. This is so long, this is farewell, this is auf wiedersehen and adieu. This is also when I’m supposed to write a nice post summing up my time here, or my time as a library student, or something like that. But I’m finding that a bit difficult, because at least for me the end of library school has segued straight into professional librarianship. So while on the one hand it feels as though everything has changed, it also feels like the road I’m on is the same one I’ve been on since my grad school orientation.

This has nothing to do with anything, I just liked it. Image by samdecle, licensed through Flickr.

This has nothing to do with anything, I just liked it. Image by samdecle, licensed through Flickr.

Back in the summer ending my first year in library school, I made a plan to transition to Boston. I had no leads there; I knew precisely one person, who was not a librarian. I was giving up a decent amount of library cred back in Portland in exchange for what I hoped would be a wider array of opportunities, but there was no question it was a gamble. I figured I would find a nice practicum somewhere in Boston, head back east, and somehow that would lead to a job. To my own immense surprise, that’s exactly what happened… I found and landed the practicum, moved back east, and at the very end my practicum– just as things were starting to look a bit dire, as though perhaps I’d made a mistake — I got a job. The day I flew back to Portland for my final capstone presentation, not an hour after my plane had landed, I received the email offering me the position. I can’t begin to express the relief and gratitude I felt that day.

Here’s the thing, though: the job I’m doing is not a job I’d ever have guessed I would do. I’ve always hedged my bets by following the digital librarianship track, but in my heart of hearts I was most interested in how people use technology in the library, and in teaching them how to master all these amazing new tools that technology has given us. Actually getting to do that seemed like a distant dream, though, to be won only through years of part-time and contract gigs, fighting for my chance to teach, or being turned aside and into some other track entirely. Then one day I found a job posting for a Digital Literacy Librarian at a boarding school of all outlandish places, and figured I might as well give it a shot. A week later, I went to interview. A week after that, I got the job offer. This week — only a month after first spotting that ad — I’m on campus for faculty orientation. It has all been startling and thrilling and exhausting, but I have no doubt that this is the next right step on my road.

So here’s my advice to you, as a old hand at library school and a total rookie as a professional librarian:

1. Know what you want to do, but be open to finding it in unexpected places.

I never, ever would have thought I’d be working in a high school library, much less one at a New England boarding school. But this environment gives me the opportunity to do exactly the work I most want to do, and ultimately to do it however I think best. You want to be engaged in your community? You can’t get any more engaged than when you’re living on an isolated campus. You want to influence some minds, and impact some lives? I get to teach these kids skills that can serve them for the rest of their lives. It’s not what I expected… it’s better.

2. Your unique, non-library skills can make all the difference.

Before I started library school, I did a lot of media work. As it happens, I think those skills were what helped get me noticed by my new employers, and I know for a fact that they helped get me the job. Not long after accepting this position, I got a nibble from another prospective employer that was also based partly on those media skills. Video doesn’t have anything to do with librarianship per se, but as a skill it still has a lot of value. Use all of your skills, not just during your job search, but all the way through library school. They’re what set you apart.

3. Library school is what you make of it.

A little plain talk: my library school is not exactly top-tier, you know? I went there for some very specific reasons, and I got from it everything I wanted. But in the transition to Boston, I knew I’d be going up against recent graduates from a far more highly-regarded school, and I confess that I spent some time fretting over whether the name on my diploma would knock me out of the running for the best jobs.

But at risk of sounding like a motivational poster, every challenge brings an opportunity. I knew that my school aside, I was a damn good librarian, and the equal of any of my peers from the fancier school. When my school didn’t offer the coursework I wanted, I found ways to do the work on my own. I learned to be a scrapper, and I learned to make things happen on my own. A good school is a fantastic advantage, but even the best school won’t help the chances of an unmotivated student. And conversely, a highly motivated student will do well no matter where they go to school.

So there you go: in the end, it all comes back around to hacking library school. I want to thank all of the other Hackers for sustaining this fantastic little community, and to everyone who’s taken the time to read any of my posts here. I still have so much to learn, so I’ll still be lurking around the edges of HLS… does library school ever truly end? But I’m looking forward to seeing what the next crop of fresh-faced new library school students brings to the table.

Catch you later, Hackers!

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