With the annual release of Library Journal’s “Movers and Shakers” awards, there seems to be an attendant wave of discussion about what, exactly, it takes to be recognized and praised in our field. This year’s Movers and Shakers were just rolled out this week, so the think-pieces haven’t quite started yet, but many of last year’s posts are worth revisiting. Critics of the awards argue that lots and lots of librarians make a difference in day-to-day activities that are never valorized in the press. Like the M & S awards themselves, however, these posts are all geared toward “in-the-trenches” librarians who are already established in their career paths. The discussion left me wondering, “What about students? In what ways, big and small, do we make our mark on the field?”
Library students tackle all kinds of projects and often contribute innovative ideas that they, and others, can build on well into their careers. We also often perform a lot of the routine work that helps our institutions run smoothly. But above all, we are in an excellent position to help identify issues in graduate LIS education and work to improve them.
Most of us in library school are extremely busy. We’re often juggling various jobs, internships, and/or volunteer opportunities on top of our course loads and personal lives. We’re trying to make connections at professional conferences, pursuing independent research, and searching for jobs. With everything else we have going on, it can be really tough to think critically about our LIS education and invest time and energy into improving the MLIS experience for future generations. Fortunately, it doesn’t necessarily have to become a full-time crusade. Below are a few ways that students have addressed issues and challenges in our program:
- Some situations can be improved with something as simple as talking to a professor. When conflict arose with graduate instructors in our program, several students discussed the issue via Facebook message, and a student offered to approach one of our core professors about it. The professor made overtures to the instructors and helped us initiate a class discussion.
- Officers of every student group in the school automatically become members of the MLIS Student Advisory Board. We meet once a month with various administrators. As annoying as bureaucratic meetings can seem, real change often comes of these! If you see an issue that the administration can address, ask if your school has a similar structure in place, and find out which students are on the board.
- The Diversity Student Organization at my school had been neglected and gone defunct. A group of like-minded students got together to revive the group and have it re-approved by the school. They’ve been able to host fun meetings that really helped build a sense of community, in addition to hosting events and speakers that fostered much-needed conversations around diversity issues.
- The graduate student government formed a Student Experience Assessment Committee to improve the flow of communication between students and the Dean of our school. We organized small focus groups comprised of undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral level students and facilitated by members of the graduate student government.
Have you addressed a problem within your program, or do you know someone who has? Does your school have some kind of mechanism in place for student feedback? Let us know in the comments!