Library school is great. After a standard Bachelor of Arts and a few years in the workforce I’m finally making progress towards my career goals, and it’s refreshing to be in classes that I chose myself and will impact my career in real and direct ways. On most days I approach my classwork are enthusiasm, interest, and excitement.
But there are days that this is not the case. I absolutely want to be a librarian; but sometimes being a student all over again saps my will, and even the best classes have units that are critical and practical but not inspiring or engaging. There are days when a Netflix marathon and a craft beer or two are far more enticing than 50 pages of theory-heavy reading in 10-point font. I’m sure many of you have days just like this. Lethargy: it happens. But unless you want to give up your librarian (or archivist) dreams you’ve got to figure out a way to overcome this torpor and get your positive momentum back.
One of my tried-and-true motivation boosters is to take a few minutes and cruise my favorite news sites for stories of librarians doing cool things. This week I was rewarded with an NPR bit on the latest Pew Report on library users, which found (among other things) that library users are much less likely to report “information overload” and feelings of confusion around information. Other weeks I’ve been rewarded with stories of libraries facilitating a cheap prosthetic hand for a disabled kid, or the plan to turn Berlin’s abandoned Tempelhof airport into a new library. If it’s not such a great day in the news for libraries, anger at ignorant comments can fuel a mini-rage that drives me to study simply to prove the haters wrong.
For a less emotion-prone motivator, you can also take advantage of free tours offered by your school’s ALA chapter. Last semester I got to tour the library at NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center, and it was fantastic. Before this tour I had never even considered government agency libraries as a potential career goal, but by the end of the day my horizons had been significantly expanded and I was all fired up to research a whole new career trajectory. If you can’t make it to tours like this, try the websites of the type of institution you want to work for. The Library of Congress website is a classic, but I also spend time on various large university libraries in the US and abroad. There’s nothing quite like a visit to the Bodleian Libraries’ website to reinvigorate me. If you can find a copy, I’d also recommend James W. P. Campbell’s amazing book The Library: A World History, which covers the history of library architecture from the early Greeks to present day. Aside from the fascinating reading on how libraries came to take their modern form, the book includes photographer Will Pryce’s full-color, full page images of some of the most impressive libraries the world over.
If things are really getting rough, my failsafe option is to pull out the application essay I wrote when I applied to my program. A lot has changed since I submitted it; some pretty big life changes forced me to defer my start date not once but twice, and my long term plans did not include online classes in the beginning. But I still think information access and media literacy are critical to a successful society, and I still think information is the most important resource we have. Reading this essay reminds me of the goals I set for myself way back then, and helps me pull back and appreciate the bigger picture.
Finally, when nothing else works, I pull out my loan paperwork. Nothing makes me pay attention to my work quite like remembering how much money I’ll owe the government at the end of my last semester. If nothing else, I’ve got to finish the degree so I can get a library job and pay back my student debt.
How do you keep yourself fired up for classes? Please chime in below the line!