Finding Ways to Learn On The Cheap

With another fall semester looming, I wanted to take some time to advocate for a few easy-access, low-cost ways to do some self-directed learning. As exciting as our LIS classes, practicums, and internships can be it is easy to forget that our grad student status grants us access to a variety of resources that can improve our minds, lives, and professional pursuits. Even though library students don’t often have much spare time, I urge you to tap into your university and local public resources in some of the following ways the next time you’re on a break. Challenge yourself, learn something new, and ultimately you’ll end up serving your patrons more effectively!

Technical Skills

Lots of us take classes on web design, database design, and other technical aspects of the LIS field. And while learning the basic tenets of design is great, mastering the intricacies of specific programs and tools can be a résumé-booster as well. One resource that my university offers is – a site full of technical tutorials on everything from InDesign to C++. I’ve found it to be a lovely supplement to my classroom learning and a handy resource. Your library may offer Lynda or other training resources that you can take advantage of.

E-readers & e-books

Despite being an advocate of e-reading and a part-time library employee, I did not actually learn to use an e-reader until last year. Sound crazy? The truth is, I’m a poor grad student (surprise, surprise) and I just haven’t been able to factor an e-reader into my budget lately. But I realized that to effectively help the patrons I serve I needed to enhance my e-reader skills. Luckily this was as easy as checking out one of the circulating pre-loaded e-readers at my local public library! Even if your local library doesn’t offer such services, try to ask around and borrow a friend’s for a few days. Play around with it and learn the basic functions.

Hardware – from camcorders to tablets

My university library also has a host of loanable technology, which students can check out for up to one week. This has been invaluable for class projects as well as personal education. Again, if your library doesn’t offer loanable tech, try to borrow/ask to play with that of your friends’. The more you know the more you’ll be able to assist and troubleshoot for patrons.

Loanable tech! So sweet! (Image source: UGL Pinterest)

Yay, loanable tech! It even comes with all of the cables and manuals you could ever need! (Image source: UGL Pinterest)


This is one area I haven’t delved into as much as I’d like to, but the resources are still there! Universities have some of the best language-learning resources that are free for students. From books to CDs to online tools like Tell Me More, you will be amazed at the number of resources you have free access to. And there’s no time like the present to learn a language that will help you help more patrons.

What resources have you found to be the most helpful/awesome during your grad school experience? How did you find out about them? Happy learning, everyone!

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