LIS Advice: the Greatest Hits

I’ve been thinking a lot about this post – how to sum up my time in library school, how to sum up my time with HLS, and what kind of note to leave on. What I’ve settled on, and what I hope will be the most helpful, is sort of a greatest hits of advice and tidbits from LIS blog posts (from Hack Library School and beyond) that have helped me and rung true throughout the last few years. I hope they help you too.

No self-sabotage! [from “Apply Yourself!” by Joanna June on HLS]

This post was so influential for me. Its idea is so basic – “don’t limit your options by not even trying” – but so necessary to reiterate. It can apply to classes (Don’t be afraid of the tech classes! If you’re very afraid, contact the professor beforehand and chat about the success rate for tech newbies), volunteer opportunities (they often lead to other things, and you don’t have to have as much experience going in), and jobs. That being said, I understand that the “apply yourself” mantra carries with it an assumption of privilege – not everyone has the time to volunteer every week, not everyone has the money to be a full time student, etc. But finding a few solid, quality ways to apply yourself is critical and should be a priority if you can make it one. An additional bit of wisdom: opportunities won’t always come in the size/shape/form you expect. Keep trying. I have been offered multiple opportunities/positions because I interviewed for Opportunity A and the interviewer ended up recommending me (or hiring me) for Opportunity B. Getting your name (and passion/heart) out there is critical, even if you don’t get the opportunity you were originally shooting for.

Commit to a community related to your passion [from “LIS Education Symposium [pt. 2]” by Brianna Marshall on her blog]

This post is Brianna’s summary of her section of the keynote she was part of at the 2015 Symposium on LIS Education (view the entire keynote here – seriously, watch/listen to it NOW, as it is amazing). There’s a lot of good stuff in there, but the part that hit me the hardest was about showing up. Brianna talks about trying to start an initiative within the HLS community of writers and alums this past spring and having it fall flat when no one showed up for the meetings. I was one of those people who didn’t show up, friends. Having this brought up in a public way at a conference I helped to organize did not feel good. Writing about it here doesn’t feel too great either. But I believe wholeheartedly in the message, I thank Brianna for bringing it up, and I want you all to learn from it. I could go into the reasons why I didn’t make it to those meetings, but I won’t. The important lesson from this experience and Brianna’s post: pick a few things you’re very passionate about and then commit to them. Give them your all and show up, time and time again. This sounds like a no-brainer, but many of us have problems with overcommitting, saying no, and extending ourselves to the point of burn-out. This not only hurts you, but it hurts the people who do show up when you flake out because you’ve taken on too much. So this advice goes to everyone, but particularly to those of you about to start school in the fall: I know you’re excited and ready to do ALL OF THE THINGS… but take a little while to figure out what you’re really excited about and then practice focusing on and committing to those things. You will have richer experiences and the communities you build will be stronger and more robust.

Find your people and spend time with them [from “(Un)Written Tips for New LIS Students (Or, What I Learned In Grad School)” by Sarah Crissinger on ACRLog]

All of this post is golden and fabulous and GO READ IT NOW (no, I have no bias even though Sarah and I went to the same school and helped organized a conference together ;)). But the part I wanted to highlight at this moment is “Don’t underestimate your peers”:

[My peers] challenged me to think in new and complicated ways, through Twitter or weekly coffee breaks. They learned right alongside me, often sharing their newfound knowledge and developing projects with me so that I had some level of fluency in digital humanities or critical pedagogy or some other area I might have never been exposed to. […] Lean on each other. Mentor each other. Complain to each other! But make sure you develop relationships with the students around you. They are the future of this profession and your connection with them will be invaluable.”

This is ridiculously good advice! Again, it seems obvious, but it so often isn’t – I know many graduate students who devalue social activities that don’t have some sort of “professional value.” But nerding out with the people who share your interests? Good for the soul. And good for networking, if you really need that justification as well.

Try to navigate around obstacles – don’t let them become roadblocks! [from Bossypants by Tina Fey, excerpted here]

Ok, not a blog post, but it did partially inspire one of my HLS posts, “Obstacles and How to Deal with Them.” Fey is talking about dealing with prejudice, but I think her advice can also apply to the many obstacles, setbacks, and disappointments that inevitably accompany something as unwieldy as attending graduate school:

“When faced with sexism or ageism or lookism or even really aggressive Buddhism, ask yourself the following question: ‘Is this person in between me and what I want to do?’ If the answer is no, ignore it and move on. Your energy is better used doing your work, and outpacing people that way. […] If the answer is yes, you have a more difficult road ahead of you. I suggest you model your strategy after the old Sesame Street film piece “Over! Under! Through!” […] If your boss is a jerk, try to find someone above or around your boss who is not a jerk. If you’re lucky, your workplace will have a neutral proving ground—like the rifle range or the car sales total board or the SNL read-through. If so, focus on that. Again, don’t waste your energy trying to educate or change opinions. Go “Over! Under! Through!” and opinions will change organically when you’re the boss. Or they won’t. Who cares? Do your thing and don’t care if they like it.

Yes, so good. In an LIS program context: if things aren’t going your way, if you aren’t finding the opportunities you want, or if you’re hitting roadblocks, find a way around! Don’t be content with the status quo – if your advisor is lackluster, go find a better mentor! If your job is crappy and unfulfilling, ask if you can work on extra (more interesting) projects! If an assignment seems boring and irrelevant, ask if you can tailor it to your interests! You’d be surprised how often you get a “yes.” And no matter what it doesn’t hurt to ask. Would it be nice if every LIS program were fantastic and provided all of the opportunities and experiences you wanted it to from Day 1? Of course. But it’s not the way of the world, so take Fey’s advice and try to find a way to make it happen.

I hope at least some of these pieces are new to you and help you down your path.

I have to take a short moment to thank everyone at HLS, past and present – you are an amazing group of people and have shaped the way I see our field so profoundly. I will miss being a part of the editorial community and will, no doubt, use the lessons and memories of my experiences here to shape others in the future.

All the best,

4 replies

  1. “Keep Trying” is still one of the most useful pieces of advice I ever received. As obvious as it may sound to some people; some people have never actually heard it said to them. Some people don’t consider that they ever have a chance in the first place.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good selection! Self-sabotage is a BIG ONE when we transition into librarians. We tend to critique ourselves and sometimes set us up for failure when we encounter new roles with a higher set of responsibilities and accountabilities. Reframing our perspective is so important (and often takes LOTS of repetition in order for it to stick). Best of luck to you Nicole!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. These are all fantastic, inspiring selections Nicole. “Apply Yourself” is especially relevant to my life. Thank you for everything you’ve done for HLS!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I had never been paid to work in a library before, not one dime; I was woman interested in tech and I didn t have a CS background; I was super young, set to graduate with my BA at age 20. Her advice?


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