Navigating Goals and Family During the Library School Decision Process

Now that it’s February and prospective library school students will soon start receiving admission notices and making decisions about which library school to attend, I’m going to take a step back and talk broadly about balancing career goals and family as a prospective library school student.

One of the hardest parts about choosing a library school was figuring out how to make the best choice for myself, while respecting my partner’s career goals. We, like many couples and families, have career paths that are challenging to meld together. My husband is a digital artist in the entertainment industry, and he always assumed that he would either have to freelance or move to the West Coast to find work. Finding a good library job (paraprofessional or professional) isn’t easy either. Combine both of those (along with that fact that we were both recent graduates), add library school into the mix, and life felt like a hot mess.

During my last semester as an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, I took a class called Family Resource Management in order to fulfill a requirement for my minor in Family Social Science. A significant portion of the class was dedicated to the concept of setting goals. Generally speaking, I don’t think most people spend enough of time actually thinking about their goals in relation to their family members’ or partners’ goals. I know I didn’t until taking the course. So here are a few goal and family-related takeaways from the course* that I found helpful as I chose my library school:

First, be organized when you’re setting goals for yourself and your family. If you’re unorganized and making sporadic decisions, it’s going to be hard to balance and set goals. Easier said than done, I know. This is the one area that I had the most difficulty with when I was trying to decide on a library school. For a long time, my husband and I had considered moving across the country so he could pursue work in his field after graduating. I had also applied to a library school across the country in an area that we thought he could find work. We kept going back and forth between moving (prematurely) and staying. We were so close to moving that we even put our apartment up for sublet, only to back out when we got our first offer. I don’t recommend that! Take the time to get organized. Make sure your decisions feel right.

Photo by Steve Wilson, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo by Steve Wilson, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Second, be prepared to adjust or change goals if necessary. The ability to be flexible is key. I can’t emphasize this one enough. Even if you’ve told people that your goal is to do X, don’t feel guilty if you decide to tweak or change that goal completely. Also, don’t assume changing your goals equals failure. Throughout the course of figuring out which library school to attend, both my husband and I encountered several unexpected opportunities that prompted us to alter our plans and goals for the better.

Third, talk about goals and how you plan to accomplish them with your family and/or partner. You might think you know what your partner’s goals are for their career or for life in general, but trust me there is always more to learn. I think most people share what kind of job they want to get or where they want to live or what kinds of things they want to do with their family members. But, I would be willing to bet that people don’t talk as often about what the underlying motivations behind those goals are or how they plan to meet objectives for accomplishing them. Around the time I was choosing between library schools, my husband and I made a list of our goals, the reasons behind them, and how we planned to accomplish them, as recommended in my Family Resource Management class. Now, honestly, I was skeptical about how useful this would be considering we had known each other for 10 years and our relationship is pretty much a 24/7 talk-fest, but I think we were both surprised by how useful an exercise it was to talk about our plans and goals in a concrete way.

Finally, I’ll end with a bit of my own advice, having gone through the library school decision process: examine your goals (both your own and your family’s) to make sure you know why your goals are what they are so you can make sound decisions. It is far too easy to make decisions that don’t truly align with your goals when you face a new and important chapter in your life – like starting library school, moving to a new city, or both at the same time.

Best of luck with the admission and decision process, prospective library school students!


For further reading:

Resource Management for Individuals and Families, Elizabeth Goldsmith, 2013

Also, check out these related posts from other Hackers:

Things to Consider When Applying to Library School

Mastering the Juggling Act: Three Strategies for Balancing School, Work and Life

Theory Matters: Constructing a Personal Philosophy of Librarianship


*Bolded text indicates ideas are based on the Family Resource Management course taught by Dr. Beth Magistad of the University of Minnesota Family Social Science Department

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