Library school can seem very short. My personal experience was four semesters and a summer internship. Such a short time span doesn’t leave much room for all the classes, conferences, jobs, networking, and all the other forms of professional development you want for your career. So we all learn to budget our time, right? We sit, and stew, and try to decide which classes will build skills most useful for your future career (cough, instruction, cough). In order to help stay your panic, here are some of the things I have found useful in my time at library school.
- Read job postings for jobs outside of your current scope
Even if at the moment you only want an internship, look at all the other jobs available. Sign up for listservs, trawl the message boards, and discover what job titles are out there that you may want in the future. Once you find postings where you say to yourself “I can see myself doing this” or even better “This is the super mega aggro crag of my dreams. Why must I still be in school?!” This isn’t just a masochistic exercise, it is a great way to see what the required skills are for these future job titles. Compare what they want the applicant to be able to do to what your school offers in terms of classes. Instruction is one of the duties? Take that class on instruction. They want basic knowledge of content management systems? Take that class on WordPress or Drupal. Need to be able to work well in teams? You are going to have to take a class that has a strong emphasis on group work if you want to be a future suitable candidate. Learn what employers are looking for, and use that to tailor your class making decisions.
If you are still unsure what exactly you want to do in libraries when you graduate, look around at a variety of job postings and then make a list of the requirements that pop-up most often. These become the skills you should aim for.
What if you know what skills you need, but not what classes will help you get those skills? Don’t worry, that is the next point.
- Talk to other people about classes
This is a big one. Talking to other people is especially important if you don’t want to fall into the trap of “well, I just wasted my time with this class.” Friends, students ahead of you in the program, academic advisors, and professors can all help you line up class options with the list of skills you made after looking at job postings. You can determine which classes are best for you, are best for a classroom environment, or maybe feature a subject you could teach yourself later. I have sat through classes that were better suited for other people, and now look at classes that I never got the chance to take with the same eyes as someone who ordered the wrong thing at a restaurant.
- Continually look at your school’s course offerings
Things change. Classes are included in that list of “things”. Constantly check to see what classes are offered now and which will be offered in the upcoming future. If other students or professors talk about classes that were offered in the past, see if you can track it down for the future, or even the closest fit still offered at your school. Still no luck? Discuss with professors about independent study for classes you want but don’t exist.
Is your school part of a larger university, and does it accept classes from other schools on campus for credit? Look at these as well! Education, Social Work, and Business schools all offer classes that can be integral to developing those needed skills for the library profession. Just because it isn’t offered at your library school doesn’t mean it is useless to you. One of my favorite classes was the disability studies class offered across multiple different colleges on campus. Without my library school’s cognate requirement (to take a class outside of the School of Information), I could have missed it completely.
Now, at the end of all of my advice I would like to add a disclaimer. I didn’t know these things at the beginning of library school, and I have finished my formal studies with a few regrets remaining. If you are like me, don’t worry. You, like me, can always continue your education on your own through conferences, books, publications, and of course, Hack Library School. Just keep looking forward!
Categories: Education & Curriculum