Making Your Program Your Own

It’s that time of the year again.

For those of us that took a summer off from our LIS studies to have, well, a summer away from school, welcome back! But, as we all have experienced, where there are students that are going to be heading back to their graduate programs for the second or third year, there’s a whole crop of fresh faces that will be entering their programs for the first time, taking graduate courses in LIS, and getting academically introduced to the wonderful world of information science.

In a whirlwind of preparing for the upcoming school year, I find myself reflecting on the summer and thinking forward to the continuation of my graduate program. I’ll be a second year graduate student in the MLIS program at the University of Washington this year, and second year is where we really get to start getting into the ‘heart’ of what we want to do with our degree – that is, where does my focus lie? What courses can I take and what activities can I participate in to further my education and my expertise in my chosen area? This is the year where I get to look at some classes and think to myself, how can I apply what I’m learning here to a professional career?

My track for library school veers towards youth services, with a focus on young adult services in underserved communities and technology education. Libraries are just as important as schools when it comes to youth development – sometimes, what schools don’t teach libraries can quickly pick up. Libraries are full of books, yes, but they also offer so many more opportunities for children and youth that I think a lot of people look over. Storytime, to encourage imaginative thinking and interaction with their peers and the librarian. Makerspaces are becoming more and more popular in libraries these days, and allow youngsters to get their hands on all kinds of materials and activities that they might not have access to in school. Programming is vital and allows patrons to expand their knowledge and learn new things.

So, as I move forward into my middle year at UW, I think about how I want the future of libraries to impact the youth of the future. I want libraries to continue to offer open access, yes, but more than that, I want libraries to make resources available to children of all ages and all communities. I want libraries to inspire learning, specifically by providing access to resources that will allow their patrons to learn. I want libraries to influence youth.

Taking this back to its roots and taking into account the name of this site – HACK LIBRARY SCHOOL – it’s important to me to get the most out of my education by not only taking classes that are relevant and working with groups with my school to learn more about the ever-evolving world of youth services, but also to do my own work to spark innovation in YS departments in libraries. How do I hack library school? I tailor it to my own needs.

I want to work in youth services, with a focus on technology education and hands-on experiences in libraries. As we all head into the school year, whether it be for the first time or the final time, take a few moments to think about your professional goals – short-term and long-term. Once you have those goals, think about how you can tailor your program to adhere to your goals. Hack your program and take initiative – talk to your professors, talk to your peers, reach out to those in your community that have some insight into your chosen career path. Here on HLS we have a handy ‘starter kit’ for YS that I’ve looked at a couple of times. If you want to learn more about archiving, reach out to some local archivists or preservation centers. If you’re interested in public libraries, ask your local library for some volunteer opportunities. The possibilities are endless here, and… well, we’re future information professionals. We’re awesome at seeking out information, researching, and locating opportunities for professional development.

For those that are just starting their program this year, congratulations! You have an exciting, challenging, and informative journey ahead of you. You’re going to learn a lot and develop a whole new set of skills, skills that you’re going to be able to apply to your professional career. For those that are continuing their journey, you’ve got this!



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