Creating Community: Five Simple Steps to Help You Become Involved On and Off Campus

Getting involved as a student is an important part of the MLIS experience but it’s easier said than done (especially for those of us who are introverts!) Here are five short and simple ways to get involved on and off campus as an MLIS student:

1.  Become social media savvy

Getting involved online is a great way to connect with other library workers and MLIS students, whether you are a long-distance student or someone who is simply shy. I use Twitter and tumblr to keep up with professional news, meet other folks in the LIS field, and engage in powerful discussions by simply using a hashtag, like #critlib and our very own ##dearHLS. There are lots of great groups to join and pages to like on Facebook, blogs to read and follow across various platforms, and there is pretty much a Twitter hashtag for anything and everything under the sun.  Oh, and then there are listservs.

2.  Participate in a student organization

My university has some really cool student organizations aimed at iSchool students, such as iDiversity (shameless self-promotion) which is for students who are committed to integrating diversity into LIS practice, research, technology & education, and fostering discussion on representation & inclusion.  We are currently holding a book drive for Chicago Books to Women in Prison, hosting a monthly book club, volunteering together at the 2017 Disability Summit, and organizing a naloxone training.  There really is something for everyone – and if there’s not, you always can create it.

3.  Get to know your colleagues 

Yes, it can be scary at first, awkward even, but it’s not the end of the world.  Introduce yourself to new students and people you don’t know (they are likely feeling pretty awkward too.)  Ask folks in your classes for their phone numbers or e-mail addresses in case you miss class or have questions about the assignment – and give yours to them in return.  Invite someone to go to a student org meeting with you.  After all, these folks are going to be your future coworkers and you might even make a few friends in the process (I know I did!)

4.  Go to a conference

There are tons of great reasons to go to a conference and many universities even offer funding for their students to go.  Conferences are a great way to meet new people (including potential employers) and learn valuable professional skills.  If this is your first time going to a conference, check out Sam’s post on how to hack your first professional conference to optimize your experience.  Going alone?  Utilize the conference’s Twitter hashtag to connect with other folks who are going ahead of time or even sign up for a buddy.  If you need help writing an essay for your scholarship application, read Amanda’s post on hacking your scholarship essay for some useful tips.

5.  Volunteer in your community

Volunteering is a valuable learning experience you can easily add to your resume while doing a little good for your community.  I am currently volunteering as a coordinator for the Radical Libraries, Archives, and Museums track at the 2017 Allied Media Conference. Not only am I connecting with a lot of other folks who are passionate about the same things as me but I am building my resume and learning key professional skills at the same time.  I know we’re all graduate students and our little free-time is precious to us but you only need a few hours a month to commit to a cause or organization you’re excited about.

Becoming involved in my community has led me to amazing job opportunities and connected me with people doing really radical work in the field. But most importantly, it has allowed me to be an active member of my community and the communities I serve.  It can be difficult and challenging at times but it’s also 100% worth it.  I promise.  Now get out there and get involved!

How are you creating community today?

Karina Hagelin is working on their master’s degree in Library and Information Science and certificate in Museum Scholarship and Material Culture at University of Maryland. Their background is in American and LGBT Studies.  Karina is a disabled, Swedish-American, (gender)queer femme interested in the complexities and challenges related to issues of diversity, inclusion, and accessibility as they apply to libraries, as well as the use of gossip as an information tool, source of productive power, and site of resistance for survivors.  In their theoretical free-time, they enjoy spending time with their three rescue cats, writing zines about healing for survivors, baking vegan pastries, and tweeting as @femmelibrarian.  


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