I found Hack Library School when I was in the throes of deciding where I wanted to go to graduate school for library studies. I had applied and been accepted to a number of places, but when it came time to make the decision, it was surprisingly hard! I thought I knew where I wanted to go before I even applied, but by admission season, things had changed. Hack Library School (particularly the “Hack Your Program” posts) helped me out of my rut, and I wanted to give back to the LIS community by writing for the blog myself. Over the last two years, if I’ve written one thing on this blog that’s made a difference to someone, then I’ve accomplished my mission.
Working full-time while in graduate school has been full of highs and lows. Being an online student has been difficult too. I’ve often felt like virtually all of my work is hidden away – in my professional life and especially my academic life. Most of my colleagues have, at different times, forgotten that I’m in graduate school. I’ve spent two years living a double life. One where I work in the archive from 9-5, and the other when I come home and “go” to school. At times, I’ve felt incredibly content about the way I chose to do my studies, and at times it’s been defeating and downright lonely. But, in the end, I’m happy with my choices and I’m excited about the future. Whatever it may look like.
In writing this post, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ve learned over the last two years, both as a person and an archivist. I’m almost done with my graduate studies and I’m starting to feel like I did when I completed my undergraduate studies – that I simultaneously know more, but understand less than I thought I did when I started. There are so many strange dichotomies in the library world: the desire to be responsive/flexible vs. utilizing standards, the “profession” vs. professionalization, and as Ayoola White wrote about earlier this week – working within the system vs. outside of it. I don’t have clear answers about how to deal with these, but they’re all issues I find myself confronting and questioning every day.
One thing I love about being around other new professionals is that we’re all itching to make a positive impact on people’s lives, and there’s nothing more motivating than that. If there’s something I do know for sure at this point, it’s that I want to maintain that spirit. Staying focused on the bigger picture has helped me more than anything. On a practical level, it’s the antidote to negativity from others within the library/archives fields and my own self-doubt. And, it’s what guides every facet of my work and keeps me on track. I want to make the archives I work with more accessible to people, and to me that entails more than processing and description – it’s promoting them and collaborating with others as much as I can to demonstrate their uses and value. I want to get archives in the hands of people who have seldom or never used them before. I came to graduate school with a personal commitment to outreach and public service that is broader than the library and archives professions, and I’m going to hold on to that tighter than anything I’ve learned in the last two years.
I sign off with a huge thanks to all of my current and former co-workers, classmates, mentors, advisers, teachers, and fellow Hackers for their support. It has been a privilege to write for Hack Library School and work as your Community Manager. Onward!
Carissa Hansen is a contributing writer and Community Manager for Hack Library School. She is the archivist/project manager for the University of Minnesota Libraries’ Prairie Poets and Press project to increase access to literary manuscript collections in the Upper Midwest Literary Archives. She is finishing up her M.A. in Library and Information Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.