Welcome, incoming library students! These first few weeks before school starts can be a mixture of excitement and nerves. If you want to get acquainted with the profession before school starts (or if you simply want to be prepared to jump back into school again), here is a list of things that you can do before the start of your first semester.
Apply to jobs, scholarships, and loans
Need help financing your graduate studies? I highly recommend getting a library-specific job while you’re in graduate school, to get those “minimum 2 years of experience” all the career postings seem to require. Some library jobs even offer a tuition reimbursement plan, so be sure to ask about that early! Apply to departmental or university scholarships, general scholarships, assistantships, or work-study positions EVEN IF YOU FEEL UNQUALIFIED. And of course, everyone’s favorite past-time: apply for loans, if need be (and make sure they have gone through!). Your school’s financial aid office or your bank can help you through that process.
Get that pre-class homework out of the way
You will most likely be notified of these things via email, so check your email often. Some schools require incoming students to watch a video about appropriate conduct on campus and take a short test. Some employers also require a test or training video. Do that now, before classes start. They might take a lot longer to complete than you’d think. Explore your course management system (we use ICON). If your syllabi are posted, look to see if you have any actual homework to be completed before the first day of school.
Revamp your social media presence
Librarians love Twitter, so it’d be worth it to make a professional Twitter account and follow some people in the library world. Don’t know who to follow? Follow us! Follow me! Follow libraries or museums! Follow authors or job lists! Michael’s post about library hashtags is a good place to look too. Update your LinkedIn page, and edit privacy settings on all those Facebook photos that make you ask “is this appropriate?”
Surf the [librarian] web
Hello! You’re already doing this because you’re reading this blog! Library journals and blogs can provide you with conversations about current events in the field. Here are some blogs that HLS recommends for all types of librarianship. Familiarize yourself with your program’s website and your school’s library page(s). Stalk your professors a little bit and see which particular fields of librarianship they are interested in (it’s not creepy, I promise). Listen to library podcasts. Take in as much library-related media as you feel comfortable… or don’t! You don’t have to know everything (or anything) about libraries coming into your program. That’s why continuing education exists in the first place.
Sign up for those sweet student discounts!
Congratulations, student. You can now get student discounts on Spotify, Amazon Prime, Best Buy, The New York Times, and library organizations like ALA by having an .edu email address! A membership at ALA also gives you discounts on library-related materials, like American Libraries magazine, but also on non-library-related things, like auto or homeowners insurance (no, I’m not being paid to promote them, I’m just really happy to finally have affordable pet insurance for my kitties). More information on general student discounts here.
Explore your new environment
Get a library card at the public library. Walk around the campus to see where your classes will be held. If you’re feeling brave, go to libraries and talk to the librarian, and mention you’re a new LIS student. If you’re an online student, email someone who has been through your program before. Attend orientation. Talking to people can be uncomfortable, but it helps in the long run.
Get a professional headshot
This is something I didn’t do and I wish I had. I found that even my “good selfies” weren’t gonna cut it as my school email thumbnail, or my professional social media profile picture. To see if your school offers free headshots for graduate students, email your department secretary or liaison. Alternatively, just have a friend snap a picture of you in nice clothing against a neutral background.
Take charge of your health
It’s important to take care of yourself in grad school, as referenced most recently in Jessica’s neuroscience series about sleep and anxiety. If your school offers student health insurance and you’d like to sign up, do it now. Some schools require incoming students to be updated on their vaccines (or proof of said vaccines), so make those doctor’s appointments soon. As for mental health, find a nice study space either in your house, at a coffeeshop, or even the library. And of course, don’t forget to hang out with your friends and family.
Good luck, incoming cohort! You’re going to get a lot of information over the next few weeks, and it will be overwhelming, but everyone is in the same boat. The first few months of school are always a little awkward, but I promise– the more you put yourself out there, the less uncomfortable it will be, over time.
Current library students and librarians: do you have any other advice for the first years starting library school?
Featured image depicts a close up shot of colorful post-it notes.