In library school, as with any academic program, we not only have to manage schoolwork and projects, but we also have to keep track of related information like registration schedules, important contacts like faculty and advisors, listservs, networking opportunities, and where to find tools and services that are available to students. Classes that require group projects can seem especially daunting, on top of tracking various individual assignments and due dates.
As a second year student in the University of Washington’s online MLIS program, I have found Trello, a free, online project management tool, to be super useful for keeping track of everything that I need to navigate grad school, including important information and resources, class assignments and due dates, and group projects. I have also used Trello for work-related projects and activities, but it has been especially instrumental for hacking library school as an online student.
Most online programs use Canvas or some other course management system that can be used to track assignments and other relevant information, but you can’t personalize these systems. Using Trello, you can create one or more customizable kanban boards – a series of moveable columns and cards – to meet your organization needs and keep track of everything in one place. I personally use one Trello board for all of my school information, but you could also create a separate board for each class. There are multiple ways to use Trello to your advantage, depending on your needs and what works best for you. The most basic example of a kanban board contains three columns: TO DO, IN PROGRESS, and DONE. The cards underneath each column would contain assignments and actions that fit into each category. This setup would make the most sense if you are using one board per class.
My school Trello board is organized with the following columns:
- Info/Links – each card under this column contains information and links that I need to keep track of for general school purposes, such as my advisor’s email address, links to instructions for registration, and links to helpful info about events or completing capstone.
- Class 1 – each card under this column contains info about readings, lectures, assignments, and due dates for each week of the class.
- Class 2 – same as above but for a different class
- Done – this is the column that I move class cards to when I have finished the activities and assignments contained within. It feels great to move cards to the “Done” column – it’s like checking items off a to-do list – it releases endorphins, and at the end of the term you can look back to see everything that you accomplished.
Within each card, Trello allows for entering notes, labels, checklists, due dates, and attachments. Links can be inserted into Trello cards, and I usually add links to Google docs or articles that I have found for a specific assignment. Because it is a free tool, anyone can sign up for Trello, and you can share boards with others who have a Trello account. This makes organizing for group projects less daunting and provides a way for everyone in the group to track project progress in the same way.
At the beginning of each term, I refresh and get my Trello board organized so that I have an easy place to reference everything that I need to do for school, in order of due date, and I can plan what I’m going to do each day to make sure I get everything done on time. Staying organized, whether it’s using a bullet journal, or using an online tool like Trello, is one of the best ways to hack library school. Trello provides helpful articles and tips for getting started and using the tool, at https://help.trello.com/. If you use Trello or have other tips for staying organized, please share!