As the 2018-2019 school year draws to a close, use these words of wisdom in the form of horoscopes as advice to inspire you as you continue toward the finish line. If you haven’t started school yet, get ready! If you’re taking summer classes, then more power to you! Good luck, and best wishes in library school and beyond!
The advice below was gathered from over 70 individuals from across the library and information science field. See the Acknowledgements section for details.
Note: This horoscope is designed to be an entertaining and fun way to deliver advice for MLIS students. In accordance with astrology folklore, start by checking your sun sign, based on your birthday listed below. If you were born on the 20th or 21st, overlapped by two signs, that is called a “cusp” and you should read both signs. You can also check your rising sign (sometimes called an “ascendant”) and moon sign for additional insight.
Aries (March 20-April 21)
Key Concepts: ambition, success, new job, new opportunity, patience, perseverance
- A little planning and preparation goes a long way.
- Librarianship is a very practical profession and employers are looking for examples of skills and knowledge. These skills can be acquired through volunteer experiences or internships; for those already working in libraries whose current positions do not offer experiences with what they may need for a future job, don’t be afraid to express your desire to learn those new skills with your manager – you never know what could come from it.
- Find out what your strengths are and make a list of them. If you are unsure of your strengths, try everything you think you might be interested in, and pursue as much work experience as your schedule will allow. Get as much help as you can from school services and mentors, and go to events, lectures, and workshops (as long as you can fit them in without overwhelming yourself). Then re-group and follow your interests.
- It’s likely that your career objectives will not stay static. Keep an open mind, and don’t be afraid of a road less traveled or subfields that are competitive, just make sure you cultivate the skills that will make you a strong candidate. Be open to discovering career paths you didn’t know existed. Build expertise in areas that can be applied broadly in libraries, like systems analysis, project management, team leadership, customer service, technology, etc. Look beyond libraries for inspiration and resources as well.
- After graduation, you will be more successful in your job search if you are open to relocating to a variety of places (rather than limiting yourself). Your first job may not be in a perfect location or exactly what you’d hope to be doing, but after you have some work experience you’ll have more options for moving to a more desirable location for a more desirable job. And remember, in finding a job, experience is MUCH more important than GPA.
- Find people who can critically engage in equity and ethical issues in libraries, archives, information, museums, and data. Look at your class reading lists: if you see mostly white, cis, and hetero men, that’s a signal for alarm. If you feel safe doing so, challenge your instructors to include more diverse voices. Read queer women of color. Eat often, sleep often, rest, have fun, find your people, support each other, and don’t worry too much about the grade. (See a list of readings and resources for approaching topics in diversity, equity, and inclusion.)
Taurus (April 20-May 21)
Key Concepts: future-oriented, innovation, speaking up, entrepreneurship, study, self-reflection
- Remember that libraries are places where knowledge is created, not just stored.
- Stay open-minded to new ideas, concepts, opportunities, and topics that may not have interested you before library school.
- Build relationships with your faculty, advisors, and employers. Find mentors!
- Get a library job while you’re in school. Do as many internships as you can. You will learn so much more by doing the work than you will in any class. Employers don’t care about your grades half as much as they care about what you actually know how to do. Also, if you get good at cataloging you’ll never go hungry. (Take all the cataloging courses that are offered regardless of your focus.)
- If the part-time, library-related job you have in grad school is not teaching you what you want or need to learn, find a new one and quit the old one (note the order there…). It is much more valuable that you have a shorter amount of relevant experience than a longer amount of experience that doesn’t apply to the work you want to do.
- Seek leadership opportunities and take any chance to exercise your leadership skills – like any skill, you have to actively work if you want to grow as a leader. Having the skills to support and encourage others through empathetic leadership are key to community engagement, co-worker cohesion, and movement in the workplace.
- If you are a white person pursuing a library degree, be sure you are fully willing to step up and examine your own racism, talk about it with your white colleagues, and make a fuss about it in your institutions. Do not expect your colleagues of color to do this work or wait for others to do it. If you enter this profession as a white person not doing this work, you will actively be creating harm and enforcing white supremacy culture in a profession that is already very entrenched in it. You cannot do good as a white person in libraries if you are not actively resisting cultures of whiteness and racism! (See a list of readings and resources for approaching topics in diversity, equity, and inclusion.)
Gemini (May 20-June 21)
Key Concepts: dreams, talents, resources, partnerships, communication, truth
- Stay focused on your end goals. Become active in professional organizations. Take advantage of opportunities provided at your school.
- When it comes to group work, don’t be afraid to take charge. Get in touch with group members way ahead of time. Get everyone’s phone number up front. Work in collaborative platforms like Google Docs and Trello. Build in earlier deadlines so you’re not scrambling at the last minute. Consider the following steps for group assignments:
- Look at the expected deliverable/assignment ahead of time
- Plan out meeting schedule and logistics for the assignment
- Establish roles and decision making process
- Have one document that contains the plan and all relevant group info (names, contact, who will do what, meeting times, etc.)
- Set internal deadline for review before turning in the final product
- If working online, whoever turns in the assignment should take a screenshot to prove the assignment was turned in, and share with the group.
- Network!! Work on building professional and support networks outside of your institution. If you are interested in doing social justice and decolonization work, you will likely find your true professional family outside of your program institution, so work to find your mothership wherever they are. Engage in research! Research is a great way to meet people and develop skills that will help you in and out of academic contexts as an information/memory worker. Research can be really empowering and all info/memory workers should be able to navigate the process from experience to help collaborators and users.
- Do not be shy about contacting people in the field who have jobs and/or careers that you think are interesting; set up informational interviews to learn more about their career trajectories and to help with building your network. Be willing to move to different geographic locations (if you can) in order to build the career you want. When applying for jobs, don’t worry that you may not have experience with every area listed in the job description; nobody will. The search committee will be looking for applicants who possess some experience in many of the areas listed in the position description, but they are also looking for someone who shows the promise for growth. When preparing for an interview, practice your answers aloud until you can respond in a natural way; if you have a presentation as well, practice, practice practice. Take advantage of getting a mentor, either in the workplace or with a professional organization. When you think you have enough career experience, it’s also a great thing to be a mentor to those who are just joining the field.
- And FYI, you do not need to be a master computer programmer to be an academic librarian. Do not believe the myth.
Cancer (June 20-July 21)
Key Concepts: technology, working remotely, time management, health, self-care, foundations
- There is power in routine. Keep a schedule. In the words of Denzel Washington, “Anything you practice you’ll get good at…”
- Make a plan to study and stick to it. REALLY stick to it! The course load can be heavy and nothing really prepares you for that. Manage your time accordingly.
- Make sure you learn basic things, such as cataloging or processing. Take your time, and get as much work experience as you can prior to graduation. If you get out of grad school and do not have experience in the field, it may take longer for you to get a job.
- Consider getting on-call positions in as many libraries as possible. You will be able to gain experience, meet lots of people, and ultimately get your foot in the door at a library where you want to work permanently.
- You will learn nothing unique or unusual in your library school classes. These classes will not unlock secret librarian knowledge that will give you an advantage over your future coworkers. Rather, focus on connection-building and internship/job seeking. Build that resume!! Join as many professional organizations as you can fit into your day, attend professional networking events, get to know your professors and ask who they know, and talk to others in the field. Also, if you hope to be successful in networking during your graduate program, you must play nice with your colleagues and peers. This community is more tight-knit than you can imagine. It’s a small world and you will run into your peers again in the future.
- If you’re interested in library technology, try to develop some basic skills with web programming languages such as Ruby or Python, even if your MLIS program doesn’t offer those classes. There are free online resources you can use (such as Code School). As a way of developing those skills, try to find some library-related data sources and do something fun or interesting to demonstrate the potential of applying these technologies in a library setting. It may come in handy during job interviews and/or just as a source of inspiration.
Leo (Jul 20-August 21)
Key Concepts: change, leadership, opportunities, sharing, listening, confidence
- Keep a growth mindset. Remember that struggle leads to learning and personal growth.
- Try a little sample of everything! It will be a lot of fun and make you a strong candidate in a tight job market. Be open to learning new things and making a wide network of mentors. If you have a chance to pursue opportunities in other veins like government, customer service, technology, or the non-profit sector, that also could be wildly helpful. Keep an open mind. Libraries are rapidly changing bodies in a world that never looks the same from one day to the next. What librarianship is in this very moment will be gone in a flash. Be comfortable with that!
- Take as many classes as you can with adjunct working librarians and archivists. It will help you continue to build a professional network outside of school.
- For academic librarian types or even folks unsure of where they want to go: present, present, present! Grad school is the perfect time to go to conferences through a scholarship/travel grant, and network with your peers. Many institutions actively seek student applicants at conferences. It can be uncomfortable to do this on your own, so feel free to buddy up if you need the support. Your peers will be your collaborators for the rest of your career. Now is a great time to start building those relationships.
- Get involved in libraries during or before grad school. Whether that’s an internship, volunteering, or working in an entry-level position–it all counts and will make it easier to get hired afterwards. Be adept with changing technologies. The methodology of learning and managing change is more important than the methodology of using a particular tool. Be multilingual if possible. Develop cultural intelligence and an equity lens on everything. Be kind to people without housing and think about how to best serve them in a library setting. Be aware of the opioid crisis and how it affects libraries. Be proactive about learning everything you can about the organization you want to work at. Read board meeting minutes and strategic plan, attend board meetings and library events, study the statistical reports. Think of job research as another grad level course. Good luck! It’s an amazing profession and we need new perspectives brought on board.
Virgo (August 20-September 21)
Key concepts: relax, breathe, personal happiness, prepare, expansion, inner peace
- If you have a specific passion or interest in the field, follow it and take the courses that fulfill this. Listen to yourself and trust yourself.
- Work experience is always more impressive than the MLIS degree. Make sure you’re taking every internship, practicum, or volunteer opportunity that you can. Be a sponge! Ask lots of questions!
- If you are feeling overwhelmed in school, remember it’s okay to say “no” to some opportunities; better things often come around again, at a time that may be more convenient to you.
- For academics or those who may be interested, turn class projects into research opportunities. If your school offers a research methods class, take it. This will be the foundation for your work. If your school doesn’t offer one, make the suggestion for the future and take methods in another graduate program like Education or Sociology. Every large-scale project you do for course credit has the potential to be research. You can talk to your instructors about how to go about doing that. Partner up with someone if you are not comfortable going it alone. Research is one feature that tends to separate candidates from their peers in the job search process.
- Try to take out the least amount of loans possible. Everyone’s situation is different, but many schools have a flat rate for credits above a certain limit. If you can even do one semester making the most of that flat rate, it could save you thousands of dollars. Use your school’s writing center at least once. Try to get teaching experience of any kind, as well as course/workshop design and leadership. Take a research course in quantitative & qualitative methods. Think about how you can turn your course work (i.e. papers/projects) into potential articles for publication. Computer literacy skills (data manipulation, programming, data visualization, etc.) are useful. People skills are useful. When it comes time to interview:
- Restate question to make sure you understand it/buy yourself some quick thinking time;
- Make your points using transition/sign-posting words such as first, second, next, finally; and end with a brief summation of main points or takeaways. This pattern is useful because it makes it easy on your interviewers to capture your important points, it makes you sound put together, and it indicates when you are done speaking.
- Have more questions prepared than you think you need.
- Remember, you are interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you.
Libra (September 20-October 21)
Key Concepts: start local, word of mouth, enthusiasm, balance, community, creativity
- Don’t let the “perfect” be the enemy of the “good.” Know your strengths and areas of passion – these make you unique and help guide you toward the field you want to enter. Do your best but know you can’t be perfect. This is a time for learning and improving your skill set. Employers will not care about your class grades, just that you have the degree. If something amazing in life interferes with attending a class, “use the tickets”!
- Having work experience before or during your ALA-accredited master’s degree is more important to employers than which institution you studied at, whether you attended in person or online, and what grades you got.
- Get involved with professional association committees in your area. There’s always a need for help, and it’s an excellent way to gain experience, network, develop, and demonstrate your skill set. Volunteer or get a job or internship in the kind of library in which you want to work, and talk to your colleagues about what a typical day looks like, the opportunities they get for pursuing their own interests, and the expectations they as professionals are held to. There is no substitute for experiencing what working in a library is really like.
- If you know what area of librarianship you want to work in (i.e. Digital Libraries), complete every assignment possible through that lens. Assigned to write a collection development policy? Write one for a digital library. Assigned to read an article of your choice? Read one on digital libraries. This way you’ve familiarized yourself with your chosen field and can hit the ground running.
- For those of you with varying interests having trouble deciding on a focus, consider rural librarianship! Being a Jack or Jill of all trades is definitely an asset in small communities where you can make a tremendous impact.
- You get out of school what you put into it. Use it as a time to learn about every kind of librarian, every kind of work there is, and what suits you. Get a broad base of skills that can be massaged into a large number of different jobs. Read job postings in the area/field that you’re interested in, and start doing self-directed projects to get you there. Read “Reaching The Baseline: A professional’s perspective on Technical Competencies for Library Students” by Cas Laskowski (Journal of Academic Librarianship – [use your institution’s journal database to access it]) to get a few ideas of what you can do. A candidate that has examples of their skills is stronger than one who just says they took a class. Remember, librarians are a helpful bunch, so you can ask to interview a few in your area and get their advice. It’s a kind of networking only students can do, so take advantage of it.
- If an opportunity or a project you heard about isn’t being delivered to you, chase it. Initiative can go a long way.
Scorpio (October 20-November 21)
Key Concepts: luck, leadership, clarity, exploration, discovery, compassion
- Read each syllabus for all of your classes and map out assignments and due dates ahead of time – consider using tools like Trello to keep yourself organized. Be prepared, and don’t overwork yourself. Self care is key.
- Take as many practically-based classes as possible, especially in areas where you don’t have experience–they’ll help a lot! If you can, take an internship–if you’re already working in a library, consider interning somewhere completely different. If you’re not working in a library, an internship is really useful. Not only will it give you practical experience, but it will also allow you to find what you are and aren’t interested in!
- Once you’ve identified the area of focus in which you are most interested, start reviewing employment requirements now, noting the qualifications for positions you are interested in. Study in your field accordingly, but look to other concentrations to provide depth. Courses in administration, computer language, media applications, and the like will provide flexibility and awareness in the work setting and will prepare you to maximize your effectiveness.
- Applying for jobs during grad school has a similar workload to taking a class. If you can, make your final term a little lighter to absorb the time you will need for writing good applications.
- Find areas you are passionate about. Understand that libraries are changing and some courses may unexpectedly turn out to be more relevant than others. Push the envelope in class discussions. Raise questions about the social and ethical dimensions. If you have experience in retail, sales, or customer service, don’t discount that. Maintain connections with library school colleagues. Don’t be afraid to share the work you do for school projects more widely. You put the effort into it, you might as well share it outside of the classroom, if possible. Join niche library associations and attend their conferences. Their small, specialized nature makes networking a bit less intimidating. Remember, librarians are generally wonderful people. I knew I was in the right place when I attended my first library conference and everyone at my lunch table shared their desserts with me. I always remember that when I interview places, ask questions, or randomly email librarians out of the blue. There are some pretty cool jobs out there, i.e. wine bibliographers and botanical garden librarians. It’s a pretty diverse field.
Sagittarius (November 20-December 21)
Key Concepts: aim high, public-facing, flexibility, peace of mind, approachable, reliable
- A first impression is important.
- Take every course you can on diversity, inclusion, accessibility, and engagement. No matter where you end up professionally, you will always use skills and insights gained from these courses. (See a list of readings and resources for approaching topics in diversity, equity, and inclusion.)
- Pay extra special attention to the project management course work, as project management concepts will be useful to you no matter what you end up doing after school. Your group projects are a pretty good indicator of the different personality types and interpersonal relations that you will encounter in your jobs. Research how to rejoice in and/or resolve situations you may experience in your group work. Celebrating is also important.
- Learn to use technology and, at the same time, understand that technology changes very quickly, so be prepared to keep up.
- You may want to reconsider this field if you don’t like technology or working with people. Your whole job is/will be people — maybe not the public, but your colleagues, your boss, your funders, etc. So much of what we do is collaborative…communicating with your colleagues is very important. It’s very, very rare that someone comes out of grad school with no work experience and no connections and just cannonballs into a library community and gets a job. That said, to make connections as a student you can get an internship or volunteer, or join local library/archive/museum groups. If your city has a branch of an organization that does the work you want to do, sign up and go to their meetings! See if your school has a discounted membership program or if the organization offers a student membership.
- If you get a job in a well-funded library, you will probably be expected to travel. You will be expected to go to conferences, represent your library well, and bring back vital information for your organization. Prepare yourself to avoid getting jet lag.
Capricorn (December 20-January 21)
Key Concepts: try a new approach, take concrete actions, passion, purpose, partnership, fun
- There’s no one right answer.
- Be flexible. Librarianship is changing constantly. To stay above water:
- Be current with the various social media tools.
- Gain understanding of and experience with diversity and its importance in modern library service.
- Improve your instruction/teaching skills (even just one-on-one reference is instruction).
- Make a point to check in with your advisor at least once a year to make sure you are on track to graduate. Keep track of your credits and how many you need each term. Nobody will reach out to you with this information, so you’ll need to be aware.
- Make professional development a priority while you are still in school. Seek out as many internships and volunteer opportunities as you can handle, because you need as much hands-on experience as possible to be competitive once you graduate. Be willing to create your own opportunities, too. If there is an area of librarianship you are particularly interested in, look into organizations/companies that do that work and volunteer to help with information-related tasks. This is an opportunity to show initiative, build your professional network, and gain skills.
- Find people, classes, and schools that will teach you practical things to do in real life. Join a club and become the president/chair/facilitator. Keep in touch with people you can use as references for the next few years. Advocate for yourself, but also be humble and open to learning. Remember that an MLIS is a minimum qualification, and that means you might need to have more than the minimum under your belt to get the position you want. Librarianship can be stressful, so start planning ahead on methods to combat stress that work for you.
- Explore classes outside of your area of expertise. Having various skills in different areas of librarianship will allow you to apply to many different jobs if the dream job you wish to have is not available. And who knows, you might end up discovering you are passionate about other things along the way.
- If you go through library school and learn that librarianship is for the birds, don’t worry – there are a lot of transferable skills you learn through this education and this work. Any librarianship group on Facebook has a number of threads about finding non-library employment.
Aquarius (January 20-February 21)
Key Concepts: teamwork, online, digital, philosophy, iterations, courage
- Email all of your professors at the beginning of each term to introduce yourself.
- Make sure you have a great program advisor. If you feel like your program advisor isn’t doing their part, ask for a new person (someone who aligns with your goals). A great advisor will make sure you don’t waste time taking unnecessary courses and will make sure you are prepared to transition out of library school. And of course, enjoy getting your MLIS!
- Don’t get into libraries because you “love books/reading.” It’s ok to love books and reading but if that is the only reason you are thinking about an MLIS, be aware that Libraries and Librarians are so much more than that and there is no such thing as “reading all day” when you’re a librarian. Look at an MLIS as a way to advance your advocacy skills and a way to learn how to help your community and patrons.
- Try to get experience in a library while you’re working on your degree. Pick up a part time job, volunteer, or ask librarians to shadow them! Get as much practical experience as possible during your degree work.
- Intern or volunteer at a local library where you would like to work. Build resume experience in reference services (which is changing rapidly) through virtual reference services (which you can sometimes volunteer for). Blog or create public social media posts on current issues in library information science; do not pretend that “neutrality” is an option under the current federal administration. Collaborate with other library students, and do informational interviews with professionals across the library world (academic, public, special, school, corporate). If you are headed into public libraries, be ready for maker’s spaces, virtual information services and one-on-one tech instruction, as well as a high level of social work and houselessness services in bigger city libraries.
- A program is only as good as the energy you put into it: attitude, initiative, and decisiveness go a long way to determine what you will get out of a program. It may feel weird to ask for what you need and to approach strangers to benefit your career, but DO IT. Most librarians want to talk to you and support you in this endeavor.
Pisces (February 20-March 21)
Key Concepts: humanitarian, luck, self-esteem, hidden treasure, understanding, humor
- Don’t let your empathy drain you. Be a source of counsel and comfort to others, but also remember that you have the right to say no, step back, and put yourself first.
- For dealing with emotional labor and mental load:
- Support networks are really important.
- Venting to colleagues that you work with sometimes doesn’t really help, rather it can heighten others’ emotions and add stress to the situation. If you need to vent, talk to someone you don’t work with.
- Establish and uphold firm boundaries.
- Practice mindfulness and being present in the moment.
- Not every opportunity is an opportunity. You deserve to pick and choose, and not be told that you should take any chance you get because you are a new professional. If you decide to work in an academic library for your first job, do not settle for anything less than 50k salary.
- Take the instruction class, or the instructional design class. Even if you’re going into public librarianship, you’ll still need the background covered in instruction. All librarians are instructors at some level.
- Having a degree is great, but it won’t get you very far unless you have some relevant job skills under your belt. Try to make every job you have relevant to the job you want to have someday, in some way. Work on your soft skills. Send thank-you notes. Keep in touch with former professors and supervisors. Be humble, but don’t be afraid to go after what you want. Maintain an ethos of fearlessness.
- Try to dip your toes into everything. Experience is everything when you’re looking for jobs; though coursework is certainly important, many employers will focus on your actual on-the-job experience when considering you for a position.
- Get to know the library landscape and your fellow students! Look for library-related meetups, student groups, or professional groups. Connecting with people in person is invaluable for networking, learning about job/intern/program opportunities, and gathering insight about the library landscape and your field of interest. Connect with fellow students. This is particularly invaluable if you are in an online program. I met a dear friend of mine at an in-person new student orientation. We exchanged numbers, became texting study buddies, and grew into close friends even though we’ve only met up in person a handful of times. She was an invaluable support and source of advice and commiseration to me through my online MLIS program.
Horoscope inspiration from:
Over 70 individuals in the library and information science field contributed to the advice in this blog. Many thanks to:
- Yen Tran, San Jose State University
- Shea Swauger, Auraria Library
- Mike Henderson
- Kelly Stormking
- Reed Garber-Pearson
- Elizabeth Gushee, University of Miami Libraries
- Lisa, Emporia State University
- Holly Polivka, Tigard Public Library
- Andy Ashton, Vassar College
- Ashley Folgate, Salem Public Library
- Aisha Conner-Gaten, she/her, Academic Librarian
- Adrienne Doman Calkins, Sherwood Public Library, member of WCCLS
- Kelly Stormking
- Glenn Koelling, University of New Mexico
- Kevin Hawkins https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2912-8038, University of North Texas
- Elizabeth La Beaud, University of Southern Mississippi/ Mississippi Digital Library
- Amy Hutchinson
- Joy Marie Perrin
- Kris Ashley
- Stacy Brody https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2817-3849
- Kelly Stormking
- Karen Carter
- Melina Zavala
- Symphony, American University
- Emily Petersen
- Sarah Clarke https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0016-6671, National Library of Medicine
- Ismoon Hunter-Morton
- Kirsten Brodbeck-Kenney, Driftwood Public Library, and Sarah Strahl, Salem Public Library
- John Schoppert, Columbia Gorge Community College
- Paije Wilson