Five (Big Picture) Tips for First-Year Library Students

When you’re caught up in the minutiae of graduate school, remember the big picture. That’s the most critical lesson I learned during my first year of library school. For me, this meant keeping my professional goals at the forefront of my mind. With long-term intention influencing my daily outlook, I challenged myself to focus on my career as a future information professional even as I enjoyed my role as a student.

Now I’m thinking about incoming library students. With so many demands placed on new students, it can be difficult to focus on those long-term goals from the outset. If you’re planning to attend a graduate library program in the coming months, I have a few (hopefully encouraging!) tips to help you focus your energy.

These are my five (big picture) tips for first-year library students.

Build relationships

Grad school is about networking. From day one of your program, you’ll have opportunities to start building relationships with your professors, professionals in your field, and your future colleagues. Challenge yourself to make connections and meet new people. It’s not as intimidating as it seems! Start building your network now.

Your peers are also part of your network, professional and personal. Make an effort to get to know your cohort, whether in person or online. Your peers can be an excellent source of support, ideas, encouragement, advice, and connection.

Get involved

The first step to networking is getting involved. Thankfully, library school offers us countless opportunities for professional and personal development. Take the time to join a student group, volunteer for a committee, or attend events. Library school is the perfect time to gain experience contributing to professional organizations.

Go to conferences – and present your ideas!

As you hone your own leadership skills, take the opportunity to learn from experts in the field by attending conferences. Experiencing a library conference as a student is energizing and inspiring. It’s a chance to see all the trends you’ve been reading about put into practice. You’ll learn, you’ll network, and you’ll be reminded why you love libraries.

Consider presenting your own ideas and/or research at a conference. Your voice and ideas are welcome! You have something to say, something to share. As a student, you have a unique perspective and your contribution to the field is beneficial for everyone. Take a seat at the table, and share your own thoughts.   

Step outside your comfort zone

Speaking of presenting at conferences… getting outside your comfort zone in grad school is essential. This is me, encouraging you to apply for that job that you don’t think you’ll get, to step up and lead that organization, and to share your excellent ideas even if you’re nervous. Imposter syndrome has a funny way of keeping us back from fully expressing ourselves. If you take anything in this post to heart, take this thought with you: You can do all the things.

Take care of you

There will be times, however, when what you need is to step back and take care of yourself. Please prioritize yourself. Your mental and physical health are important. Your life cannot be lived to its fullest if you are not taking care of yourself consistently. Be kind to yourself, and celebrate small victories.

What are your best tips for new library students? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!


Katelyn Sabelko is an MA student in the iSchool at UW-Madison. She currently works at Edgewood College in the Oscar Rennebohm Library. She keeps busy as cochair of the WLA Student Interest Group and secretary for the ALA Student Chapter at UW-Madison. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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