Finding Those Greener Pastures (Farewell)

For my final post at Hack Library School, I wanted to share some bits and pieces that I’ve gleaned during the incipient few years of my library career. Before I get started though I’d like to thank everyone–thank you to our loyal readers, and thank you to all of our contributing writers who continue to make HLS a success. It has been a privilege to work as this site’s Managing Editor for the past year, and I look forward to seeing how the site develops over the years. So, thank you all!

I am in a pretty good spot right now. I’m in a position that I wouldn’t have even dreamed of a year ago. I’m two weeks from graduating with my MLIS. I have a great job lined up that is basically exactly what I was looking for. I thought it might be a good time to think through how I got here.

One of the challenges that we face when we set out to become librarians is, well, figuring out just what type of librarian we want to be. I, and I think most people, have a good sense of what type of librarian we’d like to be when we enter library school. But, I, and again, I think many people, find their minds changing as they learn more about the field. For example, I came to library school with the sole intention of becoming an English literature subject specialist librarian. It seemed like the perfect fit given my background in the literary field. While the liaison and research aspects of being a subject specialist still very much appeal to me and I do hope to end up with those types of responsibilities, I’ve found myself on a different path for now though. I found that I actually really enjoyed cataloging, classification, metadata, and collection development. I also (re)discovered my love of computers and coding. And it worked out!

I have a job that combines all of those interests, and affords me the time and space to do some adjunct teaching of writing and literature classes if I feel that my life has become too devoid of literature. I ended up going that route because, more or less, my advisor recommended that I take a couple of tech-oriented courses. If I had told myself two years that I ended up enjoying coding in Python, learning SQL, and creating elaborate charts and graphs with Seaborn, I never would have believed it. Yet, here I am! Even the required courses in my program shaped my interests in ways I never would have imagined. Cataloging and classification, even though it was one of the most challenging classes I’ve taken, was also the most rewarding and personally engaging.

It’s important to remember that careers, especially ones in academia or the library world generally, are not linear. An MLIS is not a one-size-fits all kind of degree. It can be overwhelming when you’re presented with the myriad of options that an MLIS/MLS can afford you. Being open to experiences outside of the focus that brought you to library school is important. It is also very important to check in with yourself from time to time and make sure that you still agree with the decisions you’ve made that put you on the path that you’re on now. Ask yourself if you’ve gotten too far from your original vision. Are you happy with the changes you’ve made, or if you’ve strayed too far from your deepest passions? Trust your gut on these things. If you have to really work to convince yourself that you’re happy with the path you find yourself on, it might not be the right choice after all.

So stay in touch with yourself. Don’t feel boxed in by what other people, including your past self, tell you is the “best” path. Stay open to everything that your MLIS/MLS program can offer you, and, trust me, you will find yourself surprised in the best possible ways.


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