I was recently invited to attend a presentation by the Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden along with library directors from across Wyoming. She gave a lot of information on Library of Congress programs, but I continued to notice one specific topic. Throughout her presentation, Dr. Hayden referred to her mom, who was quietly sitting at the back of the room, whenever she mentioned support systems and those who helped her get to her current position.
Support systems and advocates have helped many of us get to where we are, yet we may not always see them there. Family and friends are usually at the top of the list. Personally, my parents have a vague understanding about what I do at work and only know that my library school program is “for work,” but they will always be there when I need a quick lunch or need some time away from my other responsibilities. A few of my friends from high school act as supports while we commiserate through our never-ending schooling while others are there whenever I need to vent. These important parts of my system receive thanks whenever they help in any way.
I seem to forget about educators, mentors, and supervisors when reflecting on my life. After being awarded the ALA Spectrum Scholarship, I received a voicemail and letter from my first grade teacher congratulating me on the scholarship thanks to a press release to the local newspaper. These individuals are there as we progress in our educational and professional studies. They shape our futures and guide us through tough decisions, yet I find it difficult and sometimes awkward to take a few seconds out of my day and thank them.
How do we work on building support systems in the limited time we have in school? I found this article to be a pretty succinct one about strengthen support systems, but a lot of that requires interpersonal communication, which can be difficult in a field filled with introverts. Do we put ourselves out there and expend valuable energy on building relationships and forging new connections? How can library students in rural communities find other professionals with similar interests? Unfortunately, there is no simple answer as we consider the unique positions we are all experiencing as we work towards our degrees.
One of my goals this school year is to thank members of my support system and work on building it up. Additionally, I need to become a better self-advocate and learn how to communicate my thoughts and feelings in both my personal and professional lives. I have also been answering more questions about my post-graduation plans, which has led me to look for individuals in the library and information science field who are working with underserved and underprivileged Spanish-speaking communities. REFORMA, specifically REFORMA Colorado’s conference and listserv, have been great opportunities to find ideas.
Sometimes our biggest supporters shout about us from the rooftops (or make sure you get a one-on-one photo with the Librarian of Congress), while others quietly make sure we are feeling our best by dropping off homemade baked goods after a bad day at work or in school. Thanks to all of you who help library school students make it through this journey, and to those fighting the good fight of library school, it will all eventually be worth it.
Conrrado is an online MLIS student at the University of Washington iSchool and an Adult Services Specialist at the Natrona County Library.