From Undergrad to Libraries

I’ve always considered my education to be fairly “traditional”: I graduated from high school, completed my bachelor’s degree in 4 years, and immediately started full-time graduate work at the University of Maryland the Fall semester after graduation. I knew graduate school was going to be a whole new ball game compared to my recently-completed undergraduate program. Between moving out-of-state, a brand-new class schedule, a graduate assistantship, and my library job, I knew many areas of my education would be different than before.

In the 3 months between graduating with my undergrad degree and sitting at graduate school orientation in late-August, I considered my path to graduate school immediately after undergrad to be pretty common. I wasn’t entirely wrong, but just in my first two semesters, I found myself exposed to a variety of paths to graduate school and the LIS field. Since then, I’ve been reflecting: how did my path take me to library school so soon after graduating? What factors helped me determine that going for my MLIS right after my bachelor’s was the right move for me?

To answer the first question: between various internships, papers, classes, and the thrill of finding my favorite study space, I found myself naturally gravitating towards the library during undergrad. In a way, I like to imagine that the long nights of studying and writing in the stacks brought me closer to the field. Even though I am unsure of where I want to take my MLIS, I possess some very vague goals and a general idea of what I want in a career and how I can contribute to the LIS field. At the same time, I left these goals and ideas open for exploration; I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I applied to UMD’s MLIS program and I find this journey to be a rewarding educational experience in itself.

For others, this may not be the case. In just my second semester, I’ve met peers who went to library school after starting their career in the LIS field. I’ve met others going back to school over a decade after entering another career field and have now joined this path. Meanwhile, others knew they wanted to pursue librarianship, but decided to wait a year or two after earning their bachelor’s. In the end, regardless of our paths and how we prepare for an LIS, we all have similar goals and intentions that brought us to our programs.

To tie up the latter question, here are some of the considerations I had before pursuing the next step in my education right after undergrad:

Timing

At this point in my life, my time is my own. Even though I want a career and a family in the future, I found myself fearing that if I waited to go back to school, the next degree would never happen. Further, after my rigorous undergrad career, I found myself craving for that busy student life and I knew I had the energy and motivation to complete everything now. I believe that going for one degree immediately after another was perfect for me in terms of timing and motivation in my education.

Location

Similar to some of my peers, I came into my MLIS with very little library experience. But after considering the career opportunities in this field, I decided to go all in. In all honesty, if I had not ended up at UMD, I may not have considered all of the opportunities that a LIS career can provide, especially in this geographic area. I’m a hop, skip, and jump away from Washington D.C. and within a train ride or driving distance of Baltimore, Annapolis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York City, and so on. Not to mention, I can easily travel back to my hometown for school breaks or weekends if I wanted to. This area not only provides hopeful job opportunities, but a comfort that I’m never far from home.

Desire to Lead

This factor has been a budding one over the years. Throughout undergrad, I held an executive board position in a student organization for three years and worked to plan several large, college-wide events. Even though I loved contributing to such projects, I found myself looking to be a leader through mentorship. I’ve been fortunate enough to be a mentor and a mentee throughout my education and, in my eyes, pursuing my MLIS at this time was a step towards giving back to others. Not only do I aspire to motivate future librarians; I strive to assist students with their life goals and help navigate their educational path. Regardless of where my degree takes me, I want to use my knowledge and experiences to mentor students. Whether they are interested in archives or museums or public libraries or data curation, I firmly believe that the best way to broaden the field is to encourage students and open their eyes to the possibilities. By deciding to pursue librarianship now, I can start developing a new side of leadership.

Personally, I don’t believe there is one correct answer for what brings each individual to library school, nor do I believe there is a single motivator for when we go for our degrees. Everyone’s journey is unique; it’s what shapes this field.

Pic: Photo by Jasmine Coro on Unsplash

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