It’s official: my Spring 2020 semester has come to an end – and I am halfway through my MLIS! Along with navigating the murky middle that comes with the mid-point of my degree, like many students this semester, I experienced some drastic changes with my classes, campus life, and workplace due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For many of us, remote classes and work became the norm; it was something everyone figured out as it happened.
And for that, all students should be proud of their accomplishments.
Now that I am a little over two months into the remote work/school life and hitting the mid-point of my MLIS, what lessons have I learned and how can I incorporate some of them into the rest of my degree?
Setting Boundaries is Hard
I wear a number of hats at the University of Maryland: I’m a full-time MLIS student, a graduate assistant on campus, and a part-time library employee. I am incredibly fortunate to work both of my jobs from home during stay-at-home orders. But, the most challenging part of quarantine life has been setting the necessary boundaries between my assistantship, my library job, and schoolwork. On campus, I found it easier to “shift gears” between each part of my day, as everything was completed in different buildings and involved some sort of commuting. But, now that everything is being done at the same desk within the same four walls, knowing when to “shift gears” and finding a healthy balance between all components of my education is difficult to establish. After a long day of working one or two jobs, the last thing I want to do is keep sitting at my desk to tackle readings or work on a project. To overcome this challenge, I turned to my trusty Google calendar to schedule blocks of time to work on assignments: one hour for one set of class readings, another hour to brainstorm and draft a paper, and a bigger block of time for research and writing. I definitely plan to continue this practice over the summer.
Be Open to Exploring
Even though I don’t plan on graduating from my MLIS program until next spring, I’ve been taking some time to consider what may be available in the job market over the next several months. On top of the dismal predictions of library jobs in the near future, I’ve been considering a number of jobs outside of the traditional LIS field that Lauren recently wrote about. As I still have no idea what I want to do with my degree, this feels like a great time to explore non-traditional career paths for a librarian. On top of that, I’m looking to tailor the some of my remaining coursework to explore the metadata and technology-side of libraries, which is something I would not have considered a few months ago…stay tuned to see where all of this ends up!
Find the Little Ways to Communicate With Others
With the transition to remote school and work, communication with supervisors, instructors, classmates, and friends turn out to be even more important. While two of my three classes this past semester became asynchronous with the switch to online learning, my third class ran synchronously and included breakout room discussions each week. Even after working long days, I looked forward to attending this class every week and discussing course material with my classmates. It not only allowed me to see some folks outside of those I’m living with, but it also broke up the some of the isolation from my asynchronous classes. On top of virtual happy hours and Facetime calls with my friends outside of school, finding small ways to continue socializing and communication has been beneficial with getting through quarantine life.
Be Flexible and Cut Yourself Some Slack
This was a rough semester for everybody. As I wrote a couple of months ago, it’s okay to not be at your most-productive levels. You really don’t want to edit your paper immediately after working an 8-hour day? Give it a couple of hours, or wait until the morning to edit (trust me, your paper isn’t going anywhere…and the same thing goes for class readings!). When you feel yourself draining, or simply trying to find a way to keep yourself sane, it might be time to step away for a bit to collect your thoughts and energy as needed. Remember, in the end, everything will get done.
Sarah is an MLIS student at the University of Maryland, College Park. Outside of school and work, you can find her constantly drinking coffee and binge-reading her TBR list.