Summer Break as a Time to Explore

Depending on your library school, you may already be mentally preparing to start classes or still have plenty of time to relax if your program is on the quarter system. You could even be taking advantage of the summer to get ahead on courses. Whatever the case may be, using this time to grow while we’re in a learning mindset is essential.

On a recent long vacation (staycation, mostly) immediately following ALA’s first virtual conference, I did my best to avoid accidentally working and limited checking school email to just a few times a week. Taking a step away from everything was the first step to refocus on school and all it entails.

Registration tends to sneak up on me every quarter, forcing me to quickly decide on which courses to take next. As Nick previously discussed, finding a concentration can be difficult when the balance of core and elective courses sways too much to one side. Further complicating this issue is the pandemic, and while I’m a firm advocate of online learning, it’s not for everyone and some conversations require a verbal communication instead of text-based discussion boards. Summer gives us time to check course schedules, plan for the future, and ask alumni and advisors about options. By taking time to figure out courses now, students can ensure that they’re getting the most out of their education and taking the best path to their futures.

Expanding on course readings is essential during this time. Many courses have too much ground to cover, which can leave students wishing for more information. I purchased “Cruising the Library: Perversities in the Organization of Knowledge” by Melissa Adler before taking courses on knowledge organization and cataloging, but never took the time to do a deep dive into this book. While I’m more familiar with the Dewey Decimal Classification than Library of Congress Classification, this book will shed more light on the troubled history of cataloging. I also need a reread of “With a Book in Their Hands: Chicano/a Readers and Readerships Across the Centuries” edited by Manuel M. Martín-Rodríguez. I first read it after starting at my library, but when I read it then, I didn’t have public library experience or LIS content to fully understand the book. In looking at social justice, acknowledging perspectives and experiences of underserved and underprivileged communities is vital to meet their needs.

This next option may not be viable until the coronavirus becomes a thing of the past, but visiting libraries outside of your geographic area can help spark ideas that will inform your future. Earlier this year, I was able to see two public libraries from a patron’s perspective, and another through a tour for those in the LIS field. Each visit created questions, answers, and understanding, particularly when envisioning how the community uses their libraries. User experience, design thinking, and signage are all topics library professionals will encounter at some point, and having a wide array of mental images will make the process easier to go through. Additionally, some libraries are offering virtual browsing. Depending on the library, patrons can select from covers on a website, or patrons can “call” staff via a video conferencing app staff browse the stacks for them. Take advantage of your student status to see if a virtual tour is an option while libraries work with reduced services.

Curiosity inside and outside of the classroom is key throughout the library school experience. Summer breaks can be a time for rest, but they can also be a time to expand your experience and explore the unknown. Take advantage of these months to ensure that your education fits your needs.

Conrrado is an online MLIS student at the University of Washington iSchool and an Adult Services Specialist at the Natrona County Library.

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

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