Flexibility, or What Happens When Your Best Laid Plans Fall Apart

There is no class on it, it isn’t one of the ALA’s core values, and there aren’t many professional development opportunities focused on it solely. But, flexibility is a key to success in any MLS program, as well as in any career in information science; and flexibility is at the forefront of my brain for many reasons.

My most recent post for HLS discussed my emerging interest in medical librarianship and how my MLS program was developing a related concentration that I hoped to add to my degree. However, since writing that, those plans have fallen apart. While I was initially frustrated, I quickly came to realize that this unexpected development wasn’t the roadblock I had at first imagined. Rather, this development challenged me to reconsider what exactly what I want my MLS to mean and how I can best spend my last semester in the program. Here are three thoughts I’ve had about being flexible that I wanted to share as it relates to being an MLS student:
Focus on your skills and knowledge, not necessarily what “formal” qualifications your transcript indicate
When talking to my advisor about whether or not to jump through all the hoops to get the concentration, she reminded me of what is really important once I graduate – the actual classes I have taken and the skills I have gained working in a library. She also told me to think about whether I could achieve my goals without the concentration on my transcript. With some reflection, I realized that I could and, in wanting to get the concentration on my transcript, I was overlooking all the skills and knowledge I already had.
Take a setback as an opportunity to discover new areas and dig deeper into older ones
With the concentration off the table, I had to think about what my final semester in my MLS program would look like. Would I find ways to dig deeper into my interests in health librarianship, or would I take this final opportunity to explore a new arena? Ultimately, I decided to jump into a new area of librarianship and will be taking a class in archives and special collections when the fall semester starts in a few weeks. Even though I have an undergraduate degree in history, my library science interests were never in archives. But this fall, due to what I initially saw as a setback, I will get to learn more about this subset of the information science world.
Think about the future
Imagining myself in 5, 10 years was key to me focusing on being flexible and open to new opportunities. Like my advisor asked me, what’s important now and what’s going to be important after graduation? This forced me to take on a new perspective and really focus on what I needed, what I wanted, and how to achieve it.
There are tons of cliches in the English language for setbacks and the need for flexibility. “Every rose has its thorns”, “All’s well that ends well”, and “It’s always darkest before the dawn” are just three that came to mind with very little thought as I was writing this post. I hope that my thoughts and my reflections doesn’t come off like those phrases. Rather, I hope to honor the pain that can come from setbacks and plan for the positive outcomes that might come from such a setback. Only with that mindset can obstacles become signposts on the journey to success.

Photo by Haste LeArt V. from Pexels


Nick Dean is a second-year master’s student in the School of Library and Information Management (SLIM) at Emporia State University. Nick currently works full-time as an academic advisor at a medical school and as a part-time employee at a medical library, both in the Kansas City metro.

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