One of the best parts of being in library school while working in a library has been using my job to complete assignments. These real applications helped me be better at my job and allowed me to get a better grasp on school concepts. Yet, when it was time to find a capstone project, my ideas for a project in my community ran dry.
Capstone came as no surprise. When I was first looking at library schools about four years ago, I saw that a capstone was the final requirement to finish the program at the University of Washington. Then, at orientation before starting the program, capstone was mentioned at least twice a day. Like Joanne, I had also been thinking about capstone ideas over the summer, hoping that something would spark my interest. The University of Washington provides plenty of project opportunities with longstanding partner organizations. From projects at the university’s libraries and museums to projects where students are employed, almost any idea and information need can be shaped into a capstone. Do I want to step out of my comfort zone and work with data? Or maybe venture into the youth services area that is still foreign to me. What about something not limited to the confines of my small community?
It wasn’t until mid-November that I realized just how close capstone deadlines were looming. Always willing to brainstorm, my coworkers suggested reaching out to local museums, genealogy groups, the Chamber of Commerce, and the academic library up the road. All of these ideas would ultimately benefit our community, as the organizations all provide some type of service that can be used by the public. They would also take me outside of my public library mindset and force me into a new experience that would allow me to develop new skills. Yet, nothing caused excitement or sparked sudden late night research to learn more about the topic.
My library’s director sent me an idea that hadn’t even had a chance to make it to the back burner because of other projects and the pandemic. Research, community engagement, the outdoors, and looking for partnerships were all within this idea. To add to it, this idea actually made me excited to start the capstone process. If implemented after the project’s scope, it would even be something that I would use. Why shouldn’t I be excited to work on a large project? I had convinced myself that capstone needed to be a serious endeavor that wrapped all of my coursework into a single project.
While looking back at how I ended up trying to find a project at the last minute, I also realized that developing a capstone required a large amount of creativity. Throughout undergrad and library school, my better assignments have had clear parameters that required very little creativity. Assignments that required alternate presentation formats outside of a standard paper tended to take longer to complete and needed more mental effort to accomplish. For this final project, I almost wish that an ePortfolio was an option, as that seems to require less creativity to accomplish.
This year has been absolutely terrible for many of us, and completing the first step in my capstone project gives me hope that there is in fact a light at the end of the tunnel. Finding excitement in my project (or Joanne finding fun in hers) makes all the difference. If you’re currently working on a capstone project, what made you realize that you had finally found a project?
(And for those wondering what my project is, I can’t officially say just yet, but the cover image for this article is a clue!)
Conrrado is an online MLIS student at the University of Washington iSchool and an Adult Services Specialist at the Natrona County Library.