I will admit that writing this particular article was difficult for me as, after finishing my last class for the Fall semester, I went into my winter break feeling incredibly burned out and ready to have some time for myself in the absence of coursework to complete. In turn, while it was quickly approaching, my last semester in library school was on my mind, but not my main concern until now as I have mere weeks left until the semester (and the final countdown to graduation) begins. So, now, my days since the New Year began have focused on preparing for my final months in library school in some way as, while I have already completed quite a bit in terms of preparation, I still have quite a bit of preparation to do.
While I acknowledge that I have explored this topic before, it is always different when you are planning for your last semester early on in library school and when you are planning for your last semester weeks before it starts. Having put in two full years of hard work to get to this point, it has been an emotional journey for me in recent weeks to plan out my last semester since it has taken shape unlike what I had originally envisioned a little over six months ago when I was finalizing my course schedule for the Fall semester.
For example, this week, I prepared for orientation into a remote, not-for-credit metadata internship with the Law Library of Congress that, back last summer, was not on my radar as I was so focused on the internship opportunities my department offered that I did not consider getting experience elsewhere. So, my first recommendation for students who are nearing the end of their library school experience is to prioritize flexibility in your last semester as much as you realistically can; and anticipate planning ahead at least six months to a year in advance to achieve that. Since I acknowledge that every program structures their curriculum and subsequent culminating projects (if they are required) differently; and every student approaches their program differently depending on their professional and personal obligations, I know every student’s ability to be flexible may vary widely. So, do what works for you when it comes to figuring out how you can incorporate more flexibility into your last semester that may afford you the chance to participate in new professional opportunities that may help you achieve your ideal career (especially in less-than-ideal times like ours).
This is what happened to me as, since I had been afforded the opportunity to finish all of my required and elective courses ahead of my program’s culminating project and did not have to take any extra courses alongside my culminating project, that lack of extra coursework afforded me the flexibility to apply for and later accept my current internship; which I am incredibly grateful for. In turn, another recommendation I would make for students nearing graduation is to envision what they want their post-graduation life to be like. I acknowledge that this may be incredibly difficult to do given our ongoing pandemic, but it is important for you to stay as focused as realistically possible on the end goal of graduation; regardless if you have to take a break and return to library school later on to complete your program.
Doing this encouraged me to apply for my current internship as I recognized that it would provide me with (free!) experience with metadata I could apply to my future career and the internship did not require any previous experience with metadata in order to apply; which was helpful to me as I was unable to fit any courses focused on metadata into my schedule before running out (and over) my number of allotted units. So, I would definitely recommend taking the time when you can to reflect on your current skill set and completed courses, determine what you want your future career to look like, and how you may be able to achieve your ideal career in terms of pursuing professional opportunities and development going forward.
Thus, the last recommendation I would make for students preparing to tackle their last semester of library school is to prioritize good organizational and time management skills so you have more time to enjoy the last semester in your program. Having only my culminating project to complete in my last semester was a goal that served as a driving force in how I approached designing my course schedules through last semester; and it proved to be a tough goal to achieve. I had to take 9-10 units during the Fall and Spring semesters and 6 units during the summer to make this a reality on a roughly two-year timeframe while also taking all of the courses I wanted to take that I felt I could likely only take in library school as professional development courses can only cover so much; and I realized early on that I could only achieve this if I practiced good organizational and time management skills.
So, while I sometimes faltered in doing this in past semesters, I have ultimately learned from the mistakes I made in this respect leading up to now and do fully recognize that, by practicing good organizational and time management skills, more time will be available to me to apply for jobs and have time for myself to prevent burnout and reinforce my own personal boundaries this semester. For example, to stay organized, I have created different folders in my email management system to keep different internship- and course-related emails separate from my general inbox; which is an approach I have adapted to organize the work I completed in previous courses on my laptop for use in my culminating project, too, to save time later on.
Meanwhile, to practice good time management, I have begun loosely structuring the tentative workflow for my culminating project so I can better plan out my workdays and have enough time to work on both my internship and my culminating project with some time left over for myself. Additionally, once the semester starts, I plan on continuing to use a planner to keep track of weekly deadlines to ensure nothing gets overlooked between my internship, culminating project, and different volunteer opportunities I currently participate in within and outside of my department. In turn, despite all of the work I acknowledge I will have to do in the coming months to finish my degree, I am excited to start my last semester and look forward to seeing my preparation and hard work up to this point pay off; and despite current events, I am optimistic that a lot of good, positive things are ahead.