The Time Has Come for Reflection: Final Thoughts on my MLIS Journey (Farewell Post)

Over the past 16 months as a contributing writer and community manager, I found myself in a new world of librarianship that I didn’t know existed. From my very first article in January 2020 about new semester goals to my most recent article about promoting your soft skills in the LIS job market (with a pandemic thrown in there), my goal all along has been to share my grad school journey – and help others along the way.

Around this time 3 years ago, I started seriously considering graduate school in order to work in an archive or a museum. Being that I just graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I also aimed for a graduate degree that was completed primarily in-person.

Long story short, I ended up at the University of Maryland, which turned out to be the only library graduate program I applied for. Sitting at orientation, I was still aiming for that archival curriculum and taking as many in-person classes as possible. Obviously, the pandemic defeated most of those intentions, and, like many students, I finished out the last two-thirds of my MLIS online. 

In all seriousness, I was truly winging it when I started my MLIS. Similar to Alyssa, I had practically no library experience when I started my degree. I had some background in archival work but had no idea what being a librarian or an information professional entailed. More than once in my time on HLS, I wrote how I didn’t know what to do with my degree or that I was exploring career opportunities with classes and remote internships. It was not until halfway through my program when I realized how much I enjoyed working with legal information. Whether it was researching local laws, collating metadata of congressional records for digitization, or writing a legal framework for accessibility on social media (shout out to INST 725 at UMD), law and libraries crossover in so many ways. This is a part of librarianship that I am passionate about.

Looking back, I realize how far I have come from that wide-eyed, confused undergraduate student to a (hopeful) future law librarian. But when reflecting on that journey, I realize how privileged I have been in that time:

It was a privilege to explore possible careers and take on unpaid internships while in grad school. 

It was a privilege to primarily work from home since March 2020 and to be safe on campus when I worked on-site. 

It was a privilege to have the technology and financial means to keep taking grad classes remotely.

It was a privilege to come to graduate school when I did in the first place.

Grad school is not for the faint of heart, but if I had to do my MLIS again, I would not wing like I did. As grateful as I am that this journey worked out in the end, I know how much of a role privilege played. Words cannot describe how fortunate and privileged I have been with getting this degree.

With that being said, I know my journey in library school will not come to a complete end. As I have written in (several) cover letters at this point, my role as an information professional is to serve a resource for patrons in any institution I find myself working in, especially in those non-traditional library jobs that Lauren graciously wrote about over the last year. But my goal is to also apply this role to current and future library students: from here on out, consider me a resource. Whether you find yourself trying to decide if grad school is right for you, not sure about careers, looking for that first library job, or trying to figure out what classes to take, I hope that you will gain some valuable advice from myself and fellow HLS writers. Even if you find yourself reading this farewell article years after publication, I hope you get glimpse of the library community you aspire to join.

And for any current and future UMD iSchool students, know that a fellow alum is always happy to help.

Cover image by author

Sarah will be graduating with her MLIS in May 2021 from the University of Maryland. She hopes to work in a law library in the near future, but doesn’t really know what to do without school. In her spare time, you can find her sipping coffee and binge reading books.

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