Thinking about library school? Wondering what it’s really like? Think that online school might be the best/easiest option for your increasingly complicated life? Let me tell you about it, since I’m literally in the throes of the back-to-school season right now. I thought I knew what to expect, but I was definitely wrong.
Myth #1: Online school is easier than in-person school
Yeah, I really should have known better. I naively assumed that lack of structured class time and challenging oversight issues for professors would translate to easier classes. Teaching is especially hard when you can’t see or hear your students in front of you! Plus, it’s much harder for instructors to design interactive, interesting, and pedagogically-sound lessons and activities online. In my experience, this resolves itself in simpler, easier content. Under these adverse circumstances, I figured the level of difficulty would slip. Not so! Let me tell you, my instructors were ready for the challenges that come with online learning. With pandemic learning being a thing for almost two years, I should have seen this one coming.
Myth #2: Online school is not social
This is the thing that most surprised me. I thought that, since we wouldn’t be meeting in person, I wouldn’t make any connections in my new classes. I knew there would be the predictable, “Introduce yourself and tell us about your favorite book!” forums, and I was right. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was just how willing people were to engage with each other online. Yes, part of the grade is you have to reply to at least one other person’s post, but most people go off! Right from the start, they were genuinely curious about their classmates, not only commenting on their shared interests (of which there were many) but asking hyper-personalized questions, like “What kind of crust do you use on your pies?” or “How did you come to name your pet ‘X’?” And, unsurprisingly, the more people engaged, the more lively and intimate the conversations became. This initial willingness to open up has made future discussions more vigorous and productive. You’re also going to have to do partner/group assignments. You set up Zoom meetings and get your work done, but chances are you’re going to end up chatting. It’s so nice to be reminded that there’s a living, three-dimensional person behind those flat online class portals.
Reality #1: You better be organized (and self-motivated)
My professors have so far been wonderful about making clear what we are doing every week and what assignments we’re going to have over the course of the semester. That said, if you’re not careful, it’s easy to let those details slip away from you, especially if you don’t have the in-person classes to ground you. There are no serendipitous conversations with classmates like, “Have you gotten started on X project yet?” or “What topic are you going to pick for the essay next week?” Nope, you’ve got to remember that all on your own. My tip: get a planner, physical or digital, and mark all the due dates of major assignments over the course of the semester. You’ll notice things like, “Shoot, both my classes have a project due at the end of October. Better remember that.” In terms of the smaller assignments, on Monday I usually take note of all the things I need to do that week and spread them out into manageable chunks that I work on daily. That way, I don’t have stuff piled up on the weekends. This is especially critical if you also work and don’t have a lot of free time to begin with.
Reality #2: Get to reading, my friend
I come from a reading-heavy background. I, like many of you, have suffered through interminable assignments with total page counts that are frankly impossible to meet. Don’t worry, it’s not that bad in library school, but you’re definitely going to want to brush up on your skimming skills. I probably have about 250 pages of reading a week, plus lectures (1-3 hours per class), exercises, and assignments. In my slight experience, yeah, you’re going to want to do the readings and watch the lectures; they’ll make the assignments WAY easier. Are they repetitive? Absolutely. Does that help you learn? Sure! Do you need to remember every detail to succeed? Definitely not.
I’m only two-and-a-half weeks in, so we all know that I have so much more to learn. Any advice for me? Let me know!
Melissa Grasso lives in Boston and began at Simmons University this fall. She works as a library assistant where she specializes in course reserves, copy cataloguing, and social media management. You can find her on Twitter @grassbro or LinkedIn.