The last two years have somehow felt incredibly long while also whizzing by incredibly fast. This seems to be the nature of both pandemic time and grad school, and so while the time has come for me to say farewell to Hack Library School, it also seems as if no time has passed at all.
Doing grad school during a pandemic has been a very strange experience, but it’s been wonderful to have the opportunity to be Hack Library School’s community manager during that time, and to be able to connect with other LIS students from all over.
As is traditional in final posts, I have several reflections and bits of advice for those currently in library school, or just about to start.
It’s a marathon.
Library school is not a sprint, which means you need to pace yourself. I am really proud of all of the things I did in the last two years, but I also burnt myself out pretty severely. A hard lesson I’ve been trying to learn is that even though I want to say “yes!” to everything, I literally physically can not. I’ve had to practice delegating, saying no, and trying to prioritize what is most important to me – something that is very difficult when it feels as if everything is both interesting and important. But I also had to spend the first three weeks after graduation just recovering from burnout, so learn from my mistakes. There are so many opportunities and things to do and learn in grad school, but you need to find a way to do what you care about most sustainably.
Take advantage of the doors grad school opens for you.
It turns out that librarians love to help current students. Not just people affiliated with your school but also alumni, or other working professionals in the field. This makes sense – librarians are pretty helpful people, that is a large part of why most of us went to library school, after all – but it still surprised me to what extent being in library school helped me to develop connections. While the obvious ones are professional opportunities that you can take advantage of as a student such as conferences and workshops, I think the informational interview is really underrated as a networking tool. While the idea of networking usually makes people cringe, I’ve found it to be as simple as finding people who are doing work you’re interested in doing, contacting them, and asking them to talk with you about it. People love to talk about themselves, and they also love to help students, so it’s often a win-win for your interviewee! Making connections with other professionals also means that they are aware of who you are when you start hunting for jobs – and I’ve even had a couple of people offer to look over my application materials for me, after I expressed interest in doing what they’re doing.
Follow what sparks your excitement.
I came into my program expecting to specialize in UX. Then, when I started looking at job posts in order to see what skills I should develop, I realized that all of the things that most interested me in librarianship were showing up in instruction librarian positions. One pedagogy class and a few teaching sessions via my practicum, and I am hooked. I am not going to lie, the improv-performance side of teaching still isn’t my strongest skill, and I still get very nervous right before a oneshot. But teaching and working with students is also the best part of librarianship for me, and finding new ways to engage students in learning really does excite me. As a former homeschooled kid with little respect for authority, I never, ever would have thought of myself as an educator, but by following that spark of interest last year, I found something I never could have guessed I’d come to love so much. Find what makes you excited – in your classes, your work, or elsewhere – and follow that spark, you never know where it will take you.
Which brings me to…
The summer after finishing school is a strange, uncertain time. I had no idea what I would be doing in the six months after graduation, so the plans I made for this summer were:
-Work at my grad assistantship
-Do a one-credit independent study on a topic none of my classes really covered
-Spend a whole lot of time relaxing and enjoying my last summer in Wisconsin (at least, for a while!).
All of those are still things that will happen, but in addition, at the end of the summer I’m packing up my life and moving to the east coast to start a job as an instruction librarian! If you had told Robin from 2 years ago that this is where I would be now, I don’t think they ever would have believed you.
So with that, I will close out. Thank you all who have helped to make Hack Library School the wonderful community it is, and giving me and so many other students the space to express our thoughts and hone our skills. If you’d like to stay in touch, I’m on twitter @robinmgee, and now that I am done blogging here, I’ve been planning to do a little personal blogging as well, so watch this space. As I start on my own professional path, I hope that I can also help future students, so don’t hesitate to reach out!
Photo by Suzanne D. Williams on Unsplash
Robin Gee is the Community Manager of Hack Library School, and just completed their MLIS program at University of Wisconsin Madison, focusing on instruction and reference in academic libraries. In a few months they will be joining Cornell University Libraries as the Critical Pedagogy and Equity Librarian, but until then they hope to make a decent dent in their TBR list. You can find them on Twitter at @robinmgee