Staying Sharp During the Summer

Editor’s note: This  post was originally published on July 28, 2016

One of the most important aspects of library school and, in the future as we pursue work in the information profession, is staying up-to-date on what’s going on in the world, especially with regards to technology, literature, and world events. At all of my jobs I’ve worked at public service desks, answering questions for the public over the phone, doing some in-depth research for curious minds, and in general just seeking out information to help those that approach the desk. Access services is a huge part of my job and my work ethic, and it’s an important aspect of my personal philosophy to ensure that these services are available and that patrons know how to use them.

While all this seems to go hand-in-hand with what I’m learning in school during the academic year, when summer hits it’s a different kind of situation that I’m faced with. I found myself asking myself this year as I headed into summer: how can I stay sharp and in-tune with school as I proceed through the summer, anxiously awaiting the end of September so I can start my program up again? When I don’t have schoolwork prompting me with questions to answer, research to do, and a pressing need to know, how can I keep myself fresh?

It might sound odd, but one of the most important things I found myself doing was going over some of my old coursework. One of my favourite classes this past year was a class on handling reference questions, performing research for patrons, and working with databases. In order to stay fresh with what I’ve learned recently and keep my skills active and at the forefront, I asked people to ask me questions, any questions. This really has helped me stay sharp with my research skills, utilizing my university library’s website to perform some searches in databases, but it’s also helped me continue to hone my interpersonal skills.

I think an important part of staying sharp throughout the summer – and, as we proceed into the world as information professionals – is staying curious. The kind of childlike curiosity that fades away as we get older is exactly what we need now as we’re moving through our program and in the summer months when not everyone is taking classes. Curiosity is innate – we all have a drive to find out more, that’s partially why we’re in the information profession. We listen, we locate, we disseminate information. We search and locate, archive and store. We’re the curiosity-seekers of the world, so another huge aspect of staying sharp is satisfying your curiosity. Interested in web design? Take an online class. Play the Wikipedia Game (a personal favourite, as non-scholarly as it is), and play it with friends. Take a trip.

And speaking of taking trips…

A guest post by Grace Butkowski here on HLS spoke on the usefulness of attending conferences for professional and personal development, and she specifically wrote on comic conventions. This is a sentiment that I absolutely have to echo, because I’ve found myself more inspired about pursuing a career in librarianship when I attend comic conventions like New York Comic Con, C2E2, and BookCon. The sheer depth of networking opportunities that present themselves and the depth of information that I come into contact with every day through attending panels, meetups, or simply walking the show floor is astounding. For someone geeky like myself, it’s a great opportunity to meet and network with like-minded individuals, exchange ideas about how to bring things like graphic novels into libraries or host small-scale comic conventions in libraries. You get to talk to comic book authors, artists, publishes and learn about the creative process. And sure – not all of these happen in the summer (you’re probably thinking first and foremost of San Diego Comic Con, which is notoriously difficult and frustrating to get tickets to), but attending them throughout the year or looking to see what’s going to be happening in your area can be so beneficially professionally.

Walt Disney once said: “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” We’re information professionals, and curiosity should be one of our driving forces. A need to know a need to learn. And when we’re not in school over the course of the summer, this is exactly what we should be doing – moving forward, doing new things, finding those new paths. Look over some old coursework and find something you might not have noticed before. Try something new, just to expand your arsenal of skills and knowledge. Go somewhere new and explore. Not only does it help you stay at the forefront of our industry, it helps you provide better service.

Be curious, and keep moving forward.

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