Grad School 2.0

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on February 13, 2015.

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Nancy Albers Shore, a master’s candidate at the University of South Carolina School of Library and Information Science. She was homeschooled from 4th grade until age 17 and graduated from Savannah State College with a Bachelor’s of Marine Biology with honors. She is an avid knitter, dog lover, and Monty Python fan. You can find her on Twitter @WyomingPeach

Twenty years later, grad school is a very different experience for me, partly because I am a very different person than the fresh-out-of-college-with-honors-student that I once was.

As an undergraduate in marine biology, I absorbed the coursework (other than calculus) like a sponge. I loved science and it came easily to me. I started out as a business major, but economics and accounting held no sway. When I took a freshman intro to biology course, I found “my people”, so to speak. As I neared graduation, I took to heart the mantra of my professors: BS, MS, PhD… and so I applied and was accepted to graduate school in marine science. I quickly found out that graduate school for the “hard” sciences is very different than undergraduate, and it was not a good fit for me.

After a few years off from school (like 20), I began to look for something I felt I was missing. If you’ve ever read Shel Silverstein’s The Missing Piece, then you know what I mean. For a couple years, I had investigated graduate programs, thinking that enough time (20 years) and distance (I moved from South Carolina to Wyoming) had passed that a return to graduate school might not kill me. Although I was not looking forward to retaking the GRE!

I considered a lot of options and decided I would like to earn my master’s in library science. It took me two more years before the timing and circumstances aligned and I could begin at the University of South Carolina.

I feel like I am among “my people” again. Let me explain:

The catalyst for my return to graduate school was a job change. I had some time off between jobs, and spent the time researching myself. Who did I want to be? Where did I want to be? I looked at where I came from, and realized I didn’t want to completely turn away from science, just that I was no longer interested in working in a laboratory.

Growing up in my parents’ bookstore in Atlanta, and spending summers with my grandmother the librarian, books were in my blood. I didn’t fully understand my level of what I like to call “librarianness” until I took SLIS 703, Introduction to Reference Services. This is what I was born to do! I like knowing things, and finding answers. To paraphrase a favorite movie, I am known as a woman who can find things out.

My Dad always had a level of disdain for the public library, which I believe was likely caused by the way books are treated there. Rightly so, the public library focuses on circulation over conservation for most books. My Dad, as a book collector, was focused on conservation and preservation. Even with my Grandmother’s 40+ years of being a high school librarian, becoming a librarian was never discussed as a job option for me, and I don’t know why. Whatever the reason, today I realize I am not cut out to be a school librarian. I am forever grateful that others are, and grateful to realize (before pursuing that career track) that it’s not my calling.

When I found the International Association of Aquatic and Marine Science Libraries and Information Centers, I was certain that I was on the right path. Especially after reading about a librarian who spent time on a tiny Pacific island, assisting researchers develop and maintain a catalog of coral species. Perfect! I’m interested in how the research is done, but stuck behind a microscope identifying, and counting hundreds of tiny specimens is no longer my life’s desire. I’m not sure it ever was. But being of assistance and support to the researchers is what I was born to do.

There are two well-known (among marine biologists) libraries on the east coast associated with marine science labs. First is at VIMS (Virginia Institute of Marine Science) in Gloucester Point, Virginia, where I was fortunate to spend a summer through an undergraduate research program. The other is at the Grice Marine Lab in Charleston, South Carolina, where I made my first attempt at graduate school. Both libraries have an awesome view of their respective harbors, along with resourceful and helpful librarians. If I could end up in a place like these (or either of these!), I would be content.

But for now, I’m happy to take the courses, and delight in the process. When I began my undergraduate marine biology studies, our program director told me I was already a Marine Biologist. I feel the same way about this program, and in case anyone ever calls out in public: “Is there a Librarian in the house?” I am ready!

Categories: Behind the Scenes

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3 replies

  1. This post really speaks to me – I’m from the biological sciences as well, so I know the feeling of not wanting to abandon science entirely, while trying to find a niche in the social science of librarianship.


  2. Ditto. I felt like I was reading about myself. Undergrad in wildlife biology 20 years ago. Ended up in biodiversity data management. Now a first-semester library student. The phrase “These are my people” has been in my head a lot lately. Considering a career in a research station library. Mother was a public librarian. The similarities are uncanny.


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