This is a guest post from Elizabeth Szkirpan.
My MLIS program was a blur. The various papers and hundreds of discussion posts seemed endless at the time, but I look back on my MLIS experience as being overwhelmingly positive. Even so, I often kick myself for not taking more chances and utilizing more program resources.
As a student pursuing a second master’s degree and as a library hiring manager, I have the opportunity to meet current LIS students, interview emerging librarians for positions in my library, and to offer guidance to those who are nearing graduation so they are prepared for their first post-graduation position. These are the tips I wish someone had shared with me during my first graduate degree experience.
Take advantage of opportunities to present and publish during your library degree program. Whether you plan to pursue the next level of education in librarianship, work or teach in a non-academic environment, or just achieve the degree itself, presentations and publications demonstrate that you can take broad ideas, narrow them down to a topic of focus, and communicate that topic to others. LIS students author many papers during their programs that never see the light of day after grading, so I highly recommend revisiting a topic you enjoy, updating it, and seeing if you can find a journal to publish in or a relevant conference to present your topic in. Compared to some other professional-preparation options, refining an idea from you’ve already worked on does not require huge amounts of your time overall and the result packs a big punch on your resume or CV later.
Remember your in-program support systems. Your program can certainly end before you know it, so don’t forget along the way that this is one of the rare times in your library career that you will have an abundance of excellent library resources just an email away. If a course topic interests you and you’d like to learn more, reach out to your professor. If you can’t wrap your head around a complex idea, utilize your classmates for help. If your advisor previously worked in the library type that you’re interested in, see if you can schedule a meeting to learn more. This is a great time to ask questions and make connections.
Compile your LinkedIn, CV, or resume at the beginning of your program. As you near the end of your program, it can be hard to remember the experiences and accomplishments along the way. I always suggest setting up your professional materials as soon as you are able so you can update them every so often, rather than scramble to assemble these documents when you are juggling graduation, end of program assessment, finals, and a job hunt!
Network in a way that makes sense for you. I am always shocked by how close-knit the librarianship community is, so networking is vital to learn about job opportunities, to meet future supervisors or colleagues, and to learn about institutions whose values do not align with your own. Professional memberships and internships are a privilege that many students cannot partake in for a variety of reasons. However, you can still meet other library students or professionals in online communities, volunteer as you are able and interested, or reach out to other library professionals that you want to learn more about. Student organizations or local librarian groups without fees are also great ways to connect face-to-face with your local library colleagues.
Capitalize on LIS resources and databases while you still have access to them. I miss many wonderful things from my LIS program, but I have missed database access to LIS publications the most! LIS journals are a great way to investigate types of librarianship or librarians and current trends in the field. I will frequently hit a paywall while searching for more information over a specific librarianship type or similar and reminisce on the days of full database access.
What steps are you taking to prepare for life after your graduate degree? Have you had any success or setbacks with similar steps? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
Elizabeth Szkirpan is currently pursuing a Master’s of Science in Business Analytics at the University of Tulsa. She achieved her Master’s of Library and Information Studies and a Bachelor’s of Journalism-Professional Writing at the University of Oklahoma. She currently works as the Director of Bibliographic Services and Federal Depository Library Coordinator at the University of Tulsa McFarlin Library overseeing acquisitions, cataloging, electronic resources, collection management, library data, and the Federal Depository Library. Elizabeth plans to pursue her PhD next and would like to continue her technical services and library data research topics in that program. She is extremely active in the library field, having presented at more than thirty library conferences, serving in various leadership capacities with both the Oklahoma Library Association and Beta Phi Mu’s Lambda Chapter, and earning numerous awards. Since 2020, Elizabeth has been recognized as an Oklahoma NextGen Under 30, a Mountain Plains Library Association Beginning Professional, and most recently, Library Journal’s Mover & Shaker Award in the Advocate Category. In her sparse free time, she enjoys spending time at home with her cats, travel, and decor projects.
Image via Unsplash.