Journaling in Grad School

Midterms are a perfect time to pause and reflect on your semester and your overall MLS journey. When I entered the professional workforce, even before I started working in libraries, I found work journaling – a journal practice focused primarily on your professional life. It’s touted by those in the business-focused world as a way to increase productivity, build self-confidence, stay more organized, reduce stress, and other benefits

I have always thought of my work journal as a tool to think through day-to-day issues and a log to look back on in the future. When I started graduate school, I decided to keep a “school journal” in addition to a “work journal.” Keeping a library school journal consists of me setting aside time when I can to put my thoughts to the page, in a Google Doc with my other school files. A paper journal would certainly work too.

In my library school journal, I document what I’m learning in class, how I’m applying it to my paraprofessional work in a library, what I want to learn more about, and how I’m juggling work, school, and life. Making your library school journal your own is part of the process. Whether you are a detail-oriented student, or you like to think about the big picture, a library school journal can be useful in both regards. 

Another reason why I started my school journal is because I wanted to have a narrative of my coursework to revisit when it was time to compile my final portfolio and any future job applications. I’ve found my program to be so reading-heavy that taking a couple of minutes after that day’s homework to write my interpretations of the assignments can help me summarize and analyze course content for my own retention. I’ll take those short paragraphs to work on weekly assigned discussion posts or as quick reference notes when I’m asking myself what my concrete takeaways are for the semester. Talk about being a great resource for course evaluations, and even degree planning.

Taking time to check in with yourself is an intentional act of self-care. Managing mental health and wellness is a part of graduate school that can get easily overlooked. Journaling is a powerful tool to separate yourself from thoughts that you can get wrapped up in. When you put your thoughts down in a journal, you are separating yourself from them and not letting them define your reality. 

There are countless personal journaling tips, tricks, and prompts, which can translate into library school journaling. When I first started journaling in the context of graduate school, I focused on some simple questions to answer. Here are a few:

  • What’s working or not working for me right now?
  • What is my favorite thing I’ve learned?
  • What surprised me about this assignment?
  • How does this lesson contribute to my degree or career focus?
  • What is something I’m struggling with or need to spend a little extra time on?
  • How have I changed over the course of this class? Grad school so far?
  • How well am I balancing my homework with my other responsibilities?

Don’t forget to jot down any positive notes from classmates and professors or important milestones. If journaling just isn’t your thing, I’d encourage you to find another creative way to document your library school life. What is one way you choose to reflect on your experience as a library school student?

Image by Engin Akyurt, Pixabay

Taylor Worsham is from Gunnison, Colorado and is currently pursuing her MLS from Emporia State University’s distance program. After studying communication and political science for her undergrad at Western Colorado University, she worked briefly in marketing communications before finding her true calling in working in public libraries. Her current position as an adult services coordinator for Gunnison County Libraries focuses on public relations, programming, collection development, and circulation. In the future she hopes to expand her career to include more outreach and leadership duties. Outside of work and school, Taylor enjoys spending as much time outside as possible, traveling, photography, and reading contemporary fiction.

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