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Advice and Tips for Library School from a First Year MLIS Student

I am amazed at how much I’ve learned and experienced my first year of library school.  Librarianship is a profession over 2,000 years old and still evolving. Today, it is exploding with possibility, conversation, innovation and envisioning as to what the future of libraries will be.  It is impossible to learn all that librarianship encompasses in just a two year master program. I admit, at times, I felt overwhelmed at all there was to learn, especially because I did not have previous work experience in a library.

During my first year, I received advice from professionals, mentors and my professors which really benefited and allowed me to take full advantage of the first year of my program.  I believe this advice helped me in getting my academic internship at the University of Utah, and I hope can benefit those looking to start the degree this summer or next fall.

Effectively Build and Manage Your Online Brand 

Social media and having an online digital presence is one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to promote and demonstrate your skills and personality to potential recruiters and employers.   But more importantly, you want to control that what potential employers see when they Google your name.  Finding out as much as they can about you using the web is routine for employers and recruiters.  According to a 2011 survey, “more than 90% of recruiters and hiring managers have visited a potential candidate’s profile on a social network as part of the screening process. And a whopping 69% of recruiters have rejected a candidate based on content found on his or her social networking profiles.”

Therefore, you want your best foot forward when it comes to your online brand.  Potential employers can get a sense of who you  are from what you post online and it is way to stand out in a sea of applicants.  Your digital brand, however, should be authentic because no one wants to hire or do business with a generic and fake person. Create a professional LinkedIn, Twitter and  Google+ accounts where you can post and demonstrate your professional skills and ideas.  I personally set my Facebook to private and do not share it in my professional circles, but given the recent trends of employers to mandate applicants to show their Facebook, I am even more careful of what I post. Setting up, writing and designing updated professional social media profiles takes time and focus.  I suggest doing it early in your first semester when you have time.  Programs pick up very quickly after the first few weeks of school and you will become very busy, especially during your second semester.

Talk to People/Network

I am very fortunate to have enthusiastic and brilliant classmates and professors from a diverse range of backgrounds with whom I can freely discuss and collaborate on ideas.   Professor are a great source of advice and most have vast professional networks to draw from.  Talking and networking with people not only gives you the opportunity to learn and discuss aspects of librarianship, but more importantly, it increases the potential to meet someone who can give you that first job or eventual dream job.  At conferences, I have successfully talked to speakers and connected with them on social media, especially LinkedIn or twitter.  These professional often post the latest trends, news or notable topics to read on their social media.  I am naturally a shy person, but in my experience, many librarians are extremely friendly and open to connecting if you approach them professionally.

Learn Things Outside the Curriculum

One of the benefits of going to a university is that the school invites speakers to come and discuss ideas!  Hearing experts outside your classes is a great way to supplement the curriculum and learn of great innovations, trends and conversations going on in the library field.  Bogs, articles and other online content also serve as a great way to learn about what may specifically interest you in the library field.  The professors can’t cover everything about libraries in the classes, there is just too much!  Combining what I learned in and outside the classroom, I was able to focus my professional goals to digital libraries and decided that metadata librarianship is what I want to specialize in.

 Manage Your Time Efficiently and be Organized

Graduate school is a different beast from undergraduate studies.  The expectations are much higher in terms of creative thinking, analysis, in depth research, group work and the amount reading for class!  Students often have part time jobs and extracurricular activities on top of classes.  Therefore it is important to effectively manage your time so you are not overwhelmed by the amount of work.    I found to do lists on my computer extremely helpful.  It allowed me to focus and list what I needed to do that day, and due dates of assignments and side projects  throughout the semester.  Furthermore, writing out the steps in a to do lists can help you remember things better, or think of additional steps or even a better way of doing something.  If you are more tech inclined, several to do list applications exist for smart phones such as Remember the Milk App or Evenote.   You can also sync your iPhone with Google calendar to automatically be updated with your events and reminders!

Create a Career Timeline

Where do you want to be in 10 years?  Having a career goal allows you to plan where you should be in 5 years, 2 years or even at the end of the first year of graduate school.  Having a clear focus will also help in planning what electives to take to get that first entry level job and focus you as  on doing activities which are important to succeeding long term professionally.  If your career goal is not something you are willing to work your butt off and make sacrifices for, maybe it is a goal you should rethink.  Finally, do not become fixated on one career timeline.  Life rarely happens in a predictable manner and so it is important to be flexible in revising a career path as you encounter new ideas and choices.

Start The Internship Search Early

Searching and finding internship sites, applying, updating resumes, and corresponding back and forth with managers takes time.  Also, keep in mind, government internships often require applications to be submitted months in advance of the start date because of the necessary background and security checks.  The correspondences for the internship I have now spanned about three months, not because librarians weren’t interested, but because the process took time.

Know When to Take a Break

It is okay to take a break!  I am able to better focus myself and write coherently after a break, instead of writing or researching for hours straight.  I lived on my computer this semester, especially because two of my classes are online, and I both work and blog from home.   But staring at computer screen for hours can strain the eyes and result in eye fatigue, so take frequent breaks to rest those eyes.  You can’t be in library school mode 24/7.  Don’t skimp on sleep and take time to be with your loved ones.  Include fun activities in your life outside of library school so you do not get burnt out!

Seek Inspiration

It is easy to fall into a rut or become overwhelmed between classes, work, assignments, life etc.  Therefore, it’s important to have sources of inspiration that not only  boost your morale and enthusiasm, but also expose you to new ideas and possibilities.  Sources of inspiration are not limited to the library field.  My sources of inspiration range from following librarians on twitter to listening to upbeat music to watching a series of Youtube called bigthink.

I hope the above tips and advice help you too succeed and take full advantage of your first year of Library School.  Remember, it is all achievable and you will succeed in school with proper planning and hard work.  Good luck!

Dorotea Szkolar

I am an alumna of the iSchool MLIS program and am mainly interested in writing about technology and libraries. Contact me at or @doroteaszkolar if you would like to chat.

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  • I think gaining experience while you’re in library school is as important as
    completing your assignments. Now i see that many of the classes are only half a
    semester long. Do you think it’s reasonable to take 3 classes – one that is the
    full semester and two that are each half of the semester, while working full time? 


    • Dorotea Szkolar

       Hello Telephone Answering Service, that is something I would ask your
      adviser and also ask other students in your program who previously took
      the classes.  Are the classes only half a semester long because they
      compact everything into a shorter time period?  Also, some classes are
      more challenging then others and require a greater time commitment.   

      I am a full time student and work part time.  This allows me to
      make some money and still have time to do extracurricular activities
      like blogging!   I know distance students who do work full time and can
      handle 2-3 classes a semester.  This, however, is challenging and
      requires commitment.  It really depends on you.  Do you think you could
      handle a full time job and then coming home to write essays or do group
      projects, while balancing the other responsibilities in your life?  Hope this helps!