by Heidi (Kittleson) Schutt
You are probably “stuck” taking required (core) courses this term, and that’s good! If you took what you WANTED to take, you might not be challenged. You might be missing out on some good foundational information about LIS. You might not meet your favorite group member. You might miss your favorite instructor! You might miss an opportunity for your cohort to make an inside joke that will last for years to come! You might not realize that even though you really WANT to be an academic librarian, you really SHOULD be a public librarian. Library School has a way of helping you find yourself.
So, while you’re taking those first couple of required courses, you’ve got to peruse the course catalog! You may think you have just started classes, but before you know it, an adviser will be contacting you and announcing class registration dates and times and instructions. Be prepared. Here’s how.
- Cover your butt and take the required courses in the “suggested order” and at the “suggested term” The next-to-last thing you want is to be taking a required course instead of working at an awesome internship because you didn’t follow instructions or suggestions from advisers. The last thing you want is to be graduating late (and spending more money) because you couldn’t get into a required class because you decided not to take it at the right time. Follow the instructions or suggestions from your advisors. Which leads me to…
- Advisors have memorized the course catalog. They really do want to help you (and the rest of your cohort), so use them wisely. One of the best ways to get information from them is to make a special filter/folder for the emails they send you. This way it’s easier to go back and reread what they’ve told you. Re-reading also prevents you from asking them questions they’ve already given you answers to. If it’s easier for you to understand through a face-to-face meeting, ask for one! Even if it is over Skype! gChat w video or A Google+ Hangout, but don’t be overbearing. Your adviser probably has a lot of other people to advise and sometimes answers to your questions are better found through the second+ year students.
- Pick our brains! When you join a student org (whether it is formal or informal), talk to the students who are farther along in the program. Ask what they would do if they were back at the beginning of their program. Ask questions about professors. Ask questions about assignments. Ask questions about textbooks. Ask questions about practice vs theory (see next bullet). I’m sure they’ll want to talk and they’ll definitely have an opinion about the course or topic. I honestly picked another student’s brain on the bus for about 45 minutes and she didn’t care AND I learned SO much about what to do my second year.
- Practice vs. theory. You can never think about this too much. Well, I’m sure you can, but it’s not a bad thing! Through your conversations with advisers and other students, attempt to find a personal balance for practice and theory in LIS. A balance that allows you to have the best education you can. There will be some classes that are heavily theory-based and require written papers and in-depth research, models and perhaps a chance to publish! But there will also be practice-based classes where you will stand up and give booktalks, design bulletin boards, or write an outline for a Library Launch for college freshmen. The practice vs theory debate is not a new one. Here’s one of my posts about it; It’s been talked about on the blog here, too. but it is new to you and therefore YOU get to decide what works for your learning style. Talk about it!
- Have a “fun” course scheduled every term. Although you do have to get your required courses out of the way, make sure you designate one of your courses as “the fun one”. One way to do this is through the use of Pass/Fail or Credit/No Credit. This gives you more time to focus on the content and less stress about the grade you’re going to get. If it’s your fun class, you’re more likely to do the assignments anyway. And if there’s absolutely not one single course you can make your “fun” one, consider looking at graduate courses outside of the LIS program that could still give you credit and also be a benefit to your education.
LISers, this is going to be a great time in your life. And you’re fortunate to have the support of your HLS writers and editors as long as you stay in contact with us. Share your questions, concerns, thoughts and ideas. Let’s grow together!