by Lauren Bradley (guest author)
A number of us Hack Library School readers and writers have finished library school recently, but our education is far from over. Many of us have criticized what we feel was lacking in our LIS schooling (and in fact, was the very inspiration for this blog!). In order to become the most competitive job candidates we can be (and to remain relevant as our careers progress), we must continue learning far after graduation day. A personal anecdote: my cousin went to library school in 1999, which was really not that long ago. Two years later, Google was launched and changed the way the world interacted with information. Here are some ideas on how to keep learning:
Develop your skill sets.
Librarian positions require a wide diversity of skills, many of which aren’t taught in library school (and even the ones that are, often are taught in a theoretical sense that doesn’t really stick). Revisit Annie’s self-assessment post for discovering what skills you lack for the positions you wish to hold. At this point int time, tech skills are invaluable. Mashable recently had a post about free resources for learning programming languages. For a more formal learning setting, community colleges are a good place for technology courses, and don’t forget to look into auditing courses at your alma mater(s). Don’t be afraid to venture outside of the library community; there are many free or cheap courses by community groups aimed at other types of professionals.
Look for leadership development programs.
Apply for a leadership development program like the ones held by ALA and SLA, among many other professional organizations. Your local chapter may have their own program. Leadership programs don’t need to be library-specific; if you work at a large institution, your workplace may have a leadership or mentoring program in place. Another idea is to find a librarian fellowship. IMLS and Library of Congress both offer fellowships, although there are many others to be had, especially in the special libraries. These are a good way for new librarians to gain experience with a short time commitment (typically 6 months to a year).
Nicole wrote tips on how to stay connected, but I want to reiterate the importance. The library world is very small and it’s important to make connections in the field. These connections may help you land a job or create a partnership across institutions. Being connected will also keep you on top of emerging issues in our field and help you identify emerging skill sets (back to point one; we need to stay on top of these in order to remain relevant).
Do free work.
Most of us did free work throughout library school in the form of internships or volunteer work and it seems most unappealing to go back to. However, continuing to do free work can help you network, expand your skill set, and get out of the rut of your own institution’s workflow. Get more involved with professional organizations, either on the local or national level. Join committees, attend meetings, or volunteer your time. However, free work doesn’t need to be a hardcore commitment — one of the technical services librarians at my work volunteers once a month at a local charity bookstore. It allows her to give back to the community while at the same it gives her the chance to work with the public (something she doesn’t do at our library) and work with popular titles (we are a specialized academic research library). Volunteering with a book sale, literacy project, or a Friends of the Library group is an easy commitment to make and uphold.
Although publishing is only really required for academic librarians, it never hurts to have a few citations of your own work on your resume and portfolio. The thought of publishing may seem terrifying, but remember, we do hold master’s degrees! It is completely appropriate to try to publish, particularly in the library and information science field. If there is a particular student piece you wrote that you feel really good about, try approaching your professors and asking for help to whip it into publishing shape. They may also have connections with editors at various journals. Unless you are on the tenure-track, consider publishing in journals that aren’t peer-reviewed, open access journals, or doing reviews. If you aren’t ready for traditional publishing, start blogging. Don’t be afraid to pitch ideas for posts at established blogs that accept guest bloggers (like this one!).
To start my own post-library school education, I am working with a former professor to get a piece published in a journal in our field, and will be sharpening my markup language skills this summer.