How to Spend the Summer Before Library School

by Brianna Marshall

Two years ago, I had just graduated from my undergrad program and was eagerly awaiting moving to Indiana to start library school. I read Hack Library School and anything else I could get my hands on that might provide some glimpse of wisdom. What should I do? How should I feel? I wasn’t exactly sure, and that made me nervous.

If you’ll be starting library school in the fall, here are some ideas for how to spend your summer, in no particular order. (If you’re a year in, you may enjoy Topher’s post on how to hack your summer vacation.)

Start looking at job descriptions you’re interested in. Librarian resumes and CVs, too.

Nicole wrote a great post outlining several reasons why you should start looking at job ads now and I agree with her ideas one hundred percent. You probably aren’t exactly sure what you want to do, and that’s fine—you’ll just have a wider pool to research. Keep an open mind and look at many different types of jobs. Job descriptions can help shape the two years (give or take) that you spend in library school.

Looking at librarian resumes/CVs serves a dual purpose. Not only can you see how someone in your field progressed from job to job, you can also see the variety of ways librarians choose to format these documents (which, as anyone who has ever puzzled over their CV knows, can be extraordinarily valuable). Just google “public librarian resume” or “academic librarian CV.” Or get more specific: throw in digital, instruction, reference, archivist… whatever career path you want to learn more about. Many professional librarians post these documents online.

Manage your expectations.

I have spoken to several students who came to library school only to be swiftly disillusioned. It’s possible that your program will not align with your expectations, for better or worse. Understand that your program is first and foremost a business, and that it won’t necessarily deliver you with everything you need to become a gainfully employed librarian upon graduation. You’ll want to take what your program provides to you and supplement it with jobs, internships, conferences, networking, and self-directed learning. I can’t emphasize it enough: library school (your program, classes) is just one component of your library educational experience.

Decide what you want out of library school.

So, after managing your expectations, what do you want your experience to be? Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about the value of the MLS. I think it’s helpful to know that there is a vast number of opinions out there. I recommend reading the following blog posts. (Don’t forget the comments! My goodness, those are almost more telling.)

As you’ll read, there is a lot debate about the merits of practice vs. theory in library school curricula. Understanding the variety of opinions can help you shape your own experience, and that is always a good thing. Hopefully you will not leave library school disappointed with your MLS.

Lose your complex.

We all have our hang-ups, usually that we are hopelessly inadequate frauds and that everyone knows more than us. I want to convey very clearly right now that this is not the case. Whether you think you’re too old or too young, have zero library experience or “just” paraprofessional library experience—whatever the case may be, comparisons just don’t matter. They’re useless and they’ll slow you down, and inaction is the real killer. Trust in your own competency and put yourself out there.

Understand your finances.

I know, I know, nobody wants to ponder this. So many of us are sinking into debt for an MLS. I’m a fan of looking the debt square in the eye while considering whether you have any options for reducing it. Are there scholarships on the horizon? (Apply for them, even if you don’t think you’ll get it.) How can you position yourself to be competitive for them? Is there funding available through your program?

Enjoy yourself.

I really hope you’re not reading this and thinking, “OH NO I am so behind! I’d better stress myself out now about how much I need to do!” Stop yourself this second if that is your reaction! Knowledge is power, and doing a little thinking about these topics before the craziness of orientation, a new city, and new faces can do wonders. Be flexible and know that you can set up a framework for what you want to get out of library school—and that it will probably change. This is a good thing!

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