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#HLSDITL Day 1: How did I get here, anyway?

October 29, 2013

This week, I will be participating in Hack Library School’s “Library Student Day in the Life” project.  It offers a way for library school students across the country to connect virtually with each other and with people who are considering an LIS program. From October 28 through November first, I will blog and tweet about some of my experiences in library school. To find other students participating in #HLSDITL, check out the official wiki.

I missed my window to blog last night, but I did get a few tweets in.

Here’s a belated introduction to make up for it.

Day 1: How did I get here, anyway?

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Let’s just say there were some bumps along the way.

It seems obvious in retrospect that I would find a career in information science (I’ve always loved to arrange and describe objects), but it did not occur to me until my junior year of college that I could actually do this for a living.

My dad worked as nuclear technician in the Navy before studying engineering, and my mom trained as an oceanographer before teaching chemistry and physics. With my love for Legos, robotics, and Rube Goldberg contraptions, I planned to enjoy a long career in mad science STEM. Long story short, brain fatigue from years of titrating solutions and calculating derivatives helped me to discover a new passion for history and political science (my least favorite subjects in high school).

Information science allows me to unite all of my passions into a unified praxis. This semester, for example, I am scratching my STEM itch through a course in software development. An introductory course in Geographic Information Systems provides an informatics focus, while an archives course offers all the liberal arts rhetoric I could hope for. Later in the week, I’ll discuss the strategies I have used to identify a career focus.

I first suspected I might want to work in this field after getting a part-time position in a public library. I was working in a retail store, but I had to find a new position after my hands went numb, I filed a worker’s comp claim, and the manager “accidentally” cut all my hours. There happened to be a position available in the city library’s circulation department, and I happened to have worked as a circulation technician for a year in my junior high library. Unlike my retail job, the library worked around my class schedule and closed in time for me to finish my homework AND sleep.

I spent about a year and half working there before taking on another part-time job in my university’s archives department. I did not know whether I wanted to work in archives long-term, but I didn’t want to miss the chance to find out. After a semester, I left the public library to focus more hours on my work in the archives. That position eventually lead to a full time job, which gave me the confidence to apply to an LIS program. I invested more time testing the waters before library school than many of my peers. That just happens to be the approach that worked for me; I’m that one friend who wants to read the entire rule book before we  play a new board game at a party. This experience has benefited me in many ways, but it is not the only path to an information science career.

My Top 3 Take-Aways (YMMV)

1. There is no wrong way to get to library school (but…)
2. The more you know before you apply, the less surprised you’ll be when you get there.
3. You don’t have to work for free to get experience before you graduate.*

* I happened to be in the right place at the right time for these positions, and my husband’s income supported us while I worked part time and went to school. I did do an unpaid internship for class credit, but ultimately found the experience unfulfilling. That might not be your experience. You may have a chance to pursue a dream internship for class credit, volunteer in a century old parish archives, or tackle a unique collection in an unexpected place. Whatever opportunity you find, only you can decide whether the experience is worth the sacrifices you’ll have to make to get it. In my case, I prioritized paid positions. 

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4 Comments
  1. Jackie Dooley permalink

    Aha! I was seeing #HLSDITL on Twitter yesterday but had no idea what it meant. Cool concept. I totally second your takeaway #3, though it may not apply to everybody, since opportunities differ so much depending on the place and time–and some grad schools require formal internships but don’t ferret out paid opportunities for their students. I too was able to get paid jobs during my three years of grad school, however, because there were so many opportunities on campus at huge UCLA. Always worked 20 hrs/week (50% was the most UCLA let grad students do), mostly between 8-5 but also 8-11pm shifts at the govt documents reference desk. Long, long hours of both work and study. UCLA didn’t require an internship at the time, and I sort of wondered what I might be missing–but my jobs were all had such strong professional components I barely gave it a second thought.

    • Thank you, I am really enjoying it so far. I agree with your qualifications of takeaway #3. That’s what I was hoping to convey in my addendum. I find it really interesting that UCLA limited how much graduate students could work. I wonder if schools still do that?

  2. I think it’s a pretty general rule in universities, intended to prevent students from working too much and thereby taking
    away from their studies–and also to avoid having to pay benefits. :) But it wouldn’t include people like you who worked full-time already. And I’m afraid too much time has passed (31 yrs!) for me to be able to explain the difference. It seemed rational at the time…

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. #HLSDITL Day 3: Scholarships, rankings, and teachers, oh my! (On choosing a library school) | Archivasaurus

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