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