Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What I want LIS students to know

100_0488Every fall, a new group of graduate students arrives in the classroom on their way to becoming librarians and information professionals.Each group is full of energy and ideas, and ready to take on the world. Each student believes in the power of information, even before they fully realize the power that information holds. Every person is willing to make sacrifices in order to reach his/her goal. While the wide-eyed "this is awesome" attitude remains during the semester, it often becomes tempered as students attend to the details of their classes and their lives as graduate students. We're at the point in the semester where stress and elation are hand-in-hand.  The end of the semester is in sight, but there is so much to do before then!

With that as a backdrop, this is what I want LIS students to know (no matter where in the world you are)...

You have selected a noble professional, no matter what name you use to describe it. Every organization and person needs help locating and using information, and you are becoming poised to assist them. You can help them with its organization and retrieval. You can help with its interpretation and dissemination. You can work to ensure that information is available to those who need it, no matter who the person is or where the person is located.

Yes, what we call ourselves is in flux.  We do seem to be hung-up on labels, which is unfortunate.  What really matters are the knowledge and skills that we have.  Your knowledge and skills will open doors for you, and land you in positions that you might not have imagined when you first said, "I want to be a librarian."

100_0539Your coursework won't teach you everything you need to know. While you will learn a tremendous amount during your coursework, LIS programs are not apprenticeships and we're not like medical schools where students do full-fledged residencies as part of their programs.  We aim to teach you theory and introduce you to practice.  We give you opportunities to learn and to dive into your practice through specific assignments and your internship.

Although there are some thing that you'll need to pick up on the job (and this does happen in every profession), you can take opportunities that present themselves to extend your learning outside of the classroom.  If you see an opportunity, grab it!  And if you don't see an opportunity, create one!

Every information professional you meet during your graduate program is a person who can connect you to a job.  It doesn't matter if you see the person in the classroom, at a conference, or on a library tour...that person has connections that could help you, if only you asked. mmm...and there is the problem...you have to engage the person in order to ask about opportunities. I know that it isn't easy talking to strangers, but your joining a profession that likes to share information and be helpful (those really are our traits), so just start with "hi" and let a conversation start.  Remember to exchange contact information and then, when you're comfortable, ask about the opportunities that person sees on the horizon.

SculptureYour reputation, CV/resume and portfolio matter.  I believe in having a portfolio of work that you can share with a prospective employer, as well as your resume/CV.  Many people are creating their portfolios online and including in them samples of their work (e.g., papers and presentations).  Keep in mind that your portfolio doesn't need to be fancy; it just needs to be a good representation of you.  Placing this information online -- either on a web site, in a blog, or in LinkedIn (perhaps with a connection to SlideShare) -- allows you to present what you want people to know about you and your work.  It also makes you more findable.  Someone searching on a topic of interest may stumble upon something you have and then be interested in you as a professional. And - yes - you want to be findable.

As you think about your resume and portfolio, also think about your reputation.
According to a Microsoft survey of more than 1,200 hiring managers in December 2009, 79% of companies and recruiters reviewed online information about job applicants and 70% had actually rejected candidates based on what they found. - Information Today, Nov. 2010, p. 1
Take time to clean up that information that is online about you in Facebook and other social networking site.  Review the photos that you're in and make sure that they reflect the you that an employer would like to hire.  And check your profiles - even in places like Twitter - to ensure that they say what you truly want to communicate.   

The bottom line is - Don't lose out on a job opportunity because you either were not findable or what was found wasn't deemed professional.

By the way, this guide can help you think about your resume/CV, cover letter and job interviews.

Use all of the resources that are available to you.  I suspect that you haven't explored all of the resources that are available to you on campus that will help you prepare to find a job as well as ensure that you're prepared for that job.  Have you stopped into Career Services?  Have you done mock interviews?  Have you check out other resources that have been mentioned on syllabi, in classes or during orientation?  Odds are that you haven't and that's a shame.  Those resources are there to help you (and you've paid for them), so you should be using them.

I need some me time. Please do not disturb.There are also resources on campus to help you when your stressed or when your world seems to be crashing around you.  If you need them, please - please - please use them.  If you don't know what those resources might be, please ask. (Think you have no one to ask, then ask me!)

Yes, there are also fun resources on campus. We tend to get caught up in all the work that needs to be done and forget that relaxation is important.  So do schedule time to walk through a building that you think is interesting or to check out an art exhibit.  Those few moments will help to refuel you.

Ingest more content about the profession.  That includes reading blogs as well as the professional literature, watching videos and presentations, and listening to podcasts.  You might start with:
Of course, these are a few of hundreds of resources available to you!  So explore and find those that challenge your thinking as well as inform you. Develop an informed opinion about the profession and what we do (or should be doing).

If you haven't joined a professional association, do so and then read its discussion lists, blogs, and journals as well as attend its meetings.  (I'm partial to SLA, but you should join whichever you believe will help you reach your goals.)

St. Charles Ave. trolleyYour view of your future depends on where you are sitting.   Where are you sitting?  By yourself? In a group? With movers-n-shaker? With those that are fearful of the future? With those that are innovative and entrepreneurial? Are you in a vehicle that is moving forward, staled, or headed in reverse?  Think about those questions and, if necessary, switch your seat!

Finally, no matter the day or the time, there are people who are supportive of you and your desire to be a librarian (or knowledge professional or information professional or...).  Grad school is a stressful time for everyone, so do reach out to family and friends and allow them to heap words of encouragement on you and maybe a little help to get you through a rough spell (e.g., dinner, a game of cards or help with laundry).  Don't worry...at some point, you'll repay their efforts by being there to give them or someone else needed support.  Who knows...you might find yourself lending support to a stressed LIS student.


Unknown said...

This is such an awesome post filled with encouraging advice and so well timed (I graduate with an MLIS in 2011 and I am building my website).

So much has been written recently about a profession in despair. Rethink, rebrand, innovate and revel in the power of information instead!

I also appreciate the handy attached guide. Great post!

Lori Reed said...

Jill thank you for this post. As one who has worked for 11 years in libraries and deciding now whether to go for an MLS it is a hard choice right now. The future is changing and that is a scary thing but it can also be a good thing. I hope to be part of that change which is why I'm applying for MLS programs. Your post has great reminders for everyone - not just students!

Lori Reed said...

I would add ALALearning.org to suggested reads for anyone entering the LIS profession. We are a great resource of free continuing education resources and tools to help with everything from giving your first presentation to creating an online course!

Micah Vandegrift said...

Thanks for the post! I've been compiling a list of similar articles and tips for LIS students over at hacklibschool.pbworks.com and would love to add this article there also. Very helpful and encouraging.

Jdanek said...

Yes thanks for the post. I live in Baltimore so i recognize the BELIEVE photo at the beginning of the post!

E. Shander Bawden said...

I love this post! Inspiring...and a much-needed reminder of why choosing a career as a librarian/information pro/choose-your-own-label is a good thing.

danny said...

Great post! As a librarian who has been out for ten years, I sometimes wish I could go back and get my MLS now, using my experiences to inform my coursework. I think archives, preservation, digital asset management, metadata/taxonomy/controlled vocabulary design, etc. are the most relevant areas to focus on. They translate not only to traditional libraries, but also to the increasing rank of companies and other organizations that are looking to maintain control over the content being created internally.

Daniel Isaacs

julanga said...

This is an amazing and informative post! I am about to start my MLIS Program at UT Austin in January and this has been an inspiring guide on how I should get started and how I should approach the profession! I appreciate the optimism and encouragement!

Jill Hurst-Wahl said...

Thanks to those who have commented on this blog post, sent it out to various discussion lists, tweet it on Twitter, emailed me, etc. I'm glad that the post has been so well received. I hope that more people will leave comments, if you feel so moved, and perhaps include additional resources or ideas.

And thanks to two people who found typos that I had missed. I have worked on this blog post for weeks, and still didn't find every typo. Proof that having another set of eyes look at something can be extremely important.

steven said...

thanks for the post, Jill. i would add only that students and graduates who can write should write. it's easier than ever for thoughtful librarians to get published. it takes time, i know, and insight. but published original material is a great addition to your portfolio and to your public profile.

i wrote a little about this earlier in the year: http://bit.ly/cyV6qu. go on over and have a look if you have the time. thanks again for the post.

Stephanie Bennett said...

This is so useful, Jill - it's both encouraging and realistic, which is a good balance for me as a first-semester library science student. I find myself teetering between "ahhh" and "yay! this is so cool!" most of the time.

Thank you for sharing your perspective!

cv said...

Your words inspired me..thanks jill for sharing this with me!

Marketing CV

Jill Hurst-Wahl said...

In email, one person suggested Visualcv.com for creating an online portfolio.

Jeanie Straub said...

that was pretty great. (I graduated about six years ago but it is good to be reminded to switch seats if necessary!)

Jeanie Straub said...

Just one more thing: I think if you graduate from LIS school, you should be able to create your own website to showcase your work. I think it should be a requirement.

Reece Dano said...

There are even organizations available to help you transition into your first career after you achieve your degree, such as SLA's First Five Years Advisory Council: http://www.sla.org/content/membership/firstfive.cfm

efmclean said...

THANK YOU! Extremely helpful. I've been on the roller coaster of extreme excitement about what the fields can hold and pure dread about how I'm going to face my student debts and what kinds of options I can translate to after May '11. Very helpful. Will pass along to my CUA SLIS friends.