I originally posted the heart of these observations in a Facebook conversation in 2013–I’ve reworked and edited them to share here because they are based on what I have seen and experienced as Best Practices. Earning an MSLIS requires a considerable investment of time, effort, and expense. It only makes sense to get the most out of that experience.
Talk to people—and listen to them.
Talk to your fellow students, talk to your professors, talk to people who have the job you want to have one day, and talk to people who supervise and work for those people who have the job you want to have one day.
Ask them everything. Everything.
Then, really listen to what they have to say.
Explore your options.
Really explore them.
Are you certain beyond a doubt that you want to work in an academic library? Use those “interview/observe a librarian in their native environment” assignments to visit public, corporate, or special libraries. You will either affirm your original desire, or recognize other potential options for yourself.
In any case, you will learn something (see next point).
Make a decision to learn.
You are an adult. You can make a decision to learn from the courses you take and the experiences you engage in or to simply get through them.
I am always puzzled when I read that someone professes they did “not learn anything” in a class, in library school, or at a conference. At the tender age of 43 and three-quarters, with a good bit of professional and life experience, and a fairly sharp brain, I am constantly learning new things from my peers, professors, mentors, coursework, and life.
Go to the school you want to and do your best.
There are always articles about how the library school you go to doesn’t matter, your GPA doesn’t matter, etc..
The library school I go to matters.
I know this because my school either does a great job attracting awesome people or choosing awesome people. I frankly don’t care which because I have the pleasure of an amazingly smart and quirky cohort. My library school is best for me–they are my special type of awesome–choose the school that is best for you.
My grades matter.
My grades matter to me because I work my ass off and I want to see that reflected on my academic report. Will good grades alone get me a job? I doubt it. My experience, energy, and positive frankness are more likely to get me a job than my grades, but I’m still going to bust my butt anyway.
Think about what you are “putting out there.”
I’m not talking about branding yourself, or assimilating into the collective–I’m talking about putting your best self out there.
If you aren’t sure who that is, it’s the self you want to hang out with. You know, the unique, clever, curious self that brought you to librarianship. While you are in school, you are building relationships with, and an impression on, people you will want to network with and people you may want to eventually hire you. Let them see your best self.
You’ll be glad you did when you approach graduation and job interviews with confidence and a smile.