Tips for surviving library school – and possibly even having some fun

It’s back-to-school time, and although I’m not heading to any classes, the fact that campus is now swarming with students reminds me that there is a new group of students starting library school. And if these people feel half as lost and confused as I did during my first few weeks, then they could use some advice. First, take a look at Biblioblond’s Thoughts on “Back to School” for MLIS Students, where she lists her Top 5 tips for incoming students. Then, if you’re not afraid of slightly stale information, you can take a peek at my post from last September.

Now, thinking back on my two years at SIS, here’s my advice:

  • Get involved with a student group. I remember when I was doing my undergrad, I thought student government and groups were totally lame, but trust me, in library school they’re worthwhile. If you’re at McGill, you can find some good info on the SIS website, and if you’re a student elsewhere, I’m sure you can find what you need online somewhere – you’re a resourceful soon-to-be information professional, after all. Figure out which group (or groups) is best aligned with your interests, and attend their first meeting. This is a great way to meet people and learn more about the field. Plus it looks terrific on a CV/resume!
  • Run for the executive of a student group. Okay, so this is an extension of my last point, but it really is that important! Each student group’s website should have info about running for exec (e.g., the McGill CLA Student Chapter – pay attention to the positions that say TBA in September: that could be you!), but if you can’t find that information online, just ask someone. The first year student who becomes VP often automatically becomes President in their second year, so keep this in mind if you’d like to run the show next year.
  • Go to social events organized by the student groups (or by anyone else, for that matter). In my experience, these events are usually poorly attended, but those of us who made the effort to go always had a blast.
  • Keep in mind that all the other first year students feel just as nervous and lost as you do – so go up to people and introduce yourself, because everyone is trying to make friends at the beginning of the year.
  • Don’t be shy to approach the second year students for help – like you, they chose this profession because they like to help people.
  • And finally, here’s one for McGill students only: join the Professional Partnering Program. It’s an incredible opportunity to get to know someone who’s working in the field, and the time commitment is completely flexible. You have no excuse for not joining this program!
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5 thoughts on “Tips for surviving library school – and possibly even having some fun

  1. this is a great list, graham. Between you and Amanda, you’ve covered everything so well that I couldn’t think of enough to add to make my own blog post.

    I only have one thing to add to the list. It’s a bit more, academic, than the other points, but I think it holds too: I would encourage all students to stretch their education in any way they can. If you have an idea for a project that you think would be interesting, but doesn’t quite fit the parameters of a course/assignment, talk to the professor. Most are willing to allow students to take risks or go off on their own projects, so long as there is a way for the project to relate back to the course being taught. This is the one lesson that I found it took me a (relatively) long time to get comfortable with, and the one that I found I got the most out of in the long run.

  2. Hi,

    I really appreciate your blog, which I discovered last Spring. I’ll try my best to follow your tips.

    Josée
    MLIS I
    Archives stream

  3. I always say, “order the soft taco.” I was broke when I went to library school. I tried to budget my money so I always had $5 at the end of the week for a pitcher of beer. I parked my car in January and didn’t move it until April and rode my bike everywhere. But about the taco, at the student union was a little food stand and if you got the hard shell taco there was only so much they could stuff into it before it cracked. But get the soft taco and the food stand “chef”would overstuff it for the same seventy-nine cents. So library students, always get the soft taco.

  4. […] Professional Partnering Program: the view from the other side January 28, 2010 — Graham Lavender Last year I told you about the Professional Partnering Program, organized by students at McGill’s School of Information Studies. I told you about my fantastic partner Jared and how great it was for me to have the chance to get a taste for what an academic librarian really does and to see an academic library from behind the scenes. I enjoyed the experience so much that I recommended it as one of my tips for surviving library school. […]

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