With the start of the semester, I thought that I'd share some tips and articles that I think are incredibly valuable for those starting out their degree as well as those continuing students who might need a little boost. Without further ado, here are 5 tips/articles that I wish I knew in the first week of my MLIS!
1) Claim a Study Space!
Part of the joys of doing a master's degree, particularly one done online, is the freedom to work anywhere. I've read for classes or pondered paper topics everywhere from the beach to in-line at grocery stores.
While some schoolwork will absolutely entail curling up in bed the fetal position with Cheetos and an article about FRBR cataloging, on our better days it's great to have a space that's comfortable and functional.
Some must-haves that I discovered along the way:
* A GOOD CHAIR - While in an ideal world, we would all have adjustable standing desks, the real world says that sometimes you have to plunk down for 6 hours and finish that paper. If that happens, it's best that you don't pay for it in back pain the next day.
* Yoga Mat - Great for quick breaks. Try a relaxation program to de-stress or maybe even something energizing!
* Plants- Adding something green into your study space is such a great mental boost.
* Natural Light- Just like plants, another great mood booster and a good non-tech way of distracting yourself for a quick break.
* A pad of paper- It can be tough to set aside the rest of our to-do's to get down to writing a weekly post or studying for a test. I found that writing down those ideas on a pad of paper was a great way to stay focused.
2) Reading for a masters degree = reading strategically.
Depending on the course, the amount of reading you are expected to do can seem overwhelming. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you need to buckle down and read everything from beginning to end. Miriam Sweeney offers some wonderful and straightforward tips for reading different texts strategically.
3) Take advantage of Text-to-Speech programs.
It's sometimes difficult to meet up or arrange to have someone check your work. I found that reading my papers over and over especially wasn't cutting the mustard for catching non-grammatical errors. A great tip is to use a text to speech program like Natural Readers. Pop in your essay and have it read aloud. Listen in awe as syntax errors quickly reveal themselves!
4) Impostor Syndrome is REAL! But it shouldn't stop you.
Librarianship's dance with impostor syndrome is well documented; it's that feeling that you don't have the knowledge, skills, or experience necessary to confidently complete a task. This can affect everything from writing a research paper, to joining a team at work, submitting a paper to a conference, or applying for a promotion. While it's not exclusive to library students, findings suggest that newer librarians are more prone to feeling it's effects (Clark, Vardeman, & Barba, 2014).
I found some helpful and down-to-earth advice on working with impostor syndrome in Lacey & Parlette-Stewart (2017):
* Write down your goals. What are some flexible short and long term goals that are
* Reach out to people and find mentors. Others have gone through this.
* Understand that it is okay to feel down. We are all human.
* Recognize and celebrate your successes.
Impostor thinking can also create a fallacious understanding of "required" skills/qualifications sections for job applications. While it uses gendered language to discuss the problem, this article from the Harvard Business Review is a must read. We're not lacking confidence when we pass on an application, just an understanding of how the process works. Other people are applying for jobs even when they don't meet criteria, we should feel free to do the same.
5) "Martyrdom is not a long lasting career" -Ettarh, 2018
If there is one article that I think every MLIS student and librarian should read it's "Vocational Awe and Librarianship: The Lies We Tell Ourselves". There are insights in this article that are incredibly poignant and are going to be prescient for almost every class that you take throughout your degree.
But when we see libraries and librarians uncritically, purely as radical and saintly agents of change, it's easy to lose realistic perspective.
There's lots of language that gets used when discussing libraries which are incredibly hyperbolic: librarians are bastions of democracy and librarians are everything from social workers to saints. So many of us are taking a MLIS to follow a passion for creating places where communities come together and information flows freely. We're going to read Lankes' New Librarianship Field Guide and nod in agreement to sentiments about libraries being more than buildings that house them. But when we see libraries and librarians uncritically, purely as radical and saintly agents of change, it's easy to lose realistic perspective.
We are librarians and students, and — pause for dramatic effect — people! Remember to treat yourself well.