Type-A Library Student Syndrome

Lately I have been rushing.

Admittedly, it’s a tendency of mine to attack rather than hang back, but it has been extreme lately. Lists blossom daily, springing forth from other lists… email this person, explore this volunteer/scholarship/conference possibility, complete this assignment, attend this workshop… it goes on and on. And before you think I’m going to use this particular blog post to spew a lengthy complaint about said hectic-ness, let me just say: I love it, right down to every detail.

I relish staying busy; in fact, I get panicky and unsettled if I don’t have my nose to the grindstone. I mean, isn’t grad school supposed to be grueling? Balancing jobs, classes, student orgs, networking, conference stuff? There’s a stunning amount of professional growth than can–and should–happen in library school. I firmly ascribe to the idea that if you’re not getting rejected often enough to develop a thick skin, you’re not putting yourself out there enough. Having a thick skin doesn’t mean you morph into a superhuman emotionless robot who doesn’t register disappointment–it just means your disappointment becomes more of a quick sting and less of a slow burn. My own list of rejections is getting rather lengthy by now; I almost wish I had paper copies as opposed to email messages because they’d be fantastic to wallpaper my sewing room walls with!

Indeed, I’ve found that life gets so much easier to enjoy once you embrace the inevitability of rejection. I make long-range plans for myself; lists of experiences that I am actively trying to seek out (archives, EAD, preservation, digitization, HCI, digital humanities, graphic design, outreach, assessment, marketing), plans to present at conferences, people I want to meet. I am trying to be intentional in what I do during this temporary period in my life. Google Calendar is my BFF. The Lilly, Cyberinfrastructure, instruction sessions and TMBCC all have designated colors. My nightly UITS tech classes are crimson; meetings are positively pink; classes a dreary, washed-out blue. A lot of people say that SLIS is easy. If we’re talking about classes then yes, SLIS can be a piece of cake (depending on your professors), but in order to actually get a job you need so much more than just an MLS.

For much of the week, I spend twelve hours days on campus, mash-ups of time at the Lilly, in CNS, in meetings, in UITS tech classes. I come home and finish homework or follow up to emails. While my body is tired, I’m still mentally alert; the plotting doesn’t cease, oh no. Confession: there have been nights over the past week where I’ve lain in bed unable to sleep because I am thinking about library stuff. I’m not sure if this is funny, problematic, normal, or all of the above. The long-suffering boyfriend is absolutely aghast at the number of library-related questions I pepper him with. In my defense, I’m excited at having a non-library student perspective when inspiration strikes, though I’ve found that at 1 AM, this tends to be problematic. I’m so enmeshed in libraryland now that I can’t shake it–the home/work divide is lessening. To reiterate: I am engaged, delighted. So delighted I have to remind myself that sleep is as important to the process as continual plotting and list-making.

I like switching from job 1 to job 2 and noticing the ways that outwardly disparate places are interrelated. I like imagining solutions to problems I note on the job. I love thinking of ways to build my resume. I like to talk about libraries and think about libraries and, obviously, blog about libraries. While sometimes I wonder if it’s a bit childish, this love of what I am spending my days doing, usually I try to squelch any cynicism pretty quickly. I know I’ve been called idealistic, and that always leaves me with a bit of a sour taste. I do feel offended when that backhanded compliment-ish phrase is leveled at me. Yes, I am young; this comes with a long list of pros and cons. Yes, I like fashion; this does not mean I am a “sexy librarian,” “hipster librarian,” or somehow inane, shallow, what have you. And while I’m on the topic, enthusiasm about what I hope to spend my days doing does not make me a fool. Just because I’m choosing to give everything to my library school experience does not mean I don’t realize that I might initially have to accept a job I don’t like in order to someday have a job that I do like. And of course, the overriding hope is that I work hard enough to someday have a job that I LOVE, is that so much to ask? We’ll see. However, I’m not going to back down because some think my ideas, my enthusiasm, my involvement is uncool, naive, laughable, idealistic.

SLIS is fertile soil for growth and I can’t imagine not taking advantage of it. Now that I’ve decided to pursue a dual-degree Master of Library Science and Master of Information Science, I know I’ll be here for three years. Two years just seemed too short, especially when Bloomington is grand and I want a job in an academic library that may or may not require two Master’s degrees anyway. As a future young professional, it is easy to wonder if I will ever be qualified for anything, but instead of getting freaked out I try to dive in. I think that timidness may be what is stopping some of my peers from pushing themselves further.

So far I have come across an extremely varied group of library school students. Some are like me, fresh from their undergraduate experience, while others are returning professionals who have been in the library field but are just now pursuing an MLS, and others still had unrelated careers for a while but decided they wanted to go into librarianship. Some people are married, some have kids. Every student is approaching their MLS experience in SLIS from a different angle, a different context, and it is interesting to consider their approaches. I’ll be honest (and maybe this is too brutal to say but I’ll try to couch it nicely): I felt better when I came to SLIS and realized that some of my peers weren’t tackling it like I am. I came here petrified of getting a job upon graduation, and I feel significantly better about my odds now. Like everyone else, I’d read the harrowing stats on unemployed MLS grads, but when I see peers who aren’t working, volunteering, gaining practical experience in any way–simply taking classes to earn their MLS, sometimes as quickly as possible, like it’s a marathon–internally I’m like, OK, I understand those statistics now. And I feel better. 

Currently, I am happily exhausted. I feel like this post is probably all over the place, which befits my mental state and also the world of blogs, where such stream of consciousness rambling is at least somewhat accepted, but the point is… I feel proud of the foundation I’ve created for myself less than two months into my library school experience and I am looking forward to seeing what happens next.

4 comments

  1. Amen sister friend. I am in same “can we go any faster” mode as well. It is just fantastic to me how all of the work that we have done in such a short amount of time is really starting to show itself. I love walking through the once completely unknown Wells and seeing people I know and admire, knowing where to direct lost students, and being able to honestly say that I am taking advantage of everything thing available to me. I am more than just an MLS.

  2. Evelyn – It is almost impossible to find a library job here without prior library experience. And sometimes having experience isn’t even enough… you also need enthusiasm, perseverance, and luck. You have to dive headfirst and take advantage of every opportunity to build your resume. If you’re not already working in a library, I would start doing so if possible. If you can’t get paid, volunteer in a library setting wherever/whenever you can. I didn’t get paid at all for my library work til this semester. Experience trumps money.

    The IU Libraries are saturated with hundreds of qualified students all wanting to work in libraries, and plenty of people I know cannot find jobs. Even minimum wage library jobs have fierce competition. The advice given to me was to get whatever experience I could before coming here… and I’m so glad I did.

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