First Semester of Library School: Conquered!

As of yesterday, I am finished with the academic portion of my first semester of graduate school. 1/6 down, 5/6 of my graduate education to go!

I feel accomplished yet bewildered that the semester was so quick. The months have been flying by–December already? I still can’t quite believe that I will be heading back to Wisconsin in just a few short days. In the meantime, though, I’m immersed in work, frantic final meetings and rearranging my schedule to fit a myriad of Christmas gatherings that just keep popping up.

I thought I’d take the time to reflect a bit on my first semester here in Bloomington, at IU, and as part of SLIS. I feel ready for a break yet contented by the busy schedule that will greet me when I return to Indiana in January. 

SO. What have I done?

  • I’ve designed library instruction lesson plans, stood in classrooms in front of 20-30 students, and taught. Unthinkable in my former (undergrad) life.
  • I’ve mastered the art of printing science information visualization maps on the plotters in the HB Wells IC. Yes, it’s an art.  
  • I’ve learned how to catalog and archive said science information visualization maps. 
  • I’ve contemplated (and decided) how to organize a collection of varied materials (monographs, plural languages, manuscripts, audiovisual) found in complete disarray.
  • I’ve handled a rich variety of items in a world-class rare books library: a John Ford Academy Award, a proclamation by Abraham Lincoln, original proofs of Mrs. Dalloway, Syvia Plath’s diaries, Kurt Vonnegut manuscripts, a lock of Edgar Allan Poe’s hair, sketches by J.M. Barrie, the original typescript of Casino Royale… and never lost my sense of wonderment, not even once.
  • I’ve acted as liaison to a graduate-level English course using manuscript collections, put in charge of keeping the materials as they should be. And I’ve promptly stared at the grad students sitting there–so smartly dressed, so academic, so prepared for the mantle of professorhood to be placed upon them–and thought, I made the right choice coming to library school. 

It’s good to type it all out because I forget in the rush and rumble of day-to-day life (waking up, remembering to eat, stealing time to read, trying to be nice to my long-suffering boyfriend) that I have done these things. The harder I work, the less it feels like work and the more it feels like life. The details fade during the push forward.

It took a semester to feel like a cohesive part of the team at my workplaces, rather than feeling like just “the new girl.” It took a semester to see Bloomington with new eyes, to feel comfortable navigating its roads, to build up so many awed moments of “ohmygoodness that road connects to that road?” that I’ve now mapped the city in my mind. It took a semester to cement friendships with many of my fascinating, eccentric fellow library students: from all of over the US, they were drawn to librarianship for different reasons, possessing varying goals. Future music librarians, art librarians, children’s librarians, public librarians, academic librarians… I’ve become acquaintances with future librarians of every stripe, most with their own burning ambitions, some meandering and unsure.

On the techy side, I’ve learned HTML and CSS, then used that knowledge to create two websites. I’ve taken classes on how to use the Adobe Creative Suite (and I even have it on my computer! I love IUWare). I now know way more than I thought humanly possible to know about Microsoft Excel and Access. Three tomes, one on PHP, the other on JavaScript, the last on MySQL, are now on my Christmas list–formerly uncharted territory for any technology-related book, trust me. To my own surprise, I’m falling hard for the potential that web 2.0, instructional technologies, user experience, digital humanities, metadata, digitization, etc. offers for libraries. I think I wrote myself off as a non-techy person for a long time, simply because I’ve always disliked math with a fiery, all-engulfing passion. I thought math = technology. But I’ve found that I enjoy coding, which seems so much more like studying a language than anything else. Because I want to work with digital library projects in some respect, I’ve placed another Master’s degree on the agenda (information science) and picked up a specialization (digital libraries) to boot! 

Oh yeah, and we can’t forget the big one: I’ve finally gotten paid for my work in a library setting! After not qualifying for work-study for years as an undergrad, it’s delicious to get paid… not so much for the money, but rather for the sense that my efforts are legitimate. Though grad student library jobs aren’t exactly lucrative work (in fact, the pay is quite a pittance) I could not possibly have cooler employers. And if it’s not clear from previous posts that I love the variety of experiences I’m gaining, well, let me clearly state that I do indeed enjoy this life.

Next semester I’ll be amping up the craziness by throwing a bunch of conferences into the mix. I’ve applied for scholarships and jobs, so we’ll see how those turn out. And I’ll be finalizing my summer plans; I’m hoping to secure an internship. For now, though, all that remains in my year is to complete a CV and some crafty projects, go to a potluck and a cookie decorating party, and spend some time with friends and family in Wisconsin. I think I can handle that.

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