Four Things to Expect From Your First Year in Library School
Imposter Syndrome is Very Real
Imposter Syndrome: the inability to internalize accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud.”
I called my Mom after my first class. I was on the verge of tears, drowning in anxiety and inadequacy. Despite her reassurance that I had accomplished a lot and that I did in fact belong in my program, I couldn’t help feeling like a fraud. An imposter.
A lot of the people in my program had worked in libraries before, or had relevant/interesting experiences. Some were getting their second master’s degree, and here I was, fresh out of undergrad with very little experience under my belt, no job or internship, and very little knowledge of the LIS field as a whole.
It was crippling. I worried most of the time if I was in the right place, but eventually, I started to carve my place in the program, I got a job as a Graduate Assistant to one of my professors, made some new contacts which turned into an internship opportunity, and started adjusting & accepting the idea that this was where I belonged, that I needed to be here.
Imposter Syndrome, the “fraud experience” is very real, and if it happens to you, the best thing I’ve found to deal with it is to remind yourself of all the things you’ve accomplished, and why you wanted to pursue this path in the first place. The feeling will fade as you become more comfortable and begin to find your niche within the program.
Group Work and Communication
My program places a huge emphasis on group work. The theory is that it will better prepare us for a professional work environment where collaboration is ever present. This was a big surprise for me and something I struggle with. I very much work at my own pace and it was weird for me to work on a semester long group project versus the week-long ones from my undergrad days. Like most people on this Earth I am quite introverted, and to some extent I experience social anxiety, which makes it difficult when having to work with a group of people I don’t know. The best way I’ve found to deal with it is by just letting myself slowly become more comfortable. I allow myself two group meetings to adjust to the dynamic and get a feel for the people I am working with and then begin to start actively participating. It is important that you feel comfortable with the people you have to work with because if you don’t it makes communicating difficult. Recently I did an exhibition with a group and a good portion of the project relied on us communicating our findings, discussing our next steps, and being able to provide feedback and criticism on design ideas.
This is so important. I’ve had essays and presentations all due within the same week, so it is really important that you plan out your time effectively so that you aren’t writing or creating things last minute and turning in subpar work. My school requires an electronic portfolio to be completed before graduation. The portfolio is compiled with projects/essays or any other work we did while in the program and can be shared with potential employers. Even if your school doesn’t have this, it is still important to put your best foot forward and hand in your best work. This requires you to manage your time so that you allow yourself room to work effectively.
One way that I do this is by using the sticky notes app on by Laptop. I use one sticky not for each class and list all the assignments and when they are due so that I have a visual, being able to erase items completed off the sticky note is also extremely satisfying. Another method that has worked for me is committing to work on school work for at least 2-3 hours (depending on how much work there is). I create a list of all the things I want to accomplish that day and then work my way through the list. I also allow myself breaks to get up and stretch, eat or even watch a video on YouTube- just to make sure I don’t burn myself out. If I have an essay or presentation coming up, I try to start about a month before depending on how much research is required and I will work on it a little bit each day to ensure I am getting it done. Doing this has prevented the “I wrote this whole thing the night before and didn’t really edit it, please just pass me” phase.
Jobs and Internships
This was a huge hurtle for me. Living in New York City means that there are a lot of people applying for the same job you are and that makes it very hard to just get an interview. When I started my program, I didn’t have any jobs or internships lined up. It made me incredibly anxious because I felt like I didn’t have enough experience, and it made me panic about my job prospects when I finished. Would anybody actually hire me if I didn’t get more relevant experience?
Sometimes it’s about timing, I ended up getting the GA job because I was the first person to send my resume and a sample of my writing who was qualified. A meeting was set up and I was hired on the spot. This to me seemed like pure luck, and it still does.
Sometimes it’s about who you know. Professors like bringing in guest speakers, and I presume this is because it means it’s one less class they have to plan out. I approached one of the speakers to ask a question about something we had talked about, this led to a dinner, which led to a casual acquaintance, which eventually led to an internship opportunity.
Sometimes all you have to do is ask. As we all know, libraries are underfunded and understaffed, they also really love interns. ESPECIALLY when those interns are library students. It means that you get to help work on a project that before you, they didn’t have the resources to work on, and this adds experience to your resume.
There is so much more…
There is so much more I could tell you about but I feel like these four things were the ones that impacted me the most when I started my program. Keep in mind that my experience won’t be your experiences and that maybe these won’t apply to you, but regardless I hope this helps you!
Good luck with the school year!