Below you will find the list of points I shared in a hand-out. But let me say these three things first: (1) I am so pleased that this request was made of me once the Spring semester had been completed. Thank you to Kate Rojas for keeping me in mind and for navigating the city like a pro. (2) Another highlight of the trip was not only in meeting new faces and returning to see familiar ones, but I also got to see new spaces, for example, the Skokie Public Library, a paradise of resources and funding. I am as glad about sharing the knowledge I received as I am about seeing parts of Chicago I hadn’t seen before. (3) For anyone considering coming-- and I mean anyone, regardless of color, please peruse the lib guide called POC @ GSLIS that is in development and intended to serve as a bridge of knowledge as you approach libray and information science (LIS), be it here on our campus in Urbana-Champaign, through LEEP or away at/in/for/with another institution.
On the Library and Information Science [LIS] Culture
· Independent studies are a thing.
· You may never find a more interdisciplinary field.
· LIS is the most LGBTQIAA-friendly place I’ve ever seen.
· LIS is one of the least racially diverse places I’ve ever seen.
· LIS is one of the least gender diverse fields I’ve ever seen.
Things You Should Know About Grad School [in General]
1. “Reading” rarely means “reading.” Hundreds of pages of reading will be assigned to you on a weekly basis. The instruction to “read” them usually means ‘become familiar enough with the arguments presented in order to meaningfully engage in a discussion. What it doesn’t mean is ‘read every word, take detailed notes and prepare for a test on the contents.’ Learn to read effectively focusing on titles, authors, dates of publication, topic sentences, introductions and conclusions.
2. You can get straight As and not learn a thing. Grade inflation is rampant in graduate school. But if you’re there to learn professional skills, why not make an effort to pick some up in the process? The objective in graduate school is not a 4.0 GPA. While those grades might make you competitive for awards, fellowships and scholarships, a perfect GPA should not preclude healthy, long-term relationships with peers. Networking is a professional skill. Library and information science is a small and intimate world: the person hiring you tomorrow could be the introverted, bespectacled woman who avoided eye contact and knitted scarves in your required class all last semester. If she invites you to a Makerspace, picnic or workshop, genuinely make an effort to go.
3. Projects and papers no longer end when the semester does. When you create and develop something—be it a line of research or a reference tool like a lib guide—try to envision its lifespan beyond its deadline for class. In other words, strategize ways to make your efforts sustainable. Realize that in-class assignments can also serve as evidence of your professional capacities in “the real world.”
4. Learning is hardly restricted to the classroom. Graduate school is different from undergrad in one of many respects in that you can no longer ‘point at your progress’ as effortlessly. Before perhaps you could point at a test and say ‘I earned an 87%; the 13% I missed is very clear and this is how I can make it up or do better next time.’ In graduate school, where you are surrounded by theory, intellectual debate and burgeoning research, your success will be determined by many other, non-numeric factors. For example:
- How accessible and user-friendly are the resources I’m creating?
- How visible is the research I’m producing?
- How comfortable are patrons in approaching me at my practicum/internship/graduate assistantship?
- Are discussions initiated in classrooms continuing outside of them? Do I feel heard?
- Am I uncomfortable? Should I be? How do I respond to that (dis)comfort? Is it a sign of growth?
In other words, the measures of success are entirely different animals and you, not your instructor or supervisor, will be responsible for doing a good deal of evaluation and reflection for yourself.
5. You will have to introduce yourself, present and have speaking points regularly. You might as well get used to it now. This is how you make a space for yourself in academia, by heightening your visibility in as many ways as possible: conferences, symposiums, publications, resources, collaborations, networking, online presence, etc. If you choose to avoid the limelight and invitations to make yourself visible, you will be invisible.
6. The importance of proactivity cannot be overstated. Everything you want you must pursue tirelessly. As some African Americans say, “you gotta be on your grind.” Sometimes you have to hunt down the opportunities you want as though you were earnestly stalking prey. Frequently, if you want to create a space or opportunity, it will imply a grassroots effort that begins from the ground up. There’s no more ‘passing,’ ‘I’m gonna sit this one out’ or ‘let somebody else do it.’ It’s up to you. You get out what you put in. Every effort is an investment that will have its own returns.
7. Not everyone’s going to be in your corner. That goes for professors, peers and everyone in-between. Foster and nurture relationships with people who demonstrate their support of you. Skin color is not going to determine who your allies are.
8. You may not finish with the same cohort you started with. And that may not be a bad thing. While sustained relationships with peers are encouraged, they can’t be the determining factors of your success. If you need an extra semester to take an additional class or an extra year for an awesome practicum or certification, take it. Remember that how long you take to reach the goal is less important than arriving there.
9. Your sedentary lifestyle is likely to lead to weight gain.
10. If you’re looking for a dating pool, don’t bank on it.