Secrets and tips: How to survive library school in 5 simple steps [UPDATED]

UNT Library & Information ScienceWill you survive library school while working full-time?

Yes, and here are 5 strategies for doing so.

I. Keep good records & Learn how to do research [UPDATE]

As I am finishing up this program, there are a few things I wish I'd known at the beginning of my program. I thought I'd add them to this post for your edification:

  1. Organize your homework, citations, and readings (perhaps at the beginning and end of each semester). You'll need them for capstone. It is a good idea to archive all the syllabi and discussion forum postings and quizzes from classes, as you go along.
  2. Learn how to research in the most efficient way, both in preparation for capstone, and to make your papers easier.

II. Make good choices

  1. Pick a responsive and knowledgeable advisor. You probably can't figure out the tricky details of completing an official program of courses all by your lonesome, so get good help.
  2. Pick the right classes and right professors. Some professors are better at teaching online courses than others, some classes are more relevant to what you need to learn than others.  Ask prior or current students for recommendations.

III. Plan ahead

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of planning.  You, as a working adult with a life outside of work, are facing a major time management challenge.

Two of the things that make this such a challenge are:

  1. The sheer amount of reading and homework that is required. Although I can fit in 10-20 pages of reading on a bus trip to work each day, that's often not enough time to cover all of the reading. But, if you start a few months ahead - you might get the reading done. Plus, you usually need any chunks of time you have to work on homework and major projects.  Finally, realistically, you need to accept that you cannot read it all.
  2. The graduate-level, creative thinking that is expected. Professors expect more than just regurgitation of ideas and I find it difficult to both read a lot and read well in a short time frame. In a similar vein, it's hard to come up with creative project ideas on the spot.

With the help of kind professors and clever internet searches, I am often able to find the syllabi for the next semester's classes.  I try to at least choose 1-3 interesting ideas for project topics, so I can focus on doing preliminary research.

On the night that I receive my actual syllabi for a semester, I sit down for a number of hours and map out a timeline of assignments and project chunks for all of my classes. I set artificial deadlines at least 2-3 weeks before the real due dates, to allow for illness or family emergencies or just plain tiredness getting in the way of my completing assignments.

My final goal - unrealistic as it may seem - is to try and finish reading a good chunk of the major textbook for each class before the semester even starts.  And I don't just mean surface reading, I mean outlining and perhaps making comments to myself about its relevance.

IV. Keep it relevant

Relevance is another key to surviving and thriving in your library program. If you don't care, your work will show it and you won't get much out of it. And what fun would that be?!

Leave aside for a moment the fact that you will have at least one required course that just rubs you the wrong way and focus on what you want to get out of this degree, other than letters at the end of your name.

  1. In required classes, try to find the parts that could be useful to your current or future career.
  2. In choosing classes and projects, pick with an eye to those that interest you or fit into your current/proposed career path.

V. Take a break

Finally, get some rest!

  1. Don't skimp on sleep.
  2. Take time to be with your loved ones.
  3. Include fun activities in your life.
  4. Plan for a few playing hookie weeks in every semester where you DON'T do any homework.
  5. Occasionally take classes that are easy or put in a "good enough" effort in classes (this is for all you perfectionists out there).



Roy Cummings

Good post, Adelle.

Good post, Adelle. I especially agree with picking topics that interest you. Seeing how grad school is supposed to prepare you for your field, it only makes sense to work on projects that tie into your long-term goals.

Good read.

Adelle Frank

Thanks, nice website!

Thanks, Roy, I like your's awesome! I especially like your list of Open Source Tools for Digital Libraries.


school and work

Awesome! Why didn't I know about this LAST semester? Thanks for the info! Although...with my work schedule it is VERY difficult to plan...Clients book and cancel at the last minute...only 4 clients can be an 8 to 12 hour work day!! Last semester I was barely able to pay bills as I had to cancel clients in order to get my work done!!

But, hopefully, this semester, I will be better able to plan....since I have some experience under my least a little bit anyway!

I really like your blog!

Adelle Frank

bowing to your wisdom

You're right: my life lends itself to a bit of regimentation, whereas your is more wonderfully free-form.
Thanks for the compliment, Kat, and good luck this semester!