Monday, June 24, 2013

How to Succeed as a First Semester LIS Student

This post originally appeared on Information Space, the blog of the iSchool at Syracuse University, on 4 October 2011.

In my first few weeks as a student at the School of Information Studies, I’ve been scrambling to figure out the best ways to engage with my classwork, prepare myself for a future career in the information field, and have fun while doing it. This post at Hack Library School lays out some great advice for new librarians, but their suggestions also apply to IM and TNM students, or anyone interested in the information field. So, I’ve compiled a list of some of the best advice I’ve found, been given, or wanted to give about settling in to a new program.
Before You Get to School
  • Start a portfolio: Whether it’s a blog, a website, a collection of works, or even just well-managed social- networking profiles, be prepared to present a public face to the world (and to future employers). Especially at the master’s level, the work we’re doing feeds our careers, and will establish us in the field. Simple ways to do this are to create a site using or, or sign up for Brand-Yourself.
  • Manage your online presence: Know which social networks you’re on, and which ones you should join. Twitter is full of librarians (check out this list), and the #libchat hashtag is a great way to get a bead on the conversation. LinkedIn is also a good way to start reaching out to the people in your discipline—alumni networks are powerful tools, and there’s nothing preventing you from starting to connect with them now.
When You Arrive
  • Set up tools for communication and collaboration: Setting up your campus email is a must, but look to your classmates as well. Information sciences are all about communication and conversation, and it’s important to know where those conversations happen. GoogleDocs and Gmail are both really useful for working on projects, but don’t forget online tools like Facebook, Skype, Twitter, Dropbox, and more! See what people are using to collaborate and hop on board.
  • Meet the faculty: This is good advice for everyone from prospective students to Ph.D’s—getting to know your professors outside of class will give you a plethora of people to work with and get advice from, and it might just make your classes more enjoyable. Go to office hours, volunteer for projects in your specialization, talk to the researchers who are doing things that fascinate you.
Once You’ve Settled In
  •  Start talking to people: Join the conversation in your field, as early as possible. No matter what program you’re enrolled in, it’s important to get to know what options are available to you as you prepare to start a career. Ask for informational interviews with the people who are most passionate about their work- ask them how they got started. People love talking about the things they’re most interested in, and it’s a really good way to build your network.
  • Explore: Get out of your comfort zone! Particularly in LIS, where most of us seem to have multi-disciplinary backgrounds, it’s wonderful to keep up ties to other fields. Join a chorus, play in a kickball league, find a chess club—as much as Hinds Hall is a second home to us all, it’s great to see the rest of campus. Make connections outside of the other students in your program and some of them might become lifelong friends.
By the End of the Semester
  • Have a plan: This is straight from Zachary Frazier at Hack Library School, but it’s amazing advice. By the end of your first semester, have a good idea of where you’re going and what it will take to get there. Meet with your faculty adviser, check out the course catalogue, and know what you need to do both inside and outside the classroom. There’s nothing that says you can’t change plans, but having one to start with will keep you on track.
Do you have any advice to share? Let us know in the comments!

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