Things I Learned In Grad School

  1. Finally! Two weekends without school work! It was much needed after the last 6 months. For the record, I DO NOT recommend trying to open a large theatre show and taking two grad school classes at the same time. My grades and my health suffered: sinus infections, knots in my neck and shoulders, poor diet… yeah, the works for when your body and mind is working overtime at 110%. I survived on minimum sleep. But did I learn? Heck yeah. Although I really cannot say it any better myself:

Wisdom is knowing that you really don't know.

So what did I learn? If you want to take things at face value, check out the course work pages above. I’d actually rather measure it as one cohesive unit.

  1. Tech skills are a necessity.
    From cataloging to creating a digital library to usability, everyone needs to understand basic HTML and computer operation. This doesn’t mean that you have to be an expert, but it means you need to be comfortable with using computers and software — and be secure enough to learn something new when they change. Now, I’m smarter than the average bear when it comes to tech, but I learned that I’m not cut out for database coding (basic SQL, okay — complex queries, not so much…), but I can sure help you form the schema to use for your database. I also learned that I can make basic CSS/HTML web pages and make graphics for them… but I’ll leave the Java, Flash, and PHP to someone else for the time being until I learn more about them. This is an area where skills are constantly updated and it’s going to take some mistakes in learning how things operate!
  2. Metadata is king.
    Oh, so that’s what makes the web and searches work… Yep. It’s everywhere. Librarians can no longer ignore metadata since it makes our lives a whole heck of a lot easier (and frustrating at the same time!). MARC, Dublin Core, EAD, METS, MODS, RDF, and a host of other schemas now form the backbone of our systems. In our digital world, it’s how things are categorized and retrieved. Metadata and its various forms was explained in no less than 4 classes. I love the fact that many have XML schemas so that it’s easily used with current standards, and I have a gut feeling that this is what I’ll end up working on for most of my professional career.
  3. There is always uncertainty.
    The professor gives you an assignment. S/he gives you the subject, expectations, and criteria to meet, but neglects to tell you the page count. Oh, no! This is no different than in the workplace. You’re given minimum expectations and goals/benchmarks to meet, but what you do otherwise is your work ethic. It’s where you’re driven to achieve and succeed. You don’t know everything, so you research, learn, ask questions, and sometimes make it up as you go along. This is the current crux of information professions: we’ve come so far in the last 20 years that the future is at times unfathomable. How will the iPad change reading habits, online reference and information retrieval? It’s already happening, and as a professional I need to be alert to trends and be willing to adapt.
  4. Make a schedule and stick to it.
    When I started grad school, I was working a full time job and a part time job. Between juggling the two of them and planning for classes along with everything else, my time became spoken for very quickly. iCal quickly became my lifeline, as did my smart phone so that I could get reminders about assignment due dates and requirements. I planned my progress on assignments and reading in my calendar, giving an estimate of time of each task. This became particularly important in my across-country move and traveling for work in 2008/2009 (100 days on the road requires a lot of planning!). But, no matter how hard I tried to stick to my schedule for Spring 2010, the best plans always failed. Opening a new show requires a flexible schedule to deal with the complete revamps of sections of the show, and early in the semester it interfered with how I normally studied. Once the show opened and I was back to 40 hours a week, my grades picked up, but I had a certain laziness in my schedule since I was jolted out of my routine early on in the semester. I didn’t have a good foundation on which to base the new material. I floundered, re-read chapters, and lost a lot of sleep. In the end, I made it, but having an established schedule would have gained me a few hours of sleep!
  5. Practical experience is worth more than theoretical knowledge.
    One thing that I really liked about the FSU MLIS program is that it championed practical experience. Sure, we had to read a lot, but most of my learning came from the practical application of the material. I learn by doing, and doing helps me figure out the holes in my knowledge. It’s great to know something in your mind; it’s even better to be able to create something from the knowledge in your mind.

Would I do things differently through grad school? Yep. Probably. I’d love to get to know my professors better, and that may only be possible with a face-to-face class. I feel that I only got to know bits and pieces of the whole of the prof’s knowledge and experiences through the online schooling. I’d also like to get involved in further research which I really didn’t get to experience.

What People Say by Gaping VoidThere is so much yet to learn. I know in the overall library world, I’m still very green but this will not stop me from reading, learning, practicing the skills, and keeping a curiosity of the changes that are bound to happen in practices and technology. I’ll keep working my ass off to become the best librarian / information specialist I can be.

When my contract is up in September, I’m will be prepared for whatever life and my new career have to throw at me. I’d love to stay in Las Vegas and continue on with Cirque du Soleil, but that’s still up in the air. So, for now I continue learning and working, appreciating the foundation upon which I can grow.

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Sara Written by:

I'm an Information Architect and Taxonomist in the greater Philadelphia, PA area. Mad about metadata. Incessant organizer. Knowledge monger. Information seeker. Wisdom chaser. Curiosity has yet to kill this cat!