5 Things Elementary School Taught Me about Graduate School

Posted by Camille Chidsey

May 5

1. Share.

Share your resources, share your knowledge, share your experience. While most people associate elementary school with sharing toys and crayons, this lesson extends far past kindergarten. Students pursuing information science related careers come from a range of backgrounds and the mix of personal and professional experience among students can be very powerful. As a teaching and service focused profession, good customer service is essential. Understanding different communities, cultures, and perspectives adds both to the integrity of the profession and helps maintain educated, self-aware librarians.

In graduate school, the ability to share (and share well) is often a synonym for collaboration. The word “collaboration” is a hot topic in any profession, but especially significant in a project and group-work based fields. Knowing how to interact well with colleagues, co-workers, and faculty is crucial to success. Additionally, forming strong, friendly relationships with the faculty on campus helps jumpstart alliances and partnerships to come.

2. Be prepared to compromise.

Life is not black and white or either/or. The gray areas, the “what ifs” are what make life and education interesting. It works the same when you are children. You can’t have every toy you want to play with and you may not get to be first in line for snack time, but with patience, eventually you will get your reward. One of the largest places we see daily compromise is in workplace management systems. Your boss or direct supervisor may have a different approach to forming committees, workflow, offering incentives or punishment, etc. Learning to work with different types of people with various emotional skill sets will be an asset to maintaining consistency and control in the workplace. In my Library Administration and Management course, I was introduced to author and psychologist, Daniel Pink. Pink is known for his management/self-help books pertaining to workplace motivation and teamwork between different personality types in the workplace. With so many students entering the LIS field from other careers (see #1), it makes sense to read up on how different people communicate.

One of my favorite books that I read in Graduate School was Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

Another of my favorite reads regarding compromise and capitalizing on different skill sets in the workplace was Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Won’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Cain offers an in-depth look at of how different psychological temperaments between colleagues can be effective by learning to balance the positive traits of introverts and extroverts, while remaining sensitive to both groups. To be fair, the workplace is not the only place that you will have to compromise.

Speaking as a former academic librarian, compromise happens on a daily basis as librarians struggle to negotiate terms between faculty and administration. The side effects of these concessions means that eventually, you will have to do something you are uncomfortable with. However, this is one reason LIS careers are such incredible professions: You are continually given a chance to learn and expand your boundaries.

3. Be Curious.

Ask questions. Raise your hand. Information Science remains a profession that is constantly changing. When I was in elementary school, I was painfully shy. I rarely raised my hands in class, even if I was interested in the material or had a question. College helped alleviate those fears, but graduate school enforced the reason why speaking up was necessary. Asking that your voice be heard insures that new ideas will be brought up, discussion will occur and libraries will not remain stagnant establishments. Using your imagination is even more important. With information overload permeating the general populace, creativity in developing new programs, ways to access information, and training patrons how to implement new tools is essential.

4. Adapt.

In an extremely fast-paced, technological world, everyone must adapt to their surroundings. This means learning as much about new software and tools and adapting your knowledge base to fit 21st century skills that employers are looking for. We all know that libraries are places of information; consequently, books are not the only source of knowledge. With large volumes of patrons plugged in to their cell phones, social media accounts, e-books, and Ipads, access to information has changed as well. Because of the increase in responsibilities, librarians are forced to take on multiple roles. No longer can you be just a reference librarian; It is likely that collection development, technological know-how, instruction, and programming (often in other departments than your own) will be a part of your job description as well. In smaller libraries and those with less funding, the ability to “wear many hats” has become the norm.

5. Play nice.

The employer you trash-talk now may be your co-worker in the (very near) future. Students in your classes will be your colleagues in the future. Participate in class, do your work in group projects, and generally be a friendly, courteous person. It will pay off. If you’re extremely negative in school, people will remember those characteristics and form opinions of you PRIOR to entering the workforce. This will make GETTING (and maintaining) a “real” job even harder.

And remember, if you ever need any words of wisdom from one kid to an adult, just listen to this boy. Sometimes it is important to take the road less traveled (as long as you make sure you’re still a good person at the end).


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  1. All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten Quotes. http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/2399046-all-i-really-need-to-know-i-learned-in-kindergarten

  2. Everything You Need to Know About Life You Can Learn At The Playground. Diane Clehane, Forbes, June 30, 2012. http://www.forbes.com/sites/dianeclehane/2012/06/30/everything-you-need-to-know-about-life-you-can-learn-at-the-playground/

  3. What I DID Learn in Library School. Melissa Mallon. February 10, 2008. http://acrlog.org/2008/02/10/what-i-did-learn-in-library-school

  4. Ten Things I Didn't Learn in Library School, Academic Edition. Jessica Olin. October 23, 2012. http://letterstoayounglibrarian.blogspot.com/2012/10/ten-things-i-didnt-learn-in-library

  5. Everything You Need to Know About Life (and ACN)…from a 9 Year Old. Greg Provenzano, February 28, 2013. http://gregprovenzano.com/2013/02/28/lifeandacn/

  6. All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Robert Fulghum. http://www.amazon.com/Really-Need-Know-Learned-Kindergarten/dp/034546639X

  7. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. Susan Cain. 2013. http://www.amazon.com/Quiet-Power-Introverts-World-Talking/dp/0307352153/

  8. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. Daniel H. Pink. 2009. http://www.amazon.com/Drive-Surprising-Truth-About-Motivates/dp/1594484805/

  9. 21st Century Skills, Libraries and Librarians. Dr. Steve Matthews. August 25, 2010. http://21stcenturylibrary.com/2010/08/25/21st-century-skills-libraries-and-librarians/

Topics: Educational Resources, Graduate School

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