Keeping positive

When I took on the MIS at Victoria, I knew it was going to be a challenge to keep positive.  I got a lot of feedback from those around be that they thought the course was not great, and that it was a box-ticking exercise to get a professional librarian qualification.  Interestingly, much of the scorn poured on the idea – even though it was thought a necessary thing to do to enter the profession [1]  – seemed to be reflected internationally.  Talk to any group of library school students, and you’ll get the same kind of complaints about it not being intellectually very stimulating, that the exercises are not relevant…

I’m going to save up my reflection on what the courses are like until I’m done.  What I’m going to do here is try and reinforce the idea that what you get out of libraryschool is what you put in, by looking back at my last two semesters.

The first semester had a lot going for it: back studying full time, I was very happy to immerse myself in a new project.  New stationery!  New computer!  I also signed up for a full semester’s worth of courses: in the one I’m attending you need to complete 12 papers, so I signed up for 4.  Near the middle of the semester I started a 5th, based in the States.  At the end of the course my wife was away in the US, and I had admitted myself to hospital with hepatitis, dashing down during the day to use the wireless in the med student cafeteria to get my assignments in.  God it was fun.

Safe to say I like being busy, and I like a little chaos.  I got B+/A- for most of my papers over all, and an A+ for my paper by distance, at least 1/4 of which was completed with a line in my arm.

The next semester I enrolled for three papers.  It was tough at the start, as the hepatitis had turned out to be suspected cancer.  My motivation dropped.  Southern New Zealand spring got grey and wet.  With three papers I just couldn’t keep busy enough, and with the worry about my health distracting me I reverted to the work ethic many around me had admitted to; though I never watched TV during lectures, I taught myself to solder (see earlier posts for a few projects…) code a bit of C for my arduino, and follow twitter.  I dropped the reading, and with a half panic at the last few weeks cracked the books for a few essays.

The cancer scare came and went, as they do, but not after a couple of really nasty gastroscopic exams, and a tattoo.  (Cross one off the bucket list).

The results are not in for this semester finally, but it looks a bit like an A-/B+ kind of return.  Much the same as the first semester.  So, with no ‘punishment’ for a much lower effort, why on earth would I work my arse off for the last semester?  This morning, going in to work for my part time job supervising exams and helping with student IT worries on my local campus, I sat with my wife at the coffee shop, and admitted that the reason I’m not satisfied with library school isn’t all the niggling library school bureaucratic sillyness,  or the shortcomings of my teachers or fellow students, but with my own performance!  It Is What You Make Of It.

Its up to me to halt this spiral of dissatisfaction.  Reading above I realise now how much my own circumstances encouraged me to become a bit negative.  Worrying about getting a job at the end of it all is not helping either.  However, I have to rise above that, use some of the resilience I know I have, and face the next semester square on.  Its going to be hard, as the courses are not immediately that attractive to me, but…  I can make them interesting.  One is the start of a six month research exercise that I’m really worried about, for any number of reasons.  I’ll be blogging about that in detail in the future.

How am I going to short circuit this spiral?  Here are a few practical steps.

  • Keep breathing (always a good one)
  • Work out what I want out of the upcoming courses, and how I can make them practical exercises I can use in my upcoming professional career, and not just do the minimum
  • Worry about the next step, jobs, when I need to worry about it, next February.
  •  Build up a list  things to look forward to (like Whare Flat folk festival, and New Librarians’ Symposium 6)
  • Translate other’s frustration and negativity about the course through the lens of their experience, and not mine.  Often its cool to complain about schoolwork in order to meet peer expectations, or downplay one’s own performance.  That’s OK.  That’s them.  Not me.
  • Document my frustrations with the library school process so that if I can make a positive difference to the system at some point I have something I can use.
  • Keep breathing.
  • Make lists.  Tick things off.  Have fun.  Enjoy the freedom to make my own timetables I’m not going to have again until I retire.
I have a few weeks before the start of the next semester.  Time to relax, not time to get wound up!


[1] Librarianship as a profession?  Jeez, if you need a certificate to make a coffee these days, and fitting tyres is a career, then Librarianship is a profession.

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