Doing distance study, no-one can hear you scream.

[This is a submission for an issue of Library Life ]

Distance study is lonely and frustrating.  As supportive as family and friends are, no-one else quite gets what you’re going through as much as people who have the same deadlines, the same pressures with the same assignments.  I’m almost finished my MIS, doing it full time by distance, and I’ve come up with a  few strategies to help, and some excellent resources.

1) You’re not really alone.

There are others facing exactly the same problems.  In each class, find a buddy – someone you can talk to about the course.  You can agree to IM each other, or text, or connect in whatever way suits you both, but your buddy is your go-to guy for that paper.  Sometimes just a “how’s it going?” from someone else is all you need, so remember its not a one way street.

2) The inter-tubes are your friend.

Not only are there a bunch of people in your class that are sharing the same problem, there are people all over the world.  #libraryschool on twitter is a good place to start – and hear others comment on their experience of doing the same kind of papers you are.  Hack Library School (http://hacklibschool.wordpress.com) is a US based blog that has a huge amount of useful advice, and it’s archives are really worth hunting through.

3) LIANZA rocks.

Your local LIANZA group has meetups and events.  It doesn’t matter if the event is focussed on another kind of librarianship than you are interested in, meeting other professionals locally who have been through the challenges you are facing now is always enlightening.  If they invite you for dinner or drinks after an event, go!

4) Get Mentored.

Mentoring is a funny thing, and it can be hard to ask someone you admire to help.  Remember, mentoring works both ways: it is a benefit for both of you.  Find someone whose attitude and skills you admire  – they can be a boss, a colleague, even someone younger but who may have more experience in what you want to pick up – and arrange to meet occasionally.  You can make it as formal or ad-hoc as you like, but agree between you how you’d like it to work.  LIANZA have a formal set of guidelines for mentoring someone through professional registration (http://bit.ly/Vbamy1) but it doesn’t have to be so hard core.  Mine just buys me coffee, lets me cry on her shoulder, and puts me onto possible jobs.

Distance study is a challenge – but the steps above can help you connect with others in ways similar to being in a class.  In fact, having to actively seek connections with a buddy or a mentor, follow and belong to an internet based community is probably better network skill building for your professional career than just chatting with classmates.

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