March 29, 2023

What I Want LIS Students to Know

Jill Hurst-Wahl has a great post over on her Digitization 101 blog by this title, which is inspiring me to write my own take on the subject. Since it is said that imitation is the highest form of flattery, I will assume that stealing a valued colleague’s blog title is “imitation”. And knowing how good-natured Jill is, I’m sure she will take it that way. Anyway, here are some of the things I think LIS students should know, to add to Jill’s excellent list:

No matter how close to graduation you are, your education has only just begun. A lot (most?) of what you learn in library school will be outdated inside of 5 years. You must resolve to learn constantly and to read voraciously — not just in the library literature, but more broadly in business and technology where many of the emerging technologies that will transform your work are first developed.

Although it might sound like work, constant learning is fun. Learning on the job is quite a bit different than learning in college. It is far less structured, largely lacks deadlines, and can be undertaken in ways that are personally suited to you. Learning can range from following some good folks who Tweet things you should know or URLs you should check out to reading blog posts to doing that next little task in a new programming language.

Find someone in the profession you admire, and offer to take them to lunch or drinks or dinner at a conference you are both attending. Use the opportunity to ask about what you should be doing to advance your career. Find out who they follow and what they read. Get their sense of what the future may hold and how you can position yourself well to exploit the opportunities that future may offer. Who knows? This one meeting might be the beginning of a mentor relationship that could help you get ahead.

Look for opportunities. There are any number of ways you can be professionally engaged both within your organization and outside of it. Keep an eye out for activities that interest you and that can use your particular talents.

Create opportunities. It isn’t enough to wait around for opportunities to drop into your lap, sometimes it’s worthwhile to create your own. Library Journal didn’t ask me to write a column on “digital libraries” — I pitched it to them. Luckily, they said yes and I did it for a decade.

While in library school, get (or create) an internship at an organization where you would like to work. Internships can be a great way to get more job experience and can allow organizations to test you out as a potential employee. I’ve worked with interns several times in my career and they have always been positive experiences and one of those interns I had the pleasure of helping to hire.

There may be other things I can say, but this is what comes to mind for now. What do you want LIS students to know? Let us all know in the comments.

Roy Tennant About Roy Tennant

Roy Tennant is a Senior Program Officer for OCLC Research. He is the owner of the Web4Lib and XML4Lib electronic discussions, and the creator and editor of Current Cites, a current awareness newsletter published every month since 1990. His books include "Technology in Libraries: Essays in Honor of Anne Grodzins Lipow" (2008), "Managing the Digital Library" (2004), "XML in Libraries" (2002), "Practical HTML: A Self-Paced Tutorial" (1996), and "Crossing the Internet Threshold: An Instructional Handbook" (1993). Roy wrote a monthly column on digital libraries for Library Journal for a decade and has written numerous articles in other professional journals. In 2003, he received the American Library Association's LITA/Library Hi Tech Award for Excellence in Communication for Continuing Education. Follow him on Twitter @rtennant.


  1. Roy, this is great! And I don’t mind being imitated.

    BTW you may want to check out this Librarian By Day blog post,

  2. Thanks! I am an LIS student and I want you to know your thoughts are reaching us. I am very excited, and a tad nervous, to join the field. I am lucky: I have a paid internship in my first year.

    “A lot (most?) of what you learn in library school will be outdated inside of 5 years.”

    Good thing I wanted a career where I would keep learning.


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