by Jill Hurst-Wahl, SLA Board of Directors
As a faculty member, I interact daily with LIS students. These students are arriving in their programs feeling ill-prepared for their futures, yet also being future ready in terms of having creativity, energy, enthusiasm and the ability to collaborate and share information in ways foreign to many practitioners. They have been users of both public and academic libraries, but few have any knowledge of where they might be employed outside the traditional domains. While LIS programs can introduce students to corporate and embedded librarianship, etc., what makes non-traditional librarianship real for them is interacting with practitioners through panel discussions, one-on-one conversations, internships, and even part-time job opportunities. In other words, those of us out in the field need to take time to introduce the students to our world where the jobs of the future are being incubated.
Practitioners, consider these ideas for reaching out to LIS students:
- Invite the LIS students in your region to tour your library. Locate them through the nearest LIS program as well as through announcements on local library discussion lists. (Place announcements in multiple places to improve your chances of connecting with distance students.) Show them where you work and the resources you use. Have 1-2 of your clients talk to them about the benefits of your work.
- Contact an LIS program (e.g., the one closest to you or your alma mater) and offer to guest lecture about your work either in person or via a video conference.
- Contact LIS programs about possible internships or student/group projects.
- Offer to review student resumes and cover letters. While students do have campus resources for this, they appreciate a practitioner’s perspective.
Students, take these steps to connect with practitioners:
- Use the SLA directory to locate a practitioner in an area that interests you, and then schedule a time to talk with that person either in person or by phone. Ask the person about his or her background, work, and advice.
- Attend SLA chapter events, even if it means going out of your way to do so. Then employ some networking strategies to meet and interact with others at the event. Remember that the people who are there can help you become the professional that you want to be.
- Volunteer to help with events that librarians and knowledge/information professionals will be attending. Every event could use help and some will allow volunteers to attend the event for free.
- When a practitioner guest lectures in one of your classes, get the person’s contact information and then follow-up with the person to ask more pointed questions as well as seek advice. If the person is bombarded with follow-up requests (and wouldn’t that be awesome!), offer to coordinate a group meeting.
Are there other ways of getting involved? Yes. Follow your instinct and imagination. Just keep in mind that it is up to us — practitioners and students alike — to ensure that when the future arrives that we have information professionals ready for it!
Jill Hurst-Wahl is an Assistant Professor of Practice in Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies. She is a member of the SLA Board of Directors and several SLA units. She co-authored The Information and Knowledge Professional’s Career Handbook: Define and Create Your Success with Ulla de Stricker.