On the first day of my library school orientation back in 2011, a professor gave the following amazing advice to a roomful of aspiring LIS professionals: every semester take at least one class that stretches you outside your comfort zone. She pointed out that many of us had experience in libraries, archives, and/or the humanities and, thus, in certain classes we would feel very at home and in our element. But she urged us to push ourselves to try new things; that these new things, whatever they were, would serve us well and might even become our new favorites!
Thus, I’ve tried to stick to that advice; in my case, it’s mostly meant taking tech-heavy courses. While I’m great at Microsoft products, basic photo & video editing, and social media (as many college students are), before library school I didn’t have a very extensive tech background. Thus, at the risk of a terrible GPA and lots of anxiety, I threw myself wholeheartedly into courses like Introduction to Network Systems, Web Design & Construction, and Digital Preservation. And the outcome? I loved them (and my GPA and mental state have remained intact). Sure, there were times when I was very stressed, felt way out of my depth, and considered bailing in favor of something cozier. But I ended up sticking with each difficult course, despite the fear. And honestly, the sense of accomplishment I get from finishing tech-heavy courses is unparalleled.
This semester’s manifestation of my attempt to challenge myself is a course on Geographic Information Systems or GIS. I was vaguely aware of GIS as something I should consider learning more about because many larger public libraries use GIS tools for marketing research. Also, we get a fair number of GIS-related questions at the academic library where I work (lots of regional & urban planning students) and I always felt somewhat inadequate when trying to help.
Thus, off I went; and I have to say, so far it has been amazingly fun! We’re working with a tutorial for the technical skills and I don’t feel too overwhelmed yet. Plus, we have to do an end-of-semester project that is fairly flexible, so I’ll probably end up tying it to my marketing and outreach interests.
The moral of the story: hard things aren’t the worst! They can seem like it at times, but they will stretch you and you will be better for it!