I recently completed my first semester of graduate school at the University at Buffalo, pursuing a Master’s Degree in Information and Library Science. I’m proud that I ended the semester with all A’s, but that’s not as important as the experiences I gained along the way! I learned so much and met so many cool people, so I want to take the opportunity to reflect on my experience for those who may be interested in pursuing a degree in LIS someday, perhaps even at the University at Buffalo!
The IS Department at UB is unique, as its three degree programs (MS-ILS, MS-School Librarianship, and IS Ph.D.) are all conducted in an online asynchronous format. This format provides a unique challenge, as it leaves it up to the student to determine how they will budget out their time to complete their weekly class work. I love the program format, as it allows me to mold my class schedule around other obligations. Assignments for classes are handed out on a certain day of the week (it varies by class), and everything is due a week from that day (usually at 11:59 pm the night before).
I took three classes this semester, each worth three credits: Information Life Cycle, Information Users and Uses, and Introduction to Research Methods. These courses are the three required core courses for the ILS program at UB, so I decided to take them all simultaneously to make room for elective courses in my remaining three semesters. Information Life Cycle looks at the way that information flows, from initial creation and acquisition all the way to preservation or disposal. This course taught me valuable skills about how librarians should handle storing and retrieving information. My final project (a group project) had me think more in-depth about library information security. Information Users and Uses looks at the different types of users that one may encounter in a library space, how different users’ needs differ, and how they interact with information. I got to explore a topic of personal interest during the final essay project, for which I researched the information needs of LGBTQ+ adolescents and developed potential outreach and programming strategies that would benefit this underrepresented population. Introduction to Research Methods looks at how librarians should approach different types of research and shows examples of research in the field to motivate new research interests. The final project for this class was by far my favorite, as we were tasked with writing a fake research grant proposal for a hypothetical research project. I developed a project that would aim to focus on academic libraries to study the best ways to garner initial student interaction with the libraries to promote student success. If you’re interested in reading it (warning, it is long), it’s attached here!
While taking on three courses, I also have a Graduate Assistantship under Dr. Amy VanScoy and her team of brilliant researchers from UB and two other universities. The research project focuses on the Retention of BIPOC Librarians and explores why people choose to leave the field to come up with ways to make the field better, so fewer people make that decision to go in a new direction. While I haven’t had the opportunity to do any official research work yet, I have been able to work closely with the team on other aspects of the project, like putting together conference posters, reviewing papers, and maintaining their public-facing website. Thus far, it has been a very inspiring experience, getting to work with professionals on such an important research project that will positively impact the LIS field.
On top of my graduate assistantship, I participated in a variety of extracurricular activities, such as working as a UniBuddy Student Ambassador and serving as a student representative on the Information Science Department’s Academic Programs and Curriculum Committee. Being a UniBUddy Student Ambassador for the UB Graduate School of Education is a really unique experience because it allows me to share my experiences as a student with prospective students through a chat service called UniBuddy. It’s a way for me to connect with prospective students and tell them all about the University at Buffalo and the unique nature of the online asynchronous MS-ILS degree while answering any questions they may have about courses, professors, and more. Serving as the Student Representative on the APCC for the Information Science Department not only allows them to hear a student’s perspective on courses but also allows me to hear how faculty and staff review the current standard of the course work to continue to improve the degree program for the better.
Information Science Graduate Student Association
Last but not least, my favorite experience thus far has to be my role as President of the Information Science Graduate Student Association (IS-GSA). In the summer before the fall semester started, an email was sent out to the IS department student mailing list with a call for students interested in assisting in the reinstatement of the IS-GSA. I jumped at the opportunity because I wanted to provide myself and others the opportunity to create interpersonal and professional connections with their peers, something that may have proved difficult otherwise due to the nature of the department’s programs. A vote was cast, and I was selected to be the Acting President for the rest of the summer so we could begin organizing outreach events and work on writing the By-Laws for the organization. We had several successful recruitment events, and when the fall elections happened, I was once again selected to be the President, this time officially!
I immediately got to work organizing monthly meetings to provide updates on the inner workings of the department to share with students and planned several “variety events” to increase engagement. Our first variety event was a Time Management workshop, which had a great turnout. After that, we held a “Chat with the Chair,” a town-hall style event where students could voice their questions, comments, and concerns about the department, classes, professors, and more directly to the IS Department Chair. Lastly, we held a Doodle-and-Destress event in the last week of classes to help everyone relax while working on finals.
While meetings and events happened twice a month, I wanted to ensure students had other ways to stay active and interact with their peers. Weekly emails were sent to keep students updated on our upcoming events, and I created a discord server for more casual interactions. The discord server has been our most successful endeavor thus far, gaining over a hundred members by the end of the semester. The server provides a place for students to chat about daily life, ask their classmates about assignments, share internship and job postings, spread positivity, share opinions on classes and professors, and keep student morale high during the semester. It’s become a thriving community full of future librarians, and it’s one of my greatest accomplishments from the fall semester.
Being the President of the IS-GSA has not only given me the space to meet amazing people but also given me the opportunity to take on an important leadership role within the Information Science department. The skills I’m learning from this position will be vital to my future as a librarian, and I’m so thankful I’ve had this opportunity. I’ve already begun the planning process to ensure our spring semester is even more successful, and I look forward to seeing where the IS-GSA goes in the future!
Looking back at my first semester (even though it wasn’t all that long ago), I’m looking forward to the semesters ahead of me and all the opportunities that may arise. I’m certain the rest of my graduate school journey will positively impact my future due to the people I’m meeting, the things I’m learning, and the experiences I’m gaining along the way. If you’re a prospective student and want to learn more about what the UB IS Department has to offer, don’t hesitate to reach out, I’d be happy to chat!
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