April 21, 2015 - Comments Off on In Process | The School/Work Dichotomy

In Process | The School/Work Dichotomy

In Process is a blog series that highlights the activities and experiences of current archival studies students in the Los Angeles area. Check in every two weeks, for grad students’ insights and fresh perspectives on new and emerging trends, issues, and events in the field.

By Alyssa Loera

When I first started my graduate program, I was told that a single class would require somewhere between 10 and 15 hours a week in order to truly grasp the material. In my naiveté I convinced myself undertaking two classes and a full-time job was a perfectly reasonable way to live over the next 2+ years. I was not completely wrong, but there are a few things I wish I had known that would have maybe made the whole endeavor up until now a little easier.

First of all, the distance learning program at the University of North Texas enticed me more than other online LIS programs mostly because of the existence of the Los Angeles cohort. It felt like more than just forums and web lectures, I would get to meet individuals in person who were in the same program and who could understand the challenges of working while in school. I decided to take two classes a semester, supposedly burying myself in 20 to 30 hours of schoolwork on top of my 40 hour/week job, but I had enthusiasm on my side as well as a few years of library experience.

In the beginning I was working for a library services vendor, specifically as a library specialist within a media vault/warehouse. My job was both physically and intellectually demanding as the warehouse was new and materials were constantly being moved around (beta tapes are heavy, by the way). It was also difficult as a struggling student to turn down opportunities to accrue overtime hours. Not to mention this workplace was located in Thousand Oaks, California and I lived in Koreatown, Los Angeles (for the unfamiliar that is about 100 miles of driving a day, across the treacherous and forever packed 101 freeway). I found myself getting home from work and immediately falling asleep on the couch. For awhile I managed to chug caffeine as I drove home giving me about an hour of convoluted energy to dedicate to some form of studying, but it was not enough. I was not able to dedicate the time that I felt necessary to this life path I had decided for myself, and it was disappointing.

A year later I am much more acquainted with what it takes to work through part-time graduate school while maintaining full-time employment. Some realizations and guidelines I follow include:

1. Be Realistic

My solution to the horrible commute and lack of study-time energy was to spend six months searching and applying for jobs closer to home. Considering I was working in a place I enjoyed, and making enough money to get by, this felt like a drastic step. I had to be realistic. The hours it took to drive home were needed for homework and shortening my commute was guaranteed to preserve some of my overall sanity. I landed a position at the University of California's Southern Regional Library as the Digitization Projects Coordinator. The position is on the UCLA campus, a mere 12 miles from my apartment, and now I get home and there are so many more hours left in the day.

2. Set Aside Time

OK, master procrastinators, this one is for you. As varying as the 10 - 15 hours a week per class estimation can be, it is still a great way to organize your time. For awhile I was finishing my assignments closer and closer to the due date until it became a ridiculous test of stamina. I would convince myself that I could definitely finish a research paper in the span of one weekend, or even learn html and css in a single night. Again, be realistic and set aside your study time. Having a study routine may seem boring to some but you will be forever grateful when all of a sudden you realize you have finished all your assignments and YES you CAN go out for that drink with a friend or see that movie that you've been meaning to catch. If you set aside study time you will be able to efficiently use what is leftover for fun, or whatever else you are dedicating yourself to in that moment.

3. Keep the End Goal in Mind

When you are coming home every day to mountains of more work, work that relates to other work that you are actually being paid for, it can be difficult to keep the end goal in perspective. I love what I do and what I am studying, but the reality I face every day is that this path is not an easy one. Most library professionals know most things you try and accomplish will at first be thoroughly steeped in some sort of struggle. Either for funding, staff, community support or maybe even just permission. This is simultaneously tiring and inspiring. To help keep that end goal in mind I recommend surrounding yourself with good colleagues. Those who enjoy their work, who demonstrate reason and integrity, and those who aren't afraid to tell it like it is. This will keep you going in the most stressful of times. After all, the heart of LIS is community, both the public and the professional.

Alyssa Loera is half-way through her University of North Texas graduate program and currently works as the Digitization Projects Coordinator for the Southern Regional Library Facility at UCLA. She lives in Los Angeles and enjoys traveling, reading, cooking, and haphazardly playing her bass guitar.

Published by: Alyssa in In Process

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