Student Experience: Learning How to Juggle When the Floor is Lava

This post is part of the Student Experience series, which features current and former archives students as they reflect on graduate school, internships, and early career issues. If you would like to contribute a post for this series, please email me

Guest poster Irina Sandler, Simmons College student and archivist at the Baker Library of Harvard Business School as well as the Cambridge Historical Society, discusses how she balances school work, jobs, and personal responsibilities, and  what keeps her sane. 

Hi all! I’m a Simmons College archives management student, getting my MLIS while working two part-time archives positions. I also have friends who would like to see me once in a blue moon, a boyfriend who at some point would appreciate seeing me NOT working overtime at home or sleeping, family who wants me to make the time to fly back to the Midwest, oh and I have a chronic illness that likes to flare up at the worst possible time. As humans, everyone is living their lives and juggling issues in our own silent and different ways. This is just a brief discussion of one person’s struggle, my struggle, to juggle artifacts when the floor is lava.

My saving grace is iCal, synced with Google Calendars. Staying highly organized allows me to prioritize which fires to put out first, be it professionally, academically, or socially. There are only so many times you can cancel on a friend because you have unfinished homework before you begin to lose friendships…or your marbles. In my personal experience, the best way to prioritize is to sprinkle in a little of all the different responsibilities into the day. Listen to the online lecture while folding laundry. Need a break at work? Try doing some readings for class. Commuting to meet some friends on the weekend? Trains and buses are the perfect time to get readings done, plan for the week ahead, or make a grocery list. Listening to online lectures while cooking may not be perfect, but it has allowed me to feed myself as well as stay tentatively caught up in class.

Finding ways to implement classwork into the real world is also crucial. This helps me feel less insane spending hours doing school work after working all day if I can tie the two together. In my electronic records management class, we discussed records retention schedules and how to institutional records tend to not have the priority. Later this spring at NEA, I am on a three-woman team, presenting on how to better take care of institutional records. We also had a class teaching us how to safely migrate materials, which I promptly implemented with some success and only a minor mishap. Schoolwork shouldn’t be something we just suffer through. Learning about management skills and then managing people in real life should tie together. One of my jobs essentially runs on grants, and this semester I am finally learning how to do so better. Why else are we going to school then, if not to implement what we have learned?

Building relationships within the archives community is another way to both stay sane and get ahead in the field. Having friends in the program to commiserate with has saved me time, money, and hair (since I now only want to tear my hair out about once a week). I am doing my classes blended (some online and some in person), making it easier for me to build relationships than those taking online-only classes. It doesn’t have to be about book exchanges and finding someone who remembers what the professor blurted out right before everyone left. It can be about finding other archivists and LIS professionals through organizations such as SAA, NEA, NEMA, ALA…you name it, we have an acronym for it. If I didn’t have the lone arrangers roundtable, I would be up a creek without a paddle regularly.

Having a strong support system has been the most important foundation to any success I have had since enrolling in the program. Doesn’t preclude me from falling apart regularly, but having people to help put the pieces back together makes it all okay. Grad school is hard. Working is hard. Doing both is insanely hard. Maintaining human relationships through it all seems impossible. We can all make it through this experience. We will further ourselves professionally and personally. We will rock even harder than we did before starting grad school. Stay frosty, everyone.

Irina (Rina) Sandler is a graduate student in the Archives Management program at Simmons College in Boston, MA, graduating in Spring 2017 with her MLIS. She is currently an archivist at the Baker Library of Harvard Business School as well as the Cambridge Historical Society.

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One thought on “Student Experience: Learning How to Juggle When the Floor is Lava

  1. Pingback: Student Experience: First-time Conference Presenter | SNAP Section

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