If you remember nothing else from this post remember Doodle. The number one thing I found most difficult during library school wasn’t the course-load, the growing mountain of assignments and reading or balancing college and a social life – it was trying to find a time to have group meetings. Seriously, when you’re taking five modules but are somehow doing six group projects it’s a nightmare trying to find a time that works for everyone, especially as we all have commitments outside of college and more and more students are in employment while studying. So, forget the unending messages in the group chat and just use a Doodle poll. It’s simple, just input your available times for a meeting and invite everyone to participate in the poll, then you can quickly see the time that suits you all best. Doodle will also sync to your calendar. There’s no need to go for the Premium account, the free version will cover everything you need.
Remember, not all group meetings have to happen in person! Remote meetings are great if you have a long commute into college that you don’t necessarily want to have to do every day. If you’re camera-shy you can do voice-only calls and you can also share your screen over Skype, which is handy for group projects and presentations. Facebook messenger also has a group video chat option.
There are numerous benefits to Google Docs as an alternative to the more traditional Microsoft Office. Firstly, it’s free! Secondly, it’s really easy to collaborate on group reports with Google Docs as multiple users can simultaneously edit the same document. This ends up being so much easier than trying to combine four different Word documents.
Thirdly, as Google Docs is stored in the cloud if you lose your USB drive you won’t lose the paper you just spent 5 hours finishing. Side note: so many USB drives are lost in the library year and it’s really hard to get them back to their owners. Would you recognise your USB in a box of pretty identical looking USBs? Do you have 30 minutes to look through all of them? My advice is to both make a physical mark on the outside of your USB drive (permanent marker or nail polish should work for this) and create a simple “If found please return to” text document to keep on it with your contact details. Better still, stop relying on them fully and have at least one backup with a cloud based solution. Microsoft has cloud storage with 365 but you still have to pay for it. Evernote is popular for taking lecture notes and it has an option for sharing notes including a live chat function.
If you’re not into Google Docs but still don’t want to shell out for Microsoft then there are a number of great open source alternatives like Openoffice and Libreoffice that do everything you need them to.
When it comes to storing and sharing files I recommend using Google Drive or Dropbox (see USB horror story above for reasons why). Another alternative is pCloud, it works just the same as Dropbox but has the option to upgrade to pCloud Crypto for the extremely security conscious among you. pCloud are so confident in their security that they offered $100,000 to anyone who could hack their system and nobody has been able to (and at least 2800 people have tried).
When it comes to essay and dissertation writing, using a citation manager can save a lot of time and headaches. Endnote, Mendeley and Zotero are popular choices. They each have their own strengths and weaknesses depending on your particular needs. Different universities and colleges usually recommend and support different software. If you’re unsure what to go for, try out Zotero – it’s free and open source.
Stop paying for photocopying
As long as you don’t mind reading from screens you won’t need to pay for photocopying anymore if you use apps such as Scannable (made by Evernote) or Adobe Scan. These apps allow you to take photos of documents, automatically rotates, crops and adjusts them and saves them as PDF or JPG.
If you’re looking for a free alternative to PowerPoint, look no further than Google Slides. Google Slides offers everything that PowerPoint does with the added benefit of cloud storage and simultaneous collaboration with other users (seeing a pattern emerge here?). There are loads of great resources out there with free Google Slides templates to play around with like Slides Carnival. Another alternative is Canva. Canva is great for designing posters, images and infographics and now they also offer some pretty great presentation templates. Presentations can be shown native on the Canva website or downloaded as a PDF.
There are lots of great “To Do List” apps, I recommend Any.do which allows you to collaborate with others and share tasks.
If you’re prone to procrastination you might find this desktop Pomodoro timer helpful. The Pomodoro technique uses a timer to break work down into 25 minute intervals with 5 minutes break in between. There’s also a web based timer here for concentration on the fly.
If you need a more extreme method of preventing procrastination, when the siren song of Facebook is calling (or literally anything other than work is calling, let’s be honest) maybe you should go Cold Turkey and download a desktop distraction blocker.
So, there are 10 tools to help you survive the MLIS! Have you found any of these tools helpful? If you have any tips or tricks that help you leave them in the comments below or join in the conversation on Twitter and Facebook using #SLIPIreland
About the author
Clare Murnane is one of the founders of SLIP Ireland. She graduated with an MLIS from UCD in 2015 and now works in UCD Library. If you would like to write for SLIP you can contact Clare on Twitter @SLIPIreland or by emailing email@example.com.