Library School Too Easy?

Reading this post over at Agnostic, Maybe about the library school experience prompted a reflection on my own library school experiences so far. Currently, I’m in my second semester and in some ways, the classes are seem easy. At the same time, I also feel like I’m behind in comparison to some of my classmates. I know that programs and campuses differ demographically, but at my campus, we have a lot of commuters and working professionals. Many of my classmates are already working in a library while working on their MLS, but I came into my program with just a tiny bit of library work experience, so compared to them, I feel behind. What really caused me to panic was reading this Annoyed Librarian post on library schools, especially the comments from recent graduates who were bitter and pissed off that their degree has done nothing for them. The whole reason why I’m here is so that I can get a job, not just drown in debt. Seriously, I freaked out and wrote an email to the Newly Employed Librarian blog. I spend a lot of time on the internet, it’s my best friend.

What if library school is too easy? There are those who are happy that it is and those who are bored. The way I see it, the MLS is part theory and part professional training. Much of the education is about applying a skillset to the profession, like learning resources for reference, or learning how to catalog. To get the most out of your education you have to take the time to invest your interests into the projects assigned and take advantage of what resources the school has to offer. I have classmates who do the minimum and get the same grades as me, but at least I know that I contemplated how some of these assignments can apply to my areas of interest, thus, getting what I want out of the class. Taking advantage of opportunities that the school offers is another way to supplement this degree. For example, I am currently participating in a mentorship program at my school, for no credit or funding. I’m doing this because I saw it as a good way to get an inside peek at what an academic librarian does. It’s very time consuming and some days, I think I lose money because I have to take time off work; but what I’ve learned from my mentor has been invaluable. Just through shadowing her, I’ve learned things about librarianship that just aren’t taught in the classes, things that aren’t even mentioned, like what is expected of you once you get a job. This is why I’m very glad to have her as a mentor and am doing this.

I think it’s just impossible for the MLS to single-handedly prepare us for everything the real world will expect of us. As some of the comments from the Agnostic, Maybe post suggest, there are a lot of things you just learn on the job, like having patience with angry patrons or trouble shooting the printer (again). The best thing to do is to be immersed in the library world, read tons of library blogs and articles, volunteer (which by the way can sometimes land you a job), work or intern at a library, be creative and develop other transferable skills. I think there’s plenty of space for improvement in the MLS program but we have to be the innovators.

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5 thoughts on “Library School Too Easy?

  1. Great comments on a subject I’ve been considering recently… I’m looking forward to an internship that will give me some practical work experience, and even though I know I only get as much out of classes as I put into them, it’s often difficult for me to find the energy to engage in classes that I deem too easy…

    It’s certainly the case that work done outside of the classroom (simply maintaining a blog like this, for example!) will make a world of difference in terms of moving forward in your career. Keep up the good work!

  2. I definitely think you’ll get as much out of an MLS program as you put into it. When I was in school, I challenged myself to make each project into something that would be relevant to my career as a children’s librarian. In my collection development class, I was asked to put together an opening doors collection on any subject I wanted (books for youth excluded), so I chose cookbooks – definitely something used in a public library – and my imaginary population had a high percentage of Spanish-speaking patrons, so I included Spanish-language books in my collection. When I was asked to keep a reading log and read xx number of children’s books for my children’s lit class, I read easily twice as many as were required. During my internship, I showed up on extra days to help out with programs knowing that the more hands-on experience with running programs I could get, the better.

    Were my classes as challenging as my friends who were working on history or English lit grad programs? No. But I took on my graduate work with the goal of not only earning good grades but *preparing myself for my chosen career*. And like Justin said, there’s plenty of stuff outside the classroom that will help you prepare (and possibly give you a one-up in the job search). Maintaining a thoughtful, relevant blog… active membership in professional organizations… mentoring, internships… All great things!

  3. Thank you! Reading your post restored my optimism in what I’m about to embark on. Earlier this week I read the annoyed librarian blog post and found myself panicking over my decision to move from Calfornia (hoot hoot) to New York for a MLIS. It made me lose sleep. The next day I stumbled on to Hack Library School and then your blog and it gave me reassurance. I plan on following more LIS blogs and hopefully in the near future contributing to Hack. For now would you suggest any literature on LIS? Thanks again! =)

    • I had a teacher tell me that librarianship is for anyone who feels it in their heart, it’s good to have passion for what you do. What school are you going to? Syracuse or Pratt? Anyhow, hack library school has a great list of LIS blogs to follow, and if you’re on twitter, there’s a great community of library students and librarians. Good luck on the move! I hope you like snow! :)

  4. Thank you. I’m going to have to prepare myself for the weather. I’ll be attending Pratt. Look like I’ll be need to join the Twitter world too.

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