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.