Deciding to pursue a Master of Library & Information Science degree comes to people in a lot of different ways. Some are already in the profession in some manner, some are adding another degree to their growing collection, and some (like myself) jumped right into it after getting their bachelor’s degree. Any way you go about it you start to hear the same things about library programs, whether they taught you what you needed to know to be a librarian or not. Something that doesn’t get discussed quite as much though, is what it is like to start library programs and getting through them with your sanity intact. It's not hard, but it can be, and everyone’s situation and learning methods are different. So, here are some things I never knew before I got in the program, as well as things I am learning as I get closer to graduating. I’ll keep you all updated as I start to figure out more! (Hopefully I get it figured out before I graduate)
If you’re like me then maybe getting your library science degree was something you didn’t really plan out but more of something you fell into. I applied to the program and was accepted without ever working in or hardly visiting any library setting. Crazy right? However, I started to figure out while taking my classes that this experience really does help for a majority of the school work. For most of the classes it helps to have some kind of knowledge on the library system whether it be public, academic, or specialized. I quickly realized that a majority of the students in the program usually already work in a library of some kind and that was quite a shock for me that they already had so much information on the subjects we were learning. I spent my first semester figuring out ways to get through some of my class work that probably would have gone a lot smoother if I had that inside knowledge. Luckily, there are quite a few opportunities for library students to get the experience and hopefully get the hours needed to complete the practicum requirements. Look for libraries that offer part time positions for students, or internships (hopefully paid) where you can learn the ins and outs of working in a library. Lastly, there are always volunteer opportunities you can look to do in your off time, so you can have that connection that might be needed to help you get through some of your class work. Getting experience really helps as you go along in the program, and helps you figure out where you might fit in the library profession.
Here’s the thing about library science programs, for some classes you will have a lot of work and for other you might have very minimal. It really depends on the classes, your focus, maybe even the university. The most important thing to remember though is that you are there to learn and the library profession is constantly progressing. Especially with an online program, there are a lot of discussion board posts, group projects, and a lot of other tedious works needed for the class completion. Group projects always suck, you have to work with a bunch of people you will never see face to face and who might even live in different states. It’s hard work, however it can be done as smoothly as possible when you put on your librarian persona and try to be as helpful as possible without letting the stress get to you. (Which is what we might have to do at one time or another when we get to a librarian position in a library, so it’s good practice!) Discussion posts aren’t really a whole lot better; you get so focused on providing the right answer and reading through all the information the professor gives you (which is usually a lot). Instead try to focus on the fact that most professors set up these posts not looking for what is right and wrong, but more to start discussions over topics that can make us more knowledgeable and helpful to the profession. Just don’t stress with your school work and try to find a smooth path through the library program, because I’m sure we will have enough to stress about when we become librarians dealing with the many issues we face in libraries.
- Alison DeVries, MS-LS Candidate 2019