This article was originally posted on the blog Snow Drop Dreams as part of Ontario Library Week! Chrystal asked me to write up a posting on what it was like completing my Masters in Library and Information Science….so here it is!
Maybe I’m biased, but I have to say that I think Librarianship is probably one of the most underrated professions out there in the working world. When I first told my friends and family that I was going to complete my graduate degree in Library and Information Science (MLIS) they tended to look at me with a confused expression on their faces and about 95% of the time replied, “You need a Masters degree to work in a library?” Yes. Despite popular belief becoming a librarian is about more then just shelving books and shushing everyone around you. One of the main jobs of a librarian is fulfilling the informational needs of their patrons, and in order to do that librarians need to have a firm grasp of technology, the organization of information, and various research methods.
Many people also tend to view librarianship as a pretty narrow career path to take. I can’t even begin to count the number of people who have asked me, “What can you do with a MLIS degree? Just work in a library?” Librarianship is actually a much wider and varied field then many people first anticipate. While yes, most MLIS grads do end up working in a public, academic, or government library, there are hundreds of jobs also available in the private sector. I’ve seen job postings for librarians at hospitals, law offices, banks, school systems, software companies, research facilities, even CBC and Much Music!
The job titles that an MLIS degree can get you are also extremely varied: Reference Librarian, Children’s Librarian, Cataloguer, Records Manager, Archivist, Knowledge Management Specialist, Digital Initiatives Librarian, Liaison Librarian, ect! The list is absolutely endless! Pretty much any industry or company dealing with some kind of information has need of someone with an MLIS degree! That isn’t to say, however, that anyone who graduates with an MLIS degree is guaranteed to find a job immediately upon graduation. Like any other career path, librarianship has been affected by the weakened economy, and its often librarians who are the first ones to be let go during budget cuts. Jobs do exist, however, especially for those who are willing to move to Western Canada to look for work!
So, if you are still reading this blog posting, chances are you are interested in maybe pursuing librarianship as a career. In order to pass on my own recent experiences from library school, here are a few of the things that I learned while completing my MLIS!
1. If you live in Canada, make sure you choose a university that has an ALA accredited MLIS program! This ensures that you are attending a university that is providing a quality education set by the standards provided by the American Library Association. Some job postings also specifically ask only for applicants that graduated from an ALA accredited school. In Ontario, the two ALA accredited universities are Western and U of T. I personally chose to go to Western because of their co-op program and the fact that students can graduate after one year instead of two.
2. The first semester of any MLIS degree is tough. Most of the classes consist of a high volume of short assignments to complete. Luckily, these assignments are generally pretty easy, but consist of tedious detailed oriented work. As long as you can manage your time well you’ll find the courses a breeze! After surviving the 5 mandatory courses in first semester, the final semesters of your MLIS are much more relaxed. At that point the rest of your classes are your own choice, and there are a TON of interesting courses to choose from!
3. One of the things that I personally loved about the MLIS degree is that if you don’t want to do a Major Research Project then you don’t have to! Students doing their MLIS can complete their degree just by doing course work alone! Of course, if you want to pursue a more research oriented job path then a major research project is always a good idea! It also looks good on the resume!
4. Finally, the people who attend library school are generally amazing! My friends and I from school all commented on the fact that an MLIS degree tends to attract a very similar personality type. For the most part everyone is extremely nice (after all, librarians are supposed to be helpful), easy to get along with, and a bit on the nerdy side! I gained a really solid group of friends while doing my MLIS, and one of the hardest things I had to do was say goodbye to them once I graduated!
If you are considering pursuing your MLIS degree and have any questions for me, don’t hesitate to contact me on Twitter (@tobeshelved)! I’d be happy to help you out!