What I Wish I Learned in Library School, Part II

by Elizabeth on July 6, 2010 · 5 comments

in Job Hunting, librarianship, library school

Last week, I blogged about how I wish I had done library school differently.  This week I’m here to tell you what classes I wish I had taken and the things I should have paid more attention to.  I did learn a lot in library school, a ton really.  I couldn’t be a librarian without the skills I acquired in school.  But knowing that doesn’t stop me from wishing I had had more time, more courses, a better sense of the job market and that it was/is necessary to be as marketable as possible, and a better focus.  
I am NOT a good student.  Sure, I appear to be.  I made straight A’s in library school, including reference which is by and large considered to be the toughest class in the program.  (That is, if it is taught by Margaret Dalton.  And it should be; that’s the only way to roll.)  I graduated magna cum laude from undergrad which is where I learned to write lengthy papers with no purpose whatsoever (a skill necessary in library school).  Despite that, I am a terrible student.  I played games on my computer in class, I rarely did the reading, I crammed for finals, and wrote papers in 12 hour stints, putting it off until the last possible moment.  Knowing this about myself, I can’t really say that I wish I had done things differently in school, because I know that I wouldn’t have done the learning part differently.  I always started out each semester with good intentions; I did my reading, focused in class, asked intelligent questions.  But unless the class was particularly interesting and/or entertaining (which only happened twice), I stopped doing the reading, starting gchatting my friends, and occasionally job hunted (in my last semester at least) during class.  
I do wish, however, that in certain circumstances I had paid more attention.  In my organization of information course we briefly touched on cataloging for a class or two.  It confused me greatly and I drowned my confusion in yet another game of BrickBreaker.  I learned very little about cataloging and what I did learn/understand made me stay away from the cataloging course.  In the words of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, “Big mistake. Huge”.  I needed that class.  Not only would it have made me infinitely more marketable in my job search, it would have been tremendous help to me now.  But no.  I ignored the class both semesters it was offered.  
Another course I wish I had taken was Special Libraries.  I actually thought about taking this one, because I knew that cool research jobs occasionally came open and they were primarily in special libraries, but there were so many people who wanted to take the course that I opted out so not to take the place of someone who really wanted to take it.  The class is only offered once a year, and I thought that I was doing the nice thing.  After all, I wouldn’t be working in a special library.  I was going to be an academic reference librarian (right?  RIGHT?)
Along those same lines is management.  I took the required management course; in fact, I took two.  I took both Academic and Public Libraries.  I can honestly say that Academic Libraries is the class I learned the least in and paid attention the least.  I spent that class buried in the back row with my roommate, playing games, eating lunch, and generally not learning.  Public Libraries was decent.  My professor was the director of our local public library, and when she was on her game, taught us a whole lot about real life in a public library.  Her class actually made me want to work in a public library.  But honestly, I didn’t learn anything about management.  Management is, along with some other things, a skill that I will address in my next post, but it’s also something I was really unprepared for and one that taking the Special Libraries class or the regular library management course may have helped fix. 
Other courses I wish I taken were Information Resources in the Sciences, mostly because there are ton of jobs open as health science librarians in academic institutions (and because it would help me now); user instruction, which was actually offered, but I was too busy with my history classes, and medical libraries, which wasn’t offered until I graduated, but wow would that have been a help.  Most of this would have simply made me a more well-rounded librarian.  If I had taken cataloging and the Sciences course, I could have applied for more than double of the jobs I qualified for.  I may not want to be a cataloger, but after 5 months of unemployment, I would have started applying for anything, had I been qualified.  

Check back next week, when I will discuss all the skills that I wish had been taught or that I wish I had acquired.  In the meantime, share your thoughts.  What classes do you wish you had taken in library school?

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lisa July 6, 2010 at 10:10 pm

I wish I could've taken library marketing, but only they started offering it after I graduated.

I also wish I could've take the information literacy instruction, but because I have an education degree and used to be a teacher, they 'banned' me from the course. Right, because teaching 8yr olds is exactly the same as teaching patrons? I can see the logic, but I still would've like to take the class.

Instead, I'm currently reading the textbook and required readings on my own. I plan on doing the same for the marketing class too. And maybe I will audit other classes if I have time in the next few years. It's a start!


2 Rosanne E. July 7, 2010 at 3:17 am

I don't feel like I learned anything from my Management for the Information Professional class. The professor was very knowledgeable and we had a lot of case studies but I can't recall a single thing I learned. It makes me think that management is something better acquired and retained on the job.


3 Jenny E. July 7, 2010 at 2:25 pm

I also had to take a management class in library school but to me I think it's a topic that is mostly learned on the job.

I think after you get your professional job you should be allowed to go back to grad school or a semester or two to take the classes you really need. 🙂 I had the problem like you mentioned certain classes are only offered at certain times. Like I've mentioned before I only took basically cataloging b/c the more advanced class was never offered while I was in school. Looking back I wish I'd stayed around for the class.

I took my school's special libraries class. It was offered in the summer and we basically just toured area special libraries. We had to give 4 presentations on various aspects of special libraries. It was a great class even though it has nothing to do with the type of library work that I do. For the final project I interviewed a woman that works with Jane Austen archives in Maryland and I even interviewed via e-mail the librarian at Chawton.


4 Elizabeth July 7, 2010 at 7:06 pm

Wow Jenny that sounds like an awesome class! I agree, I wish I am allowed to go back and take some classes that I need. I'm looking into CE courses from ALA, SLA, and MLA and hoping that some of them prove useful.

I would have LOVED a library marketing class. We touched on the topic in several courses, especially Public Libraries, but a whole class on it was never offered. That sounds amazing and amazingly useful.

Management and marketing are two of the things I'm going to address next week. I know they are on the job sort of things but a class and some reading material would be helpful now I think.

Thanks for all the comments!


5 modest-goddess October 1, 2010 at 4:16 pm

Currently employed as a Catalog/Metadata librarian. Wish I'd taken more courses related to Systems, Electronic Resources, and Science reference.
I've seen hybrid Systems/Cataloging jobs and they look really interesting. E-resources and Science reference seem to have a ton of openings with less competition than other areas. I did take an ALA 5 week webinar on E-resources. Systems classes seem to be only offered by LIS schools.


Leave a Comment

Notify via Email Only if someone replies to My Comment

Previous post:

Next post: