What I Wish I Learned in Library School

by Elizabeth on June 29, 2010 · 8 comments

in Adventures, librarianship, library school

I have always been one for looking back and wishing I had done something different.  I wish I had bought those shoes, I wish I hadn’t said something so odd in public (even if it made sense to me at the time), wished I had done this better, or that differently.  I think we all do this somewhat, but sometimes I think I take it to the extreme. 

I’m really bad about thinking these sorts of thoughts when it comes to school.  I’m always wondering if things would have turned out differently if I had changed my major or took a different class.  What would I have learned?  Would that have made me a different person or taken me down a different path in life?  What if, what if, what it. 

I tried to prevent this in college by taking a wide variety of courses on things I found interesting, not just related to my major in history.  I took an introductory class in anthropology one semester and ended up enjoying the class so much that I made it my second minor.  I took courses in human development, art history, and dance.  While I wish that I taken other classes such as psychology and more literature classes, overall I’m pretty happy with the courses I took in undergrad.

I wish I could say the same thing about library school.  I approached library school the same way I approached undergrad; I took classes that I thought would be interesting.  I also was more interested in finishing in 3 semesters (plus one summer course) and saving money than I was getting a good education.  This was both a good and bad thing.  I’m glad I finished in December because I was able to go on my fantastic trip to the UK and I graduated with many of my friends.  I also saved money by graduating early and moving home; however, I think that in my haste I missed out on some good involvement activities and definitely missed out on some good classes. 

SLIS has five required courses, introduction to LIS, organization of information, reference, research methods, and information technologies, plus you must also take a management course (there are 5 to choose from).  That leaves 6 other courses, one of which should be an internship as it is strongly recommended.  In addition to the five required classes, my management course (I picked Academic Libraries), and my internship I took collection development, history of the book, advanced reference, public libraries, and history of libraries.  I took exactly 12 classes, which is the minimum required to graduate.  Looking back over my course list, it is obvious that I am interested in history and was preparing to be a reference librarian.  However, other than reference and collection development, nothing I took prepared me for the kind of work I do now. 

So what classes do I wish I had taken?  What do I wish I learned in library school?  Stay tuned and I’ll tell you! 

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Carey's Books June 30, 2010 at 4:55 pm

I wish I had stayed away from the Archives program at my school… not because I dont love it, but I find reference and youth librarian postings everywhere.
I have been unemployed for ~10 months after being fired (gasp!) from a corp. cataloging position. I was lucky out of my LIS program because I was able to use my museum studies education to get a position that was contracted.
But right now, my education is just hanging there.
Any suggestions for the unemployed frustrated and willing to work shelving jobs librarian?

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2 Elizabeth June 30, 2010 at 7:50 pm

Carey, I wish I had lots of awesome advice to offer you, but right now I only have sympathy. I am fully aware that if I hadn't applied for the job I currently I have, I would most likely be still unemployed.

My best advice is don't despair and keep applying. There ARE jobs out there and for someone who has experience, you should be a strong candidate. Apply outside your comfort zone, apply for one of those reference positions, because really, it's not that of a job to do. Apply at all sorts of libraries, stay open to odd announcements that you may or not fit the qualifications for. If you can justify why you would be great for the job, then apply for and tell them that. Get in contact with professors and friends from school, explain the situation and ask for help. Don't be afraid to take a part-time or paraprofessional job (if they will have you). Just keep applying and stay positive. Something will come your way.

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3 Jenny E. July 1, 2010 at 2:14 am

Funny you blogged about this. I was just filing out an application for a cataloging job and I wished I'd taken more than just the required cataloging class (technically it was the only cataloging class offered when I was in school. I could have stuck around a couple more semester to take more but I didn't). I stuck to mostly adult services related classes b/c that's the area I always thought I'd work in. But as I jobhunt (it's been 13 months since I got my MLS) I have ended up applying for jobs I never thought I would. Looking back I wish I hadn't rushed through grad school. I should have taken more classes (made me more of a well rounded librarian)but like you I was just in a hurry to get finished.

Did you see this yet? http://ricklibrarian.blogspot.com/2010/06/tough-times-thoughts-on-library-job.html

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4 Jenny E. July 1, 2010 at 2:19 am

P.S. Did you know in August there's a book coming out called What They Didn't Teach You in Library School?

http://www.alastore.ala.org/detail.aspx?ID=2892

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5 Elizabeth July 1, 2010 at 9:05 pm

I hadn't seen those links; thanks for sharing!! I enjoyed the article by Rick; it's nice to hear something from the other side.

I'm excited about that book. I will be buying and reading it as soon as it comes out. I wonder if I can get my library to pay for it…

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6 Cristina Dolcetti August 2, 2010 at 4:18 am

Of the things I wish I had done at library school, I wish I had taken courses in records management. I wish I had done a second practicum as well. When it really comes down to it, I was really happy with many of the courses that I did take. If you just keep plugging away, something will come eventually! Also, take all the resume and interview skills workshops that you can, as these are immensely useful.

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7 Kimberly March 11, 2011 at 6:38 pm

I am not a librarian…. but our family lives at the library…
What an interesting post! I am a Physical Therapist and I wished I learned MORE about doing on-line medical research. It is very difficult to head to a medical library these days…

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8 Darcy December 11, 2011 at 3:52 pm

I just finished my first term of library school (wait, this means I’m still alive! YES!) and found it so stressful to pick classes for next term. I don’t know exactly where I want to work and I want to take classes that I will enjoy AND will make me more employable. Next term I’m doing advanced cataloguing, children’s materials: evaluation and use, and intro to archives admin, plus stupid research methods & stats (kill me). Scared of the required tech class…which I know is bad. blah.

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