Hello, Reader! There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding what it means to be a librarian and what is required to get a library science degree. Even within the bookish community, it can be easy to assume that what you see is all there is when actually there is a lot more work, study, and effort that goes into maintaining a well-run library. If you’ve ever wondered what studying to become a librarian is like or if you are simply curious about any aspect of library life, this post is for you! I just started my second semester of grad school working toward a Master of Library & Information Science degree, and I am going to share a little about each of the classes I am taking. I am still early in my journey to becoming a titled librarian, so I don’t have all the answers, but I hope that this will provide an interesting peek into library life. Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments! Please also note that this is only descriptive of my own experience, and while I believe it is fairly common to those getting an MLIS, everything will not apply universally.
Intro to Rare Books & Special Collections
This is the class I am most looking forward to this semester! It’s an elective and only one credit hour, so it will only last two months instead of the whole semester. There are a handful of these types of classes offered each semester. They’re usually one-off classes, so it’s impossible to predict from the start of the program which ones will be offered when. Surprisingly to me, the catalog description of this course is only a single sentence: “This course will provide a comprehensive introduction to the world of rare books and special collections and participants will learn the vital skills needed to excel in this field.” So that is pretty much all that I know about it! Our first week’s readings covered how to determine whether a book is rare and/or special and the process of creating marbled endpapers like the one in the image to the right. Special collections work sounds like some of the most unique library work; at my local library, I know our Special Collections department is in the process of creating an interactive online map containing pictures, stories, and historical documents from around the county. The things they come across are fascinating! Needless to say, I am very excited about digging into this subsection of librarianship.
Organization of Information
This course is all about classification systems, creating useable digital records, and how we decide what goes where and how we know where to find it in the future. The catalog description includes the following: “students examine the assumptions, practices, issues, and tools commonly associated with information organization systems in various types of information agencies.” As someone who at one point created a spreadsheet in order to organize my books according to their Dewey decimal number, this is another class that I am excited about! There is no perfect organization system (disappointingly), so I am interested in digging into why we use the ones that we do and exploring both common and rare systems. Maybe I’ll find a better way to arrange my own shelves by the end of this class! This is a required course, so everyone who completes this program will take it at some point.
Management in Information Organizations
Initially, this class appeared more intimidating to me than the others. I don’t have any formal management experience, and I tend to be more comfortable behind the scenes or deferring to someone else rather than being in charge. I’ve made progress in this area since becoming Staff Association President, but the thought of being in charge of a work team is still a little intimidating. Given that, I am thrilled that this class exists, but it still was not at the top of my list of courses to look forward to! However, now that I have seen the layout of the class, I am completely on board and looking forward to it. The class was immediately broken up into small groups, and each group is assigned a fictional library system to manage for the semester. We will have detailed assignments about changes that need to be made, situations that must be addressed, and plenty of research into theories of management and their application. The fictional library system my group was assigned has a super hero theme, which makes it even more fun to think about. For example, one of my libraries is located in Gotham City, and Steve Rogers is in charge of children’s programming. There are some references that I completely don’t get, but the ones that I do understand are fun! I love that my professor was able to take something that at first seemed intimidating and turn it into a simulation that I am looking forward to. This class is also required for everyone in the program, even if you don’t intend to go into management.
Library Instruction & Information Literacy
This is another elective, but unlike Rare Books it is offered more often and counts as three credit hours (the same as a core/required class). It covers exactly what its name says: teaching in a library setting and information literacy. In the past I have considered becoming certified as a teacher in order to work in a school library, and while not explicitly designed for school library instruction, I think this class would provide a decent foundation for that. It also should be helpful for common situations like leading programming at the public library, training new staff, and eventually participating in the library’s internal professional development program as an instructor rather than as a student. It isn’t quite as exciting to me as some of my other classes, but I am definitely looking forward to strengthening my instructional abilities!
So, that’s what I’m taking on this semester! It’s a lot to tackle while working full time, but since I truly love learning about everything related to the library, and it helps that my work and school are inherently related. What I learn in class directly impacts how I work, and what I experience at work reinforces what I am studying. I’m also blessed to have such a supportive management team and colleagues at work who have been through similar programs and are eager to help me succeed. I love how encouraging and just friendly most of the library world is!
I hope you enjoyed this look at what I am studying this semester! If you have ever considered a career in libraries, I highly encourage you to pursue it. There are a variety of good library science programs in multiple formats: in-person, online, and blended (this is how my program is). If you have any questions I am happy to answer them to the best of my ability!
If you’re currently in school, what class are you looking forward to most this semester? If you aren’t in school, what is something you wish you had studied in school?
Until the next chapter,