Editor’s note: want more up-to-date advice about applying to library and information science programs? Read our latest installment of this series!
Since writing Is a Master’s Degree In Library Science a Good Investment, I continue to receive emails and comments from readers interested in pursuing a degree in library sciences, but are unsure where to start. Yes, choosing the graduate program and submitting an application is obviously how one gets into the library school. But what should prospective students do right now?
To pursue a master’s degree in library and information sciences is a big commitment and entering into a new career is a daunting task! So, for those who want to pursue the degree, these are some of the general questions I received and my suggestions:
I know there are no specific undergrad degree requirements for entering the MLIS program, but what degrees do library students usually enter with? Is there a ‘best’ degree or a degree you would suggest?
My graduate class came from a wide range of backgrounds, experiences and undergraduate degrees. It really depends on what type of librarianship you are interested in (and it’s okay if you do not know yet). For example, if you want to work in school libraries, getting a degree related to education or child hood development would be beneficial.
Librarians are increasingly utilizing technology to improve services, so a technology background and degree can also be valuable. Additionally, the need for professionals to organize big data for scientific collaborations or business is predicted to grow and thus a degree in science or business is helpful if you want to pursue a career in that direction.
If you are interested in archives, a degree in history or museum studies may be a great introduction into that type of work. I earned my Bachelor’s degree in history and worked at a local museum before entering graduate school. It was there I became interested in the possibilities of digitization of historical materials and decided to continue my higher education. Heck! Some students enter in with undergraduate degrees in music and end up working in music archives!
Finally, if your university has an iSchool, getting your degree in informational sciences would give you a great understanding of the information world and what to expect in a master’s program. But again, there is no “right” degree and librarians enter school with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences.
Is there anything specific you would recommend for prospective MLIS students to do? For example, volunteering at libraries?
I would recommend talking with librarians to get insight into their career and daily work experiences. There are a wide range of libraries: public, school, academic, corporate, government, medical, law etc. By doing your research and talking to librarians, you can enter library school with a general idea of what type of library you wish to work in and tailor you electives accordingly. Specifically, school librarians must meet strict requirements to be certified to work in schools and therefore many must declare the specialization in the first semester.
I interviewed a few librarians before entering graduate school. Many were friendly and happy to talk about their career and experiences, especially to someone considering entering the field. Although, be warned, there are those in the field who believe libraries are a thing of the past and regret their career choice. Not everyone agrees libraries can overcome currents challenges and evolve into relevant 21st century community information centers.
Volunteering can also be very beneficial. If you are currently an undergrad, you should consider an internship at a library! By experiencing how the library really is, you can assure yourself that this is really a career you want to invest upwards of $40,000 into.
Finally, take advantage of social media! Are you on Twitter? Facebook? You could follow the ALA, SLA and other library organizations who often tweet or host discussions on current topics in the field. It is a great way to get insight into the types of discussions, advances and challenges ongoing in libraries.
There are also Facebook and LinkedIn groups dedicated to librarianship and members often post on interesting topics, news and articles. Joining these groups will provide insight to the types of conversations, projects, and challenges ongoing in the field. This may influence you to decide a career in librarianship is not for you (totally fine), or these types of challenges may excite you and you can join us to overcome them!
While there are jobs, it is still a recovering economy and let’s face it, library jobs have never been predicted as the next hot career. The Bureau of labor statistics predicts a job growth of 7% which is slower than average. Therefore it is suggested to also consider using the skills gained in library school for other work settings. This type of transferability and skill development to outside the library is something that was continually emphasized during my time in library school. I don’t mean to sound discouraging, but I must be honest.
But keep in mind, most full time librarian positions require at least an MLIS to at least be considered for the position and the degree is necessary for the higher management positions in librarianship. Librarianship, while competitive, is very attractive and fulfilling work, especially given the great innovation projects happening right now to meet the challenges the field is facing!
During my time in library school, I have had the opportunity to learn from some excellent professors, work on exciting library projects and meet some great people. Librarians tend to be quirky and unique individuals engaging in tireless work to improve information literacy in their communities whether that is a school, at a university or in a business.
Considering library school and have other questions for me? Share in the comments below or tweet me @doroteaszkolar.