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Library School To Do List

child's to do list

Photo by Carissa GoodNCrazy on Flickr

In getting my MLIS, there are things I’m glad that I did, and there are also things that I wish that I had done differently. To get a library job there are some important skills you need. If I had to do it over again I would make sure that I had all of these things checked off my list:

Real World Experience

You can’t expect to get hired out of library school unless you have some real experience to point to. The degree is important, but what really sets you apart is what you’ve done. There are plenty of ways to get experience. Get an assistantship, internship or graduate position at a library where you’re actually doing the job. Volunteer at a public, academic, or even jail library. Do a practicum as a part of a class. This doesn’t need to be full time professional experience, but you should show that you have something hands on that you can point to in your resume.

Some Technology Skills

Libraries and technology are integrally tied together. You have to make it a priority to develop some technology chops. I’m not going to enumerate specific skills you need (though I think some HTML is critical). You need to be comfortable with technology and the speed at which it changes. If your program doesn’t offer technology classes, do some outside work. Try something similar to the 23 things project. Start a tech in libraries club or get involved with the LITA chapter at school. You’re never done learning technology, so you have to learn how to play and evaluate technology and how/if it fits into your needs.

Professional Engagement

You need to show that you care about the profession and want to give back.  Join a professional organization like the ALA. Student memberships are often highly discounted. Besides an association there are tons of ways to be professionally engaged: publish an article or opinion piece, attend conferences, join a library club at school, volunteer at a library, give a presentation, join a professional committee. People like to see job-seekers who are passionate, engaged, and thoughtful about what they do.

Make Connections

Build and maintain connections with students, professors, and other professionals you meet. The library world is a pretty small one, and every connection is important. Make friendships with students and maintain them via social media. Connections that you make in library school can be lifelong and may be very helpful down the road, even if you don’t see it now. Besides librarians are some of the most fun people to hang out with anyway.

Get a Website

The benefits of getting a website is twofold. It helps you play with and learn technology, and it also is a place to show off things that may not come through in a paper resume. If you constructed a video tutorial you could highlight it on your website. If you gave an interesting presentation or Prezi you can embed it. It doesn’t need to be super flashy. You could just get a WordPress blog or create one in a couple hours using Weebly or Google sites.

Teaching Experience

This one I found very helpful personally. If you know for sure you never will be teaching this one might be optional, but this skill makes you so much more marketable. Volunteer to do workshops. If offered, take an instruction class. I took a practicum and it helped me immensely. Librarians are in the business of learning and information and that often means we need to be educators.

Andy Burkhardt

16 Comments

  1. Great list! I’d add one thing – start applying like crazy about 9 months before you graduate. It will take that long.

  2. Thanks David! That’s a good addition, especially in this job market. I remember sending out a lot of applications when I was looking. It doesn’t happen right away.

  3. Great list! Library school connections have saved me numerous times! (Thanks for that by the way.)

    I’d add read in the field outside of class. Finding someone who’s talking about the on the ground experience and day-to-day stuff really helped me wrap my head around it, and fill in some of the gaps left by the “theory-based” courses.

  4. Second the real world experience and tech skill points.

    Another thing people might want to look out for if their LIS program does not offer technology classes is that most universities have some form of tech training for students. Some universities, like UW-Madison, have face-2-face classes while others have web-based tutorials.

  5. Great article, as an English person though I don’t know what a practicum is, or what are ‘technology chops’?!! thanks!

  6. A practicum is like the education/libraryland equivalent of an unpaid internship. Sort of. Some library schools require them. Mine (and Andy’s) required a minimum 40-hour practicum. I did mine my first year and was lucky enough to get a job at the same place the next year because of it.

  7. I liked your post too, especially “Don’t #1.” There are a lot of people with degrees. You can’t just phone it in at library school and expect to magically be a librarian. Thanks for linking to your post Lauren!

  8. I forgot about that but those tech training classes were immensely helpful. I took some on CSS and advanced HTML and they were great. Good suggestion.

  9. Reading about practical everyday experiences in libraries is something I still find helpful. Actually hearing about real life experiences and what people in the field are doing or trying really gives a much more concrete side to library school. It also lets you learn from other people’s success or mistakes.

  10. thanks for the explanations!! I like those words, especially ‘technology chops’, think I’ll try and get that into common usage round here! Thanks.

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