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Courses I Wish They’d Offered in Library School

I’ve been a librarian now for about three and a half years. I learned a lot while at SLIS at UW-Madison, and there were some awesome professors there. A couple of the most valuable classes I took were Information Architecture and a practicum in Information Literacy where I learned both theory and did hands on teaching and creation of digital instructional materials. But there’s also been a lot that I have had to figure out on my own. Looking back, I wish that there were a few more skills that I could have acquired in library schools. If they had offered these courses, I definitely would have taken them and likely would have been even better prepared for a career in today’s libraries:

Marketing/Demonstrating Value – Libraries are competing with myriad other places and services for the attention of users. How do we promote using the library to our patrons? Libraries offer a lot of great services and resources for free, but how do we let users know about them in a way that doesn’t get drowned out? It is necessary for us to differentiate ourselves from others and show our unique value in order to compete in this information rich world. In addition to promoting ourselves we also need to demonstrate what value we bring to our communities and institutions. The ACRL Value of Academic Libraries Report could be a great text for this class as well as Made to Stick and probably something by Seth Godin.

Graphic Design for Libraries – I saw this idea for a class from a great post about User Experience in LIS education by Aaron Schmidt and Michael Stephens, and I think it is spot on. I find myself regularly needing to create signage for the library or promotional materials either for print or the web, and I pretty much have to stumble through it. It would be useful in a lot of situations to be be able to make some sign or image that is beautiful or inspiring instead of a Word document with some clip art.

photo by Gwen River City Images on Flickr

Entrepreneurship/Innovation – This is a key issue for libraries to be talking about, and specific reading and coursework on this topic would have been immensely helpful to me. We are constantly talking about changing and adapting in libraries awhile at the same time complaining about how slowly it happens. Courses in LIS education about this topic would be useful in developing grads with an entrepreneurial spirit and who would be key in revitalizing and revolutionizing libraries. Hopefully this class would teach mindsets like the willingness to take risk and fail as well as being tolerant of uncertainty. In addition, it would also teach processes for innovation and turning new ideas into reality. Steven Bell talks and writes about these processes in terms of design thinking. I also saw a great paper presentation about innovation processes at ACRL in March by David Dahl. Being able to thoughtfully and successfully create change is one of the most necessary skills for librarians today.

These are the classes I wished I could have taken (and hope that some places offer or start offering). What classes do you wish that you would have seen in library school? What classes would have been really beneficial for the work you are doing now?