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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.

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What I Gained from Library School

Seeing as how my library school career is almost over I figured I would reflect on what I have gained from my experience:

  • I learned that technology is not frightening and out of reach for me. I took an Information Architecture Class that introduced me to XHTML and CSS and since then I realized that I can actually create web pages and make computers do my bidding. Library School introduced me to a whole new world using emerging technologies and empowered me to create things and learn more.
  • I have gained confidence in my public speaking ability and my teaching skills due to a practicum in which I designed and taught numerous library instruction classes. I can now conduct classes and speak in front of groups with much more ease. I have improved on my presentation skills which will be very useful to me in searching for a job.
  • I have been introduced to the important issues and debates going on in Library Science such as the issue of Open Access or the debate about MARC records. I have a lot more knowledge about the field as well as tools available to me to learn more should I want to.
  • I am much more knowledgeable now about copyright law and fair use. I understand how things like electronic reserves, course packets, and interlibrary loans work in terms of copyright. I also understand about other copyright issues such as fair use or licenses. I think that this is fundamental to any library education.
  • I have gained a strong network of people whom I can contact about various issues that come up later in my career. If I have a question about cataloging I have multiple places to turn. If I need a reference that can vouch for my instruction skills I know people. The relationships that I have built are just as important as the knowledge that I have gained here.

Library school has been a good experience. It has also been productive. I have gained a lot of new knowledge, but I have also grown as a person. I have changed a lot since I have come here to Madison, and for the most part it has been for the better. Even if library school gave me nothing else, it gave me the opportunity to grow into a more complete person.

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Library School

There are those who say that library school is not rigorous enough and not teaching enough technological classes. While it may not be as rigorous as law school for example I believe that my time here at UW Madison has done a great deal to prepare me for a career at the top of the information food chain.

I purposely sought out tech classes because I realized how useful they would be right now as well as in the future. I now know how to: design and construct a database, build a website, and use the web in ways I never had even thought of before. I recently solved a problem I was having with a copy of “Sicko” that my dad burned for me.

The CD that I had would play the sound but not the actual video of the movie. I am subscribed to the blog LifeHacker, and one post on there was serendipitously for a piece of open source freeware called CodecInstaller. I learned all about codecs from my amazing “Digital Trends, Tools, and Debates” class with Dorothea Salo. I quickly realized that my problem was that I was missing a codec for the video. I downloaded the software and it automatically analyzed what codec I needed. I then chose it from a list in CodecInstaller and it automatically downloaded it for me. I was watching the movie within five minutes of downloading the software.

It is something as simple as this that shows how library school has actually put me at the top of the information food chain. Before going to library school I would have simply given up on the disc, deciding it was unplayable. Instead I used all new knowledge to solve an information related problem. I used an RSS feed to find free software, and because I knew about codecs I was able to understand why my disc would not play. I successfully wielded computer technology to solve a problem.

I know that I am not as technologically savvy as some of the real geeks out there, but I have the tools and training to quickly adapt, learn, and find solutions to any information problems that may arise. There may be some library school classes that are not as useful but I have found at least some value in every class I have taken. If I find I need to learn more though, I have the opportunities to do it. I have taken PowerPoint, Dreamweaver, and JavaScript classes through DoIt, the on campus I.T. people. I have also joined Toastmasters International to improve my public speaking skills. Library school may have its flaws but your education is simply what you make of it.