In May, Amy Kearns started a great discussion about the state of library science education by asking What are the library students of today learning? over on the Library Garden blog. I gave a summary of what I have been learning – as did several others.
A couple of things stood out for me from these discussions. One is a comment from Jeff Scott’s Gather No Dust response. Scott is discussing the issue of technology. He writes: “Technology cannot always be taught, those who see its value will learn on their own, and those who don’t will not be dragged to a computer class.” I have to agree that there in fact do seem to people who get technology and those who do not – and that taking a basic computer class may not actually help those who do not get it. But can we just accept that there are people who won’t get it and leave them to flounder? Personally, I believe that we need to deal with this issue better. How can we as a society expect ourselves to succeed if we depend upon something that a good portion of our society doesn’t get? Are we in libraries dooming ourselves by providing services that require technology that people won’t be able to use successfully?
Of course, it was really Scott’s next sentence that made me stop and think a great deal about library school. “Everyone finds their own path and it’s never the same path.” In 11 words, Scott gets to the heart of the problem – everyone is different. No two students will have the same reaction to their experience in library school – even if they attended the same institution and took the exact same classes. One could have found the experience fulfilling, while the other might have found it lacking. And really, there is no way of telling which student will be the better librarian. It is about finding one’s own path, making the most of the opportunities presented and forging one’s own way. I do not think this means that library education is perfect – I don’t. There many problems and issues. However, I will not ever say that my library education was not worth it – regardless of how I actually feel about my program, my classes, my professors and/or my experiences at SCSU. I am forging my own path – and I’m putting a great deal of my current educational experience under the heading of “That which doesn’t kill me will make my stronger.”
Another take on the issue comes from Emily Clasper over at Library Revolution. She writes: “In all of my other classes, I learned… well, really nothing of interest or real relevance.” This doesn’t sound like a good experience at all. Fortunately, I have had some excellent experiences at SCSU. Later, she adds
If I had it to do again, I would go to library school. Frankly, I needed the degree to advance in the field. But this time I would blow it off, and not spend so much energy mad that I wasn’t learning anything. My experience was that there is a lot of important knowledge and skills required to be an effective professional librarian. But, for me at least, these were nearly all learned elsewhere.
Sadly, I understand exactly from where this sentiment is coming – especially now that I am getting so close to the end. I have done this at times – blown off work, done just enough to get by, compromised my own education standards in order to just get something done. Sometimes, I have done it because life got in the way, sometimes because work got in the way and sometimes because I was reacting to a class that I considered to be sub-par. I know I will do it again. Clasper is right that in the end it won’t really matter. Chances are I will get my degree (all sorts of fingers and toes are crossed as I type this) and most of the skills that I will use for the basics of my job will have been learned elsewhere (and honestly, most were learned before I even applied to graduate school).