The Value of the MLS/MLIS

May 28, 2008

The LibrarianInBlack posted a link to a survey about the value of the MLS/MLIS. It is indeed very brief – and intended to determine if people feel as if their degree was worth the time, effort and cost. I did take the survey, despite the fact that I’m not entirely sure what I think overall about the value of the MLS degree. I do not regret going to get my MLS. I do see the value in it (or duh, I wouldn’t have gone to get it), but I don’t think it is a rite that magically makes one a librarian. Would I do it again? I can’t answer that question. I’m still way too close – and the thought of going to school is incredibly abhorrent (as it was after I graduated from college). Additionally, I need to have some time away to assess the impact of spending over $18,000 out of pocket (tuition, books and miscellaneous costs) over two and a half years on our household finances. I will say that my husband hasn’t entirely appreciated the cost.

One of the questions on the survey asked if you would recommend pursuing an MLS/MLIS. While I checked the recommend box, I don’t think that this answer adequately represents what I might or might not do. I’m pretty sure that there would be occasions when I would recommend this course of action and occasions when I wouldn’t. During the past several years when I have discussed the fact that I was pursuing my MLS (and going through the tedious process of explaining what this means in terms of my career), everyone always asks about how it would impact my current job (with a promotion or a raise). I found it a bit disconcerting to have to answer that I already have a professional librarian job and that the degree won’t really make a difference.

For me, getting the degree has been more about finally adding the educational experience to back up my work experience for future job opportunities than about changing my current job situation. I absolutely love my job (although definitely have a love/hate relationship with it on certain occasions). Systems librarianship is my calling, and I believe that having an MLS makes me a stronger systems librarian from the perspective of potential employers. I am too young not to have returned to school knowing that this is what I intend to do with the rest of my life. So, I would recommend getting an MLS if someone felt the same way that I did. However, I don’t believe that an MLS makes someone an librarian. I think that ultimately I would tell people that they themselves need to decide if pursuing an MLS is the right choice. There is much to be gained for someone who believes that the degree can give them something tangible. But there are other ways to get that knowledge.

Overall, I am happy that I decided to get my MLS. I have many issues with the program at Southern, most having to do with the method of instruction (someday, I will get to discussing all of that). Meanwhile, I have no other option but to believe that my MLS was worth it. Anything else is unacceptable.

LIS Requirements

September 18, 2007

Several weeks ago, Nicole Engard put together a survey asking MLS students and graduates about the classes that they were required to take. Today, she posted the results. They are very interesting. I wasn’t surprised by the number of current students who took the survey. Engard also had good results from those graduating between 1973 and 1999. However, not many people who graduated between 2000 and 2003 responded. I was very impressed with the number of graduates from Syracuse University – of course, that may skew the results a bit. Anyway, I definitely need to look at the results in more detail. So far, I’m not too surprised about the LIS requirments. Reference, cataloging, management and collection development seem to be the courses most often required of students.

At first, I was a bit surprised by the fact that courses on ethics didn’t seem to be required overall. However, I’m wondering if this is something that seems to get covered in other courses – and if respondents had trouble figuring out into which category their required courses fit. I can’t remember how I responded. I would consider my Foundations of Librarianship class to be the one in which we discussed such topics. Yet, I don’t see a response for an ethics class under the results for Southern Connecticut State University. I guess this means that I put Foundations of Librarianship into the Intro category??? Ahh, human confusion and error – ain’t it grand?

Musings on Library Education

July 4, 2007

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).

I Did It . . . Finally!

May 24, 2007

I just emailed a letter to the Dean of the School of Information, Communication and Library Science at SCSU. I had initially sent him an inquiry at least a month ago, and he asked for the issues that I would like to have addressed. With the end of the semester, I had to push it off a bit – and really, I needed some space and some distance from this past semester. Once things quieted down, I began to second guess myself, question whether I wanted to continue to push things, and think about climbing back into my shell and just powering through the rest of the program. I definitely got the impression that several people would be very happy if I just let things go. Fortunately, I had the support of my advisor and with some subtle (so subtle he might even have realized that he was doing so) prodding on his part, I made myself revisit the whole thing. I determined that I needed to say something. We (students) can sit back and complain incessantly about things we think are unfair, wrong or unclear. However, how do people know what is wrong if people don’t tell them? I don’t want to be someone that just accepts status quo. If they will let me, I want to be an agent of positive change – to make things better – to make the education experience more rewarding. Along with some help from Pink and my new favorite song, U + Ur Hand, I got myself fired up again.

So, it is done. I wrote the letter – and we shall see.

A Library Student Community??

April 5, 2007

File this in the why-didn’t-I-think-of-it category.

A fellow library school student, Librarienne writes:

We need a wiki by, about, and for library school students . . . in which we give each other a heads up about schools, classes, starting new jobs and so forth.  UIUC’s GSLIS has a great set of online bulletin boards for everyone to post questions and answers about job stuff, but there’s no way we would start comparing notes on classes because we know the faculty read those boards as much as – if not more than – the students. And those boards can only be accessed by folks with a GSLIS login.  Seems like a similar resource for the larger library student community would be a simple thing to set up, and having a larger base of participants might make it easier for students to give honest anonymous feedback about their programs.  As far as populating it with info, this is where having so few schools to choose from will be to our benefit.

I think this is a wonderful idea. Finding information out about graduate programs can be both a cinch – and a hassle. There is a dearth of topical and/or generic information about library school programs. However, you can’t get an accurate feel for a program’s climate from promotional materials. I know that there were questions that I didn’t ask; information that I didn’t find out. There are important details that one can only truly discover by actually attending the program or by talking to others in the program.

Right now I am obsessed by finding tools to help students connect to each other – especially distance students. This might be the perfect venue for that could allow for social interaction by library students from all over the world and also allow smaller communities from specific cools to develop. The possibilities seem endless . . . . . . . . .

Blogging To Build A Community

March 25, 2007

Michael Stephens asks “Should first semester students start blogging immediately in library school?” My answer is an emphatic YES!!!!! In this post over at Tame The Web, Michael Stephens quotes a blog post from techLearning about the problem of using blogs in education as writing tools rather than tools for conversations. It is an extremely interesting post and certainly reinforces the notion of how important blogs can be to facilitate conversations and to then build community.

In this vein, I think that blogs could be a very valuable tool for LIS students – and could help to fill a void for distance LIS students in particular. Blogging could help to promote a sense of community among distance students, traditional students, faculty and even the administration if used effectively. I love the fact that the Dominican University Graduate School of Library and Information Science has started a blog (found via Michael Stephens – Tame The Web). I would love to see more of this sort of thing. The possibilities seem endless – and I think the community that would evolve could truly enhance the educational experience.

Some Tips To Help With Library School

March 20, 2007

Are you currently an MLS student? Thinking about applying?

Michael Stephens – with the help of some of his LIS students – put together some Survival Tips for LIS Education on his blog, Tame The Web. These tips can definitely help!

It Is All Coming Together

March 12, 2007

I’m in the final stages of putting together the document that contains student concerns about online classes at SCSU for the department chair. It has been a rather time consuming task that has had some ups and downs. Some students have expressed concerns about anonymity – not wanting it to be known that they were involved in the process, others thought some of this might have been prompted by one event and others weren’t exactly sure what we were doing. I have been extremely anxious about student reactions to the wiki and incredibly careful to try and not make people uncomfortable (hopefully, I succeeded). Overall, everyone who contacted me with questions, however, was extremely polite and positive – even if they wanted out. But in the end, I worked with about 30 people – 28 of whom are current students and 2 that are recent graduates of the program.

Since I started in the program, I have keenly felt the lack of community for the students. To combat this feeling, I’ve been doing quite a bit to find some way to help students find a sense of camaraderie amidst the impersonal communication that can permeate the online world. Ironically, this entire discussion about these concerns has been a massive exercise in helping to build a sense of community among many of us in the program. I’ve been working more closely with a handful of students – those who took time to edit the wiki that I created, proof read the document that I wrote and took lots of time to say thank you. I would love to say thank you back to them.

Ultimately, whatever the outcome of our attempt to get our voices heard, I would have to say that this effort has been successful. We are working as a community to try and accomplish something positive. We have bonded. And, I have never felt more a part of SCSU than I do today.

I’m So Far Out Of My Comfort Zone

March 10, 2007

Life has been crazy, crazy, crazy. Without quite knowing how this happened, I got myself involved with many MLS students at SCSU who have serious issues and complaints about some of the online classes. Last week, there was a rash of emails on the student listserv with various complaints – most of which were well thought out emails rather than diatribes. I participated in the discussion and tried to promote the group that I created on Facebook in order to find some way for students to openly discuss these issues in a forum without faculty or administrators. Several people joined the group. We had all sorts of issues with people who couldn’t join the group, and it became apparent that this isn’t the best avenue for such an online community.

A bit later, one of my current professors mentioned (in both a class discussion and on the student listserv) that there would be an ILS department faculty meeting coming up – and that the issues raised on the listserv by the students were on the agenda. She suggested that someone might want to email the department chair to ask about avenues for student participation. So, I felt compelled to do something. Without a doubt, the online classes need some improvement (not so much in terms of academic rigor, in my opinion). Complaining about this is easy. Taking a step forward to try and effect change in a positive and constructive manner isn’t so easy. However, this seemed to be an opportunity to get our voices heard – one that shouldn’t be passed up.

So, I stepped forward and emailed the department chair. The chair responded quite quickly and asked for a list of concerns and suggestions that she could distribute to the faculty. I was pleasantly surprised by the email – and really thought that this was something that I could easily do. Of course, I think that the document that I send to the faculty should come from as many students as possible. In the spirit of trying to get input and cooperation from other interested parties, I set up a wiki. I added the list of issues that students had emailed both to the listserv and to me personally. I then emailed the student listserv inviting students to participate. I sent the wiki url and password to students individually who expressed interest. Some students were concerned about faculty and administrators having access. Of course, the wiki is publicly available, but I figured if I didn’t advertise the url access would be somewhat limited.

Response has been great – better than I expected. I have about 25 students who are interested in being a part of this (some anonymously). Several have already edited the wiki and added to the list of concerns, commented, etc. Meanwhile, I’m continuing to monitor the site, add concerns and make other changes. I’ve found some good web sites about support services for distance students and some good historical information about SCSU’s online program that I have added. I’m not entirely sure that I wanted to unofficially head this mission. However, here I am doing it – and ultimately, it is important that distance student (and any taking online classes) feel like they are connected to program and that they have a voice. I hope that this is a good first start in that direction. But, I’m exhausted and I still have lots of work to do to actually put together a coherent and well-worded document.

 How did I become the point person on all of this?????

What Am I Doing Here?

February 18, 2007

I hope that it is pretty normal for people to have doubts about their graduate school experience. I can say that I don’t think that the time off from school over winter break was sufficient time for me to be reinvigorated. And then, I went ahead and took two classes. One of my arguments to convince myself of this was that I tend to spend the same amount of time on my coursework whether I take one or two classes. So, why not take two? Plus, with two classes, I would be 3/4 of the way done with my coursework at the end of the semester. I couldn’t resist my own arguments.

So, here I find myself feeling very ambivalent about what this all will do for me. When I started the program, I needed to declare a track in the MLS program. I think I somewhat got funnelled into the academic track given that is where my work experience is – and given that this is where I see myself continuing to work. I had thought that maybe I would like to take classes that dealt with other types of libraries – public or special. Part of me thought that taking classes about things I didn’t have experience in would be a better use of my time. I kind of allowed myself to be talked out of this – and here I find myself taking College & University Libraries. Now, I definitely am not an expert – and there are certainly many things that I could learn about the academic library. However,  it is too much. I have a good work background in academic libraries – and think that work experience would mean more than having taken the academic track in library school. The course material isn’t new – and it hits a bit close to home. This was also the case with one of the classes that I took last semester – ILS565-Library Management. In some ways, I wish I hadn’t followed the academic track. I think that my work experience in the academic area would give me sufficient credentials for my resume.

The assignment that was due today required us to visit a couple of academic libraries and compare some specific facilities. Honestly, I find this such a burden. I’m studying online because I don’t have time to commute to a school, – because I don’t have time for a traditional program.  I don’t want to do these kind of assignments (this isn’t a commentary on the value of the assignment, just a personal perspective). I already am struggling to keep things together at work, at home and at school. I have NO time for anything that isn’t dealing with problems at work, writing papers or being a wife. The bottom line is that being a wife comes first, the rest of my family is second, work comes next and then school – way at the bottom. But in reality, school is taking up WAY too much of my time. It is a sacrifice that others don’t necessarily appreciate to the same extent that I do. My husband often gets irritated that I need to do school work (when he thinks I really should be cleaning the house or something more constructive than sitting in front of my laptop). My niece and nephew get very upset that I have to miss family events because I have homework to do (although it is so cute and heartwarming when my five year old niece allows me to be one of the kids and play with her because I am in graduating school). I’m 36 years old – and I get very disgruntled at how much school disrupts my life.

You may have noticed in my priority listing that one important element was missing. What is it you ask? It’s time for me!! My family, my job and school are taking almost everything that I have. Granted, I’m getting to the point where I can see the light at the end of the tunnel as far as my MLS. Yet, the end isn’t close enough. I have at least a year left before I will be able to finish. So, I’m sitting here on a Sunday evening feeling pretty bummed about the assignment that I turned in today and I can’t help wondering if this is all worth it. Am I really getting enough out of my program to justify not only the $16,000 that this will cost me, but also my time? Is this making me better at my job or is actually taking away from what I can give to work? Am I getting tired and if so, is this making me less effective at work? I can say that I think it is a good thing that tomorrow is a holiday. My husband will be working – and I will have the day to myself – no homework and hopefully there will be no problems at work. I’m looking for a day to myself. Maybe things will seem a bit less overwhelming then!