As my spring graduation approaches and I face the idea of no longer being a library school student (inspired or otherwise), I hope that the next generation of students will continue to blog about the issues that affect them. I’ll keep blogging, of course, but I think it’s important for students to hear authentic student voices, as well as professional ones. One way I’m promoting this is by encouraging other students to write guest posts for the ILSS. Today’s article is from Amanda Halfpenny, who’s in her first year of the MLIS program here at McGill.
A common complaint of students in MLIS programs is that our classes are often too theoretical and that we are not receiving enough practical information on what it will really be like once we are professional librarians in the real world. Students at McGill University decided to take matters into their own hands and since we got back from Winter Break there have been student-organized professional speakers on almost a weekly basis during lunch hours. These presentations have been organized by different student associations and the turnouts have been extremely impressive (in some cases higher than the number of students who actually attend their classes). It is not difficult to understand why: we are all curious to listen to librarians talk about their careers and we are hopeful that they will impart some words of wisdom that will help us as we prepare to begin our careers.
Last Thursday, the ABQLA (Quebec Library Association) student chapter hosted JoAnne Turnbull the general director of the Reseau Biblio of the Laurentians. She was an enthusiastic speaker and succeeded in engaging all the students with her witty accounts of the ups and downs of her career as a librarian in a variety of types of libraries (academic, corporate, law and public). In general, the students in our program are all concerned with whether or not they will find an interesting position after graduation. However, when JoAnne explained how bleak the job market was for librarians when she graduated in 1987 (1 position was posted for 60 graduating students), the students at her talk realized how fortunate we are that, despite the present economy, we have strong prospects of finding a library job soon after graduation. Another encouraging message that JoAnne shared was that if you are bored with your current job, it is fairly easy to create new challenges by either helping to develop new projects or simply by applying to a new position.
I strongly encourage MLIS students at other universities to stop waiting for your professors to organize professional speakers and to do it yourselves! You will not only learn a lot from the librarian who comes to give the talk but you will also gain valuable experience in organizing events (finding a speaker, advertising, etc.). For professional librarians, I would hope that you are all open to the prospect of speaking with groups of MLIS students. We are truly interested in what you have to say! So thank you JoAnne, and all the other guest speakers in the past month who have taken the time to come and meet with McGill’s MLIS students. We truly appreciate it!