Some sobering advice regarding library school expectations

I came across an interesting post from Mr. Library Dude, who offers his advice on the reality of library school and library job hunting. Although it comes across as somewhat pessimistic, I do agree with most of his points. For example, here’s #1:

Library school: if you have the time/money to find a school that “fits” you, then by all means. However, it’s completely OK to just pick the in-state/cheapest option. A library school is a library school is a library school.

I usually wouldn’t put it that bluntly, but it’s a fair point. People often ask me whether I think McGill offers a “good” MLIS program, and truthfully I don’t believe there is a significant variation in quality among schools (at least in Canada). If one program offers a certain specialization that others lack, feel free to choose accordingly, but at the end of the day, when it comes to finding a job, what matters is that you’ve (a) received the degree, and (b) accumulated some work experience along the way.

The only point I completely disagree with is #2:

If you have not worked in a library before attending  library school, why are you making such as a large financial commitment for a career that you have no experience in? A “love” of books and “I like to read” won’t cut it.

I don’t believe that anyone who has done some research and decided to become a librarian should feel they must first job hunt for a library assistant position and then work in it for a year before applying to library school. Certainly, a love of books and reading doesn’t necessarily mean you will enjoy a career as a librarian, but if you put in the research and talk to some people in the field, you can make the decision with no previous experience. The important thing is having library experience on your CV before you graduate, but you can acquire this during your studies.

I will also comment on the final point:

Don’t blame library school if you cannot find a professional job. You are an information professional. Did you not research the state of the job market?

I hope no one believes that earning an MLIS is the most challenging part of starting a library career; on graduation day, there will be no line-up of employers begging you to work for them. This is not your school’s fault. It is simply the way the job market works (as is the case with most careers). But I also hope no one is discouraged from starting an MLIS because of what they’ve heard about the library job market. As long as you’re willing to put in the extra effort (and often patience), you will find an appropriate job eventually.

In fact, many of Mr. Dude’s points are the same ones I’ve made before (don’t neglect to read the comments on his post for even more tips). Gain experience while studying, find a mentor, and don’t be shy about marketing yourself.

Learn more about programs from Hack Library School

Every now and then, someone contacts me to ask what I think about the library program at McGill. I’m always happy to share what I can, but it’s a tough question; I’ve never been in an LIS program anywhere else, so how do I know how McGill compares?

If you’re looking for a variety of perspectives on various programs, I suggest you check out Hack Library School. They have a series of posts called Hack Your Program, where students provide both facts and commentary about the programs they attend. The majority of the programs are in the United States, though the latest one is from Israel.

Of course, there’s more to HLS than just Hack Your Program; much like the ILSS, the blog covers a variety of topics of interest to library school students (e.g., getting involved with student organizations, which continues to be a surprisingly tough sell). And if you’re a student looking to become more involved with the community, here’s your chance:

HackLibSchool is seeking more contributors. We need students who are new to LIS programs! We need museum studies and archivist students! We need students that represent the diversity of the field! Where are you all??

What are you waiting for? Go join in!