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What I Learned in Library School

Oct - 11 - 2007
Nicole C. Engard

It’s finally here – I promised that I’d write this ages ago, but I wanted to get my thoughts in order.

When I started at Drexel a little over a year ago, I was completely panicked! I hadn’t been in school for 5 years and when I graduated last time I had sworn that I would never go back to school. If you haven’t figured it out already, I’m a strong believer in real life experience (work, conferences, workshops) over organized education (registering for a cycle of classes).

However, I found that I was having trouble communicating with librarians from my roll in the IT department. I thought that going back to school was going to teach me the secret librarian hand-shake and give me the key to understanding where librarians were coming from. When I set out to register for classes I did not want to follow any one track (research, cataloging, technology) because my goal was to learn what a bit of what everyone in the library knew – hopefully helping with my communication problems. Unfortunately the one perfect (sounding) class was discontinued – it was a professional communication course!!

Classes

I started by getting the required classed out of the way. This included 2 research courses, a statistics course, an ethics course, a management course and a systems analysis course – all the while complaining to everyone who’d listen that these courses were a poor foundation for librarianship.

There was no need for 2 research courses (in my opinion). In the first class we spent half of the term on searching Dialog. I loved using Dialog – but did we really need 5 weeks of it? Most libraries can’t even afford to have Dialog – so, while it was fun for me – it wasn’t exactly practical. The result of the end of that term was an annotated bibliography that was then used in the second research course to write a review of literature. Now, it seems to me that as masters level students we would have been able to do the work of both research classes in one class.

Next came statistics!! Now, this was the worst class I took at Drexel. This is not the professor’s fault – but the fact that I could not wrap my brain around all of those mathematical terms and their uses. This class also seemed like a waste of my time. It didn’t teach me about how librarians did their everyday jobs, it’s not even something that most librarians use – only those doing research projects. After doing my little survey I learned that some research classes include a module on statistics – now that makes sense – not an entire term of math!!

Now, the ethics class was interesting, but might have worked better if I had taken it in person. It’s hard to get into ethical debated on a message board – but I think we managed just fine.

Management is a class I was excited about – until I got a few chapters into my textbook – Six Sigma for Managers! This book read like a self-help manual. It was the most useless book I’ve ever had to read – well maybe not – but certainly the most useless I read this past year. Six Sigma is a management style that big manufacturing firms use to measure their success and improve production – guess what? Libraries don’t produce things!! We’re a service organization – so I had to find research (and there were very few papers out there) on how this theory could be applied to service organizations. I was hoping to learn about managing people and a library – not learning how to manage my factory. The problem as I see it is with the way Drexel handles it’s masters program. The IS (information systems) and ILS (information and library science) students all take classes together. I think that this management course was probably required by both IS and ILS students – making it difficult for them to try and teach us all – since we’re all going into different types of organizations.

Systems analysis was something I could have probably been excused from – but I think it’s great that it’s required for all ILS students! Systems are not just computer systems – we are surrounded by systems – the way we handle a reference question and the process we use to check out a book are all systems. I also think that we all agree there is a language barrier between IT and librarians – and so this class is a way to bridge that gap a tiny bit.

My electives varied in their usefulness, the only class that taught me something I didn’t already know something about was Cataloging. My Digital Libraries course was a disappointment. The professor tried to cram every possible schema into one class. Instead it should have focused on the big library schemas like Dublin Core, MODS, METS, TEI, MARCXML… you get the idea. Instead I wrote a paper on OWL – do you know what that is? I still don’t!! My Library Automation course was mostly review for me – not much new there, but I did like getting to read some of the old (yes – we were reading old – out of date reports) technology reports.

General Impressions

Taking the classes online left a bit to be desired. I wanted human contact – and I could have had it if I wanted to wait 4 years for my MLIS – but I was not about to make that kind of commitment or deal with that aggravation. Blackboard is sorely lacking in so many ways it’s shocking that schools are still using it. In the middle of my program Drexel upgraded Blackboard and all of the sudden there was no way to mark message read on the discussion board without reading them – and there was no easy way to follow the thread of the conversation. There are so many great tools for message boards – they’ve been around for ages – why the heck are we using this unfriendly tool? Then there was the fact that the staff were obviously not trained on how to use Blackboard to its fullest – or they just didn’t want to. In some classes I was supposed to email all assignments, in others it was the Digital Dropbox, in others it was the Assignments module – then sometimes the grades were listed in Blackboard – sometimes you just had to guess! There needed to be some consistency across the board.

Overall, I think it’s a shame that I had to spend all of that money and time just to be considered a librarian. What I didn’t already know I could have learned from the librarians around me – and it probably would have been more enjoyable and easier to pick up. In fact, while I was taking Cataloging, I was also training for my new job – spending 6 hours a week with the head cataloger here. That training taught me more than I learned in class – mostly because I’m a hands-on kind of person – I wanted someone to show me what to do – not read thought thousands (yes, thousands) of pages of rules on cataloging & MARC.

What did I Learn

I learned that I don’t ever want to do a degree online again ;) I learned a bit more about myself and time-management. I learned that having an MLIS does not make you better off than the person who doesn’t have the MLIS, but has 6+ years of experience in a library.

I don’t feel much different than I did before I went to school. My job has changed and so I’ve learned more about other areas of the library that way – but the classes on research theory, searching, statistics, management, systems, digital libraries and so on didn’t prepare me any more than jumping in and doing the job myself would have.

The future

I know I sound very negative, but when you think about the time (both doing work and away from my family) and money that went into library school – it’s disappointing that I didn’t get an Ah-hah moment – or something to take with me that would have unlocked that key to librarian-world.

All that said, I think there is potential there to improve on library education. I hear of great classes at other library schools across the country – and I hope that things take a turn for the better. I hope that somewhere library students are learning about the new tools that are out there to help them and their patrons. I hope that schools come up with a more reasonable set of core classes (as previously stated) – and that they update the content used in them (I shouldn’t be reading about how the Internet is accessed using AOL and a phone line).

Conclusion

So that’s it – my What I Learned in Library School post. I’m sorry if I’m disappointed some of you – or made you worried about your own plans to pursue and MLIS. I do think there are schools out there – based on what I’ve read and heard of class offerings – that are teaching more up to date information – and I do think that library schools can be very valuable to those who have never worked in a library – but for me, it was a bit of a let down – and now I have to start paying off the bills!

41 Responses so far.

  1. Nicole says:

    Received via email (user wanted to be anonymous):

    Thanks for saying some of what I dare not say while I’m still in library school.

    I’m finding it mostly a waste of time and money and I’m learning very little of use. I’ve worked in libraries for 6+ years and I’m learning more through my self study that I cram in on the side than I’ve learned from any of my classes. For many of the classes I wonder how this is actually considered a graduate level course, and I’m experiencing the same thing that information is outdated. Makes me reconsider whether I ought to continue on in this direction.

    I’ll probably continue on with the degree since part of it is paid for with tuition remission, but it is a disheartening thought that I’ll be wasting so much time to be considered a librarian. The only redeeming factor is I’ll be considered for the academic library jobs which require an MLS.

  2. Derik Badman says:

    Wow, Nicole, you are much less bitter about the Drexel experience than I am.

  3. Nikki B says:

    This post is certainly very helpful to me. Thank you for saying the unsaid.

  4. Lori says:

    Thanks Nicole for sharing this. As I am getting ready to apply for graduate school I am up in the air as to whether to go for an MLS or an MS in instructional design. Your comments echo the comments of most librarians that I work with. It’s been really fascinating to follow your journey!

  5. Nicole says:

    Derik – I saw no reason to rant about the things that really pissed me off – in particular one professor who couldn’t use Word and thought he knew what he was talking about, the insane way they would upgrade the network on weekends when I needed to do my homework, the professors who never answered emails or participated in discussions, and the overall feeling of being just another wallet. Anyway, I wanted to be a bit constructive here ;) and helpful to others.

    Nikki & Lori – check out this list, it might help you in picking a library school – or not :)

  6. Trevor says:

    Hey Nicole,

    Thanks for sharing this. Your thoughts here seem to be echoed my many who are recent graduates of library school and by some still in the process of getting the degree. Discussions have begun on many levels to see what can be done about the “state of library education.” See, for eg. [http://princeton.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2484947161]. It may take some time to make substantive changes, but it is certainly good to get the type of feedback that you provide. Have you shared these thoughts with the folks at Drexel? they may not want to hear it, but they certainly SHOULD hear this. If, in fact, they are treating students as “another wallet” they would want to at least make the experience one that the students will remember positively – or so I would think.

  7. Nicole says:

    I’m sharing it with anyone who wants to read – it’s right here! I have sat on hold with Drexel way too many times and had too many emails with delayed responses.

    At one point I emailed someone high up on the ladder to complain that a professor was not living up to our expectations – yes, several students were complaining – I just don’t know how many wrote their complaints to the powers that be. My email was answered with “This professor has never had a bad review and you must be mistaken” – not those exact words, but pretty darn close.

    It’s dis-heartening – which is why I didn’t go to a university for undergrad – I was spoiled, I got one on one assistance and still do when I call Juniata College, and people remember your name. At Drexel it was always someone new answering the phone and tiring for me to have to re-explain my situation.

    Anyway, the post is here and I know some Drexel library staff are reading – they can pass the link on if they want to.

  8. derik says:

    “professors who never answered emails or participated in discussions, and the overall feeling of being just another wallet”

    Ah, that’s the library school I remember.

    You can now look forward to a lifetime of regular alumni mailings asking for more money! As if…

  9. T Scott says:

    As someone who looks to hire people fresh out of library school, I have a big stake in how those schools prepare people, and I find it frustrating as well. I’m most familiar with the program at the University of Alabama (about an hour west of me) and I think they’re doing a pretty good job — Steven MacCall, in particular, who does the health sciences stuff (among other things), is very forward thinking and gets good reviews from his students. And the people that I’ve hired out of that program in the last couple of years have been excellent.

    I did a talk at a meeting in Wisconsin a year ago and the topic of library education came up during the Q & A. I said that I didn’t feel that I had the expertise to discuss particulars of the curriculum, but I could at least talk about the qualities that I wished I would see in recent graduates — people who were solidly grounded in the history and theory of librarianship, who were curious and creative and eager to learn, who knew some basics about doing reference interviews and cataloging (within the broader context of metadata), who were up-to-date with current technology but understood that pretty much everything that they knew at the point of graduation would be out of date a year later — and found that to be a very exciting world to be in. Alexandra Dimitroff, a professor at the library school at UWM chimed in and said, “We’re making some major changes in our curriculum this coming year, and those are all the things that we’re hoping to address.” I’ve known Alex for a long time and think extremely highly of her. If she’s helping to lead some of these changes, then I’m pretty optimistic about that program.

    So there are some good ones out there, I think, but it’s very disheartening to hear about Drexel. When I was in library school 25 years ago, Drexel was considered to be the pinnacle of innovation and creativity, very much cutting edge. Things change.

  10. Nicole says:

    T Scott — I chose Drexel for that reason – innovation and technology – that’s what I associated their name with …

  11. May says:

    Thanks for posting this. I’m currently planning on my MLIS and appreciate you sharing your experience. Especially since I also come from an IT background and am considering Drexel.

    I have a feeling though, that any distance program will seem lacking in their use of technology to my expectations.

  12. Nicole says:

    May, it wasn’t so much the use of technology (which was lacking) but the amount of technology that was taught. In a time when librarians are talking about gaming and blogs and wikis – none of that was discussed.

  13. m.e. says:

    Our blogger wrote: “Instead I wrote a paper on OWL – do you know what that is? I still don’t!! ”

    Silly blogger, the OWL is the Ordinary Wizarding Level examination. Duh!!

    Okay, sorry, I couldn’t help it….

    I don’t come from a library background at all. I have never worked in a library, and therefore have the searching skills of a college graduate of history… Which are, let’s be honest, not too bad. I’m only in my 4th week of the on-campus program at Drexel, and I’m not finding any of these problems (yet, hopefully not!)

    My problem isn’t with the curriculum at this point, because I simply don’t know enough of it. The problem is that, you can believe in training and work experience all you want, but when it comes down to it, a requirement for applying to a librarian position anywhere requires an MLIS. So I can sit here and think about how pointless all these classes are (which I don’t, at this point, and hope I never do) but in the end I still have to have my MLIS.

    It was nice to read your review, and I’m going to keep my eye out for the sort of things that you mentioned.

  14. Lisa says:

    I’ve read your post a couple of times now, and taken some time to digest what you’ve written. As a recent Drexel grad myself, I’m really very torn about Drexel’s program. On the one hand, I learned quite a bit. On the other hand, as you discovered, some of the classes were a complete waste of time and I’d love to get a refund for them. I applied to Drexel for a number of reasons, primarily because an online program fit perfectly with my family’s needs at the time. While I missed the interaction of a traditional classroom, the online program forced me to be far more participatory than I would have been otherwise, which made it a good vehicle for my goal.

    Your assessment of the required courses is essentially the same as mine. Statistics was a joke, especially since it made no sense at all. Try teaching statistics to someone with a math learning disorder – it’s hell for both teacher and student. The research classes were part interesting and part worthless for me. The worthwhile section was taught by a wonderful professor who did NOT focus on Dialog. The worthless section was taught by another professor who is phenomenally bad, and accused several of us of plagiarism (completely baseless). The review of literature process was familiar to me, but the way the prof taught it was so convoluted and confusing that we were all lost.

    Other classes ranged from frustrating to interesting, but I agree completely with your observation that none of the currently available tools such as blogs, wikis, etc. were discussed in any detail in the classes. Oh, and the class taught by the assistant dean was just a vehicle for her self-aggrandizement. She annoyed me highly.

    So overall, I don’t regret spending the time and money to go to Drexel (ok, not much). Honestly, I don’t believe that there is sufficient consistency in MLIS programs to guarantee that the grass would be greener elsewhere. Some programs are making strides in a particular area, but in general there needs to be a curriculum overhaul. In the meantime, I’m learning more on the job than I did in school, and I’ll pursue whatever professional development I can grab. Thanks very much for posting this. It would be wonderful if the dean and assistant dean at Drexel’s iSchool would read this, but there’s a great difference between reading your well-written observations and actually having them act upon it!

  15. Nicole says:

    m.e. – hehe :) Not those OWLs :)

    Lisa, I bet know who the worthless professor was – probably the one who told us we weren’t children and didn’t know how to use his computer – I dropped him after 2 weeks! And was warned to avoid the assistant dean – so I’m glad I did so.

    One question – did you have library experience before starting at Drexel? If not – maybe that was the difference in our experiences … if so … then I’m happy you got something good out of it!!

  16. Lisa says:

    My prior library experience was sporadic, but I’d worked a bit in libraries overseas (private high schools), volunteered in school libraries, and had just quit working at a law library where I’d been for 4 years. So I guess I’d absorbed library experience that way and could build upon it, but mostly I saw Drexel’s program as validation – fairly expensive validation at that. What I wanted to do was to work in libraries as a research librarian. The market is tough, but believe me, it’s far tougher if you have only a little experience and no degree. So perhaps the small amount of prior experience did help.

    As for the professor, she (not he) left Drexel a couple of terms after the disastrous research class. And I was so glad to see her go. Having been raised by a teacher, married a teacher, and taught briefly myself, there are obvious do’s and don’ts for teachers. She drove me up a wall by frequently pointing out that we were graduate students, and we had to produce work of a higher quality. No kidding!

    The assistant dean was my advisor, but I didn’t know to avoid her until partway through the term. She should never be teaching.

  17. Sonja says:

    Wow, I am sorry you had such a bad MLS experience. I took my classes on-line through the UW-Milwaukee, WI and had wonderful teachers and classes.

    The only class I wish had been face to face was cataloging. In person would have been better and their were some language issues with the teacher (english was his second language). We did actually catalog some materials–although he seemed arbitrary in his AACR2 usage.

    All the classes were very useful and I learned a lot.

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  20. Michael Sutherland says:

    Sounds like you went to a terrible school and were in the wrong program. First, I would never suggest taking an online program (under certain circumstances I can see why people choose this as an option, however). I was accepted to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s online program and turned that down over going to Indiana University. The programs at IU are divided between MLS and MIS although they also have a program that combines those degrees into an MLIS. In fact, SLIS at IU has partnerships with several other departments at the University and has a wide range of dual degree programs. I know several people that worked on other degrees at the sametime they completed their MLS. Secondly, the MLS program at IU could be completed in 4 semesters – which could be done in 1 and 1/2 years if you took summer courses. Nine credit hours a semester is fairly doable especially if you do not have a family as I do (married and three kids). Even with a family I would have completed the program in that time if I had not had a death in the family. Third, before picking a program it is a good idea to look at the research, interests, and experience of the faculty of the school you are thinking of going to. IU has a very good digital library program (http://www.dlib.indiana.edu/) for instance and SLIS was able to recruit a respected digital librarian (http://www.slis.indiana.edu/faculty/jawalsh/) to teach courses here. Although I felt like a guinea pig as it was his first semester teaching Digital Libraries (S652), his course was good. I have no doubt it will get better as he teaches it. I have had good experiences with other courses as well that will have practical applications such as Collection Development, Academic Library Management (yep you can choose what type of library), reference, Online Information Retrieval, and reference resources in disciplines such as Business, Science and Technology, (and they offer reference courses in Social Sciences and Humanities as well). I think the courses in reference were useful because they not only introduced you to print and electronic resources in a certain discipline, but they also taught us about the information seeking behaviour of the patrons using those resources. Cataloging was actually taught by a cataloger who had been doing it for 30 years and she had us catalog over the semester 10 books that had never been cataloged by anyone – the books were not in OCLC; I looked. Before going to library school, I had seven years of experience working in Interlibrary Loan at Colorado State University while completing my B.A. and M.A. in History. I had plenty of library experience using OCLC before going to SLIS, but have learned much here as well. Similarly, my interaction with professors has been positive and I have taken courses from both associate deans (you should not have to avoid any faculty as one responder wrote, yikes!). I graduated in 2005 with an MLS and was accepted for post-graduate work in the Specialist in Library and Information Science degree program focusing on web development. I have completed coursework in Digital Libraries, Infromation Architecture for the Web, User Interface Design, Web Programming, HCI, and Information Systems Design, for instance. I have programmed in Java, PHP, Perl/CGI, and worked with XHTML and CSS and for real world clients and used technology in class, such as blogs and wikis. For example, I built a web site template in Information Architecture for the Web (S532) for the Weston County Public Library in Wyoming. Although the Wyoming State Library did not use my design it was a valuable experience. Similarly, I am currently working collaboratively on a project in Information Systems Design to complete a web design project for Option Six, an Indiana company that produces e-learning solutions for companies such as Microsoft and Eli Lilly, a global pharmaceutical company based in Indianapolis. The skills learned and used in these courses along with the semester projects are very practical and highly marketable to prospective employers regardless of whether they are a public, academic or business library.

    I should point out that not all of my courses were great though. One course in particular, it is a core MLS course here at SLIS, is entitled the Organization and Representation of Knowledge and Information and dealt with, mostly theoretically, how to identify criteria for evaluating and improving ways to organize and represent information for future retrieval with an emphasis on ideas and concepts. Yuck! Although someone may have liked it, the reading was uninteresting and horrendous and the lectures were too theoretical.

    It’s too bad that you’ve had the experience you did because library school should be and can be, at the right place, a good learning experience. I hope that you were at least able to learn enough to communicate with the librarians outside of the IT department.

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  23. Kella says:

    I am a recent graduate of the University of Washington’s distance program. It definitely was not perfect – there were two classes that felt like a waste of money. However, for the most part the professors were somewhere between good and excellent, and even the ones who weren’t great were fairly prompt in their communications. Also, there was a really good student/ program liaison, and I felt, in general, that they were listen to the criticisms of students and trying to do something about it, though sometimes it would be the NEXT class who would actually see the resolution of the issue.

    I suppose, if I didn’t have a house, job, spouse with a job, etc, then going through a traditional MLIS would have been a somewhat better fit. As it was, I was mostly happy with my MLIS experience. Now if I can just find a library job…

  24. BJ says:

    Nichole–
    Just perusing your post–I’m a little late with responding. Too bad about your experience at Drexel. I had a pretty good experience at Wayne State in Michigan (though it isn’t online). As far as learning what I needed for the job, yes, of course, hands on experience is vital. But the theory, philosophy and history is important too–they work hand in hand. I’ve met many librarians without the MLIS who are wonderful, but just as many without the degree who really could use a healthy dose of theory. I’m coming from another career though, so my outlook may be a bit different from many MLIS students.

    It works both ways–you really can’t classify one or the other as being more useful, IMO. Library school education should change however to require at least one semester of practical, meaningful experience. Until it does, however, MLIS students should take steps to gain the experience while in school.

  25. Lisa says:

    Nicole – I agree with most of what you said about the Drexel program. Although I’ve gotten a lot out of it I have to agree about the management, statistics, etc. I’ve been in management in libraries and I would have to say that the curriculum had nothing to do with management. Six Sigma, while interesting (although the text was awful) didn’t have a lot to do with more libraries. The esoteric accounting rules were worthless, especially since students would have been much better served tio learn about the budget process instead. Statistics would have been much better if it was related to the actual use of statistics in work. As part of another program I took a segment on evaluating statistical information, which I got so much more from.

    I’ll disagree about the first class on reference. I found Dialog extremely useful, mainly because I’ve worked in special libraries. It helped me understand commercial databases. The second class was not as useful as it seemed a mishmash of topics.
    I loved cataloging (what does that say about me?) and legal bibliography, human-computer interaction, systems analysis and ethics.

  26. Nicole says:

    I loved the first class too – and was in a special library at the time – but you have to look at it from the perspective of most librarians who don’t have Dialog access. I think that teaching us how to use it was important and it was my favorite tool to use – but spending 7 of 10 weeks on it was overkill for most librarians.

  27. tammy says:

    Hello, everyone. This is fascinating. I’m getting an MA in English at the moment and am planning to get start on an MLIS next fall – I’m trying to decide the where of it, right now. I guess my question for you would be, with perfect hindsight, which online program would you recommend? I’d been thinking about Drexel because of reputation, but I’d rather attend a University in which they are not seemingly resting on their laurels…

  28. Nicole says:

    I don’t know how to answer you because all I know is Drexel. I’d say that their rep is all they have … but others have enjoyed the program – I think it’s a personality thing. I wanted a bit of a challenge and I wanted to learn something I couldn’t learn elsewhere – and that didn’t happen for me. In fact I’m learning more in continuing ed classes at PALINET then I did in library school.

  29. De_safran says:

    I read these postings with great interest. I am an adjunct faculty member at several library schools. I taught Nicole cataloging. Schools vary in their quality and style of education. One school has two directions in its name; I jokingly say it does not not know where it is going.

    One of the challenges of library school is that it is both a graduate school and a professional school. It combines the theoretical academic search with hands-on practical experience.

    I have had students who were well prepared and ill-prepared for the rigors of graduate school. In graduate school students are required to take charge of their own education. Faculty are there to guide you, not to hand-hold. In distance education we can not see the pensive or excited look in the students’ eyes. We have to rely on questions and feed back. In all the classes some students need basic computer skills support. One semester I had a school server, that contained all my lectures, die. Once I was wondering why no students had sent me e-mail. I found that my school e-mail was going to never-neverland and yet no one got an error message. Students don’t realize some things are beyond the control of the teacher.

    Personally I took the commitment to teach seriously. It was not something delegated to weekends and time off of my “real” job. If I was on line, I would answer student e-mail within 30 minutes. That was my job. If I was off line, I surely would answer within 30 hours, even if the answer was, “I’ll have to investigate and get back to you.” I acknowledged every paper that was turned in as fast as I could and graded them within 2 days. I held weekly chats for the students who wanted to attend.

    The class that taught Dialog at Drexel is outdated. I have never used Dialog in my librarian job. I use hundreds of other data bases that are very connected to my personal research and the research I help others with.

    Some of the students act as though they are attending an elementary school where the teacher hands them all they need to know. In a graduate level course the student is responsible for his/her own learning. When I was earning my 2nd masters and working on my dissertation, I did my best to write publishable papers for my classes. I published several papers that started as class assignments.

    I give no written tests. The ultimate test is when a reader, a boss, or colleague comes to you with a question, will you know how to guide them to the answer?

    As a group I find librarians know more about the storage, retrieval, and use of data and information than information systems people or computer scientists. Librarians know more about language and literature than English teachers. Librarians know more about administration and systems than MBAs and yet are still paid as if they were beginners.

  30. De_safran says:

    I read these postings with great interest. I am an adjunct faculty member at several library schools. I taught Nicole cataloging. Schools vary in their quality and style of education. One school has two directions in its name; I jokingly say it does not not know where it is going.

    One of the challenges of library school is that it is both a graduate school and a professional school. It combines the theoretical academic search with hands-on practical experience.

    I have had students who were well prepared and ill-prepared for the rigors of graduate school. In graduate school students are required to take charge of their own education. Faculty are there to guide you, not to hand-hold. In distance education we can not see the pensive or excited look in the students’ eyes. We have to rely on questions and feed back. In all the classes some students need basic computer skills support. One semester I had a school server, that contained all my lectures, die. Once I was wondering why no students had sent me e-mail. I found that my school e-mail was going to never-neverland and yet no one got an error message. Students don’t realize some things are beyond the control of the teacher.

    Personally I took the commitment to teach seriously. It was not something delegated to weekends and time off of my “real” job. If I was on line, I would answer student e-mail within 30 minutes. That was my job. If I was off line, I surely would answer within 30 hours, even if the answer was, “I’ll have to investigate and get back to you.” I acknowledged every paper that was turned in as fast as I could and graded them within 2 days. I held weekly chats for the students who wanted to attend.

    The class that taught Dialog at Drexel is outdated. I have never used Dialog in my librarian job. I use hundreds of other data bases that are very connected to my personal research and the research I help others with.

    Some of the students act as though they are attending an elementary school where the teacher hands them all they need to know. In a graduate level course the student is responsible for his/her own learning. When I was earning my 2nd masters and working on my dissertation, I did my best to write publishable papers for my classes. I published several papers that started as class assignments.

    I give no written tests. The ultimate test is when a reader, a boss, or colleague comes to you with a question, will you know how to guide them to the answer?

    As a group I find librarians know more about the storage, retrieval, and use of data and information than information systems people or computer scientists. Librarians know more about language and literature than English teachers. Librarians know more about administration and systems than MBAs and yet are still paid as if they were beginners.

  31. Nicole says:

    Thanks for you comments – but I didn’t take your cataloging course :) I had Rebekah Kilzer for cataloging – just to clarify. Based on your comment above (since you haven’t used your name), I believe I had your class for 2 weeks in my first term before switching to another section.

    I have had students who were well prepared and ill-prepared for the rigors of graduate school. In graduate school students are required to take charge of their own education. Faculty are there to guide you, not to hand-hold. In distance education we can not see the pensive or excited look in the students’ eyes. We have to rely on questions and feed back.

    Some of the students act as though they are attending an elementary school where the teacher hands them all they need to know. In a graduate level course the student is responsible for his/her own learning.

    In the class I dropped, the professor did not seem to think that our questions were reasonable for graduate students – but what distance professors have to understand is that we’re all learning how to learn without seeing body language or having easy access to the professor. This does mean students are ill-prepared for graduate education – it means that they’re ill-prepared for online learning – can who can blame us – the majority of us had never taken classes this way before.

  32. De_Safran says:

    I told the school that we really needed some on campus time to teach the students how to learn in the distance environment. The University of Illinois does that. In the classes that I spent 2 days face-to-face, everyone learned a lot better. Seeing the teacher and their fellow students really helps set the tone for the whole course.

    Examples of not being prepared: Papers that had spelling and grammar errors that the Word spell checker caught, not reading directions for assignments and not writing clear sentences. Distance learning is not an excuse for poor writing.

    Distance professors know about the difficulties of not seeing the students. The difficulty is present for both parties. When students were threatened with a major fire in their county, we were patient. When a student made no effort to contact the teacher or the administration for several weeks, we were not sympathetic. Students have given all sorts of reasons why they can’t do the assignments that would not be accepted if they were on the job. The boss would have fired them for non performance of duties. If you supervising someone who didn’t show up for two weeks, didn’t call and didn’t send you any messages what would you do?

  33. Nicole says:

    Thanks for you comments – but I didn’t take your cataloging course :) I had Rebekah Kilzer for cataloging – just to clarify. Based on your comment above (since you haven’t used your name), I believe I had your class for 2 weeks in my first term before switching to another section.

    I have had students who were well prepared and ill-prepared for the rigors of graduate school. In graduate school students are required to take charge of their own education. Faculty are there to guide you, not to hand-hold. In distance education we can not see the pensive or excited look in the students’ eyes. We have to rely on questions and feed back.

    Some of the students act as though they are attending an elementary school where the teacher hands them all they need to know. In a graduate level course the student is responsible for his/her own learning.

    In the class I dropped, the professor did not seem to think that our questions were reasonable for graduate students – but what distance professors have to understand is that we’re all learning how to learn without seeing body language or having easy access to the professor. This does mean students are ill-prepared for graduate education – it means that they’re ill-prepared for online learning – can who can blame us – the majority of us had never taken classes this way before.

  34. De_Safran says:

    I told the school that we really needed some on campus time to teach the students how to learn in the distance environment. The University of Illinois does that. In the classes that I spent 2 days face-to-face, everyone learned a lot better. Seeing the teacher and their fellow students really helps set the tone for the whole course.

    Examples of not being prepared: Papers that had spelling and grammar errors that the Word spell checker caught, not reading directions for assignments and not writing clear sentences. Distance learning is not an excuse for poor writing.

    Distance professors know about the difficulties of not seeing the students. The difficulty is present for both parties. When students were threatened with a major fire in their county, we were patient. When a student made no effort to contact the teacher or the administration for several weeks, we were not sympathetic. Students have given all sorts of reasons why they can’t do the assignments that would not be accepted if they were on the job. The boss would have fired them for non performance of duties. If you supervising someone who didn’t show up for two weeks, didn’t call and didn’t send you any messages what would you do?

  35. Slow Reading » Blog Archive » Halfway through a part-time MLIS says:

    [...] has been some recent conversation about the downs and ups of library school. I am exactly halfway through library [...]

  36. Debra says:

    Nicole – This is an important post. Unfortunately I’m coming in late to the discussion and I don’t know how many people will read my reply but I’ll go ahead anyway.

    I’m also a Drexel LIS student and had entered the environment with no library employment experience whatsoever — I had a corporate background. For the most part, I’ve had positive experiences at Drexel, particularly because of the online environment.

    In fact, the one class I took in person consisted of primarily Power-Point presentations followed by practice in searching. This was 9 months after I had completed an undergrad (in my early 40s) where there were inspiring (in-person) small-group seminars that I still remember fondly. In fact, I’m still in touch with my undergrad faculty advisor and I’ve seen her speak at various functions in town.

    After finishing the on-campus Drexel course, I decided to take an online course and loved it so much that I have enrolled in online courses since. After all, it is just as easy to read PowerPoint (or a lecture given in any format) in my house at any time of the day than have to drive to Philly after work, search for parking (or have to pay over $70 for a parking pass) and then drive an hour back home.

    Drexel has given me my “union card” to walk into the door of libraries. I now have over a year’s pre-professional experience at 2 different institutions which I would not have been able to do without Drexel (or any other library school).

    Then again, as I mentioned to Nicole in a post around a year ago, she is the kind of person who should be TEACHING these courses, not attending them.

  37. Nicole says:

    Thanks Debra!!

    I do agree that Drexel got you in the door – but that’s a pretty high door-fee to have to pay when you could have learned from someone in libraries – like me or many others instead …

  38. zalen says:

    Hi,

    I have read this too with great interest. I am a Drexel grad and also an Adjunct Faculty member. And YES..I teach that class that teaches Dialog. : )

    I think Dialog serves as an excellent model for structured data. There is no better way to do so. Some students think it is useless (like learning geometry in grade school). Regardless, it is taught to serve as a model as it is perhaps the most basic of all search systems one may encounter. Blogs, wikis and whatnot are outside the scope of the class. Plus it is very difficult to squeeze the technical learning and the theoretical learning into 10 weeks.

    Frankly, I think online learning (and teaching) is far more difficult than face-to-face learning. Written communication is so one-sided, it makes for so much misunderstanding between teachers and students. Believe me, it is frustrating for everyone, at times.

    I have been in the industry for 12 years and I would agree, I have learned much more on the job (I have always worked on the corporate side). But my MLS certainly provided a good foundation.

    zalen

  39. Nicole says:

    Zalen,

    Thanks for the comments!! I loved my class that taught Dialog – I loved Dialog and wish I could use it all the time for all searches!!

    My comments about including technology in MLS training is not meant to say we should replace this class or alter this particular class by adding in additional tools. My suggestion is that additional classes should be offered that teach future librarians about the tools they’re going to be using once they get into their library.

    I’m shocked as I teach classes to find how few recent grads know about the value of blogs written by their colleagues – they could learn so much more if they were just reading what actual professionals were writing.

    I’ll stop ranting now :) I just wanted to make it clear that this particular class isn’t the one that needs to be replaced/adjusted.

  40. [...] revenue. However, it is awfully difficult to avoid this conclusion when faced with accounts of bad experiencesin the online [...]

  41. Halfway through a part-time MLIS | Open Reading says:

    [...] has been some recent conversation about the downs and ups of library school. I am exactly halfway through library [...]


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