Time to teach/learn what’s current

Cliff has a great post over on his blog about what students are learning in library school. Cliff points out that as an instructor in any LIS program you have to keep up with what’s going on in the library world – and then pass that info and those skills (the keeping up skills) on to your students:

If you teach in an MLIS program, stay in touch with librarians to know what your students should be learning to be prepared for the real world. …
If you are a cataloger, constantly strive to improve what you do, and stay in touch with the cataloging community.

My favorite part is one of the comments from Ryan which warns students:

If you are a student: Don’t expect that school will prepare you for the workplace. Look beyond the assignments to learn something about the profession. Better yet, get a B on your assignments so you can make time to learn the real goods of library work. You have to think beyond your profs (most of them anyway) to get a job in this profession. Your real learning *begins* when you graduate.

The problem with Ryan’s comment is that it requires that students already know how to keep up with what’s going on in the library world – and if they’re not being taught that then they’re never going to know what they’re missing.

SLA2008: All I Really Need to Know I Learned in … Library School?

This panel was very very insightful. The panelists were all recent grads of the University of Washington’s iSchool. They were Alex Berta, Rebecca Blakewood, Ann Glusker, Elizabeth Gould, and Beth Sanderson. Joe Janes and Nancy Gershenfeld professors at the iSchool gave us an intro.

University of Washington was the first school that decided to call itself an iSchool. So what does iSchool mean? For the U of Washington, it’s something that allows them to make their programs stronger because so many disciplines are all learning together. They have information science, information management, library and information science and others all in the one school.

I like the way they end their MLIS program – with a portfolio. In it the students include a significant leadership experience, significant training experience, significant paper, and others I can’t remember ;) Basically it shows that you’ve learned enough to go out into the real world other than just taking classes on theory.

They’ve also bee n making curriculum changes like replacing the single required tech class with a variety of options and including a bunch of 1 credit, get you up to speed type, classes.

Next the Q&A (in notes format)

What do you feel you are taking out into the world now that you’re done with your education??

Ann: has found how impressed others are with the tech training they’re getting at the ischool. this is a great thing that the school does for them.

Alex: much more comfortable with technology because of this program – he comes from humanities background and so he didn’t have much exposure to these tools before (got on facebook to play scrabble).

Elizabeth: came out of the program with a much broader picture of how to utilize information. she always like doing research, but now she knows how to use the tools and find different ways to access information.

Beth: we’re coming out of the program with a way to explain what we do so that people can understand – because a better online communicator and in person communicator

Advice to panel from an audience member: I don’t feel that I got enough management training in library school, make sure you get more training.

Beth: they do have a core class that’s in management, there are also options for students to explore that further if they want to

Alex: took many classes where budgeting and management were brought up and discussed

Beth: you’re talking about things at conference that we’re learning in school

Alex: the current awareness among our professors is great

Core classes?

Beth: info behavior, info life cycle, reference, management, info organization (not specifically cataloging), technology, info policy and social context, info literacy, research methods, business

Joe Janes: there is a special library class that teaches you to balance it all since many special libraries are one person libraries

Audience member talked about how she got all the training she needed to run the law firm library she was hired to after graduation – this program is amazing

Do you think it’s a good idea to replace cataloging as a requirement?

Joe: yes

Beth: took info org and didn’t think it was too broad – didn’t realize it until she took cataloging how much she learned in info org – and since cataloging is going to change so much

Ann: every person she asked what to take said to take cataloging. it’s the most valuable class she took, the hardest class – but the most valuable

Nancy Gershenfeld: advises all students to take cataloging – because you get to understand the decisions that go behind the catalog

Audience: maybe the cataloging class need to be redesigned to show the breadth of the theoretical and the process of cataloging

Joe: students today are going to have to learn new types of cataloging – and since everything is up in the air it’s hard to teach one thing “my generation caused the mess, now these students are going to have to solve it” How do you teach the unknown.

Talk about your internships

Elizabeth: having someone organizing and setting up an internship for you is key – as long as i had something to do when i got there, i was happy. having a defined job so you know what you’re going to be doing, very important

Ann: just got to sit at the desk – didn’t really get to get her hands into anything else that she’s going to do in the library world – wanted to learn more so that she could say “oh yes, I’ve done that” we may look smart, but we’re inexperienced

Beth: worked with a professional librarian – it was very important to her to have the one on one experience with the librarian and work with them on a project

Elizabeth: both the internships they had – they asked her what she was interested in – and she was one of the staff – both helpful

Audience (ischool grad): the best thing was having to define 3 learning objectives before going into it – so going in they knew what they wanted to do and their mentors knew too – and having ongoing meetings with their mentors.


I stood up and told them that they were luckier than they realized – they are learning amazing things and will be much better prepared than I would have been if I wasn’t already in a library while in library school.

Technorati Tags:

Irony & Teachers

I’m finally reading Everything in Miscellaneous – and it’s awesome. The irony is that I’m taking a two day subject cataloging class. While the instructor (who is awesome and full of energy) talks about how getting the most specific subject heading is our goal and having things in alphabetical order is good – I can’t help but laugh inside because sitting next to me in my bag is a book that says this isn’t the only way to organize things!

On the subject of teachers – I have had two great instructors at PALINET continuing ed courses over the last month and it makes me wonder why these aren’t the kind of instructors I had in library school. Is it because they’re actually out there doing the work? Is it because they love their jobs (which you can really tell?) or is it just the setting? I don’t know, but I do think that if you’re just out of library school and feel like you’re maybe missing something or if you’re a librarian who wants to beef up your skills, taking a course from a librarian who is out there doing what they’re teaching is the way to go!

What I Learned in Library School

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!!


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).


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!

Library School Requirement Survey Results

That’s right – I finally have the results for you. You can browse the survey results on Survey Monkey here, but I don’t feel that that gives you the full picture, so I did a little bit of analysis of my own.

First, I went through and made school names conform to one standard (where possible).

Next, I went through and added a few required classes based on people’s open ended answers (ex. Intro to Libraries/Librarianship).

Lastly, I wasn’t clear in my class descriptions, when I said Intro to Research I meant Intro to Reference/Research. Every library calls that department something different. So if someone entered Intro to Reference as an open ended answer I updated the tally for Intro to Research.


There were 504 responses to the survey. Of those 20.8% were current MLS/MLIS students and only 1.7% graduated before 1970. The majority of respondents graduated between 1991 and 1999 or in 2007.

Year of MLS/MLIS

Respondents attended 79 different schools/campuses, the top 5 of which were:

  • Syracuse University–83
  • Simmons–23
  • Drexel–22
  • Indiana University–19
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign–17

See the full list of schools/counts.

My goal (purely out of curiosity) was to see what classes used to be required and what classes are required now. I also wanted to see how much variation there was from school to school.

These results are slightly skewed because so many respondents were from Syracuse University, but I thought I’d show them anyway. Here are the required classes by year:

Required Classes Per Year
Required Classes Per Year

A chart with required classes by year and school would be way to involved for a web page, so you can see this data in this PDF.

It pleases me to see that management is being offered much more now than it was in the past. Along those lines, I’m shocked at the lack of consistency across the board. If we’re all learning something different, then how do libraries know what they’re getting when they hire a new graduate? If we’re all required to get an MLS/MLIS from an ALA accredited school in order to be considered a “real” librarian, then why is it that we all have to take such different classes?

Why aren’t we all required to learn a bit of the basics from each area of the library? All schools should require an intro to reference/research, intro to cataloging, collection development, library automation, management, and systems class – that gives students a feel for each area of the library allowing them to decide where they want to go. Then after giving a grounding throw in some practical experience.

I’m not alone in my thinking. Some of the open ended answers to “Do you feel that library school prepared you for the library world?”:

  • In a theoretical sense yes, but I would have liked more practical training. My Archives courses at Temple were more hands on. The Preservation course at Clarion was also hands on, but we could have done more. I would have liked if more interaction with librarians and library work was a part of the curriculum, but I managed to do this independently instead.
  • Meh. Cataloging was worthwhile. Intro to Business Research was good. The rest was pretty obvious/pointless. It definitely wasn’t worth the money, but it was a necessary hurdle to getting a library job.
  • Some classes do and some don’t. Most of it focuses on theory. I really enjoyed the classes I could use in the real world such as web design, cataloging and collection development. I work in a library and feel bad for those who are not able to. I have learned so much more from working in the library each day. I believe that library programs should be restructured to focus more on real life experiences.
  • Hardly. Thankfully I was already employed in the library world. I found the courses and their content woefully out-of-date (dialog?!?!) and mostly abstract. I would have come out of library school with no real inkling of the real library world at all.
  • Not as much as library work has.

Other comments that struck me:

  • In Library School, they never discussed how to work with different departments, they seem to leave that part out, but its a key part of being a successful librarian. The environment I currently work in has the saying “Serve the Customer first, and remember your colleagues are your customers too” Its something that seems to have created a very friendly work environment.
  • Classes from practicing librarians were better than the classes from tenured faculty
  • The MLS is an odd degree. For those of us coming to the library world from another profession (i.e. a lot of us! including me), the MLS means very little and either overqualifies us for entry-level paraprofessional jobs or isn’t enough on its own to get higher-level jobs. I feel frustrated by libraries that don’t have the imagination to see how my years of experience in communications may not transfer, no matter how carefully I craft my resume to draw parallels between what I’ve done and what I would be doing in a library or archive. I think there needs to be a lot of attitude adjustment!!!
  • I’m truly appalled by the decline in the teaching of knowledge organization in recent years. Some students are very reference-focused when they are at grad school and seem to be able to avoid classes on KO. As a result they have a hard time when they come out into the real world … and the real world has a hard time with them!!!
  • Even after spending 3 years and thousands of dollars getting the degree, I believe there should be some sort of certification process. The title “Librarian” should be based on knowledge and skills, regardless of how it is acquired — whether through a degree program or years of working in libraries.
  • I wish there was more practical application of theory.
  • I realize that I just said this in the previous question, but it’s rather surprising that library students in some (many?) MLS programs can complete their degrees and still have no real library experience. It’s rather like getting an MD without having gone through residency: classroom experience can’t fully prepare you for working in the field every day.

There are so many more responses I want to share, but this post will end up going on forever. In addition to the documents I provided and the link to SurveyMonkey, here are the open ended answers to Anything Further to Add and Do/Did you feel prepared?. For those who are better at compiling statistics, here is the zip file of all responses.

If you generate reports of your own, I just ask that you share with me so I can share with the people who took the time to answer the survey.

[update] I forgot to include the edited result set (the one I cleaned up) I will try to get that attached to this post by tomorrow. [/update]

The grades are in

That’s right folks, it’s official. I now have my final grades and am done with library school! I am now an MLIS graduate of Drexel University (and will be paying for the rest of my life). I’ve promised a what I learned in library school post – and it’s coming, I just wanted to get these grades and catch up on some life things. Keep an eye out, both that and my survey results are coming. For now, here’s what I took in my 1 year of library school at Drexel.

INFO 503 — Intro Info System Analysis — A+
INFO 510 — Info Resources & Services I — A+
INFO 520 — Prof/Soc Aspects of Info Services — A
INFO 511 — Info Resources & Services II — A
INFO 515 — Action Research and Statistics — B
INFO 653 — Digital Libraries — A
INFO 640 — Managing Information Orgs — A
INFO 660 — Cataloging & Classification I — A+
INFO 681 — Legal Bibliography — A
INFO 643 — Information Services In Orgs — A
INFO 664 — Library Automation — A
INFO 683 — Resources for Children — A

My Tini Tiny Survey

I’m working on cleaning up the results for this survey right now (making university names the same, etc) and I’m seeing a few people pointing me to the library websites for their required courses (“You can always look on the schools’ websites for this info.”). I probably need to clarify what I was interested in. I wanted to see what was required in the past and is required now. Obviously those who graduated in the 70s & 80s didn’t have Web Development, but I wanted to get a picture for how things have changed – and I’m getting that!

I hope to have the results ready next week.

Tini Tiny Survey on Library Education

Lately, I’ve been talking to students at other library schools as well as library staff here as I do a bit of homework for my “What I Learned in Library School” post. I realized that I needed a bit more information so I’ve created a 5 question survey for library students and librarians.

If you could help me out by answering this tini tiny survey that would be very helpful. I will of course, share my results here.

[update] WOW! What a response. I was limited with my free account to 100 answers and you all hit that very very quickly. I have upgraded my account, so if you weren’t able to get your survey submitted, you can now. [/update]

[update2] With over 500 responses, I have closed the survey, I am going to clean up the data (make school names consistent and add a few classes that a lot of you mentioned) and then post the results – keep an eye out. [/update2]

Technorati Tags: , ,