Does it matter where you get your MLS?

Interesting question posted to the NEWLIB-L discussion group: Does it matter where you get your master’s degree in library science? Short answer: nope! The questioner wanted to know if transferring to a more prestigious library school would make a difference when it came to job hunting. Unless you’re focusing in a narrow aspect of library or information science (preservation, archives, etc…), it probably doesn’t make a darn difference.

I’ll go a step further: if you’re thinking about library school, research the schools you are interested in and go to the one that costs the least amount of money, or the one that gives you the most financial aid assistance or scholarships. If you live in a state that does not have an ALA-accredited program, look at some of the out-of-state schools that offer in-state tuition to those residents. If taking classes in the online environment works for you, research the schools that offer online-only MLS degress.

Never once on a job interview has anyone commented on the library school I attended (at least prestige-wise). I don’t even recall being asked about my grades. Some were interested in the courses I took, but that’s about it. The search committees I’ve served on (my experience is in academic libraries) have never given much thought to the pestige of the library school–primarily because I would regard the MLS as a professional, as opposed to “academic” degree.

My advice: don’t worry about the “prestige” issue. What’s more important is experience. If you have not worked in a library before, get some experience in library school, if at all possible. Get a job as a library assistant at the academic library, or your local public library. Do an internship or a practicum. Do a class project where you can partner with a library (collection study, public library programming, library web site design, etc…). These are the keys that will help you get a job. Just taking the coursework is not enough. For me, it was the library work I did–not the coursework itself, that helped land me that first job.

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6 thoughts on “Does it matter where you get your MLS?

  1. Thanks for this! I’m a soon-to-be LIS grad and I chose to attend the school that was *best* for me — not based on the “prestige” — and I’m happy with my choice. And I completely agree about the EXPERIENCE. It’s a must! Sometimes I even wish everyone (my classmates) had some library experience before starting classes…

  2. You are so right about the prestige of the school. Getting experience, especially a practicum or internship, is almost essential. Library administrators, like me, view experience as a definite plus for prospective employees, even ones just earning their degrees.

  3. Thanks, Heidi!…and you make an important point: the library school you choose needs to be the “best” fit for you, too.

  4. Pingback: Tweets that mention Does it matter where you get your MLS? « Mr. Library Dude -- Topsy.com

  5. Hi,
    I have 10 years experience in public libraries but an thinking about applying to an academic library so my family can move to a different area. I worked for 2 years pre-MLIS at an academic library but not as a librarian. Do you think I have enough experience to qualify for an academic librarian position?
    Thanks,
    Rachel

    • Hi Rachel,

      If think it depends on the job description and what’s being asked for. I’ve worked with librarians who made the switch from public to academic because they easily demonstrated their transferable skills. One colleague was a public library children’s librarian who got a job as a reference librarian/education subject specialist at a college library because of her education background. I just think you have to take what’s being asked for in a job ad and provide examples of how your public library experience is applicable and/or provide ideas on how you could demonstrate meeting the requirements.

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