“I graduated from a top library school.” Yeah, so what?

Interesting discussion on the COLLIB-L discussion list. A librarian posted a link to a survey about: “What makes a professional librarian? Discussion on the list then evolved into the state of the library job market. Several people mentioned that they graduated from highly-ranked library schools and had trouble finding employment. I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble, nor am I denigrating anyone’s education, but it really does not matter which library school you attend.

I’ve never looked at anyone’s resume/cover letter and thought: “Wow, she graduated from X library school!” Library school is what you make of it. The MLS is just the basic requirement for the job. If all you do is take the required courses, but get no work experience, then you are setting yourself up for failure.

The following is some rather BLUNT advice for those in library school, or thinking of attending:

  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.
  2. If you have not worked in a library before attendingย  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.
  3. Oh, I keep mentioning experience. Yes, it’s that IMPORTANT! Before you graduate with your MLS, get some experience as a student worker, a grad assistant, paraprofessional, internship, practicum, or volunteer work. Get as much experience as you can.
  4. If you are unable to do the above, you are really limiting your options. You will need to decide whether this is even a viable career for you.
  5. I don’t really care what library school course grades/GPA you have. Just get your degree and focus on getting some experience.
  6. Get a mentor! Someone who is a working librarian. Not a library school professor who hasn’t worked in libraries for 20 years.
  7. Geographic flexibility: I understand that not everyone can (or wants) to move across country for a job. Just be aware that you may be severely limiting your options. Again, you need to decide if the expense of library school is worth it, if you are not geographically mobile.
  8. You need to market yourself. Librarians/librarians-to-be need to stop thinking of marketing as an “icky” term. You need a web presence (website, e-portfolio, Twitter account etc.) to promote your abilities.
  9. Do not wait until graduation to start applying for jobs! Start a few months in advance. Many libraries (especially academic libraries) have a long hiring process. I have worked in libraries where we have hired people in their last month, and even last semester, of library school for professional librarian positions.
  10. 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?

Off my soapbox!

89 thoughts on ““I graduated from a top library school.” Yeah, so what?

  1. Yes. Yes to everything you said. The biggest thing that stands out is the need for experience. The first director who hired me later told me that the volunteer experience I had was part of what got me the interview.

  2. Terrific and honest advice! I’ve been a stern advocate for obtaining as much experience as one can while earning their MLS, and I would roll my eyes at fellow students when they didn’t enroll in courses with practicum placements, or work their ass off to find part-time work. You present some spot-on recommendations. Great post!

  3. I would also say that you really need to have a willingness to relocate to get that first job and possibly relocate several times to get into positions you want within your career.
    I do have one question…was the librarian job market ever good? I got my MLS in 1998 and it was a bad market back then too.

    • I also graduated in in ’98. In NYC the public libraries were always looking for LMS’s. Having the LMS was enough to get a job in an NYC public school as well. Things are much worse now/

  4. Great advice. I echo the tip to start the application process early. Some great academic jobs had deadlines in early February so I spent the semester break working on my resume/c.v. and cover letters.
    Regarding point #2, I agree to some extent. You do have to know WHY you want to commit to library school, but having experience in a library isn’t all that matters.You can have related experience that translates well to librarianship, and you should get the library experience as soon as possible, but I’ve met some excellent librarians and soon-to-be librarians that had never worked in library prior to starting library school. Of course, maybe I defend that route because of my own experience — I was a teacher and a scientist, but had never worked in a library.

    • I should clarify that I meant I don’t think library experience is absolutely essential before starting library school, but once you decide to go, by all means grab every internship, practicum or job that will help you do what you want to do.

      • I agree with what you said…definitely there is a lot of transferable experience with various jobs. I went to library school w/ some great students who had been school teachers and editors, etc…

    • Thanks for your comment!

      I was just reading this post, and have very limited experience working IN a library (I did it one summer back in HS) but am starting my MLS this fall. I have worked in customer relations/guest service and administrative roles for more than ten years now as well. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Krissy, when you go job hunting, this can be a selling point. I waited tables full time while in library school, and I did a whole riff on how customer service is customer service is customer service during the interview that ended in a job. I was applying for a public services position, and it turned out that they agreed with my perspective.

    • Yes you are right! The experiences does not matter so much! I mean, so much. It is important to get some practice in advance. But that’s not all. A full-time job is different from a internship or student-work. The skills that needed for job could be learned in a short time. However, the knowledge, and the methodology about how to think about the behaviors happened in library are what we should learn in school.

  5. Thank you. Whenever I get frustrated with my program, I remember all the already librarians who told me that having the degree > where you got it.

  6. Excellent points, all. Except…I didn’t work in a library before I decided to go to library school. Ever. But I did work with data and knew I was interested in pursuing a career that involved some kind of data and metadata management. I’ve been out of library school for a little over 2 years now, and I think I’ve been pretty successful so far. And I love being a librarian!

  7. All good points. 8 and 9 together are particularly pertinent. Am still encountering library school students who are reticent to promote themselves, through social media or other methods. So they are crippling their chances of employment.

    Skillful self-marketing also means you pick up some experience you’ll need for yourself as a librarian, and on behalf of your future employer. If you are too shy or lack confidence in dealing with other people, then this is an issue or problem you’ll need to overcome (as librarianship is about dealing with people and their information needs), else this may not be the right career for you.

  8. My school required real-world experience in order to graduate (unless you took the thesis option instead of the portfolio, but that was usually for folks going on to Ph.D’s). That was a pretty big deal that’s helped me a lot, even if it sometimes seemed a chore at the time (but I did have some pretty cool experiences, both paid and volunteer). So while I mostly agree that a library school is a library school is a library school, the fact that there are so many graduating without experience means that it might not be a bad idea to look at schools that mandate it and so have the infrastructure to support students looking for opportunities.

    • BTW, loved the post & thought you made some good points. I do just have some pride in my program because I see concretely how it helped me get where I am today. ๐Ÿ™‚ A key factor, though, was that I chose my program because it was in a city I wanted to live in. Which made me happy, and so I was in a much better frame of mind to figure out what I wanted to do, supporting the idea that the program itself does not have to be and shouldn’t be the main factor.

      • You make very valid points! I went to a “well regarded” school that didn’t require any internships/praticums, but I worked by butt off at various part-time library gigs while in library school and that made all the difference.

  9. High5 on this post! I like your BLUNT take about this hot button subject–finding the job, going to grad school, getting the degree. Leadership, management skills, technology proficient, and perserverance are all keys to being a successful librarian/information professional. I want to encourage others that– yes the road to gaining employment can be challenging, BUT apply that list given by Joe AKA Mr Library Dude will keep you on course. Thanks Joe for the awesome list– a combination of these things I have used and continue to use. Times can be hard, but remember demonstrate YOUR value as a information/library professional BEFORE getting a job is key. Create an online presence, connect at a local level– start your own network. Don’t wait for someone else to do it!

  10. Must admit, don’t agree with everything you said. However, I do agree with some. Experience IS necessary and key, definitely, and I don’t think it matters where you went to school (although some offer better opportunities). However, it seems almost like you’re condemning people who came into the profession without doing “enough” research.

    I can only speak for myself with any real strength, and I definitely did research about the field before I went into my program. However, EVERYTHING I read told me about the “greying of the profession” and how many jobs were going to be open in the coming years. I now know that to be a lie, even back in 2005-2006. And that I DO blame my MLS program for; they continued to espouse the inevitable influx of jobs in the field even while professors warned of a lack of jobs (and only then at the end of my program). I think it’s wrong to say that someone didn’t do enough research when so much relies on getting lucky and finding the right information.

    And while I agree that no one should go into librarianship without some previous experience, I had none when I went into my program (though not from want of trying). And I know that I went into the right field for me.

    Just my thoughts.

    • The “greying of the profession” thing comes up over and over, and one of my professors explained it this way: Yes, people are retiring. Does that mean entry-level positions are opening up? Not necessarily. It might mean upper-level positions are opening up (the ones people retired from), or it might mean the organizational chart gets shuffled so that everyone has more duties and NO jobs open up (“doing more with less” – a phrase I’m learning to hate).

      I started my job hunt geographically flexible, but fairly inflexible in the kinds of jobs I was applying for – mostly technical services stuff. As time wore on, I just got plain flexible, and even started applying for jobs that I wasn’t qualified for according to the letter of the position description. I learned to sell myself out of desperation, and even now, nearly three years later, I still think about my experiences in terms of “And how would I explain what I’m doing or have learned in a way that could get me a job?”

      I know it wasn’t really library school that was responsible for my long period of joblessness, but library school did give me the feeling that I wasn’t qualified for something unless I had had experience or at least coursework on exactly that specific something. It took a long, tiresome job seach to train my brain out of that kind of thinking.

    • @Dork Avec Une Spork – The point I was trying to make–which probably got lost in my bluntness–is simply to do your homework before deciding if a program/degree is right for you. And to remember that library schools are trying to get “butts in the seats” for tuition money. They’re not there to get you a job. And that’s pretty much true of a lot of academic programs.

      • Dear Joe–great post and great discussion that has followed! I would suggest a few things to prospective library students: (1) Do pick an ALA-accredited LIS program. Many employers require this, but the ranking of your school, not so important. ALA provides a directory of these schools on its website and there are a lot to choose from. (2) Research job placement rates for the schools you are considering attending. Ask each school for information about how well its graduates place (annual reports are good), and review the Placement and Salaries report that comes out in Library Journal each October. This report will give you a national overview of hiring in LIS by library school, specialization and region. Best, Tanya Cobb (Student & Alumni Services Coordinator, UW-Madison School of Library and Information Studies & alum of the program, 2004)

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  12. Everyone espouses the importance of experience–any at all–but an MLS in progress and two years’ volunteer experience don’t measure up against someone who’s worked as a circ assistant or page for years–and doesn’t have an MLS. Even if I have a proven record of performing well and mastering new positions quickly and easily.

    Money is the largest issue for me. I can’t pick up my family and move for a low-paying job. My husband has juvenile diabetes–health insurance is vital. We can’t wait for him to find a job that offers health insurance at my expense.

    Additonally, I’d love to see advice about HOW to promote yourself on the internet when you are just starting out–when you don’t have any web pages you’ve designed or projects you’ve headed up. Basically, what about me, besides my skills and personality, is even marketable?

    • I think the experience part depends on “fit” for a position. We’ve hired librarians w/ no pre-MLS library experience, but they were able to demonstrate through their courses & internships, etc… that they were the best “fit” for the position. But each library is different, and some still seem to promote from within. And some libraries (especially in larger cities) down often have to hire new grads because of an oversupply of MLS’s.

      As for promoting yourself, if you have course projects that you could post online, or a Twitter account where you post library-related items, or start a blog of book recommendations–those are all simple things that you can do at no cost to you (well, it costs your time ๐Ÿ™‚ – but that’s another story.)

  13. I completely agree with you. I did the same research and found the same information. This is one of my pet peeves too, when people blame the students for not doing enough research. This myth is still being spread I just talked to a teacher from my library school a few months ago and she told me the same thing. She was shocked when I explained that was a myth and it wasn’t happening.

    I agree experience is necessary but I think library schools need to be more realistic to their students about the job market.

    • The point I was trying to make in my bluntness :), is simply to do your homework before deciding if a degree/program is right for you. What’s often lost on students (not just in library school, but any academic program), is that it’s the school’s objective to get students in the seats, not to find them a job. I know that most schools have career placement offices, etc…, but that’s not their primary goal. I wish more library schools had more apprenticeship programs etc. to help make the transition to the “libraryland” a bit easier.

  14. Very interesting points, and ones that I have been learning the hard way. Working full-time prevented me from taking part-time jobs, volunteer positions, and most internships while in library school; the only internship I did was one that was too good to pass up, and fortunately my employer allowed me to take time off to do it. As a consequence, my experience is severely limited in libraries specifically, and my more than 4 years in an archive that marches to its own drummer gets me nowhere.

    Like Jessie P, I’d like to see some advice on building an online portfolio when you have little to show.

    • Do you really think that? They’re often presented as dying in the media, because of the very limited way many people define libraries, but there is still very much a need for people who can organize vast amounts of information and find the valid information hidden in all the exponentially increasing garbage.

      The problem, I think, is that libraries aren’t much better at selling themselves than librarians. People don’t realize what libraries can actually do for them, besides provide them with free access to print books.

  15. I agree with all your points, Joe. I would add that part of the problem is
    – a proliferation of library school programs (especially online), that
    – are far too easy to get into (particularly compared with many other graduate programs, especially with
    – students finishing undergraduate degrees but unable to find jobs deciding that library school is an easy thing to do.

    We have way more library school graduates today than there are jobs, and if those graduates don’t have some experience, geographic flexibility, and/or market themselves, they will have a tough time finding work.

    • Speaking as one of those #3s, who in fact didn’t have experience in a library before starting but tried to get as much as I could while in school – I guess I should say that I wish I had heard to two years ago. I was sold on the degree thinking that it wasn’t REALLY a “library” degree but an “information management” degree though, and I feel like that was misleading – the coursework is still VERY library oriented. Now, once I started I realized I loved that kind of work – NOT that I loved “books”, which I think is a silly thing to say, but the actual work.

      The thing is, I’ve been “thinking of my experience in terms of ‘how would I explain what Iโ€™m doing or have learned in a way that could get me a job'” for years now, and it’s gotten me exactly nowhere. I’ve never been afraid to sell myself, it’s just that employers don’t really care.

      As for “the state of the job market”, I don’t actually see that it’s that bad compared to what it would have been like for me without the degree. At least there ARE jobs somewhere.

    • Amanda–I agree all of your points. I don’t want to see people entering library school because it looks like an “easy” thing to do. Some students in my first library school class were just like that. It only makes things more difficult down the road, unfortunately.

  16. I’m in a situation somewhat like josephfm in that I went to school with interest in information management. My program (at the Pratt Institute) could have had more coursework like that, but I think (! – haven’t had to look for a new job yet) that there’s enough.
    There are some comments from recent Pratt grads about using library school skills โ€œoutside the libraryโ€ here http://mysite.pratt.edu/~sla/events/2010thinkingoutside.html

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  18. This is a great post. I’m chairing two searches right now, and while “ALA-accredited MLS” is one of the required qualifications, the others are all practical/experiential requirements, such as working with particular tools, software, or being able to demonstrate your ability to work in a team. “I am great at teamwork!” doesnt cut it – we want *examples.* A great way to see if you’re preparing well for the job market or not is to collect job ads in the area you want to go into, and start listing what you can say about your work in each of the required/preferred qualification areas. If you don’t have much to say, a search committee doesn’t have much incentive to move you to the top of the pile.

    • Great strategy re: collecting job ads. When I serve on search committees, I make a spreadsheet of applicant names and our list of requirements/preferences. I go down the list and check off if you address the requirements/preferences. It helps me rank our candidates’ skills.

  19. I followed all of this advice, except for the geographical flexibility (I have other obligations than just my career) and the only jobs I can get are admin in fields other than libraries. Now I’m stuck in Toronto, where the state of libraries is in constant peril.
    I don’t blame my school… I blame the economy. The job market was semi-promising when I decided on this career path. Then 2008 hit and the baby boomers lost their safety net and put off retirement. Then all of these people, already working as librarians, learned that in order to keep their jobs they needed to have the correct qualifications. So people who fell into being a librarian get to keep their barely earned job, while trained librarians who want nothing more than to be an actual, working librarian are left out, applying for jobs that are quickly snatched up via nepotism by untrained librarians.
    Sure people will say that you need to network, but that’s easy to say when you have the budget to belong to every Association and attend all of the events or conferences. I’m eking out a living by temping and applying to every library job I can in the evenings.
    But above all things, I do not blame my school. I blame my naivete in believing that if you work hard to get the job you want, you will eventually get it. How silly of me.

  20. Yes, jeez. Get some experience! I’m shocked by how many people were in the MLIS program when I was who had zero library experience (work, volunteering, internship, ANYTHING) and were shocked and complained “I can’t find a job!” when they graduated.

    Yes, the job market kind of stinks, but here’s the bottom line: Don’t expect to get a job without any experience. There are too many people who have earned their MLIS degrees but not enough jobs to go around. Sure, some MLIS grads might get lucky and nab a job right out of school, but most won’t. It’s unfortunate, but true.

    Heck, even those who are working in a library while earning their degree have a tough enough time promoting to a librarian position once they’ve finished school. I have many coworkers in my library system who are in that boat. They would be amazing librarians, but they’re stuck in their current positions until something (hopefully) opens up.

    With the way the economy is right now, it’s a tough job market for librarians/information professionals. But, at the same time, we need fresh blood and kick-butt people in our profession, so I don’t want to deter anyone from going this route, either. And, who knows, maybe more librarian gigs will open up and be in demand should the librarians who are steering the ship now keep innovating and doing good things to meet the changing needs of our users.

    So, don’t give up hope, but don’t expect to just land a job immediately. If you want a librarian job, you’re going to need to get your feet wet first.

  21. I must say after reading the post and then the corresponding comments, I’m left with a slight feeling of dismay. I’ve worked in an academic library as a paraprofessional, and it was finally something I could pursue as a career. Unfortunately, I moved and have been unable to find library experience to keep my resume current, but I should be volunteering in the local library come fall.

    With all that being said, I am planning on pursuing a MLIS degree next year. I fully intend to take advantage of every internship and professional experience possible, but the overwhelming dismay from other’s comments regarding the job market is discouraging. Time and time again I have found various librarian job postings (across the country and internationally), so I haven’t been too concerned about finding employment. I agree with you Joe. You’ve got to be flexible with your location!

    Another thing I’ve learned from previous library experience (correct me if I’m wrong) is that new professionals have to be tech-savvy. I fully intend on gaining the necessary tools both before and after the grad program in order to make me the most marketable professional I can be. So I’ll be warned of the “gloom and doom,” but I certainly won’t let it scare me from what I know will be a long and rewarding career path.

    • There are a lot of bad stories with the job market. But there are successes as well. I just had a colleague–a paraprofessional at the academic library where I work at–who just graduated w/ his MLS in December. He sent out one resume and got the job. I’m sad he’s not my co-worker anymore, but glad he landed his fist professional position at a library not too far from here.

      I definitely agree with being tech-savvy. And just a generally wanting to learn new things is a quality every librarian needs.

  22. To hear it from veterans, the economy has never been that great for librarians, so I dont see why that should be any more of a deterrent now than it was in the 90s. But to be realistic, it’s one thing to say it’s a crap economy and that getting a job is tough. It’s another thing – hopefully one that helps folks understand how important it is to polish their applications – to know that our most recent reference/instruction slot had over 150 *qualified* applicants. Even our more high-tech positions with more specialized knowledge (like e-resources and digital stuffs) are coming in at qualified applicant pools of 55-70. Be aware. Then be awesome.

  23. Yeah, but those crazy numbers of applicants versus openins are true of many professions, not just librarianship. Not sure if we should view that as a good thing or a bad thing – I guess it’s both.

  24. The only thing I would blame the schools for, and I’m surprised that no one else is saying it here, is that graduate schools are taking too many students. There really should be mechanisms that tie publicly funded universities to actual market demand. In other words, if there is a contraction of 25% in the number of positions for the profession, then the intake should be pulled back by 25%… very few people are sensible enough to ban themselves from higher education because it is too deeply embedded in how we measure up our self-worth.

    The worst fallacy is in our society now is that volunteering is the solution. Yes, people do succeed this way, but volunteering is the worst thing possible for labor as a whole. I have lived in Asia for two years, and just about anywhere outside of North America, people think volunteering is nuts. Whatever profession protecting ideas in the ALA that made having the MLIS/MLS be the gold standard should also get us all to band together to stop volunteering unless it is for university credit. I know neo-liberalism adherents don’t like to believe this, but it’s true. “warmaiden” says it correctly, “be awesome” and concentrate on being a niche person rather than following the herd.

  25. “There really should be mechanisms that tie publicly funded universities to actual market demand.”

    Oh come on. Are you serious?

  26. And don’t rule out going into a completely different field when you get out of library school. The traditional jobs have disappeared at an alarming rate and are never coming back. Those who have jobs are going to hold on to them for dear life and retire when they are 90 – they’ll have to because the pay is so low and paying off the loans will take that long. A sad state of affairs.

  27. Interesting. I had zero library experience prior to beginning MLIS, but worked in the information field for a few years prior with a decent tech resume of skills (XML, JS, SQL, various info tools). I have desired a technical library job, but have had zero responses to dozens of resumes sent out to positions that frankly, I am over qualified for even without library experience. I am now an information architect (thanks largely to my MLIS and the course work I chose – primarily digital and tech oriented). I sent out maybe a dozen resumes to IA gigs and landed a job within two months, and prior to graduating. Did I have IA experience? No. My point is the world is turning digital, and I think what coursework you take, and what skills you learn on your own(!), are far more important than where you take them. Honestly, library schools need to stop being library schools and start being information management schools. As I look at the job boards near Chicago I see TONS of jobs that info science degrees could be filling…but aren’t because they are tied to training for a profession that has turned increasingly non-technical. Who indexes and catalogs in house anymore? But many large corporations need data management workers, a niche that could be catered to by library school turned to the future. I realize this is a bit off topic, but there is so much need for information handlers out there, that uses the same basic skill sets, that to not be open to a market that is ripe for librarian skills is cutting out a huge opportunity.

    • Interesting points…when I was in library school at Indiana University you actually had to choose between getting a MLS or a MIS. You could take classes in either core, though. It offered a lot of functionality and you could tailor your classes to be more tech/info sci focused.

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  31. Hi ~

    I am in the process of getting myself ‘retooled’ for a second career and so I am trying to determine if pursuing a MLIS degree is right for me. My attraction to MLIS began when I ran across a couple of career job titles – digital preservation officer & metadata specialists. So I became intrigued and began reading up on it. This link particularly caught my eye:

    When we are talking about lack of jobs, are we mainly referring to the classic role of the librarian and those careers?

    Also, now that the MLIS degree encompasses so many different concentrations, including all of the digital additions, are we still saying that those careers are struggling in the job market as well?

    Other concerns:

    1. I have absolutely no prior experience in this area and would be starting from scratch.

    2. I am a little concerned because of my age (late 40’s and will be in my early 50’s if I am able to complete the degree).

    3. I am NOT an avid reader, just casual.

    I am not sure how applicable the latter is, however, since the degree seems to cover such a broad scope and my emphasis would primarily be in the information management realm of digital archiving/preservation and metadata ‘cataloging’.

    Also, I have considered that this might be one of the few careers where age really does NOT play a huge factor so I might be okay there too. It just seems like this would make for a really good second career to transition into, especially if you have a very rock solid first professional career and prior bachelor degree(s) to tie into and boost your marketability.

    But do you think this is just wishful thinking and am I being too optimistic or unrealistic?

    I don’t have any data to back up my assumptions….just hunches….and would love to hear what others think.

    BTW, reading this blog has been a huge help to me and I appreciate everyone’s candid responses.



    • Hi…great questions!

      A lot of people come into the library/info science field as a second career. So, I wouldn’t worry too much about that. And if you can use your prior work experience to market your skills, that will indeed help.

      If you do decide to get your MLIS, definitely get some work experience or internships while you’re in the program to bolster your career prospects.

      I’ve seen a lot of emphasis on jobs involving metadata & digital preservation–it’s definitely a growing subfield. Just keep in mind that not all libraries have these types of positions (for example, I work at a small academic library and we just don’t have the resources to employ a specialist such as this).

      In general, the job market is mirroring the economy. Coupled with current librarians delaying retirement and positions being frozen due to budget cuts, it is something you’ll need to think about.

      With that said, I love being a librarian. Every day is something different and I like that.

      • Hello again, ๐Ÿ™‚

        jbintenn, I was/am in a very similar situation as you are and just finished my MLIS from UWM. I had an info architecture job prior to graduating, and am now going for a second interview for a digital librarian/metadata/taxonomist position at a large NPO at a salary range well above most library (public, academic) jobs advertise for. (not that money is everything!) I have found that, contrary to library jobs diminishing relative to the economy, metadata/taxonomy and IA jobs are growing. In fact, firms looking for good info architects (both web and enterprise) have a very, very difficult time finding people! It seems while traditional libraries are atrophying, those with tech skills are thriving (sort of) despite the economy. Hence my post above.

        I think those with a desire to help others find information, a basic librarian characteristic, need to accept that traditional libraries are dying. When I took my first class in the MLIS this was discussed and it broke my heart to hear it as I thought I had found my passion in libraries. But the truth is as the public and private sectors move into digital resources there is no longer any need for a physical library, and thus no need for traditional librarians. Sad, yes. True, yes.

        So though libraries themselves may not have much need for metadata & digital preservation roles, government and the private sector have become increasingly aware that keyword search is lame, and in order to keep their respective data/resources useful (i.e. findable!!) they need to invest in metadata/taxonomies that aid the CMS in handling information retrieval. Its all old school indexing and cataloging gone new school digital! Tremendous opportunities IF you are willing to learn a ton about computers, networking, content management/learning management systems and overall enterprise information architecture. And that is more than most of my MLIS classmates wanted to take on, and their unemployed statuses reflect their mistake, IMHO.

        Re: your age. I have found, being of similar age, that age does play a role similar to any other job market. Just a fact. BUT, if you leverage your recent enrollment/graduation from MLIS and drop the dates from your Bachelors ๐Ÿ™‚ they will presume you are younger and take a look. Its all in your self-promotion/marketing and the market you look at getting into and the salary range you want/need.

        Anyway, its a good career if you are willing to embrace the fact that you will forever be learning tech as it is forever changing. A tall order to fill, but to remain viable “librarians” MUST embrace this or find other employment.

        P.S. I would recommend a school that has an MIS degree, and perhaps one that will allow/encourage you to take comp sic courses as part of your program.

  32. Pingback: What does your degree mean to you? « Hack Library School

  33. Really loved this blog. I am currently enrolled in library school (the in-state, cheaper option; not sure there is a truely cheap option our there) and found what you said to be true. One of my professors had our class to read this blog in our introduction to librarianship class as part of our recquired readings. I will soon complete my first semester. I have worked in a small academic library for 14 years and have loved every minute of it. During my orientation, I talked to several students who stated a “love of reading and of books” as the main reason for choosing this career path and I remember shuddering. I asked if they had had any practical experience in dealing with libraries and a couple stated they had worked/helped out in the library at thier high schools. I know of one of these potential librarians who have already dropped out because being a librarian wasn’t what she imagined. It’s a lot of work, not just sitting behind a desk and checking out books or shelving a book here and there. And even with my years of experience, I am discovering things everyday that demonstrate just how much work it is and am looking forward to it, I guess I’m just a glutton for punishment. No, I’m looking forward to it because I already know how rewarding it will be to me personally and to all those I will be able to help in a greater degree. I told another woman (at that same orientation) that librarianship is a calling, that you don’t do it for the money. Because if that’s the only reason you are after a library degree, you will be bitterly disappointed. She looked at my rather oddly, and did I mention, she too has already dropped the program. I guess the truth hurts. Thank you again for your pearls of wisdom, please keep them coming. Please know that you are not casting them all before a bunch of swine.

  34. Coming back as a follow-up (and because I had subscribed to the comments so I see every time a new one comes up) – I had commented earlier about having only experience in an archive that keeps rather idiosyncratic standards and having none of the kind of experience people wanted to see. Now I’ve landed a new job as a cataloger, and the only changes to my resume had been coordinating a state-wide program at my current job and adding one Saturday a month of volunteering at a museum library to catalog and do odd jobs. I’m pretty sure I know which one got me the job. I disagree with those who say volunteering is a bad thing. For some institutions, it can be the difference between having a functional library and not keeping up at all because they’re just scraping by as it is. And for some aspiring librarians, it can be the difference between getting a new job and not getting anywhere at all.
    Also, and more relevant to the original post, when I got the job offer, the head librarian mentioned being very impressed not only with my resume but also with my transcript from my rather reputable library school. The school and my grades made a difference. It would be great if we could lump all managers into one bucket and say “this is what they’re looking at when hiring,” but we can’t. What matters not a bit to one manager may make a big difference to another.

  35. Pingback: How Ranking Library Schools is Like Ranking the Socks in Your Drawer | Mr. Library Dude

  36. I have been accepted into one of US News and World Report’s top-ranked ML(I)S programs, I had to postpone my admission for a year due to funding issues. Recently, two local academic libraries have posted positions that don’t require a graduate degree. While my “dream job” would be in arts/museum librarianship, academic librarianship is high on my list. Should I still try to earn a degree at the top-ranked program (which would require moving about 2,000 miles), or go for the local jobs and try earning a degree online from an in-state program that ranks consiberably lower? The program where I was accepted has an arts/museum focus, while the in-state school just offers one or two courses in that area. (I worked part-time for about a year in a university arts library while I was pursuing a PhD in a different field.) And does it matter that I am approaching this in my mid-50s? Thank you for your feedback.

    • Hi Keith–Congrats on your MLIS acceptance…and thanks for your questions.

      I think you just really need to weigh the pros and cons of both options. As far as library school rankings go, they generally do not matter much in the job hunt (with one caveat). In fact, it’s quite UNLIKE grad school rankings for other programs. For example, teaching faculty positions where a degree from “Ivy League U.” is much more impressive than “Podunk State U.” (my apologies to Podunk State U.!).

      Here’s the one caveat: Since you’re interested in an arts/museum specialization, then you probably should factor that into your decision if that’s the area of library work that you want to go in to. Having a breadth of education & experience in this area will help you in the job hunt.

      Of course, you’ll also want to weigh the financial and moving options too. Will it *really* be worth it? And how is the job market for arts/museum librarian openings? Another possibility: think about whether you might be able to do some internships, paid work in arts/museum librarianship, or an independent study via the in-state/online program.

      As for ageism: I would like to think it doesn’t exist, but unfortunately that’s not true. For example, some advice says leaving off the graduation year(s) of your degrees on your resume…but I’m not so sure about that.

      For getting a foot in the door for interviews, it all boils down to a well-written cover letter & resume–answering the stated needs of the library and demonstrating your applicable experience. At least for most academic libraries, we want to interview the applicants who have addressed this the best (regardless of age, geography, etc…).

      Kind of a rambling response…and it probably gave you more questions than answers! Let me know if you need more help.

  37. Really interesting post, and I agree with most of it – a lot! (Especially your points 7 and 8, but really your other points are important too.) I am an LIS educator, teaching into a Masters program in Australia.

    There are two things here that I want to make mention of:

    Firstly, I had never worked in a library before I went to library school. I defaulted into library school because I couldn’t do what I actually wanted to do. Regardless, I have forged myself a solid career. I got a job before I graduated. I got into a prestigious graduate program at a prestigious institution that essentially set me up for my career. I want to shout it from the roof tops: I got here by default but I made it anyway. No one should ever let lack of experience of working in a library stop them from going to library school. Few people truly understands the profession they’re going into before they get to university, and that’s true of lots of different careers.

    Secondly, it *does* matter where you study. Employers may not care (and I’m actually not sure that’s true – more on that soon), but *you* absolutely, 100% should. Your choice of institution should be based on the quality of the education you will get there. If you need to prioritise other factors – like going to a local school or going for a cheaper option – that’s fine. But the fact that this is okay does not negate the fact that if money and geography are not restrictions, you should pick the library school where you’re going to get the best quality education, delivered in a way that works for you. This is true for any profession. Get the best quality education you can. You will be better prepared for the workforce and *that* will impact on whether you get a job or not.

    On whether employers care about where you studied: maybe it’s different in Australia because the market is smaller, but I can’t tell you how many times people have said to me “we love your graduates”. We work closely with industry on developing our courses and we remain in touch with industry as individual professionals – we are active within the profession. Industry know us. Industry know our course – in fact, we bring industry into our courses through guest lecturing and student projects, so they get the opportunity to input into our course.

    Sure, a selection panel might not look at your CV and decide to employ you based on where you studied. But that doesn’t mean that where you studied doesn’t matter. You need to choose the course that is going to give you the best education.

    PS. So many comments! I have to confess I didn’t read them all so apologies if what I’ve said here has been said before.

    • Thanks, Katie for your comment! I absolutely agree that you need to pick a school that is a good fit or match for you. However, in the United States, where students often graduate with a very large student debt, choosing the most economical option is sometimes the only choice. As long as the school is accredited by the American Library Association, then the student should be OK. It’s what you do while you are in the program that makes the difference. Thanks for sharing the Australian perspective here!

  38. I do not agree about NOT blaming the ALA and the school. There is a lot of false information put out by the ALA ..remember all those retiring librarians. Also as a male you are at an advantage. I have seen some really dopey male librarians hired at our library I asked one about a book I was looking for and he googled and turned the screen and told me read this stuff. When I persisted he pointed to an elderly female librarian and told me to ask her because she’s really good at that stuff. This after being told that library only hires the creme de la creme. Guess that creme got stale googling. You can be all positive because you got a job. People have done all you suggested and still have no job in a library or have a part time job in a para professional area. There is an article in the Library Journal called that lucky few – referring to people like you who got a library job.

    • Joyce–I do agree with your comments on the hyping of the “librarian shortage” myth, but I still think people are responsible for the usefulness of their own education and the decisions they make. However, your comments about being a male librarian are baseless.

  39. The article is called The Lucky Few: Three New Librarians Tell it Like it is
    October 15 2012.

  40. Pingback: The Librarian Shortage Myth & Blaming Library School | Mr. Library Dude

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  42. Pingback: "'I graduated from a top library school.' Yeah, so what?" - Joe Hardenbrook | iSchool MLS

  43. Reblogged this on The Library & Information Science Junkie and commented:
    Here’s an interesting article on getting through Graduate School in the LIS Program. It may be a little dated since the article was published in 2011, but the information still rings true today. No matter what school someone goes to it is always crucial for that persona to gain work experience in the field he or she is studying.

  44. I agree.
    In my class we were offered part-time jobs at the University Library on evenings and weekends (great opportunity right!? And we even got paid fairly!) and only 7 of 30 accepted. 7 out of 30!!!! The class graduated in April this year and I’ve been offered 4 permanent full-time jobs since then and am now happily working my dream. 22 of my classmates are still unemployed and complaining about how hard it is to find work. In my opinion it is only hard because they didn’t prepare themselves.

  45. I was always super nervous about the idea of putting my GPA on my resume (only because it wasn’t great), so I’m glad that what you’re saying about graduating from X School and getting X GPA aren’t the biggest factors in the application.
    – Krys

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