Gaining experience in an abbreviated MLIS course

So I look around and see a lot of people freaking out about getting experience. Don’t Panic! Deep breath…..ok. I have talked to a lot of people who came to UWO specifically for the CO-OP program offered here. Now In my first semester it seemed to be a common complaint that there were many co-op hopefuls and few co-op placements. Stay calm….before you click to join another school please read on.

There are other opportunities for you to gain experience in the library or archive or wherever your looking to go. I am one of those students who chose a different path to gain the experience required for an entry level position when I graduate. I did my undergraduate degree at Western and in my fourth year I started volunteering at the PRIDE Library. There I manned the reference desk on a casual-part time basis; when I reached my Masters I continued volunteering and started my work study as a Cataloger for the Graphica section they were building in the library. It has thus far been a great experience for me as a Special libraries reference librarian and cataloger. There are many opportunities for experience if you know where to look for them.

Here are a few options:

1. CO-OP – yep this is option number one, its paid, its usually 4 or 8 months, and it also usually sets you back said amount of time in your studies. There are next to no opportunities for co-op in London, so you better be willing to travel. This is not my area of expertise so I will say nothing further of it. There are workshops available to gather more info when you get here.

2. Volunteer at the University – The university has over 20 libraries on Campus, some of them are specialty libraries such as Medical, Engineering, Music, and PRIDE library. There is also Weldon (the 5 story behemoth) that is the main campus library as well there are 3 libraries, one for each of the affiliated colleges. Take your choice, offer to volunteer, even if it is as a ‘Page’, you gain experience on your resume at an accredited University Library and could come out of it with a letter of reference. This is the route I chose. The university also has an Archive in the basement of Weldon Library, this could be an opportunity for archival students.

3. Work Study – This is available usually only to students who are from Ontario, but it is an option. Once again there are numerous libraries on campus. Go online to the western website and look up the work study site, they may have librarian jobs (even menial ones) available. This is a limited part time job, but also looks great on a resume. Limited usually to 100 hours per semester, max of 10 hours per week.

4. Volunteer at a local or regional Public Library branch – The city of London has its main branch in the heart of downtown London (1 bus from campus). They take volunteers on a seasonal basis and volunteering in either the main branch or one of its 14 other branches scattered throughout the city. They are always looking for volunteers and is another avenue of experience, especially those looking to go into Public Librarianship. Other options are the public libraries in surrounding communities such as: St. Thomas, Stratford, Strathroy and Woodstock.

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