What my MLIS taught me and what it didn’t: A look back one year after

Well, it has been just over 14 months since I graduated (attended the convocation ceremony) from the MLIS program at Western University in London, Ontario. I originally started this blog as a way to inform others of my progress and thoughts on the MLIS program at Western. I have decided that now is as good a time as any to reflect on what I learned in school and how prepared it made me for the library work that I have done over the past year. I am going to divide my experiences into categories devoted to parts of my current and previous jobs.

Management – Management class in school was a dreadful thing. It was 8 weeks of people skills, which at the time was boring as could be, but I have found it somewhat useful, and 4 weeks of practical management/job development information. In my experience as the current CEO of a small public library I have found that the dreadful team building exercises were not a complete waste of time. I have used some of what I learned from the class to deal with the volunteers and employee, as well as interacting with the township.I still believe that the manangement class was too much team building (a week or two would have sufficed) and not enough management skill building. What about managing a budget, or finances, or dealing with other people whom hold the reigns (boards, head librarians, or department bosses)?

The other course on management at the school (Special Libraries) prepared me more than anything for my current job. It showed me how to build a budget, a proposal, and other paper work type stuff that the school neglected in its management class.

Cataloging – Cataloging at the MLIS level was a joke. I basically learned what each type was and how to find it in a book, though these are valuable skills, I have yet to understand how learning so little about each type really helped me in any way become a better librarian other than to be able to watch someone else catalog as their manager.

Reference Services – Reference class was probably the most useful class I took. It helped hone my ability to ask the right questions to get the answers out of a patron. Also because I love being at the reference desk, this has been my most positive experience with the school where I can form quality reference interviews in a matter of seconds; while getting the patron on the right track. This has been immensely useful at all my positions as both a Library Technician at a public school and Librarian at a Public Library.

Technology – Technology I have not really used much of what was taught in school. I am responsible for the website at my local library and use a front ended editing program. Alot of the entry is basic text and not a lot of HTML. I took a class on CSS and HTML that was nearly useless to everyone involved and have yet to use the small bit of information that I did learn.

Conclusion

Library school (at least Western) seems to be run as a librarian mill. Pump out graduates while feeding them some lectures about what librarians are today: Managers. This is what they try to tell you, and in general it may be true. Library school does not prepare you to be a librarian….you do. Library school shows you a little bit of everything and allows you to make up your mind what kind of librarian you want to be. While going through school I wanted to work at a University Library or special interest library, I ended up working in School Libraries and a Public Library after I  graduated; I took many elective classes devoted to what I was interested in (Archives, University Libraries, Special Libraries, Storytelling, etc.) because that was what my narrow mind at the time wanted to do. To be honest this is how most library students (MLIS or Library Tech) probably choose their classes. It is also the only way you will survive library school. Taking a class you have no interest in is going to flop horribly (maybe not to the point of failure, but to the point of hating library school). Library school will not teach you what you need to know on the job, the MLIS program at Western will guide you though and show you what you may or may not be interested in. In the end you are responsible for teaching yourself how to be a library professional, that is what I took away from library school.

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