I’m heading to my first year of library school in the fall. If your first reaction to reading this isn’t “what’s library school?”, then I have a question for you. What’s library school?
I have a notion that library school is the place you go if you want a job in a library. Which I do. Beyond that, I only have vague ideas, hazy impressions, and ad hoc accounts of what library school is. Is it the place you go because it’s where other library professionals go? Is it where you go to become a member of the club? Is it where to you to loudly proclaim, and to get others to hear your proclamation, that “Yes! I want to be just like you! How about giving me a job?”. Is it, in other words, an MBA? Having read a few blogs, the great Agnostic, Maybe post giving advice to the MLS class of 2013 included, I noticed the emphasis on networking, on getting to know the people in the profession, on getting them to know you, on branding (isn’t that something done to cattle?) and selling (curating?) yourself. Given the weak job market for newly minted librarians and the startling statistic that roughly half of all jobs are filled through referrals, this is all excellent advice.
It’s also startling that the advice, dispensed to a group of students whose full time jobs are . . . well, studying, little mentions the learning that goes in the classroom. Maybe that’s all taken for granted since the stereotypical nerdy librarians hardly need further encouragement to bury their heads in a (text)book. However, if we take the advice at face value, and all the skills a librarian need can be gotten from internships, volunteer work, jobs-on-the-side, as well as being involved in professional associations, meeting and talking to people etc., then would librarianship be better served as apprenticeships rather than a two-year, full-time degree at research universities? Are these two years nothing other than paying expensive dues to join an exclusive club? Is library school yet another symptom of our certification-mad society?
Ah, no doubt my musings took a somber turn because I’m anxious about the future. Perhaps all doubts and misgivings are best allayed by action — by starting library school and seeing for myself what it’s all about. I hope to report back on this topic optimistically once I actually have first-hand experience with an MLIS. Back after the break, folks!