The Dream: An Introduction, or Why Library School?

For the past 3 months I’ve been stuffing virtual folders with links and notes and unfinished resume drafts and personal statements in preparation for application submissions. In an attempt to make some chronological sense of my process, it dawned on me: start a blog. So, I give you my first post in the hopes that it will help someone else in applying for the right MLS program or just so that I can keep track of every interesting library-related thing I find online. Also, something peculiar happened that brought new life to my info-gathering.

Last night, I suddenly awoke startled, dazzled by a dream. Before bed I worried myself to sleep about library school applications and if I were picking the right course of study. Then the dream: a fuzzy vision of moments in a savvy tech services department in an academic library, me cataloging some East Asian treasure. Awake with the realization: cataloging is my calling!

I’d been attracted to it before but balked at having to sit in front of a computer screen all day (At the time of this revelation, I was working in circulation at a great neighborhood library). But my knack for categorizing and belief that great cataloging is the root of access trumps that! I currently work a sit-in-front-of-a-computer-all-day library job and enjoy the decisive processing aspect slightly more than the search and retrieve aspect (I work in the Reserves department of a large academic library).

This dream has brought new life to what had become humdrum. In my excitement, I try to read as much as possible about libraries and what professionals, students, and others think about the future of libraries and librarianship. Some interesting insights that have shown me that I’m ready to pursue an MLS:

Library school is about getting the big picture

I work best when I have an idea of how my work fits into the big picture. I’ve found in my years in public and academic libraries that I struggle most when I don’t have an idea of the goals of the entire organization or institution. Of course, though it’s impossible to know EVERYTHING, knowing a bit of key theoretical facets on top of my experience could truly aid in my future success in librarianship (and making me a great asset to any library I work for).

Library school – or any school for that matter – is what you make it

The previous point came from a commenter’s response to this post by an MLS student disappointed by what her school required but who still seemed to get great experience by taking on lots of interesting jobs and internships. She wished library school were more like an apprenticeship that prized experiential learning rather than the theoretical focus she got from her required classes. She did, however, give herself that experiential aspect by seeking out internships and jobs, so she made what she wanted out of her time in library school.

This is the main reason I would like to attend library school on campus: to take as many opportunities as possible. There is so much I want to do in the next few years and I don’t want to be limited by the syndrome of the same-old, same-old. I’ve lived and worked here for so long and really want to explore what my options in the regions of each school I’m applying to:

– University of Pittsburgh: All my supervisors at my previous job attended this university online and on-campus, one of whom just earned her MLS in 2013. Our desks were next to each other back when she was still a Pitt online student, and she has since offered me so much good advice on what classes to take. Also, I’ve been all over the North America and always try to make sure I visit the main or biggest library in each city I visit. Carnegie Public Library is my favorite library in the country, so I’m hoping for an opportunity to work there.

– University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill: Has FOUR study abroad options exclusively for students of the information school! Also, an entire library dedicated to Natural Resources at NC State and potential opportunities within the Research Triangle (Raleigh/ Durham/ Chapel Hill). I’ve always imagined myself attending grad school in an idyllic, leafy college town and descriptions and pictures of the campus and surrounding regions attest to that.

– University of California, Los Angeles: What first attracted me was the opportunity to get two concurrent masters in Library Science and Latin American Studies with many opportunities to work with region-specific collections and communities. I think a west coast educational perspective could also give me a diverse experience.

I definitely have more on why I would like to attend each of these schools, so more to come in future posts.