Sunday, June 05, 2011

Blast from the Past

This was a post that I wrote on March 15, 2005 while I was going to library school. It was on my Electric Velocipede blog, but as I'm cleaning that blog up to be magazine only, I'd thought I'd move some of the library oriented posts over here.

There’s been a . . . well, I guess a meme, but I hate that word . . . going around among some electrified (meaning heavy online presence) librarians about classes they would like to teach in their library. I find this discussion fascinating and interesting. It made me want to join in with my own list. Now, I’m taking classes in Library Science right now, and I’m not a librarian. So I don’t have a list of classes I’d like to teach at my library (again, don’t have a ‘my library’), but here’s my list of classes I’d like to take (or see offered) in Library School:
  1. Working with the Library Board (How to Choose Which Battles to Fight and Which to Let Go)
  2. Library Intership (Required semester course wherein you work at Circ, Reference, Archives [if available], Book Preservation, Receiving, etc.)
  3. Publishing 101 (Where Do Your Books/Journals/Magazines Come From?)
  4. Vendors (Who Provides Materials for Libraries; How Do You Enact Transactions With Them to the Benefit, and Not the Detriment, of Your Library?)
I’m sure there are more if I bend my mind to it, but those are the ones I’d like off the top of my head. To speak some more about #2, I think it’s a shame that ALA accredited programs don’t do more to ensure that their students have library experience. Here’s my thoughts on this:

If you are an ALA accredited program, there’s a good chance you have a library nearby. For students without prior library experience (or even those who do have library experience) require a semester long course wherein you work in every department of the library. Perhaps a few weeks at each. Then you get a flavor of what each department does. This will help if/when you move into managerial roles, but it will also help when you need help from fellow librarians and library staff members.

For students who work full-time in a non-library situation (like myself) your library probably is open late at night. Three hour shifts could be scheduled in the evening and on weekends. Even with several dozen students needing a course like this (and it might not be that many) there should be enough different three-hour chunks of time at the different departments to place all of them somewhere. The difficulty will be in getting a staff member (i.e. a librarian) who can be there for guidance. But, there should be some senior member of the staff who would be able to provide training, etc. And for some of the departments, the current part-time student help would be able to train people.

My school provides a Field Experience course which is very beneficial. The woman who runs the program does an excellent job of finding a library/situation very similiar to that which the student wants to do once the degree is completed. This is a great option for people who are not looking to work in public libraries and not specialized work experience. Unfortunately, often the field experience requires time during the week during the day, which is virtually impossible for people who work full-time outside of the library venue. It requires that they leave their job. Of course, this is something they may be planning on doing anyway, but I suspect many of them want to do it on their terms, not on the terms set down by the school.

Just some thoughts, and I’m sure they need some help.


  1. katester says:
    I agree 110% on the internship concept. I was lucky in that I worked in a library during library school, but I did an internship elsewhere, too.
    Classes I wish I had been offered in library school:
    * Building maintenance issues – how to deal with faulty plumbing, leaking roofs and regular vandalism.
    * Unions. When they’re good and when they’re not-so-good. Related: making sure you have a good union steward.
    * Advantages/disadvantages to being a member of ALA and/or your state library association.
    I’m sure there are others… I’m 10 years out from school and still learn new things every single day on the job (:
  2. John Klima says:
    I’m sure there is much more to learn than you could ever hope to pick up in a MLS program. Some of my frustration is born out of the fact that I work full-time, so I am only available nights and weekends. When I applied to my school, not only was I sucked by the reports of jobs for the asking, but my school talked about volumes of evening courses, weekend courses, online courses . . . none of which have become a reality. This Fall there are two evening courses I can take.
    I think it’s very disingenuous of a program to not try and support its clientle. If you aren’t a full-time student or already working in a library, it feels like you are a second-class citizen. My wife received her Master’s in Education from the same school yesterday, and that program seemed to recognize that people work (in this case, teach) and there were NO day classes. Oh well, I’m halfway through . . . it will be done soon enough!
  3. Rose says:
    Nice list, much more useful than mine. :)
    I too wish I had a couse on dealing with the board and which battles to fight. And manditory internships/workstudy for library school studnets. I wish that the libraries in universities with MLIS programs realized the rich resource they have and would use it!
    I really really really wish that we had courses on customer service/teaching/people skills. And computer/technology courses that didn’t involve learning how to use a mouse and send email (yes, in grad school).
    But, after working as a librarian, I’ve come to the conculsion that 90% of what I do on a given day I learned how to do through life experience. Only on the days that I do cataloging and write pathfinders to I find myself using MLIS knowledge.
  4. The Krafty Librarian says:
    I agree an internship/practicum should be mandatory, but this was one of the areas that students working outside of libraries hotly contested. Their view was that they didn’t have time to work a job, go to school, and work for free (or nearly free) at an internship/practicum. I worked in libraries and I did a practicum, I wanted as much experience as possible.
    Other classes I wish we had:
    -Systems librarianship, how to get into it and what you need know for your library to work. Something beyond, this is a mouse and this is how you load a program. Hello nobody told me about firewalls until my first job as a medical librarian. I am an “accidental systems librarian” and I still feel there is so much out there I don’t know.
    -How to publish. Yeah sure I had that class, but it was on such a large scale that it blew out my brain. I think we need a publishing for newbies. How to get started by doing something small and then working your way up to the big scholarly articles.
    -Vendor negoitations and electronic license agreements.
    -Justification 101. New and inventive ways to prove to your worth to the university/public/hospital/business. Something more than just showing them we did x amount of searches, checked out x amount of items. Something that teaches us how to illustrate more of what we are doing and how it has an impact on the university/public/hospital/business. Because after all “they” can do searches on their own and “they” can go to Barnes and Noble.
  5. John Klima says:
    I like the justification class. I think that’s something you should get as an undergrad: when you’re up for review, how can you show your boss that you’ve accomplished X so that you receive Y raise?
    The customer service idea is good, too. I had my fill working in fast-food and retail as an unkempt youth. When someone is yelling at you about pickles on a hamburger (and you have no real danger of losing your job since being a fast-fooder who always shows up on time makes you indispensible) you get to try out a lot of different strategies. Eventually you learn how to do it right.
    The philosophy I picked up while managing a Wendy’s was “We’re just making burgers.” You know, the above person who didn’t want pickles . . . make them a new sandwich. Someone else ate everything but the last bite of a chicken sandwich to realize he doesn’t like mayonaise? Make him another sandwich. We’re just making burgers, we’re not performing open heart surgery. Do it again, and get it right. If they keep coming back with complaints, keep doing it over until you get it right. If you can’t get it right, refund their money.
    I’ve applied this to every job I’ve had since. I have yet to work in a place where my decisions could kill anyone. Yes, my decisions can inconvenience someone, but often that person is me.
  6. Anonymous says:
    I started a mental list of things I’d teach in my “What you really need to know to work in a library” course about the day after I started in my first professional postion. That was over 20 years ago. The list is long now, and the suggestions posted in comments here are excellent additions. I shall make note of them. ;-)
    My biggest peeve : no one taught us how to manage in a real library. It was all quite theoretical. Not that theory is bad – but it doesn’t do any good if the practical application isn’t demonstrated. For example – what I really needed to know was that people can’t spell some names. So, help them out by including the common misspellings in the see also’s etc in catalogs. (This is as true for the online versions as it was for the print version.)
    Now, if I could just find the time to teach that class…..
    btw – get a good tool kit!!! Screw drivers, wrenches, eletric drill, big tape measure, hammer, etc. Also include tools for working on PCs. You will be indispensable.
  7. Lis Riba says:
    I don’t think there’s enough material for a class with credits, but I once suggested that Simmons should offer seminars by the Physical Therapy department training future librarians in ergonomics, proper lifting techniques, exercise and stretching techniques focused on shelving and unpacking and the whole physical aspect of librarianship.

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