11 Things New Library School Students Should Know

I’m finishing my second quarter at Drexel and here are some things that you should know before you start your first quarter in library school.  Not all of these will apply to all people.

  1. Talk with financial aid and ask if there are any corporate or association discounts (Drexel offers 20% off for ALA membership).  These discounts are not always advertised so if you don’t ask you will not receive.  Remember that all discounts must be applied to your account before your tuition is paid.  There are no retroactive tuition breaks.
  2. For those who have lost their job or recieved a pay cut, after approximately 12 weeks out of work most financial aid offices can review your status.  It might not get you more aid but you may get a better mix of subsidized v. unsubsidized loans.
  3. Make sure and check your program website weekly as you lead up to the term, they don’t always remember to announce everything in an e-mail.
  4. Organization is the key to doing well in library school.  Buy an organizer, get out your chalk board; use whatever helps you to stay focused and on track.  The classes go by fast and if you get behind it’s almost impossible to catch up.
  5. Participate in school message boards and talk with fellow classmates at school mixer events, grill them about the professors who are teaching the classes you will be taking.  Not all professors teach equally well in all environments.  Some professors excel online and not in the classroom and vice versa.
  6. Classes will take more time than you originally thought if you haven’t been in school for a while.  I remember reading a couple different time estimates 8-10 hours, 10-12 hours, reality was 10-18 hours depending on the course.
  7. If you are unsure about anything ask your professor or counselor.  They are there to help you.  If you aren’t sure who to ask about something start with your counselor they can always direct you to the right person.
  8. Think about whether you want to work in a corporate or academic/public library.  The classes you need to take are slightly different.  With all the flexibility of the programs being offered comes a greater responsibility to do your research, ask for advice, and plan your own custom curriculum.  Even if you don’t want to take them I recommend taking Cataloging & Classification, Collection Development, and a Management course.  A lot of librarians work alone, or work with a part time assistant.  If you have no web development experience, or minimal web skills, take a class!
  9. Start looking at job listings now.  This will give you ideas about what skills are in demand and what types of jobs are out there.  I follow Libgig on Twitter.
  10. Arrange an  internship.  Your school may be able to help you with this depending on the area you are in.  If you have to arrange one on your own don’t be discouraged if some places don’t take interns.  This lack of interns seems to be some sort of policy matter (I suspect it’s a union matter but I could be wrong).  Look for a non-profit special library.  They are almost always understaffed and grateful for any help they can get.
  11. Now that you are focused and working hard at your studies remember to take some time off at least once a week!  Read a book for fun, go for a run, whatever floats your boat.  Remember all study and no play leads to burnout and you are spending too much money on your degree to burnout!

This list is by no means exhaustive so feel free to post anything you’d like to add!

Updated 9/19/09

Due to excessive spam in the comments, 200 in one hour, I have had to close the comments to this post.

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6 Responses to 11 Things New Library School Students Should Know

  1. Lindsay says:

    Regarding #5 – I’m going to Drexel in the fall for my MLS and was wondering if you could share your own insight on teachers who are good online vs. in the classroom. I plan on having some classes online and some on campus so any info you can share would be great!

  2. Kiyomi says:

    Lindsay, I am replying to you by e-mail :)

  3. Eli says:

    Hi,I graduated from my program two years ago and enjoyed reading your tips. Can’t emphasize enough how imporant library experience is once you start applying for jobs. Previous to school I was a manager and did lots of tech development. The public libraries did not consider this relevant – which was frustrating bc it really was! They just wanted to see I had worked in a library. So I really agree with your tip about interning and would suggest students with no library experience consider part-time work before graduating. Also, if you do intern really work any connections you make – this can be a great way to find out about positions before they are advertised. Cheers!

  4. Kiyomi says:

    Hi Eli!

    Thanks for your post! I completely agree with everything you said. In addition being an intern can really help you with your class work. For example I am currently in Cataloging and Classification, for my internship I am working on cataloging among other things and I have learned so much from actually doing the work as opposed to just learning about it. The class and internship work together to give me a better understanding of cataloging :)

    One thing I forgot to mention, anyone who wants practice answering real reference questions should consider applying to the Internet Public Library.

    http://www.ipl.org

    If you are a Drexel student you will work the e-reference as part of your initial coursework and you can continue after the course if over. I believe any librarian or library school student can participate.

  5. Sophia says:

    Hi Kiyomi! Regarding the social side of #5, I just started library school in a slightly foreign country (Canada) and I’ve been having a time of trying to talk to the people in my classes and setting up a support network. I’m wondering if I should keep trying to network or if, according to #8, I should just keep it professional and go it alone. Thanks so much! Keep up the good work with the blog!

  6. Kiyomi says:

    Sophia! Thanks for replying. It may just be the personality of your classes or the beginning of the school year anxiety. I would still try and reach out to your fellow students when possible. Not all classes equally encourage participation, at least in an online environment, but the more you participate in class the easier it is for others to recognize you. There are several people who I am now friends with who I did not immediately connect with but who participated heavily in class which helped me to get to know them and later become friends. Don’t give up if you have a hard time connecting with students in your Intro level courses. Try and at least show your professors that you are interested and engaged, professors are always great to network with.

    While we all need to be prepared to work as a solo librarian, it is our connections with other librarians with more/different experience who help us succeed in those roles. We may work alone but we are constantly consulting with each other through mailing lists and discussion boards. If you have a topic you are interested in ask your professors if they can point you to a mailing list in that area. It’s okay to lurk for a while and eventually you will have a response to what someone says. This is a great way to get your feet wet. I sometimes reply privately to people instead of on-list, depending on the topic.

    You don’t have to build a huge network to succeed, just observe your classmates, professors, and people on mailing lists and from your professional association. When you find someone interesting try and connect. In the ALA, for example, there is the ALAConnect discussion board where you can ask questions and get responses from a variety of librarians. I’ve received a lot of good advice from e-mailing people who replied to questions and offered to advise anyone.

    Keep trying and remember internet connections count!

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