Ashley from Book Labyrinth is the first guest poster for Ontario Public Library Week and she has an amazing guest post about taking the MLIS (Master of Library and Information Science) program and job hunting. Thank you Ashley for such a great and informative post.
As some of you may know, I have my MLIS (Master of Library and Information Science). As some of you may also know, I haven’t been able to find any work in this field. Do I regret going to school for something I haven’t been able to find work in? No, it was a great experience, but I do wish I had done some things differently. Here are a couple pieces of advice for anyone who is contemplating doing their MLIS:
I wasn’t sure what area I wanted to work in when I started my MLIS, but I quickly fell in love with everything public library related. I love readers advisory and promoting the library, and I love children’s & youth services. Because of this I signed up for every course related to public libraries. I feel like I have a good background in this area now, which is great, but it just so happens that public libraries are one of the hardest areas to break into. Of course there are exceptions, but there are hiring freezes all the time, and tons of people will be applying for the same positions.
The thing is, there are lots of other areas to get jobs besides libraries themselves. There are public, academic, and special libraries, but there are also jobs out there in government and at corporations which relate to information science. When you’re in love with one particular area these jobs might sound boring. Believe me now when I say that these jobs are going to sound great when you’ve sent out hundreds of public library applications and have only heard from a handful of places.
The solution? Diversify. Take classes in records management and information architecture, among other things. Without these specific classes you’ll have a good idea about what these concepts are. With those classes? You’ll have in depth special knowledge, and you’ll be incredibly marketable. I’m not saying to give up on what you love, but the wider your knowledge base is the more likely you’ll be able to find a job right away. You’ll be able to make money and get experience while working toward your dream job.
2) Get Experience
Speaking of experience: I went into the MLIS program with no library experience to speak of. During my schooling I did some volunteer work, but I could have done even more. Despite my busy course schedule I could have made more time for volunteering, because that might have given me an ‘in’ with the library system here. Like with most things in life, in the library world it’s all about who you know. So make some connections, do information interviews with librarians, and put yourself out there.
A great way to get experience while in school is doing a co-op. I actually did apply for a few co-op positions, but not as many as I could have. Most of the co-op slots, at least in my program, were in government or finance, and a lot of them sounded really, really boring. But, see the section above: something is always better than nothing. Co-op positions are also very competitive, so it’s really out of your hands whether you’ll get one or not. However, the more you apply for the better chance you have. Get that experience, because it will help you greatly post-graduation.
In the end there’s no right or wrong way to do library school. You might even go through the program in the exact same way I did and find yourself a job right away. Every experience is unique, and it comes down to individuals and particular moments. However, I wish someone had sat me down and told me these things before I started the program. The library world is fabulous, but it’s also very small and hard to break into, especially here in Ontario. If you really want it as a career you might have to be willing to do a job in a different area than you expected, or even to move to a different part of the country. Don’t get me wrong, I loved library school, and my courses were all fantastic, but I wish when I started that I had more information about exactly how hard job searching can be.
Where to find Ashley: