Kim Mears is in her final year with the Master of Library and Information Science program at Valdosta State University. She currently lives in Augusta, Ga and works at the Greenblatt Library of Georgia Health Sciences University as a Medical Library Associate. With interests in open access and information literacy, she plans to explore the world of academic librarianship further. You can find her on Twitter @kimberwimber.
Disclaimer: I have attended the Valdosta State University Master of Library and Information Science program since fall 2009 and plan to graduate spring 2012. These are my personal opinions and are not representative of the student body or the faculty. All criticism is meant to be constructive. This is the only MLIS program offered in the state of Georgia and I am afforded the opportunity to attend this program through the University System of Georgia Tuition Assistance Program (TAP).
The Valdosta State University Master of Library and Information Science program is primarily an online program with required face-to-face orientations. Fall and spring admissions allow students to enroll in the program twice a year and orientation takes place on the VSU campus over a designated weekend. (This process was slightly different when I started the program in fall 2009. We met one weekend a month for the first semester at Macon State College, which is located in middle Georgia).
- 39 hour non-thesis program
- Required Core Classes (18 hrs)
- Foundations of Library and Information Science
- Management of Libraries and Information Centers
- Cataloging and Classification
- Information Sources and Services
- Research Methods
- Chosen from a desired track or any mix-and-match that you decide to take
Concentrations and/or specializations
- Optional Tracks
- Cataloging and Classification,
- Health Sciences Librarianship
- Library Management
- Reference Sources and Services
- Dual MLIS and School Media Specialist Certificate (requires 51 semester hours and more face-to-face attendance)
- It is rumored that an Archives/History track is currently under development. This track would require some face-to-face classes at a designated campus.
Internship availability varies semester to semester. This summer I applied to become an intern with the GALILEO Knowledge Repository. As internship opportunities arise, students receive emails encouraging them to apply. The program also offers Supervised Field Experience which is arranged with your advisor.
We currently have an inactive ALA student chapter called the Student Organization of Library & Information Science (SOLIS). There are plans to reactivate this group in the near future. I would like to see more student involvement with the program and hopefully the revival of this group will help.
VSU offers many scholarships and awards for students. Three of the most popular awards are the George Gaumond Award, the H. W. Wilson Scholarship and the VSU MLIS Merit Scholarship.
In addition, students who work at one of the 37 University of Georgia System’s schools can participate in the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP). This program allows student to attend classes for free as long as classes do not interfere with regularly scheduled work hours. Participants are required to fill out an application each semester with the immediate supervisor’s signature. Registration for classes is reserved until a few days before classes begin.
Areas for Improvement
- Vista: Vista is the learning management system that VSU and the rest of the University System of Georgia colleges and universities use as a platform for conducting online classes. I have used this system for over two years now and always run into technical glitches. One major pet peeve of mine involves the thumbtack icon that appears when you sign into Vista. The thumbtack represents that a new discussion post has been added and it supposed to be cleared after they are read. However, Vista refuses to clear the thumbtack when new posts have been read and it bugs the heck out of me. This may just be a reflection of my type A personality but other students have expressed concern about this glitch as well. It gives students the impression that they are missing discussion posts and other important details of a class. Vista also uses Wimba to conduct class meetings. I have not given a PowerPoint presentation without experiencing technical difficulties in the eight classes I have taken. In my last presentation with a partner, the slides stopped showing up and we had to give the presentation without visuals that were imperative to the lesson. Luckily we prepared for such difficulties, but it affected the lesson nonetheless. I realize that no software is perfect but there is obviously some room for improvement.
- Less use of adjunct faculty: Since VSU has a smaller MLIS program, the use of adjunct faculty has allowed for diversity in the classes they offer. This comes with some drawbacks though. This past semester I had two adjunct professors and I did not find those classes as appealing. Furthermore, another class I took was taught by a professor that was on the west coast. Adding a time difference to an online class further complicated communication in that class. Waiting for an email back from that professor was definitely a practice in patience!
- Valdosta State University’s MLIS program was granted ALA accreditation in 2007 and is required to submit reports every two years in to remain accredited. In 2009 the MLIS program was informed by the Committee on Accreditation of the American Library Association (AL COA) that the accreditation status of the program was changed to conditional due to the need to improve its strategic planning process. To read the university’s statement on this action, please go here.
- Number of students admitted: As other have mentioned, this is a general library school problem. We have a small student body when compared to other library schools but there is a growing inclination that anyone who applies is accepted to the program.
- The amount of financial aid available is one of the most notable aspects of the VSU MLIS program. Lots of scholarships and awards come available each semester. The Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program was offered last year. This scholarship was sponsored by the Georgia Public Library Service and provided 45 qualifying student with a full in-state tuition scholarship to the 39-semester-hour program.
- Online format: Through the use of Wimba, classes are held at a convenient time for most students. Online classes also allow students who work full time the flexibility to complete classwork on their own time.
- Professor availability: With the exception of the adjunct professor on the west coast, most of the professors are available through email or phone at any time. In fact, one of the main professors in the program requires that you call and talk to him. It was intimidating at first but he is now one of my favorite professors in the program.
Overall, I am happy with the VSU program because of the efforts I have made to become involved with my professors outside class. I still miss face-to-face classes but this program gives me the opportunity to work full time and attend school in my free time. I have gained valuable experience in my position and have been able to put what I have learned into practice.
If you have any questions about the VSU MLIS program, please feel free to ask.