Hello everyone! I’m excited to write my first post as one of the newest contributing members of Hack Library School. My name is Laura Sanders and on September 1st I began my MLIS at McGill University’s School of Information Studies in Montreal, Canada. During my first week I learned firsthand what “information overload” really means, but now things are settling into a routine. I must say that everyone here, from faculty to staff to fellow students, really go out of their way to help incoming students feel comfortable and supported.
The program kicked off with a two day orientation on August 30th and 31st with coffee and danishes. On Day One we were introduced to the School of Information Studies’ professors, who gave us an overview of the courses they teach and their current research. Afterward, we learned how we can get involved with various organizations, such as the McGill Student Chapter of the CLA (Canadian Library Association), Librarians Without Borders, and the Association of Canadian Archivists to name just a few. On Day Two, we were shown how to use the McGill Libraries’ catalogues and given a general overview of IT at McGill. We then met in small groups with our advisors. The orientation finished off with a barbecue where we had the chance to chat with our new professors and classmates. In addition to the SIS orientation, McGill also hosted the “Discover McGill Graduate Orientation and Open House”, open to incoming graduate students in all programs. There I found out about campus clubs and activities, inexpensive leisure courses offered in French, Spanish, yoga, and dancing, and various career planning resources. By the end of these orientations, I felt pretty well prepared to jump into student life here.
Students enrolled in the MLIS at the School of Information Studies are required to enrol in one of three specializations: Archival Studies, Knowledge Management, and Librarianship. Of these, I chose to go into Librarianship because I am hoping to become a secondary school librarian. Although you can only choose one specialization, you may take courses in others as your electives. There are also several options for independent study.
All MLIS students, regardless of specialization, are required to take the following core courses:
GLIS 601: Information and Society An exploration of information seeking habits and behaviours, especially how they are changing in the digital age.
GLIS 611: Research Principles and Analysis This course covers effective research methods in the library context.
GLIS 617: Information System Design An exploration of how information seeking systems are constructed. A major project of the semester is to construct a basic computer database with a partner.
GLIS 620: Information Agency Management How best to manage and oversee a library’s personnel and resources.
Your advisor must approve your course selections before registration. Personally, I found it easier simply to register for all my required courses this year and save my electives for next year, as I will have better knowledge of the field by then. My advisor made it clear that I am always welcome to come and talk to him should I be uncertain about what I’d like to do.
Many students work part time through the year. However, because Montreal is a bilingual city, it can be tough to find work if you don’t speak French. That said, McGill has a Work Study program where you can find a job at one of the campus’ many libraries, and French is not required for these positions. Work Study is also a good option for international students, who may not be able to work off campus because of visa restrictions. (On that note, I should add that McGill’s program has a large number of American students. Although international tuition fees are higher than those paid by Quebec or Canadian students, they are still much lower than the tuition fees of many American library schools.)
Finally, there are many opportunities for networking. I have already been paired with a second year student who will act as my mentor, and will also be assigned to a professional librarian working in my area of interest. Serving on the executives of one or more student organizations will also put me into contact with many potential employers. I am already enjoying the collaborative nature of the profession and have been really impressed by how willing everyone is to offer help and encouragement.
If you’d like to learn more about how various library schools structure their curricula, check out our series Hack Your Program, where library students across North America and beyond share their thoughts about their programs.
As to library school orientations, my experience over the past two weeks has made me curious about what different schools do to help their students get adjusted. What did your school do? Leave a comment to share your own experiences and thoughts, or tweet me at @laurainthelib!