Continuing our Hack Your Program series, where current/recent students give the insider perspective on their LIS program, here’s a post from Tomissa Porath.
SLIS has been an integral part of UW’s campus for over a hundred years, and students at UW’s SLIS are proud of this fact. The two-year program is designed for the student body to get as much experience in and out of the classroom as possible, and to prepare future librarians for most of the challenges that lie within their future.
The program does have a family atmosphere to it; the “Minnesota Nice” from our neighbors to the west applies here as well. Everyone helps their fellow students out and worry when classes are missed or assignments aren’t turned in. You get to know a variety of students within your time at SLIS, and it is a great networking campus for sure.
It is very difficult to find an assistantship at UW, therefore many SLIS students take out loans for graduate school. Many take federal and private loans to cover the cost.
SLIS does offer scholarships, mostly to students who are in their first year. The scholarships are based on their coursework and involvement within the program, and many of the students receive those scholarships for projects, papers, and extra curricular activities accomplished during their first year of study. That funding they have received, however, does not begin until their second year.
One of the best ways to get tuition remission is to look outside SLIS and work for academic departments or TA intro courses. Many students I know teach math classes, science classes, or another intro course. It’s easy to find these jobs on the UW Job website.
Many students make money by working on campus libraries and within Madison. SLIS has many night classes, and it is not unheard of for students to work full time during the day and take classes during the evening hours or online.
Forty-two credits are required for graduation, including four required classes:
- 450 – Information Agencies and Their Environment
- 451 – Foundations of Reference
- 551 – Organization of information
- The fourth class is the required practicum, which can be done off-campus at multiple different locations or on-campus through the office of Library & Information Literacy Instruction.
Classes are mostly three credits each, aside from some special classes offered in the summer or for community involvement. Up to nine credits for your degree may be taken in other departments.
Students at SLIS are involved in many different organizations, both within library studies related groups and groups on the UW campus as a whole. The SLIS organizations are student run, lead, and developed. The Jail Library Group has been in existence for decades, and the student who started it is now the librarian at the SLIS Library, Michele Besant.
If you are interested in something, but do not have that need met, groups can be started to fit your interests. Recently a Tribal Libraries and Museum group started, as well as REFORMA, a group catering to the Hispanic communities in Madison.
Most students are involved in at least one student group, if not more.
The Wisconsin Library Association (WLA) is very active, and students attend the different conferences throughout the year. However, students are encouraged to be on the planning committees for the events as well, and many SLIS students assist in the planning and development. Students are also active on campus committees, and most of the groups welcome student input and involvement.
Madison is a fantastic city to live in, but the school makes it even better. It’s a smaller program, so it is easy to become close with the faculty, fellow students, and the campus community. SLIS is well respected on campus, and professors know you are working hard for your degree.
The orientation programming for both distance and on-campus students are both fantastic and work for you to understand both the program and get to know the other students. The distance boot camp is a long week, but it does properly get students prepared for taking online courses if they are doing the distance program.
I love Michele Besant and Kristin Eschenfelder. Those faculty members have been influential in my future as a librarian. Alan Rubel is a fantastic professor of ethics and is a caring teacher and utilizes student feedback.
The professors here are very well respected in the LIS community, and students are able to make it far in their careers by networking with the faculty and staff. The letters of recommendation from faculty members and libraries on campus are amazing for future jobs.
Every year or so, they take a trip abroad to see libraries in different countries. This past summer a group went to see libraries in Germany. This next year, trips to India and Scotland are in the works.
There are forty-two libraries on campus, meaning there are many opportunities for jobs and getting to know librarians on the campus. The public library has two branches within walking distance from campus, which makes it easy for students to work there or to check out items.
Madison is a tough city to find a job in right now, for anyone. This means if you move here with a significant other, it may be terribly difficult for them to find a job. It’s a weakness of the city, but not the program. It is even more difficult to find a library job here as well.
There are some faculty members who are not focused on teaching, but are looking to do research. Because some of the professors are tenured , they sometimes believe it is more important to work on their career instead of jump starting students’ careers.
The coursework is not too challenging in lower level courses, and there are a lot of group projects. It is up to you whether or not you to work hard and make the most out of what you learn.
It may be tough to get involved if you do not so right away. Other academic programs make sure you attend events, but for SLIS you are on your own. To ensure you are involved within the program, get involved right away.
Acceptances for SLIS arrive mid-February, exactly. Check your e-mail inboxes February 15. A letter will be in the mail after.
Most students work multiple jobs, typically three or four and work almost forty hours per week. Part of it may be to the cost of living, part of it is the natural tendency for SLIS students to try and do it all.
Like other schools, classes are referred to by their class number. It’s far easier to remember than the long-winded class titles.
Make time for the dining in Madison, there is the most restaurants per capita in Madison than any other city in the country.
Group projects are key — make sure to have time in your schedule to meet up with your fellow students.
Read madisonatoz.com to find good food in the Madison area. Better yet, it’s written by a librarian.
Take Digital Tools, Trends, and Debates as well as Research Methods. They are the two classes alumni come back and express how beneficial they are.
The practicum experience at UW is amazing. The Library and Information Literacy Instruction practicum is one of the best you can take, especially for those in the academic track.
The archives program just got started up again after a year hiatus due to faculty and a re-working of the program. While this is not necessarily a negative, it is something to be aware of. The Wisconsin Historical Society, which is on the campus, is a fantastic place to get a job, internship, or to do your practicum.