Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Sarah McClung.
When most people hear the term “study abroad,” they think of a semester or even a year overseas their junior year of college. Outside of spending your whole masters program at an international university, most people don’t think of study abroad in graduate school, let alone study abroad for an MLS or MIS. Imagine the surprise then when I tell others that my very first information sciences class was in Prague. Yes, the capital of the Czech Republic.
I found out about the opportunity to study abroad in a rather round about fashion. Once I decided that I wanted to pursue a MIS, I began scouring the websites of universities I was interested in attending. One of these universities was UNC Chapel Hill. A link to their summer seminars in England and the Czech Republic caught my eye and I felt my heart flutter as I realized that study abroad opportunities existed for library science masters students. While I did not wind up attending UNC Chapel Hill, I made a mental note to remember these programs and the fact that the credits can transfer.
Shortly after I received my acceptance letter to University of Tennessee- Knoxville, I checked out the Chapel Hill program pages again, decided on Prague, and signed myself up for the summer before I started my program at Tennessee (for those of you who are no longer in school, you’ll be happy to hear that you can still participate in these programs and not have to pay for credit hours). I spent two glorious weeks befriending fellow library students from around the United States, meeting students and professors from the library science program at Charles University in Prague, and learning from all sorts of librarians in and around Prague. I am still in contact with a number of the library folks I met on this trip and often reminisce about my bang of a start to library school.
There are a number of similar programs offered by other institutions, including:
- University of Southern Mississippi offered a British Libraries and Information Centers course this summer.
- San Gemini Preservation Studies regularly offers preservation courses abroad.
- Pratt Institute offers programs in both London and Florence.
- Florida State University has also offered programs and internships in London and Florence.
- University of Rhode Island has offered a program in China.
Many of the credits earned on these programs can be transferred to your own school if you are not a student at the host school. If having your credits count is important to you, it is highly advisable to look into the program’s and your school’s policies regarding transfer credits before signing up for these programs.
The keys for getting in on a study abroad library science program are to check often for programs and strike while the iron is hot. Some programs are not offered every year or are only offered once. If you’re interested, it might be best to take advantage while you can instead of waiting and risk being disappointed.
If international study is not possible or feasible for you, but you’re still interested in traveling and having a non-standard library school or continuing education experience, you might want to explore options that are closer to home. Tennessee offered an on-site federal libraries course in Washington, DC last summer that I quickly signed myself up for. My class and I spent a week visiting two federal libraries a day, befriending one another (a rarity for a mostly distance education program), networking with federal librarians of all stripes, and learning about the vast array of services federal libraries offer and careers an MLS holder can pursue.
Another domestic opportunity I’m aware of is the Rare Book School founded by the University of Virginia. These short, intensive courses cover subjects relating to old and rare manuscripts. I’m certain that there are many, many more unconventional library science educational opportunities available across America and my advice is the same for these as it is for international programs: search often and sign up when you can. Most of the time, these opportunities will only be offered once or for a limited time.
As the saying goes, 80% of life is showing up. Show up for an international or interesting on-site library study experience and allow yourself to find some new library nerd friends, make amazing networking connections, and fall in love with libraries all over again.
Sarah McClung graduated from the University of Tennessee- Knoxville’s distance education MIS program in May 2012. She is currently a library assistant at Virginia Commonwealth University’s medical library and is in the midst of a job search. She can be found on Twitter @sarahbellum8.