Hack Your Program: Emporia State University’s School of Library and Information Management

Disclaimer: This is a post of my individual perspective on my MLIS program and not representative of  the student body or faculty of ESU. I started the program in the fall of 2009 and will finish in December of 2011.

Before I get into the nitty-gritty details of my experience with Emporia State University’s  School of Library and Information Management (SLIM) Portland Cohort, I would like to share a little of my journey into the program.

Keep Portland Weird

While I have always wanted to go into library school, I really didn’t think I would find myself enrolled in an online-program. I moved to Portland, Oregon from the east coast, with the intention of  hanging out for six months to a year before returning home to start a MLIS program. Fast forward two and a half years, I’ve fallen head-over-heels in love with this town and realize I’m going to be here for a while. I was working at a corporate bookstore, and two of my coworkers had just started library school with Emporia’s distance learning program. Based in Kansas, ESU’s SLIM offers cohort programs in Salt Lake City, Denver and here in Portland. Since SLIM was the only MLIS program in Oregon, SLIM was the one for me.


Along with the MLIS, SLIM offers an Archives Studies Certificate, School Library Media Licensure, and a Doctor of Philosophy. I have heard a rumor that the program will also offer a Young Adult Certificate – but please don’t quote me on that. The MLIS classes mostly focus on theory. The foundation classes we started out with revolved heavily around the Information Transfer Cycle.  After the foundation classes, we are enrolled in “tool” classes (such as collection development or reference services courses), “application” classes (technology or management) and elective courses. While SLIM is a distant learning program, it is better described as a hybrid program. The majority of our work is conducted through an online learning platform, but we also have weekend intensive class time. Twice a semester, classroom space is rented at Portland State University, and we meet with our professors for about 12 hours over two days. Often the weekends are dedicated to group work, especially the last weekend when presentations are delivered. Another aspect of the curriculum worth mentioning is the practicum opportunities. With a strong emphasis on library science theory, SLIM does offer a practicum – an internship for school credit – as a counterbalance. The practicum was one of the strongest selling points for me, as a lot of alumni mention that their first job after library school came directly out of (or closely related to) their practicum experience. The program ends with a capstone course, in which we create a digital portfolio our work in the program, an excellent resource to have when applying for jobs.


I like to end things in a positive note, so let me get my negative notes out of the way. My only complaint of the SLIM program is the fact that I feel we are a bit of an outpost in the wilderness. The only real school support we get is directly related to our curriculum. For example, I don’t receive any of the benefits of attending school with a campus, such as health care. Upon enrolling in the program, I took a student worker position in an academic library, which of course doesn’t offer any benefits. The only way I can take advantage of health care offered by ESU is to visit a campus health center….in Kansas. And because we only rent classroom from PSU, we don’t have access to their services. It would be wonderful to be able to access their library’s resources rather than have my school’s library be halfway across the country. But of course these are considerations anyone has to take in when enrolling in a distance learning programs.


The biggest strength of this program is its strong connection to the Pacific Northwest’s library community. Not only are there plenty of alumni in the area and many libraries welcome SLIM students to participate in practicums, SLIM hires instructors from local libraries to teach classes. Yes, some of the faculty are flown out from Kansas – especially for the foundation classes – but it is also beneficial to have a member of your local community teach the more practical classes. And the library community in the Pacific Northwest is wonderful! Made up of  welcoming librarians, it embraces innovations and creative ways to provide traditional library services.

The unique hybrid class is also a strength of this program. While online courses do free up a lot of your time, which is important if you want to work while in school, the hybrid program does allow for a collaborative classroom environment. You can interact with your instructors  in person and you can get to know your classmates as you go through classes together.

Overall,  the SLIM program is an excellent program. It offers students a solid foundation in library science theory while providing opportunities to connect with the wider library community for hands-on learning. I hope that you don’t have to take my word for it, as I encourage my classmates to post their insights, too. And please, feel free to ask any questions. Like most library students, I love talking about library school…

22 replies

  1. Some great questions have been coming my way through email, so I thought I would post some of them here.

    Is there a student organization? Yes, we have a local SCALA chapter. The group is awesome at creating networking opportunities between students and professionals.

    Do libraries or museum’s recruit directly from the hybrid program? I’m not sure if organizations directly recruit, but plenty of jobs get announced and shared on our listservs. We have an AMAZING director, who has her finger on the pulse of the local library community, and lots of employers contact her, encouraging SLIM students to apply.

    Do students from other cohorts take classes together? Yes we do. Sometimes classes are only offered at one location and with some of the more specialized online classes (such as academic reference or children’s literature), you find members of different cohorts coming together.

    I love answering questions, so fire away!


  2. Great post, thank you Turner!

    As another Emporia student I have to agree with Mr Masland’s wonderful commentary, especially concerning the local librarians and teachers brought in to teach us. It has been a great opportunity to get to know the people you may be working with someday!

    One of the most rewarding aspects of my time with Emporia has been the time spent with the cohort. It’s hard to say whether the class weekends are more useful for educational reasons or for the bonding experiences with my fellow classmates. These people are my friends, my safety net, my spiritual advisors, and a great source of entertainment. If this program was 100% online, the experience would not have been as rewarding.

    And I have to recognize the best part of my time with SLIM, our amazing student advisor Perri Parise, without whom we would all be lost.


    • Thanks for sharing, Nyssa! You’re right, we have an amazing cohort and I have come to depend on my classmates to help get me through this program. A lot of my most rewarding time in library school has been sharing ideas and supporting each other.


  3. Excellent post Turner. SLIM will be starting a youth certificate and Andrew Smith will be heading that.

    One thing that I think should be pointed out is how much of SLIM’s curriculum is based on group work and group projects. If you do not like working in groups, maybe librarianship isn’t for you (in my opinion), but at the very least SLIM won’t be for you. I have had a group project every semester and this last one will be the only one without that requirement. As difficult as group work can be, I have had some very rewarding experiences through my group projects. I’ve gotten to know my classmates better and I’ve been exposed to different parts of the librarian experience I might not have otherwise.


    • Thanks you, Becca, for putting in a word about group work! I agree, if you don’t like collaboration, you probably shouldn’t be going into librarianship. SLIM certainly has prepared us for cooperative work in our future careers!


  4. Great inaugural post, Turner!
    I’m curious about the certificate program. How does that work? Is it continuing course work beyond the set courses for the MLIS, or does it require students to supplement in certain courses in their planning/electives?
    I like the idea of courses divided into “tools” and “applications,” too. It seems like that would be a great way to get into the mindset of how these courses can inform your profession. Do they mix practical and theoretical perspectives, or does one get more focus than the other?


    • Thanks! I haven’t taken any of the certificate classes, so I don’t have personal experience with them, but it does mean additional credit hours. Some folks bulk up each semester, and others just take extra semesters.

      Most of the classes are all pretty theoretical. I think the most practical class I took was web design. But even that was mostly thinking about web design without actually doing much web design.


  5. I’m in the SLIM cohort after Turner and I’d have to agree to everything he’s said so far. Lots of grounded theory for a firm footing. That said, the faculty does try to incorporate real world discussions into classroom time (Maybe not as much as I would like but time is limited and you can always talk to profs after class . . .)
    The use of local profs is important for the networking which is emphasized by Perri Parise, who is firmly embedded in the NW library community. I can’t say enough about how valuable she is.
    The group work and the presentations for each class real prepares you for the real world, because librarians teach, we get up in front of people, and by the end of the program most of those jitters should be gone.
    If I was trying to get a job back east, I’d go to a program back there for the networking and connections, but I think SLIM certainly has that covered here in the NW. I don’t know if it can crack the UW hold on Seattle, or SJSU’s influence in the bay area, but I’d bet Perri would know who to connect with to get an introduction.


  6. Thanks for the great post, Turner! You were among the panel of current students and alumni for my ESU Orientation last weekend. I must say, I think I got the most out of having you and the rest of the panel there. I felt like the best way to get a “handle” on this program is to hear from people who have been there or are currently knee deep in it. I was really nervous to start this program, especially with its unconventional method of delivery, but I think it will be just fine. I’m looking forward to spending some time in Portland, even though I am commuting in on class weekends from the Tri-Cities, Washington. Also, thanks for mentioning Hack Library School! What a terrific resource! Maybe I’ll get to write for you someday! Thanks again for your insight!


  7. Thanks so much for this rundown. It is really helpful with determining what programs to apply for. Would love additional information regarding the application process. I am a non-traditional student and would love details regarding the process and challenges with getting accepted.



  8. I went to ESU, however I was on campus, and I worked in the library. Most of what you said, I agree with, however, you could have used the library’s resources. Besides the online databases, the library would have mailed books to you free of charge if you requested anything from the collection. You could also have used ILL to get books.


  9. I have worked as a lecturer at ESU in the SLIM program since August, 2010. My MLS is from the University of Arizona, and I have worked in academic libraries for over 12 years. The ESU program is a wonderful “primer” for working in libraries. There are great faculty, great students, and ESU grads are leaders in the library community. Thanks for the review.


  10. 7/21/17: I worked in the SLIM program as the assistant to the dean of the library school. Now I have an active federal case against 1) the university 2) the former dean of the library school, Gwen Alexander 3)the interim university president Jackie Vietti and 4) David Cordle, provost. The case is for First Amendment freedom of speech and retaliation violations for terminating my contract after I spoke out against racism and a hate speech incident in SLIM in 2015 (Angelica Hale v. Emporia State et. al). My husband, Dr. Melvin Hale, a former professor in SLIM, also has an active federal case against ESU and 7 top administrators (Melvin Hale v. Emporia State University et. al). The filings are available online and describe our experiences about the recent culture at SLIM. There is a 3rd former faculty member of SLIM, Rajesh Singh, who has a federal discrimination lawsuit filed in October, 2015. This third federal case is also still active (Singh v. Cordle et. al). This is just another perspective.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s