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…

23 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.


  11. I’m having to post an update to my previous posts regarding ESU. I’m sorry, but I do not agree that Emporia State is a wonderful school. There are many who also agree with my experiences,and many who have left the school in high turnover or complaints of bad climate conditions (by students, faculty and staff). So with that said, I would like to share the most recent federal court ruling related to my experiences with ESU and its library school SLIM. I had to take Emporia State and it’ library school to federal court due to a violation of TITLE 7 retaliation discrimination. I won after fighting this incident after 5 years and no other self-represented person in the United States has ever won a federal case such as mine. I repeat, there are zero cases in the U.S. where a self-represented litigant won a TITLE VII federal lawsuit. This is the first. Since this ruling in July 2019, by a federal judge that ESU and SLIM was guilty of discrimination/retaliation, I will let readers read a recent investigative story written about my case for themselves. A LINK to the following story is at the bottom of this post, and it is a Creative Commons licensed story, free to share publicly.

    Published August 27, 2020:

    “Former Emporia State employee not happy with 64K ruling for employment discrimination”

    TOPEKA — A federal judge has ordered Emporia State University to pay $64,000 to a former employee who faced retaliation after reporting a racist slur in 2015.

    Angelica Hale, 58, had argued for at least $500,000 to cover wages and benefits she would have earned if she had been allowed to stay at the university until she retired. She said she was disappointed in the judge’s decision and plans to file a motion to reconsider.

    The ruling Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree follows a five-year struggle by Angelica and her husband, Melvin, to have their complaints taken seriously. An event next month in Emporia will commemorate the couple’s march for justice.

    Angelica Hale kneels outside the federal courthouse after a hearing in June in Topeka. She said Emporia State University has been “on our necks for five years.” (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)
    The Hales have been jobless and homeless, sometimes living in their car, for much of the past four years. They currently are staying with an aunt in Las Vegas.

    Melvin said “ESU is laughing today and probably partying” because of Crabtree’s ruling.
    “They’re not going to think twice,” he said. “They’re going to laugh and say, ‘We had them.’ And they’re probably going to call us the N word and laugh like crazy.”

    Gwen Larson, a spokeswoman for ESU, said the university was studying the judgment and exploring options.
    “Emporia State is committed to creating a welcoming environment for all students, faculty and staff,” Larson said.

    Crabtree last year ruled the university improperly punished Angelica under federal anti-discrimination law. In a separate case, a jury found the university was justified in canceling Melvin’s contract as an assistant professor.

    Angelica was the administrative assistant to the dean of ESU’s School of Library and Information Management, and worked in an exclusive office where few had access. Someone wrote “niggaz” on a notebook in her office, and the couple immediately informed the dean. University officials initially refused to consider the incident to be significant, and campus police declined to investigate.

    The couple complained publicly about the university, which led to an internal review by an assistant director of human resources that found no wrongdoing.

    In public statements, the university’s attorney, Kevin Johnson, falsely said the slur had been written in a commons area and that it was a fluke the Hales had even learned about it. He asserted that hate crimes don’t exist under Kansas law.

    Angelica quit in July 2015, citing a hostile work environment.

    Crabtree determined Angelica was entitled to just nine months of wages, retirement benefits and tuition assistance, worth $48,312.03, plus $15,991.28 in interest. The judge said Angelica frequently changed jobs before arriving at ESU and would have been unlikely to stay after her husband’s contract expired in May 2016.

    Angelica said the judge’s conclusion was sexist and offensive. The couple owned a house in Emporia, she said, and told the Associated Press in 2015 they intended to stay in the community to address negative attitudes toward minorities.

    “That’s personal. That’s a bias,” she said. “You’re going to end it based on the male’s, the head of the household’s, end date? There’s a problem with that.”

    Melvin said the court’s ruling sends a chilling message to anyone who would report discrimination in Kansas. The couple lost its vehicles and a house after being cut off from income.
    “What this is really saying is, ‘Black lives don’t mean a damn.’ I mean, let’s just be frank about it,” Melvin said.

    Supporters marched with Melvin and Angelica Hale in 2015 in Emporia. An upcoming event will commemorate the march.

    Jay Vehige, of Emporia Community Action, has organized events for Sept. 15 to commemorate a march led by the Hales five years ago. He said issues of systemic racism haven’t been addressed.
    The university, which in recent years has defined limited spaces where public demonstrations can be held, blocked Vehige from planning events on campus. Instead, supporters will march to the library, where speeches will be delivered.

    “We hope through our continued advocacy to one day be able to say and mean that ESU and the greater Emporia community now respects diversity, embraces it, and is united in our pursuit of justice, equity and liberation for all peoples,” Vehige said.
    The Hales are scheduled to speak at the event via video conference.

    Angelica attended a court hearing in June in Topeka, and took note of the rising awareness for institutional racism that was playing out in public protests across the country. She kneeled in front of the federal courthouse, where the Brown v. Board desegregation case was argued 56 years ago.
    “This has been a long time coming,” she said. “That’s why I took a knee right now, because they were on our necks for five years. They had opportunities to reason with us and do the right thing and they did not do it.”

    This story has been corrected to say an assistant director of human resources conducted the university’s internal review.

    REPORTER INFO: Sherman Smith has written award-winning news stories about the instability of the Kansas foster care system, misconduct by government officials, sexual abuse, technology, education, and the Legislature. He spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal, where he started on the copy desk, then oversaw digital operations, was the managing editor and reported from the Statehouse. A lifelong Kansan, he graduated from Emporia State University in 2004 as a Shepherd Scholar with a degree in English.

    Pilar Pedraza sees journalism as a public service, providing viewers with the information they need to lead their best lives. This is part of what led her into political reporting early on. She cut her political reporting teeth on the First in the Nation Caucuses in Iowa in the 90s. She won multiple awards for her election coverage in Des Moines. She’s spent much of the last decade covering the latest developments in Kansas politics. In between elections she’s covered everything from the Oklahoma City Bombing, the OJ Simpson Civil Trial, and the birth of the McCaughey Septuplets to the Capture of BTK and the Flight Safety Crash at Eisenhower Airport. With two decades of experience in broadcast news, Pilar has done just about every job there is in TV news. Her favorite, to date, is reporting and anchoring, especially covering politics and breaking news. She grew up in newspaper newsrooms in Michigan and Oklahoma, where her mother was a reporter, editor, and columnist and where she learned how to work with her local community. Pilar graduated from Iowa State University with a BA in Journalism and Spanish in 1996 and got her MA in History with an emphasis in 20th century politics at Pittsburg State University in 2019. She is fluent in multiple languages. In her scant free time, Pilar likes to hang out with her husband of 20+ years and their son, a recent graduate of Maize High School. She enjoys reading, quilting, cross stitching and petting her dog and two cats.

    LINK TO STORY: https://kansasreflector.com/2020/08/27/former-emporia-state-university-employee-not-happy-with-64k-ruling-for-discrimination/


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