[Series] Library School Starter Kit – a class checklist

If you didn’t read Zack’s post on Monday, (Library School Starter Kit) check it out here. Otherwise, read on for some suggestions about classes as you start library school!

You are probably “stuck” taking required (core) courses this term, and that’s good! If you took what you WANTED to take, you might not be challenged. You might be missing out on some good foundational information about LIS. You might not meet your favorite group member. You might miss your favorite instructor! You might miss an opportunity for your cohort to make an inside joke that will last for years to come! You might not realize that even though you really WANT to be an academic librarian, you really SHOULD be a public librarian. Library School has a way of helping you find yourself.

So, while you’re taking those first couple of required courses, you’ve got to peruse the course catalog! You may think you have just started classes, but before you know it, an adviser will be contacting you and announcing class registration dates and times and instructions. Be prepared. Here’s how.


  • Cover your butt and take the required courses in the “suggested order” and at the “suggested term” The next-to-last thing you want is to be taking a required course instead of working at an awesome internship because you didn’t follow instructions or suggestions from advisers. The last thing you want is to be graduating late (and spending more money) because you couldn’t get into a required class because you decided not to take it at the right time. Follow the instructions or suggestions from your advisors. Which leads me to…
  • Advisors have memorized the course catalog. They really do want to help you (and the rest of your cohort), so use them wisely. One of the best ways to get information from them is to make a special filter/folder for the emails they send you. This way it’s easier to go back and reread what they’ve told you. Re-reading also prevents you from asking them questions they’ve already given you answers to. If it’s easier for you to understand through a face-to-face meeting, ask for one! Even if it is over Skype! gChat w video or A Google+ Hangout, but don’t be overbearing. Your adviser probably has a lot of other people to advise and sometimes answers to your questions are better found through the second+ year students.
  • Pick our brains! When you join a student org (whether it is formal or informal), talk to the students who are farther along in the program. Ask what they would do if they were back at the beginning of their program. Ask questions about professors. Ask questions about assignments. Ask questions about textbooks. Ask questions about practice vs theory (see next bullet). I’m sure they’ll want to talk and they’ll definitely have an opinion about the course or topic. I honestly picked another student’s brain on the bus for about 45 minutes and she didn’t care AND I learned SO much about what to do my second year.
  • Practice vs. Theory. You can never think about this too much. Well, I’m sure you can, but it’s not a bad thing! Through your conversations with advisers and other students, attempt to find a personal balance for practice and theory in LIS. A balance that allows you to have the best education you can. There will be some classes that are heavily theory-based and require written papers and in-depth research, models and perhaps a chance to publish! But there will also be practice-based classes where you will stand up and give booktalks, design bulletin boards, or write an outline for a Library Launch for college freshmen. The practice vs theory debate is not a new one. Here’s one of my posts about it; It’s been talked about on the blog here, too. but it is new to you and therefore YOU get to decide what works for your learning style. Talk about it!
  • Have a “fun” course scheduled every term. Although you do have to get your required courses out of the way, make sure you designate one of your courses as “the fun one”. One way to do this is through the use of Pass/Fail or Credit/No Credit. This gives you more time to focus on the content and less stress about the grade you’re going to get. If it’s your fun class, you’re more likely to do the assignments anyway. And if there’s absolutely not one single course you can make your “fun” one, consider looking at graduate courses outside of the LIS program that could still give you credit and also be a benefit to your education.

LISers, this is going to be a great time in your life. And you’re fortunate to have the support of your HLS writers and editors as long as you stay in contact with us. Share your questions, concerns, thoughts and ideas. Let’s grow together!

Categories: Starter Kits

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12 replies

  1. Honestly, I think the “advisors have memorized the course catalog” is a little overly idealistic. I may be speaking from my anecdoctal experience of sitting in my advisor’s office as she calls down to the student services to double-check a question about a class, but surely my advisor is not the only one who doesn’t have absolutely everything memorized. I think the more useful advice is to figure out who has the best answers for questions. Whether it’s your adviser, your classmates, the people who work in the office, or another professor. Don’t put your stock all into one person.


    • I second this. My advisor actually didn’t help much. It took her forever to answer my e-mails (I was a distance student, so I couldn’t just go into her office and bug her.) I Definitely suggest talking to other students to see which classes/teachers they liked best. I also really like the advice from this article on taking a “fun” class with a harder one. Each semester I took one core class, and then one class that was more up my alley, so to say. So, while taking a cataloguing class, I took one on children’s literature (i love kid lit!). That’s not to say the “Fun” class was easier – it was actually harder! – but I loved the subject, so I didn’t mind the time committed to it.


        • My sponsor was very helpful, she taught several courses and was one of the administrative leads for the library science program. And the instructors were top-notch, and their graduate-assistants also were very helpful at the MLIS program I was in. I loved the school, but (it doesn’t have an all online program like my current school) I moved out of the state.

          So I guess, like anything else, it all depends upon the program you’re in.


  2. I absolutely recommend talking to current and past students to get the “real deal” about classes and professors in your program. A course may look great on paper but be terrible with a bad professor, or may look dull on paper and turn out to be great with an excellent professor. If you are taking online classes this is doubly true.

    I cannot speak to all LIS programs, but in mine, the advisors were administrative staff members who did not have LIS degrees; they were not professors. If this is your situation, then I highly recommend consulting with professors, even if it is just your first term and you talk to the profs from your required classes.

    I have an alternative perspective on the issue of required course order. I took all the LIS requirements in order and for the most part, it worked for me. However, if you *KNOW* what area of libraries you wish to pursue and you can take some courses in your specialization at the same time that you take the requirements, it may be valuable to do so. This may not be possible due to the prerequisite structure at your school.

    I believe that I LOST an internship opportunity because I was a part-time student and had not yet taken some specialization courses. I know of other students in my program who started the specialization classes early, along with requirements, and they were able to get internships that matched their interests. If you can speak to other students in your program, or professors who share your specialization, they can advise you better about what courses you really need to take in order.

    This is an excellent series. Thank you Hack Library School.


    • Thanks for mentioning this. I think it is important that you be on the look out for classes and internships that match your interests so you don’t miss opportunities. However, I still think that -as a student- successfully completing your courses should be one of your priorities and you can base your internships off of that.

      If you find a “perfect” internship and you’re taking the prerequisite or will be taking it when the internship begins, mention that to the internship supervisor. They may allow you to start even if you haven’t taken the course.


  3. Definitely second the “asking fellow students” and “ask a professor” EARLY –official “advisers” often don’t know anything. I hate to admit it, but I attended a very nicely ranked school where one of the professors required to do adviser duty *actually* sat at his desk and said “I pride myself on not knowing course names or numbers, but you should probably take cataloging at some point” when I came to him TOTALLY confused about required classes and scheduling problems. Needless to say, I left within 4 mins and almost didn’t graduate in time because the non-advice meant I was floundering around, getting second hand information at the last minute from peers.

    If you have a choice of any professor as adviser, as my school operates, make sure you ask around to see who gives the best advice.

    Also, be SUPER MINDFUL of registration dates–my school stopped sending out emails saying “you can register at this time on this day” my 2nd year, which meant that I had no idea when registration opened for my particular school. 4 hours into registration, not a single class was left and I spent almost 3 months haggling to get into a required-for-graduation course. DON’T BE ME, okay?


  4. It’s a pity that some of you have had poor experiences with un-helpful advisers. I wonder if there’s something we (as students) can do to help them help us more… it might depend on the school and the type of program, but maybe we could collaboratively compile a “wishlist” for advisers to share with our schools.

    In any event, it’s good that those of you who have had poor experiences have found ways to get your questions answered through other students, mentors, faculty, etc.


  5. Although finishing required courses in a timely fashion is important, I also think it’s *extremely* important to take a class related to what you think you want to do, early on in your school career. I went to library school because I thought I wanted to be a public children’s librarian….boy was I wrong! Luckily I took an Urban Public Librarianship class my first semester and was able to switch gears and pursue another path in school.


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