Information and I

“Can I still write for Hack Library School if I am not technically pursuing a degree in LIS anymore?”

I recently posed this question to our crack team of HLS editors. I am not quitting pursuing a Masters… just not an MLIS. An addition in degree offerings in the College of Communication and Information Studies at FSU allowed us to opt to transfer into a new Masters of Information Technology program instead of Masters of Library and Information Studies.

The MLIS versus the MSIT question is a quandary that I didn’t expect to face, yet it is demonstrative of the shift and broadening occurring in the Information Profession. There is so much crossover and combinations under Information. HLS reflects that as well. We have had a plethora of digital-, IT- and IS-based articles of late. One that particularly struck me was Nicole’s piece on CS/MLIS Interaction. Would I truly be of those computer-ish people? Are we — and the degrees we potentially earn — really that different?

"Computerised Catalogue, mid 1980s" by Mosman Library via flickr under CC

“Computerised Catalogue, mid 1980s” by Mosman Library via flickr under CC

Already heavy on IT classes, it was an easy switch but difficult choice to make. My coursework would be generally the same, just different core classes, if I switched or stayed. I talked to a few people in each field and thought critically about what type of job and career I wanted. Most if not all traditional librarian roles from academic to public to the Archivist for the NYC Ballet specifically require an MLIS. It is the standard.

I finally determined that upon graduation and hitting my intended job market (outside traditional librarianship), it will be easier to highlight and explain my documented library experience in addition to an IT Masters, than it would be to explain my IT-cred to those unfamiliar with an MLIS. So I transferred programs. Happily, the hackers allowed me to stay in their “Library School” midst.

So what’s the hack here?

As we are nearing the end of the semester and year, it is natural to reflect on where we have been and plan for the future. If we can see past the caffeine-fueled-blurring of final paper sentences and final projects, perhaps we see the last days of registration for Spring or the looming the job market. It is as good as time as any to remind ourselves of the options for charting our way.

If I have learned anything in my time in Library School it is that we come to this profession from many, many different backgrounds. Our diversity ought be celebrated and used to full advantage. MLIS/MIS/MSIT or any other variant — we all are interested in information. Our titles are varied. Our skills are deep and broad. Our possibilities are open.

Sign up for that class on Storytelling even if you are an IT person. Enjoy learning HTML even if you know you want to be a young adult librarian. Find the things that interest you and follow where they might lead. The title — or ahem Masters Program — will work itself out to the choices that we make.

Whether it be preserving, providing access to, studying seeking behavior, creating systems for, organizing, tagging, publishing, creating, cataloging, archiving, programming, digitizing… or simply reading, we have so many options in this great, big, Information Professionals field. The landscape changes constantly and we can leave ourselves open to those changes and chances for new interactions and combinations.

We are all under the umbrella of Information — and it is a pretty ginormous umbrella. Take advantage of the possibilities and make your own way.

Should I be banished from the hacker rolls? What do you think about the big Information Umbrella? Do you have a similar or very different experience switching programs or tracks to share?

15 replies

  1. I’m not a student anymore but I did earn a MLIS and I am grateful for the philosophy of librarianship that I internalized. I continue taking classes as my employment requires more and more IT skills. So be it!


    • I too am very grateful for my MLIS start, especially helpful in my current internship. Some of the classes are no longer “beneficial” towards the MSIT degree earning but they have certainly been beneficial to me. You never know where you will learn the most and the most applicable skills for the future. Good for you for being open and continuing your education.


    • Here, here, @dillardchandler. I often feel like a red-headed stepchild in some of my classes because I’m not planning to pursue a “traditional” librarianship role!


      • You are not alone! I know I too was frustrated that even in a program that is pretty cognizant of non-traditional roles and IT (as evidenced by this new degree) in most of my MLIS classes it was all-librarians all the time. Perhaps it is to be expected that, while unfortunate, it takes some time for the education to catch up to the current landscape.
        Keep searching for the opportunities to focus on what you want to pursue!


    • The voices may be still in the minority but we are out there. You are absolutely right about even a “traditional” MLIS leading to so much more. Expect more on IT-ish posts from me now that I see there is a desire for them. We are also always looking for guest posts, especially on topics that are underrepresented.


  2. I’m currently in the same situation. I’ve grown frustrated from taking basic tech classes with my MLS cohort and constantly hearing (I won’t put this delicately) whining about how they’ll never use tech like HTML/CSS, JavaScript, and database design as librarians. I’m hearing the same whining in my cataloging and metadata courses. It’s making me wonder if there will be a split in the future, with MLS people being left out of future tech. I wonder how pervasive this attitude is in various iSchools? Too often I’m stuck as the only person who can put classwork skills to use in group projects, and I don’t feel like I’m learning enough from my fellow students or making connections with future professional leaders.


    • I heard a lot of this in early tech classes, specifically ones that integrate MLS and MIS students. Professors generally tried to suggest ways that the subject would have great value in a library, but students have on blinders. If it’s not a ‘traditional’ library subject, why is it useful? I’m sad to hear that the attitude is also around in other schools, especially iSchools. It would not surprise me at all if MLS and MIS programs experience more of a split, with one focusing on standard librarian classes and the other integrating library subjects with traditional tech programs.


      • Sorry to hear that it is so widespread — as you said Carrie, particularly in iSchools.
        I have to ask though (perhaps fodder for a future post): are these classes required? Nerd that I am, I was excited to sign up for multimedia, html, networking, and social media classes. But they were all electives. While yes, there was some complaint about the rigors of some, I think we were all aware that we were electing to be there and learn more about technology.
        It is all about choice. I would hate for the complaints of some and the schism between “old” LIS and “new” IT/IS mean less opportunity, diversity, and choice for us all.


  3. Sorry it is so frustrating, Chris, I certainly feel your pain. Kavetchers are everywhere and it is unfortunate as it does nothing to help our education or the information profession. I hope that MLSers are not marginalizing themselves out of future tech and we do all stay under the big umbrella of Information. We have too much to learn from each other, too much potential for collaboration across disciplines — too much crossover — to have an “us” versus “them” mentality. Of course we will all have our specialties and interests but complaining about learning basic IT in LIS right now is the equivalent of a future Children’s Librarian complaining about learning the basics of Adult Literature.
    I would advise that you seek out a professor or 2 that does teach subjects that interest you and (not only load up on their classes) but speak to them about your frustrations. Also, my recurrent advice: get thee to a conference! (you can search that title here for my other post) At local, national, and subset-specific conferences or just at regional ALA chapter meetings, you are sure to find very engaged individuals and learning opportunities.


Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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