Making the decision to go back to school can be daunting, let along deciding which school is right for you. Not all library schools are created equal, and it’s important to find the best match for you. Here are a few things to take into consideration as you narrow down your choices and make your decisions:
• Accreditation. This one is pretty important. It is often said that it’s not where you go to library school, but what you do there, that matters, but most libraries and other potential employers are going to be looking for candidates with degrees from ALA-accredited institutions. Good news, though: there are a lot to choose from. A full list can be found on the ALA website.
• Location. Where are you hoping to live while in library school? Do you want to be in a major city or rural area, on a coast, north or south? Do you want to find a school that is close to home so that you can continue to work or take care of your family, or are you willing to move? There are library schools located all over the country, in a diverse range of environments, so it is important to decide where you would be most comfortable for the next few years.
• Online vs. on campus. Many library schools these days offer distance learning via online classes, which is a convenient option for people who want or need to continue working full time while they go to school, or for people who like independent, flexible learning options. Additionally, if you plan to keep working but don’t live near a library school, online classes are a good option. Other people, though, prefer the experiences and learning opportunities of in-person classes, and would prefer a campus-based program. Some library schools also offer evening classes on campus, so people who work during the day can still attend. It is important to think about how you learn and what would make the most sense for you when choosing between a campus or distance program.
• Specialization. Are you dying to be an archivist? Crazy for youth services? Fascinated by data science? You may want to consider a library school that has areas of specialization where students can gain in-depth knowledge of a particular area of library and information science. Some library schools have specific tracks or concentrations depending on what you want to study, while others have a wide variety of electives from which you can choose to develop your skills in a particular area. Not sure what you want to do yet? That’s cool too-while all library schools have some required courses, not all programs require a specialization. Check out the course offerings of potential library school programs to make sure there are courses available that seem interesting and relevant to you, or allow you to sample a wide variety of library topics.
• Opportunities for Work. It’s no secret that the key to becoming a successful librarian is not just going to library school, but also getting experience working in a library. If you don’t have any library experience, library school is a good time to get some. Check out potential library schools to see if there are student jobs available in the university libraries, public libraries in the area that hire library school students, or the opportunity or requirement for an internship or practicum during library school. While you’ll learn a lot in classes, this practical experience will be invaluable when you’re looking for a job after library school.
Every person is different, and each will have his or her own priorities when applying to library school. Since you will be investing a lot of time, energy, and money in this venture, it’s important to choose a school that is the best fit for you. These are just a few of the things that might help you make that decision.
Current and former library school students-what should new library school applicants think about when choosing schools? Let us know in the comments.