Why We Decided on the PhD

I have a lot of MLS students ask me why I decided to go on to a PhD, so I rounded up some of my PhD buddies to give you some answers! Everyone has different reasons for doing the PhD, and while it may not be the right choice for everyone, it’s definitely been a choice that we’ve all been happy about.
Are you in a PhD program or applying to one? What is inspiring you to do the degree? Do you have questions for PhD students? Leave them in the comments!

I’m a doctoral candidate (which means I’ve passed my qualifying/preliminary exams) at Florida State University’s iSchool. I’m in my 3rd year of my program and have 1-2 years more.

I started the MLS and Center for the Book certificate at University of Iowa in 2008, with plans to work in special collections once I finished. As I progressed, I realized that I wanted to keep going and to refine my research skills. I’ve always loved the idea of being faculty: Doing research in particular was something that really drew me to continue on to the PhD. I did research during my MLS, and reaffirmed that a more research-intensive career was something I would enjoy (although a research-intensive job at an academic library is still totally on the table). I came into the degree trying to be open to new experiences and career paths, which has made it so I have had a really diverse and fun set of activities that I’ve included in my PhD work. It also helped me discover new research areas and learn that I’m even more enthusiastic about my work than I thought. One thing I’ve learned is that I really love teaching! By this point, everyone around me is sick of hearing about how great my students are, and I’m very grateful I’ve taken the time to seek out teaching opportunities. I have really loved doing the PhD and connecting with so many amazing people!

Zack Frasier
Zack is a former Hack Library School contributing editor, and a newly-admitted PhD student at University of South Carolina. He’ll be beginning his program this fall. 

I have wanted to get a PhD for a while. Libraries, and a foray into web work just put it off for a while. The question, as far as my ambition was concerned, was – when? That question got answered when my signfigant other, also a librarian, got a job in the same town where we went to library school. When it became clear that we’d be moving back, timing and opportunity came together for me in a way that solidified my dream, and with my admittance into our PhD program the dream became a reality. It’s not something that I am undertaking lightly; there are too many ABDs [all but dissertation] and perpetual adjuncts in my social circle for that. But I have a chance to follow my dreams, study my interests, and teach students: How many people get to do that?

Abigail Philips
Abigail is about to start her third year at Florida State University’s iSchool, and is preparing to take her preliminary exam. Abby has written a guest piece for us before too, about transitioning from librarian to doctoral student!

I don’t remember exactly when I knew that I wanted to begin work on a PhD. But I do recall the desire becoming stronger during my work as a public librarian. While managing my library’s social media presence, I became interested in how and why patrons used social media, especially young adults.  During my free time I began reading research about social media use. I wondered (and still wonder) how this research could be used to improve library services. It wasn’t long before reading the research of others spurred an urge to conduct my own. Following encouragement from my mentors and a few family members, I began the frustrating, time consuming, and often confusing process of applying to PhD programs. I’ve never looked back.

Laura Spears
Laura is a doctoral candidate about to begin her fourth year at the Florida State University iSchool. Like Abby, she returned to school after working in a library.

I arrived at the Louis Shores Building on the Florida State University campus in Fall 2011, prepared to take my adjunct teaching for library and information studies to a new level.  To learn more about the research behind the pedagogy that I peddle to the mostly yearning library professionals so that I can be a better teacher to those who seek a promotion or an increase in pay or, more profoundly, register a voter or help someone find critical health information.

What I have found is a great disconnect between the libraries and librarians whose practice is the stuff in which researchers immerse and the researchers themselves. As I have engaged in research, I love the intellectual banter but I really hope to make a difference in the lives of those library users by making a difference for their libraries and information professionals.

I have had the opportunity to participate in research-based projects like iMapLibraries, the mapping database that supports librarians’ efforts to know their entire market and better provide services to them.  iMapLibraries uses a GIS-based mapping software and census data to illustrate how each library’s service market compares on a measure of 20 different diversity characteristics.  iMapLibraries shows librarians who is using the library and who is not. Librarians can take this information and build programs and services to meet even the hidden needs of a community’s citizens. iMapLibraries bridges a gap between research of libraries and the increasing challenges librarians face. My future research includes understanding how to better use social media for library advocacy efforts both for library advocates and the public sector officials charged with developing policies to solve public problems.

Casey Yu
Casey is a doctoral candidate at Florida State University, and will be finishing up her degree while living with her family in Bangladesh (!) where her husband was just hired as a faculty member.

In 2009, I was living in Oakland, California with my husband and two kids, after having spent about ten years working in academia – in student affairs, working with students who lived in residence halls. I worked in both public universities and private universities, and when it boiled down to it, I was most excited and interested in working with communities. I had the opportunity to do a freelance web design project for JELIS (Journal of Education for Library and Information Science) and the idea was planted of pursuing a doctorate in information studies.

I don’t come to Information Science from the traditional background, but it has accepted me and my experiences and I’m finding my own niche in the field to pursue my interests. Since coming to FSU’s iSchool, I have discovered that I can use my former life working with students as an instructor now teaching those students – and I am having a blast! I’ve also had the opportunity to work with amazing professors and researchers, both as an academic and as role models for women in academia. I have figured out what I want to do when I grow up, and I am proof that it’s never too late to grow up, as well!

4 replies

  1. Great round-up post on LIS PhD students. I’ve considered going the PhD route after getting the MLIS, and have been advised to take some time between degrees, get the feel of libraryland as a librarian before taking the plunge into a PhD program. It’s nice to see how varied everyone’s path is before beginning their PhD. Thanks Julia and your fellow contributors for sharing such great insight into this additional option after the MLIS!

    Liked by 2 people

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