During the second to last semester of my MLIS program, I can say with some amount of certainty that, however many courses one takes, there is no guarantee that any one of them will make one believe that what it teaches will actually be useful when the degree is obtained and the job market is looming ahead.
Some courses may seem more applicable to what one has experienced as a patron or observer out on an assignment. Others may fall in line with internalized ideals that one has accumulated from ALA Code of Ethics’ documents and starry-eyed stories of librarian triumph. Still others are deemed the most practical if one wishes to rapidly acquire a living in these fraught times when every fairy tale story involving an information professional seems to revolve around coding rather than librarianship. I myself have taken courses based on my aspired to career tracks of public and/or academic librarianship, prioritizing any course that was deemed useful for both. Doing so meant forgoing many of those more ‘practical’ courses, and at this stage in my program, there is not much I could do if I wanted to start emphasizing those now.
In the midst of putting together the final e-Portfolio for my program, I can see which competencies I have more than familiarized myself with and which ones that, if it were not for one of the four required starting courses, I would not have covered at all. However, while I have not formally ramped up my business skills or my ability to construct database systems, I have applied my coursework in both public and academic librarianship in real world engagements: a children’s services internship at a large branch last semester, and a library assistant position at a small private college this one. My current work has been an unexpected linchpin in connecting past courses and work experiences to current ones. Whether it is putting together information literacy materials for patrons and student workers (I can thank SJSU’s Professor Becker and his INFO 254 class for that) or creating professional flyers for upcoming research colloquiums (that one goes to my internship supervisor, Chelsey Roos, at Castro Valley Library), I now have tangible evidence of course assignments, internship or otherwise, carrying me forward. I was also to supplement last week’s e-Portfolio work, focusing as it did on the ability to compare and contrast different types of information organizations, which my own personal experiences in public and academic. A less positive connecting of the dots occurred when I realized that I was one of those dreaded paraprofessionals that I had silently railed against when reading about how they displaced fully credentialed librarians from library work. Considering, however, how paradoxical the experience to get library work to get experience chain already is, I simply accepted the label and moved on.
So, do I have a job lined up for after graduation? No, and considering how I am currently working two jobs while going to school full time, that particular hunt can wait till after this semester. Am I going to buy some self-help books about MARC, AACR2, RDA, and other vaguely familiar acronyms? Not until I have some concrete motivation in front of me and more free time on my hands. Will I regret not going to more than a single conference (it was in the area, and I left early because of work) and not publishing a single paper in my program’s research journal? Maybe, but those are part of the reason why I will be aiming more towards public librarianship than academic after graduation. Just as one probably cannot take every single course offered by an information and library science program, the ability to get through said courses while accruing experience, avoiding loans, networking, publishing, conferencing, and doing everything else that supposedly wards off job market malaise seems more and more to me a matter of one’s zip code than one’s character. I certainly did not pull it all off, and while my current non-regretful state may change post-graduation, I will at least be diving into the dreaded application process with a tidy list of librarian-related references and a few application experiences, both successful and otherwise, under my belt.
Is anyone in a similar position? What are you specializing in (a great way of phrasing a lack of familiarity with certain information science sectors), and is any of your coursework serving you well on the job?