Concentrating on Concentrations

When I entered library school in early 2019, I was slightly obsessed with planning out my degree. Part of this comes with the terrain of being an academic advisor, but part of it was just the excitement of starting a new endeavor.

I’ve heard from other library science students that their program is either super loose with core classes (looking at you, University of Texas at Austin) or incredibly detailed with required courses with little room for elective exploration. Luckily, my program at Emporia State University seems to have struck a happy medium. Roughly half our program is required and half is elective. I entered the program with lots of academic and professional interests, but with the thought that I would lean more towards public librarianship. More importantly, to me at least, I had planned to take lots of different classes to give my degree breadth over depth when it came to electives. Note the emphasis on the past tense! Due to a combination of things – ranging from developing strong working relationships with certain faculty to changing jobs, which led to a realignment of priorities all around – I found my degree taking a shape that was wholly unexpected 18 months ago. Over those 18 months, I have selected electives that will lead (hopefully, as I am still tying up the final ends!) to me graduating in December with an MLS with a concentration in Health Information Professionals.
While this development was unexpected, I am seeing now that all of my interests in information science are heightened and deepened through the lens of medical librarianship. My interest in diversity and equity finds expression in research on health disparities and how libraries can address them. My desire to do work that extends the traditional bounds of the field is seen in how medical librarians are finding ways to bring information services to sites of highest need, such as critical care units in hospitals. Ultimately, like any concentration or other decision made about your degree, my chosen set of electives that have morphed into a concentration have made my degree more personalized and far more meaningful.
If you are reading this and considering whether or not to concentrate, the best advice I can give you is, “Don’t think too hard about it!” What I mean by that is, where you can and in consultation with you own advisor, let your degree develop organically. And, unless you have, for example, been a children’s librarian for a decade and plan to do that until you retire, be open to different concentrations. I never would have thought medical librarianship would be a guiding force in my degree, but here we are! Take the electives that interest you most and see where that takes you. Finally, don’t discount the relationships you are developing with faculty. I will have taken roughly half of my degree with just one faculty member by the time I graduate in December. While this was due to a combination of positive response to teaching style and interest in electives on offer, it also ended up giving a needed form to my degree.
So, regardless of whether you select a concentration in the end, make your degree work for you and will walk away with an MLS that you can be proud of for a very long time.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Nick Dean is a second-year master’s student in the School of Library and Information Management (SLIM) at Emporia State University. Nick currently works full-time as an academic advisor at a medical school and as a part-time employee at a medical library, both in the Kansas City metro.

4 replies

  1. Emporia is a wonderful school, and I’m glad to hear that it’s done what it can to help you shape your future. I have found that a lot of what I was interested in during school has become a bit more of a reality, what with a lot of digital programming and trying to better use technology to the library’s advantage.

    I wish you luck in your future and hope that Emporia will continue to support you!


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