I’ve written before about my desire to tailor my time as an MLIS student to becoming a generalist with the skills and competencies to succeed in various contexts or careers. As my first year of classes comes to a close and I begin the process of choosing and registering for classes for next year, I’m finding that this goal does not fit nicely into a system set up around foci and specializations.
I’m not changing how I feel about being a generalist or pursuing LIS as a “meta-discipline,”1 but I have found that it is something I have to repeatedly explain or defend. In my program, students are required to get advisors to sign off on their course selections. I think, in general, that this is a good thing. It allows stronger relationships between students and advisors in a primarily online program, and it ensures that students are thinking about how their choices relate to their career goals. It can a little more complicated, however, when the career goals one envisions does not fit nicely into just one of the university-chosen paths.
In part, this is surprising to me. I spent some time reading career profiles and interviews written in the Special Library Association’s Magazine, Information Outlook, and the type of career I want – one made up of varied experiences – does not seem an uncommon experience for information professionals, although perhaps it is less common to aspire to it.
Where does this leave me? After some back and forth, my course selections have been approved. Because I enjoy tech-heavy classes, I am drawing mainly from the information management and digital content management tracks available at my school. I also know that my MLIS courses will not be the end-all-be-all of my professional development. Indeed, I hope they are only the start, and I plan to take advantage of additional (and cheaper) opportunities through Coursera and Library Juice Academy at some point in the future.
I’m happy with my choice of school and program, and have loved all of the classes that I haven taken (regardless of the track they were drawn from). Even so, I do have a piece of advice for any prospective library school applicants: Think about how much flexibility matters to you when it comes to the structure of your program. I think that this is a factor of choosing a school or a program that is often overlooked. Find out about course selection, required approvals, and whether there is a minimum requirement for courses taken within a single specialization.
For readers already in library school, what do you think about flexibility in your course selection process? What have your experiences been? How did you choose to specialize (or not)?
Caroline Hron Weigle is a student at Wayne State University.
- Bates, M. J. (2015). The information professions: Knowledge, memory, heritage. Information Research, 20(1), paper 655. http://InformationR.net/ir/20-1/paper655.html