I just finished my second year at Simmons University. Many full-time MLIS students are done with their degrees after two years; however, I’m in a dual degree program combining my MLIS with an MA in Children’s Literature, which is typically a three-year program. I’ve took summer courses in 2020 and will start two summer courses next week, so I’ll be completing my degrees in December.
Dual Degree programs have their pros and cons. A 2013 HLS post shares the experiences of several dual degree students at Indiana University and some of the unique challenges of dual degree programs. Since I’ve made it through the majority of my program, but still have some time in school ahead of me, this seems like the perfect time to reflect on my dual degree program and share my favorite things about it.
Expanding Your Knowledge Base
The MLIS is a professional degree, while my MA is an academic degree. I’ve found that one of the best parts of my dual degree program is in being able to apply knowledge learned in a Children’s Literature (CHL) class during a class conversation or an assignment for an LIS course, or vice versa. For example, last spring I took Library Collections and Materials for Young Adults (an LIS course), and this spring I took Young Adult Contemporary Realistic Fiction (a CHL course). I was able to consider the titles I read in class this spring not only in a way that engaged with literary theories such as narratology, but also to look at them in terms of how they might fill a need in a young adult collection. For some of the books we read, I thought about whether I would add them to a YA collection at all if I were a teen librarian.
I’ve always read a lot of YA fiction, but I’ve also taken courses on picture books and fairy tales. I’ve got classes on horror series for children and science fiction and fantasy ahead of me. I think my readers advisory skills will be stronger since I’ve learned about literary types that I’m not necessarily familiar with or that might not be covered in-depth (or at all) in LIS courses on collection development. A dual degree program means more courses and academic courses vs. practical courses that all work on expanding my knowledge and skills.
More Potential Career Choices
While I’m 99.9% certain that I want to be a youth services librarian in the future, a dual degree program gives you more options when it comes to jobs and job searching. There have been post on HLS about non-traditional jobs for MLIS degree holders, and a second masters degree opens up even more options. For example, if I were to look for jobs in a different field, I would start with publishing. I’ve taken two elective courses at Simmons about various facets of the publishing industry, and have gained insight, experience, and even industry contacts through these courses. These are valuable courses that I appreciate since they’re setting me up to have more options in the future. Different dual degree program will offer different unique career possibilities.
A Built-In Community
Last spring, Hacker Alyssa wrote a post about trying to build a community while studying at home. Most of my program has been online, but I was lucky to have my first semester and a half on campus. I also was lucky to have an introductory class in children’s literature with multiple other dual degree students in my first semester. They’re my best friends in the program, and I was so glad to have them during the pandemic in the form of our group chat, phone calls, and even some online board games together. The set of dual degree students is smaller, so it’s already easier to make friends with shared interests. While I don’t have every class with all of my friends, I usually have at least one of my closest friends in class. It’s comforting to know that members of this this grad school community will become my professional peers in the future. I talked about this a little in my April post as well!
Bonus: I Get to Read A Ton!
I know many grad students who bemoan the lack of time to read outside of their classes during the semester. I still manage some reading for fun, but most of my reading is for class. I’m lucky that beyond academic articles, I get to read novels for class that come from a genre that I genuinely enjoy. Plus, because the books I read are children’s literature they’re often funny and engaging in a way that nonfiction or adult literature isn’t. It makes massive amounts of reading for class enjoyable in a way that lets me continue to genuinely enjoy reading.
If you’re interested in a dual degree program, I’d be happy to answer questions in the comments (or nerd out about children’s books of all types)!
Macy Davis just finished her second year at Simmons University in the MA in Children’s Literature/MS in Library and Information Sciences dual degree program. She’s greatly anticipating her forthcoming trip to Acadia National Park. You can find her on Twitter @bookishlybright or through her personal blog.