Library On/Library Off

Nicolibrarian explores the secret life of information

Is Library School Killing Your Mojo?

with 5 comments

Several weeks ago, I got a tweet saying “Library school is killing my mojo.” Last week I had coffee and discussed the never-ending balance between theory and practical skills in LIS programs…at least here in the U.S. I’ve even unearthed my copy of the NextGen Librarian’s Survival Guide to see if Rachel Singer Gordon had any advice on the matter.

Now I’ll admit – I’m only in my first semester of school. Yet I’m happy,  my mojo is in high gear, and yes, I get a little mooney-eyed at the mention of all things nerdy.

So what gives, beyond my own honeymoon period being especially bright? I’m curious…is library school killing YOUR mojo? (Or, if you’re out, did it?) Why? Do you think it has to do with the administration of your program, the tensions in the field, changes to the field,  misguided/misled expectations, theory, or something else? Or did you love library school? I’d love to have your comments below, or please email me at nicolibrarian {at} gmail {dot} com. No need to identify your program, and I’ll respect your anonymity by not divulging your name nor email if you drop me a line. I think it’s an issue worth exploring, if for no reason beyond articulating our discontent can help improve things, if not for ourselves, than hopefully for others.

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Written by nicolibrarian

November 9, 2009 at 5:29 am

5 Responses

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  1. I loved my library school and credit them for preparing me well for the technology-laden future I am now inhabiting. I received my degree in 1996. Print v. online battle was heating up. Best of both worlds, baby, yeah!

    But some of the coursework – ohhhh there was such a disconnect between reality and the theory. I never felt as if the reference related classes really taught me the most important thing: how to interact with a public who is confused, frustrated, and not quite sure what they want. The first few weeks I worked at a major reference desk I went home and cried almost every day. I was terrified of every new encounter. My mojo would’ve been much better off if one of my professors had simply said, “You’re not going to know everything, so just pretend that YOU are the one with the question, not them. And then…search.”

    Also sorely lacking in my library and information science education was any thought to how to go about teaching a skills based class. Nary a mention of student-centered learning. The onus was on me, the expert, and I carried that weight with me into my first job. Hated every minute of teaching until I figured out that I could, in fact, try something completely different.

    Are some of these things only learned through fire? To a certain extent. But today’s library schools should pay attention to these “soft” skills. It ain’t all about personality. These things CAN be learned.

    sanantonerose

    November 9, 2009 at 6:46 am

  2. Thanks for the thoughts, sanantonerose! I wonder if there are any schools out there who have started to act on these issues of more practical preparation? At the very least, good for us starting librarians to know: 1) get some practical, on desk experience; and 2) learn how to teach.

    Good fodder here for my for future blog posts, so thanks for that, too!

    nicolibrarian

    November 9, 2009 at 8:15 pm

  3. My library school experience was so very different. I felt like I had been in library school two months before when I walked into my first job at a public library as a Library Technical Assistant. I worked full-time and my school was physically 951 miles away.

    To echo sanantonerose…

    I also didn’t see much in my coursework that was new thinking or innovative. Writing a paper on the concept of browsing or creating a simple classification database meant nothing compared to working in a busy computer lab or teaching 300 employees how to use VOIP telephony. The exercises in observing and leading a storytime, for example, were fun. Still it was my library, not my school, that taught me 6 essential early literacy skills and how to impart them to parents and caregivers. Observing the reference desk for a shift, and writing a paper on the reference interview did not teach me how to help a customer with heavily accented English or how to handle a patron who was viewing pornography near the children’s area. My only B (yes I’m bitter) was in a course on Instructional Design from which I draw no insights in my current role as coordinator of Public Training.

    I do think there were things I got from my previous degrees that I use now- student development theory and youth development models to engage young people.

    Did I take the wrong classes?
    I guess working in a public library was library school for me.

    Meg

    November 9, 2009 at 8:48 pm

  4. First of all- I found your blog on the new community forum, so we must go to the same school.

    Second- Your blog is great, keep writing! I am thinking of switching to WordPress because of your posts.

    Third- I’m only in my first semester too, so library school has not ruined my mojo yet. Unlike most of the people in the program though (at least in my eyes) I don’t have library experience coming in, so probably what is ruining my mojo more is not being able to find some internship to gain experience. I still have a few ideas on where to go, so not everything is lost.

    To me, this sentence sums up library school: In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not. I hear this a lot in classes, and let’s face it- it’s true!

    Kalyna

    November 13, 2009 at 4:40 am

    • Hi, Kalyna!

      Nice to “meet” you – yes, I attend GSLIS, and I love it. I like the line about theory & practice…good one!

      nicolibrarian

      November 13, 2009 at 11:17 pm


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