{Guest Post} A Bespectacled Look at the MLIS.

Continuing my “What I Learned in Library School (so far)” series (previous posts from myself and Natalie Binder), I asked another fellow FSU MLIS student for her perspective on the degree. Lauren Gibaldi and I met when we started the program last fall and discovered that her boyfriend (blog here) was a good friend of mine from undergrad! Lauren’s perspective on library school is more ‘traditionally’ librarian-ish, if there is such a thing, meaning she actually reads books, (whereas I fool around on the internet!) Hope you enjoy a different point of view!

Connect with her on her website, blog, or Twitter.

My addiction to books has pretty much guided my life’s decisions. If you were to venn diagram my existence, “reading” would be in the center. I got my BA in Literature at FSU because I wanted to read. While in school, I worked at Waldenbooks because I wanted to sell and talk about books. I started teaching high school because I wanted to teach books. I realized teaching wasn’t for me (the students were much taller and angrier than I), so I went into writing, because I wanted to write a book. Now, a few years later, I realized that all of my trials actually set me up for what I REALLY want to do: work in a library (where I can, essentially, talk about, read, teach, and “sell” books). My path has set me up for being a youth librarian – one who can discuss the intricacies of Harry Potter, and offer book clubs, writing seminars and really good recommendations.

So, essentially, discovering the MLIS program led me to figure out what I really want to do. But what has the program taught me so far?

There’s a lot more to librarians than just books

A lot of friends questioned why I was getting the degree at first. Not to say it isn’t perfect for me, they just didn’t realize you needed a master’s degree to “hand out books.” It’s a lot more complicated. If you start the degree thinking your main job will simply be referring books to patrons, you’re in for a surprise. There’s a lot to learn, and a lot of classes to master. And although a bit intimidating at first, each one offered a new perspective, and a new respect, for librarians.

It’s possible to get good grades
During my undergraduate years, I was a decent student; I held onto a solid “B” in most classes. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to learn – I did, however I was in the “make the most of your time here” mindset. I knew that, years later, I wouldn’t remember the time I spent studying in my room, but the time I spent not studying, doing something exciting. So, I got some out of undergrad, but not a lot.
Now, I’m determined to prove myself. I want to show that I’m a good student – no, a great student. I do all of my homework. I read all of the assignments. I spent hours debating the usage of words in my essays. And because of that, I’ve held onto a solid 4.0 GPA so far. It’s hard, yes, but I’m putting that much into it. Mostly, because I want to get so much more out of it.

It’s not easy
Many people go into their master’s degree because they’re afraid of stepping foot into the real world. Well, I’ve been there, and, yes, it’s not that fun. But I didn’t fall back on a master’s degree. I still work full-time, while balancing school. The classes are far from easy, and the assignments are time consuming. If I wasn’t so dedicated to my future profession, I might quit. But the profession excites me; it calls to me.

I was never a big participant in class. I’m shy; I don’t raise my hand often. Yet, since I’m pursuing my degree online, no one can see my face redden if I’m wrong; no one can hear my high-pitched voice. I can make mistakes, and no one knows it’s ME making them. So, I’ve started participating and, you know what? It works. Teachers remember my name; I get higher participation grades. Plus, I get more out of the class. And that’s always good, right?

Pay attention
This is something I’ve learned, but really don’t abide by. Since the class is online, I have a strong tendency to a) check my e-mail b) updated Twitter c) browse Facebook d) go through my Google Reader. I’m multi-tasking – yet missing a lot in class. My advice here would be to avoid opening other Internet windows. Clearly, I should start taking my own advice.

Some classes may surprise you
My second semester in, I took the core Information Organization class. Having done some meta-code before within websites, I thought I’d be slightly familiar with what I would learn. Turns out, my basic understanding did help…within the first week. After, I found learning about metadata a chore; it was learning a new language, a new way to write and read. I’m not a computer programmer, I have absolutely no clue how to do most of those things and yet…I found the class incredibly interesting. After getting over the initial hump, the class became a game – a challenge. Sure, I didn’t understand, but couldn’t I try? I won’t find myself going into that field after grad school, but I DO find myself checking meta-tags and MARC records every now and then.

Take a little bit of everything
I’m fully committed to becoming a youth services librarian, however after finishing my specialization, I’m looking forward to taking classes in other areas. Museum studies? Sure! More metadata? Maybe! I think it’ll give me a fuller understanding about everything that goes on inside a library.  Plus, it’ll really bolster my resume.

But most importantly, take what YOU think will be fun

Okay, maybe another class on management MAY look terrific on a resume, but do I want to take it? Probably not – especially considering I didn’t find the first one to be interesting. The more you enjoy the class, the more you’ll get out of it. I’ve taken classes where I memorized essays due to their sheer genius, and others where I forgot what I read five minutes later. I got into the former classes, and was excited for class. Meanwhile, the latter ones were boring, so I paid less attention. Why do something if, in the end, it was as if I didn’t?

From what I’ve learned, if you don’t have experience working in a library upon graduating, it’s hard to find a job. Since I don’t (and don’t have time for an internship due to my job), I’ve been volunteering monthly at my local library. It helps my resume, and gives me an idea of what to expect upon getting an actual library job.

All, in all, I’ll say keep your head up and keep going. It may seem daunting at times, but it’s worth it. Earlier this year, one of my old students e-mailed me simply asking for book recommendations. I gave her a list, organized by genre, and since then she’s been updating me on her reading progress. I’ve been in the profession all along – it just took some time, classes, and a lot of tuition money, to fully realize it. Although the end of my degree is in sight, I know for a fact my career is just getting started.

* By Lauren Gibaldi



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