How to Get the Most Out of Your Library School Classes

03/12/2013 § 3 Comments

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Tiffany Newton.

I just finished library school at Emporia State University (ESU) and since then I have discovered many courses I wish I would have taken. Some I learned about from my classmates, some I discovered from being a teaching assistant to one of my professors during my last semester, and other simply weren’t offered at ESU. My MLS required 36 hours and at about three hours per course, that’s 12 individual classes. Some of my classes were only two hours, so I did have more than 12 classes, but I still don’t think it was enough. Could I have learned everything I wanted to know about librarianship in 12 classes? I think it is possible, yes, but in retrospect I should have thought about how each class would help with my goals and bring meaning to my career.

So how do you identify which classes are most important to you?  First, think about why you’re going to school. Do you currently have a library job that you’re happy with? Will you be looking for one upon graduation?  What kind of librarian do you want to be? What do you want to get out of library school?  I didn’t think about any of these things going into library school. I didn’t have a good idea of why I was there or what I wanted out of school. I didn’t think about my future or my career after school.

Look up job ads on sites like I Need a Library Job (INALJ) for jobs that you think you might want after school.  What are the knowledge requirements, and do you have that knowledge? If not, take a class on it. Are there skills that you will need, and does your school offer a class to allow you to obtain those skills? Is experience required, and if so, can you take a practicum, internship, or volunteer position while in school to get this experience?

Keep in touch with your academic adviser and discuss the classes that will be offered in the following semesters. I didn’t have a good relationship with my adviser. I didn’t think it was important and I missed out on a few classes. When I spoke with my adviser, we didn’t talk about the classes, my goals, or why I wanted to take the classes, I just picked some on my own and told her to sign me up for them. You should have a valid reason why you take each class: something that will help you fulfill your goals. Don’t just take the “easiest” class or the class from a professor that you love.

Think seriously about your goals. If I had done that, I would have taken some fabulous classes like Management of Information Organizations: Public Librarianship. I want to eventually be a public library director, and this would have been the perfect class! Another one would be Resources and Services for Diverse Populations. In this class, they talked about all different types of people from different age groups, religions, nationalities (including immigrants and those whose first language is not English), those with physical or mental disabilities, and even the homeless. This would have been another class that would have  fit in well with my goals of working in a public library since you see such a diverse population in public libraries.  Remember to keep your goal in mind when taking these classes. The only reason I have for not taking these classes is that I was not aware of them because I didn’t discuss my goals with my adviser. Instead I tried choosing classes on my own, and I overlooked these in the course catalog.

Talk to your professors about what they’re teaching in the future. Talk to students who are closer to graduating or who have just graduated and see which classes they enjoyed the most or thought would be the most valuable to their career. Then look into the classes that they’ve recommended.

Also, if possible, try to spread your electives out over the course of your schooling instead of trying to get all your required classes out of the way at the beginning. Some of the classes you might want to take won’t be offered in your later semesters and you don’t want to miss a valuable class! But if you do miss one, don’t worry, you might be able to find similar information in a MOOC, webinar, or conference. Good luck!

What are your best tips for getting the most out of library school classes?

About Tiffany: I grew up in southern Missouri and graduated from Emporia State University with an MLS August 2013. I am currently job hunting, but hope to find something soon. I currently volunteer at I Need a Library Job (INALJ) as the Head Editor if the Missouri page.  I’m interested in public librarianship, but also enjoy the academic setting. I enjoy crocheting, knitting, cooking, and cuddling with my cat. I am also very interested in sustainability and green living and strive to combine this with librarianship. View my portfolio at http://tiffanynewton.webs.com.

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§ 3 Responses to How to Get the Most Out of Your Library School Classes

  • mross2920 says:

    Reblogged this on another library blog and commented:
    ” I just finished library school at Emporia State University (ESU) and since then I have discovered many courses I wish I would have taken…”
    Great advice in this article. Management was a required class for my library degree, but I really wish I had taken some marketing classes, a budgeting course, and a grant-writing course.

  • Elyse says:

    I think there’s always going to be some level of regret with class choices. There’s only so much you can do when limited to 36 credit hours, and most librarians I know lament that they couldn’t have taken this or that. I find it interesting that you mention spreading out electives, because my biggest regret is that I didn’t wait until I got my core courses out of the way before I started taking electives. My career goals have shifted since starting library school and I now look at some of those early elective choices as credits that could have been used for more relevant courses.

    • Tiffany Newton says:

      Eylse, I think you’re right. There’s always regeret, but the reason I would have liked to spread my electives out is twofold.

      First, there were a few classes I wanted to take that were offered during my first few semesters, but never again (at least not at the main campus where I was).

      Second, I remember from my undergraduate experience. I originally wanted to go into elementary education. I took a few required courses, and a few electives. After just 2 semesters, I realized that I did not want to work in a school setting. If I had waited until the end to take those electives, I would have wasted several years of work! This way, I only wasted two semesters. I didn’t really want that to happen again with my MLS.

      And of course, I could have taken more classes if I really wanted to get those last few classes in, but I had a tuition waiver I worked on campus, and they would only do that for a total of 36 hours, so the other classes would have been entirely out of my pocket.

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