How You Too Can Transition from a Librarian to a Doctoral Student

03/09/2013 § 11 Comments

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Abigail Phillips.

I often get, quite naturally, the question, “So, what made you decide to get your PhD?” I always feel a bit sheepish when I offer my response, “Well, I’ve always known I would.” I should have an intelligent and eloquent explanation for such a major, life-altering decision. But I don’t. However, what I do have is a somewhat intelligent and kinda eloquent explanation for my decision to leave my job as a public librarian and become a doctoral student in Information Studies.

After working in public library for six years, two as a library assistant and four as a professional librarian, I left the practitioner world behind last fall to join the PhD program in Information Studies at Florida State University (FSU). I have yet to regret this decision. My experiences in researching, writing, and teaching over the past year have erased any doubts I may have had during those first few months of my doctoral studies. This feeling of rightness and certainty is a rare experience for me.

So, how do you, dear reader, know if you really want to get a PhD? If you are working as a public librarian or school media specialist, how do you know if academia is a good fit for you? What follows are some suggestions, tips, and advice from an ex-librarian turned academic for those thinking about entering a PhD program. Although my focus in this post is on potential doctoral students in Information Studies, this advice can be applied to any doctoral program.

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Updates from the World of a PhD Student: Finishing Up the Second Year

05/04/2013 § 2 Comments

Hey everyone! I’ve been absent from posting as regularly as I used to, but I wanted to poke my head in and tell you all about how my PhD program is going. Hopefully it will be helpful for those of you considering a PhD yourselves!

I’ve posted a bit about my thought going into the PhD program on HLS (here and here), and at the end of last year I posted some of the things I learned from my PhD (and from the experience of moving to a new town) here. Another year has passed, and I’m currently in the midst of my last semester of coursework. It feels really strange to think that I’ll never be a student in a classroom setting again (save for the occasional seminar), but that I’ll still be a student doing my own independent work under the guidance of faculty. It’s a great transitionary period prior to going out into the workforce, though, and I’m really excited to have more time to devote to my independent projects (namely, my dissertation!)

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the timeline of a PhD program, it has a few more steps than a Master’s program does. Most people finish in 4-5 years, but some people take more or less time depending on their research topic, how much they work outside of school, etc. Students in our program typically come in with an MLS. The first thing we do is take our coursework, which is usually about two years. Then we prepare for and take prelims (comprehensive exam). For my program, the prelims include written statements you prepare, from which your committee pulls your questions. Then, you write your responses over the course of one week. After you pass prelims, you advance to candidacy, and start working on your prospectus (the first 2-3 chapters of the dissertation in most cases). You defend your prospectus, then write the rest of your dissertation, defend the dissertation, and do any revisions your committee asks for. If it all goes according to plan, you should end up with a PhD at the end of it!

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Thoughts from a Subversive School Librarian

15/07/2011 § Leave a comment

Please welcome Pam Read (yes, that really is her name!) as a guest writer. Personally, I’m encouraged by her enthusiasm as a veteran in the field of librarianship and as a doctoral student. -Heidi

Pam Read has an MLS from SUNY Albany, and is a first-year Doctoral Student in the Rutgers University School of Communication and Information. She has worked in libraries for 24 years, including 8 years in a public library (as children’s librarian, reference librarian, and manager of a special collection), and 16 years in schools, elementary and secondary. She’s taught at all levels, from preschool to graduate school.
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