By Sarah Travis (http://addictedreader27.blogspot.com/)
So, you have chosen which direction you want to go into the field of librarianship. Great! Now what? For many of us just entering the field, this is one question that we may be asking ourselves.
A Time to Redirect
I started asking these questions after attending my first ALA 2011 Annual conference session. I become interested in many different aspects of the library profession, but what intrigued me the most was getting into federal librarianship. What would be required of me? Which classes should I take? How do I prepare for this job market that interests me? It was time to practice my librarian skills, be proactive, and do my RESEARCH!
Like me, many of you may be pursuing your MLIS degree. Some may be simply changing careers within the field. For those of us studying for our MLIS, what I discovered is that not all schools are going to offer the exact courses that you want to take in the semester you want to take it. You may be unable to take the class due to particular life circumstances like having to work for a living while in school. I personally work full-time at a university library and carry a full-time course load. This may be the same scenario for many.
When I decided that I wanted to pursue federal librarianship, I searched for classes relevant to the field. I had been interested in taking some archival classes but also some government document classes.
My school offers blended courses where students have most of their classes online, but sometimes they have to attend a class on campus. Because I work full-time at a location one hour from campus, I am unable to get to the campus class. That eliminated some of the possibilities for me. I was beginning to feel frustrated and questioned whether I had chosen the right school for my degree. I contemplated transferring to a different school, but that would cost more money. The money issue aside, you should be aware that transferring to another school means possibly losing credits if that school doesn’t accept them.
What I found out, and some students may not realize, is that their schools allow them to take courses at other colleges. Upon asking if I could take any of these classes as an independent study, I discovered that my school allows me to take up to 6 credit hours at another school. I didn’t know that I had the opportunity to take those classes without having to transfer schools! Taking 6 credit hours outside my school qualifies me as a transient student. I am temporarily at the other institution, but I only pay my current institution’s tuition. For no additional money, I opened up a whole list of courses which I could register to take! With permission from my “home” school, I applied to another institution as a transient student and registered for the exactly the classes I wanted to take. Not all institutions offer this, but it is worth asking the question.
There is also a Web-based Information Science Education Program linking schools together allowing you to take different classes from different schools. It is called a WISE Consortium. Through WISE, schools that specialize in online education share their courses with the students participating to put towards their MLIS degree. Many of these classes are on specialized topics like government information, health and consumer information, but also your basic core classes that many of us will take towards our degree. It is the same concept as the transient student, you have to apply and get permission from your home school, but this allows the student to choose from different institutions within the program and not just one of them.
School is not your only resource for receiving the information that you need. As stated, many librarians may simply be looking for ways to update their skills or change careers. Being active in the library community can certainly help with your education. Many of the professional associations offer sessions or webinars that you can either attend in person or virtually. ALA offers discounted pricing to students, so why not take advantage of what they have to offer us to further our education? The conferences themselves are a great learning experience if you are just entering the field, for it is how I have received most of the information that I have gathered. If changing careers, information sessions and job seminars at conferences provide vital information to help you manage you career.
Online webinars are another way for us to learn and develop skills. For those that are wishing to pursue federal librarianship, you may fall upon “Help! I’m an accidental Government Information Librarian”. This particular webinar is given by the North Carolina Library Association. There is an original sign up time to attend, but the sessions are recorded for later viewings and are open for usage. Webinars like this allow many to learn new information about the field they are wishing to pursue or for current librarians wanting to gain knowledge in their current field. We now have the wonder of the World Wide Web to help us gain more of the information that we want outside of what we are learning in school. Just taking our simple search techniques from what we have learned allows us to probe the web for different webinars.
The most important and I have to say the most rewarding thing to do is network! The more people you know, the more you may learn from them. Knowing people that are in the field and currently pursuing what you wish to do with your career allows you to ask questions. You can’t be afraid to ask questions because you may not find out the information you need! I have gained so much already from people that are already in the field and have learned so much from their guidance. All it took was my courage to get out there and introduce myself. Just allowing yourself to meet new people can open many doors. But even asking questions is just as important. If you don’t ask you don’t know. For example, as a student you may be able to ask your school if any of those classes can be given as an independent study, it doesn’t hurt to ask. They could say no, but most importantly your school may say yes!
There are sometimes many bumps in the road, but if you know what you want you go for it! That is how it should be with your career. You should never think negatively about it because only you can hold yourself back. There are so many ways to gain the information you need to succeed within the library field. Being proactive and active in the field allows you to find endless possibilities!