Mid-Semester Analysis

I came into this class knowing I had little first-hand experience working at libraries. That’s OK – I want to be a librarian, which is why I’m earning my Masters in Library Science. Plus, I’m switching professions; my lack of library experience is understandable. Coming into my coursework, therefore, I expected that I would take a more “hard line”, academic approach to various issues and concepts, with ideas developed out of our readings instead of real-world experience.

And yet, I’m surprised that in a lot of cases this semester, those expectations have been flipped on their head. During our ethics assignment, I found myself thinking more like a librarian who’s been working at the circulation desk for five years and approaching ethical issues from a more practical standpoint. Some of my classmates, on the other hand, began taking the strictly theoretical approach and as I began discussing, I wanted to agree with some of them – but I just couldn’t. What was going on? I’m the one with no experience here – why are my thoughts so muddied sometimes?

Now, this hasn’t been the case for every assignment, but as the semester advances, I am finding that a practical, “working” perspective is incredibly valuable during these discussions of librarianship, working ethics and leadership. Even though my library experience is limited, I also find myself drawing on my experience in the working world as I seek to understand complex issues in leadership and management. It’s one thing to know the concepts after reading an essay, it’s another thing entirely to actually live the concepts in a real, professional setting. While library experience is definitely a plus here, and those current librarians in my class definitely have an advantage in some cases, I believe any professional experience is valuable.

Another trend I’ve noticed during this semester is that while I am still primarily interested in digital scholarship and digital content management, I’m finding myself increasingly fascinated by the issues facing public libraries. Public libraries have always meant a lot to me (as they do to any prospective librarian), but I wasn’t sure if I was suited to working at a public library, or if public libraries would present the challenges I crave in a career.

However, I’m finding myself drawn to them over and over again during our coursework, which doesn’t surprise me though it sure does complicate my career-planning. For this reason, I decided to explore a public library during my Library Visit project, instead of merely two academic libraries. I learned a lot about the public library system during that project and while I’m still not exactly sure where I’ll end up working someday, I’m glad I have options.

Moving into the second half of the semester, I hope that our coursework and readings focus on some of the issues facing modern librarians, and the profession at large. During my undergraduate years, when I was earning a degree in journalism, I took a class on “newsroom management.” The class ended up not being about management at all, but an open-ended discussion of the challenges facing the new industry, which I think could be valuable here. At any rate, I hope to do my own bit of research in this area.

Other subjects that could be of value moving forward: what it takes to land that “first” job as a professional librarian – it’s important to note that not everyone is working in the industry yet and we’re still trying to figure it out! Where are jobs posted? What should our resumes look like? What are good places to work in the meanwhile if you haven’t found your library job yet? I’m working at a bookstore at the moment – am I on the right track?

And finally, I can see the second half of the semester being the time for me to become actively involved in planning the rest of my academic career at Wayne State. Now that I have some sort of foundation in librarianship, I feel more confident about walking into an appointment with my academic adviser and discussing my options more in-depth.

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