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Shep

Yes, it is all BS

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Well, I'm not here to discourage, but to give most of you a heads up on MLIS programs out there.  First of all, some schools do offer funding, but for the most part, "Library School" is a huge waste of time and money.  Don't do it.  Jobs are limited and these programs admit far more than they really should.  There is a glut in the market for information professionals and if you are considering UIUC, don't.  It was by far the worst program out there.  Most of the individuals who graduate from there either work for the department or are hanging by a thread looking for employment.  So much for being the #1 program.  So, do yourself a favor and if you have doubts about this degree, listen to your instincts and just walk away.

Edited by Shep

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I agree. Since beginning university, I have wanted to be a reference librarian in an academic institution. I had an internship in an academic library, as well as volunteer work in a museum. I had lunch this past spring with my reference library supervisors and they informed me that a reference position that opened up at my current school had over 500 applicants. I now am pursuing an M.A. in History, and I am thankful to hopefully pursue my passion than something I'd have little to no chance of gaining a professional career in.

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An MA in history is probably the better route.  LIS is a dying, if not already dead, profession.  Besides, this way you can contribute to knowledge through research instead of assisting academics (community, etc.) with the pertinent information for their research.  Seems much more exciting to me.

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Saw this thread and wanted to comment for anyone that may read or is debating pursuing an MLIS. Here's a bit of how my thought process went when I applied and then what the reality was (sorry, Shep, hope you don't mind that I'm adding on like this! Would love to see if your experience was similar to mine):

 

-First of all, I was extremely fortunate not to have any student debt thanks to a combination of circumstances, working throughout undergrad and grad (full-time in grad), scholarships, etc. Had I been looking at a lot of debt upon finishing undergraduate I do not think I would have pursued a graduate degree, or at least maybe not right away. College debt can be difficult to pay off no matter what your profession is but especially so if your profession already does not pay much.

 

-People would have warnings like "you will need to be good with tech" (hm, well, I'm ok...I hope that's good enough!) "there aren't many jobs" (I'm a good planner and if I anticipate this I will be able to stay a step ahead by doing things that keep me relavent), "it will be hard to get by with this degree" etc. etc. I read these warnings and admittedly took them with a grain of salt because I had always had a plan, been a good student, and a clear vision of what I wanted for my future and so far things had worked out pretty well for me. I guess I thought that by reading these warnings and constantly staying aware of them that I would be able to plan around them. First thing I did when I got to my grad program was make sure I got a job on one of the campus libraries so I wouldn't be applying to jobs after graduating with 0 experience. When I was about to start the program it looked like the #1 reason most people weren't finding jobs after graduating was they had no relevant library experience and had just gotten the degree. So I made that a priority and it's a good thing I did because having prior library experience is arguably more important than the degree itself in some ways...

 

-The program was not particularly challenging. Some courses I enjoyed more/learned more in than others and I got to make new friends in a different way than I did in undergrad so that was cool. By a "different way" I mean through actual group work and bonding over mutual interests rather than in a "hey-we-live-on-the-same-floor-let's-hang-out" kinda way. Never really developed relationships with my professors and I honestly don't even remember if I ever had an advisor. Maybe I did? I dunno. Anyway, It was a new, exciting experience for the first semester and I did learn some cool stuff but by the time I finished I was SO ready to be finished both with the program and school in general.

 

-I was lucky and had a "full time" library job right out of school, but when I say lucky...I really, really was, and it didn't take long for me to appreciate that when I looked around at the rest of my graduating classmates. It wasn't my planning, foresight, connections, good grades, etc. that got me where I was it was really more of a "right place right time" kind of situation where I applied and prepped and then interviewed really well for a position that is seldom open. Though the job was full time it didn't really pay that well, but had pretty decent benefits. Enjoyed the collections and working with the students and professors...although to be honest, not many came in and it seemed like there were fewer that did every year. When you take into account that I had a Master's degree then the pay looks even worse in hindsight. My duties also did not really require the skill/knowledge of a Master's. However, even though I listed some of the negative things the reason I say I was lucky is because many classmates either took A.) part-time positions B.) volunteer positions just to get experience or C.) non-library jobs right out of school...so to get a full-time library gig was actually relatively unique for those I knew personally in my program.

 

-After a few more library positions for ~5ish years I pretty much felt like I had achieved all my goals and hit the level of fulfilment I was seeking. I half-heartedly applied to some other library jobs here and there but kept striking out. This wasn't that long ago so I got a good sense of the terrain...it's tough, even with the degree and experience. When I was applying to school I would see awesome positions at good schools in disciplines right up my alley like History, Religion, Philosophy, etc. and be like "oh wow I'd love to be the Librarian of the Byzantine Collection at ____ University" and think those were the jobs I'd be getting when I graduated. They weren't....and actually, they weren't even jobs I was getting INTERVIEWS for even with the degree and years of experience at this point. What you have to do to even get an interview for one of those jobs I have absolutely no idea. My guess is publish several articles and probably have another Master's in a relevant discipline, so keep that in mind too.

 

-So basically I looked at my situation and thought to myself "I've had a good run" and was lucky that I got to be involved with the areas of the Humanities that I enjoyed...but I realized I really didn't have anywhere to go from there that would be a significant improvement. Realizing this, I changed tracks completely and started applying to some local businesses. Then I started getting interviews, started getting offers, took a job with one of those companies and have never looked back. Before starting my Library Science grad program I never would have guessed that I enjoy working outside of academia as much as I do and I do not regret the switch at all. Thankfully I was ready for it so maybe if my circumstances were way different it may have been harder for me to make that decision or adjust to the new lifestyle, but I really do genuinely like it AND prefer it over where I was with librarianship. It was nice for awhile but unsustainable in the long-run.

 

In conclusion, I don't want to tell anybody what to do - you know what's best for you and your life and where you are currently. But from my experiences and reflecting on them here, I know my story is NOT typical and I am extremely fortunate that it worked out the way it did so please keep that in mind. I would definitely not recommend getting this degree just so you can say you have a Master's on your resume and hope that pays off because I have never seen it having that kind of power as a resume-builder. If you do get the degree and struggle with finding library jobs - don't be afraid to adapt! Don't feel like leaving libraries/academia means you are giving up or that you wasted time getting a degree you won't "use". Changing careers now is actually pretty normal and there's no shame in wanting to improve your circumstances. You can also still take classes on the side or study the things you love as a hobby. You can even still write articles and publish them if that's what interests you...you don't NEED to be a librarian to stay relevant in academia!

 

There are many ways to do what you love without trying to make those things your lifelong career. I hope this helps give some of you clarity if you are considering this type of program. Cheers!

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BFunky29.  Thanks for your response, but I let me just say that even LIS programs will admit that this degree is useless.  The whole concept is useless.  I too had a full time position at a library and changed courses back and forth between government and academia.  The people in charge has LIS degrees and stayed in their fields for 30-40 years.  The point is, LIS is a dying if not already dead field.  My advice to anyone out there interested in this field still stands as this:  Stay away from it.  It will cost you a lot of money with few or no returns. 

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An MA in history is probably the better route.  LIS is a dying, if not already dead, profession.  Besides, this way you can contribute to knowledge through research instead of assisting academics (community, etc.) with the pertinent information for their research.  Seems much more exciting to me.

 

There is almost nothing you can do with an MA in History without a Ph.D. also.  Unless you want to go into public History, then you can find jobs with an MA.  Public History is about the only History field that has much in the way of jobs, the rest of the field suffers from the same problems that most liberal arts fields do in terms of oversupply of Ph.D.s and not enough jobs for them let alone people with just MAs.

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You would think that Information Science wouldn't be a dying field. I am looking at going back to school to help deepen knowledge to work on a

personal project that would advance a different form of information organization.  The more I look, the less I see any real work on moving forward

information access/archive in a form that makes the information more useful and accessable.

 

If there is anyone out there who would be interested in mentoring and or contributing to such an effort, please let me know.  You can find information about this

at www.elocuskinetics.com and at www.facebook.com/elocuskinetics. 

 

I have never seen learning as something that should be done solely for bragging rights, more as a tool to work towards a goal. Whether that goal is building an improved tool or making peoples lives better/easier.  Work today is controlled by corporations and if there isn't a 'market' for it, you wont find work that will compensate with a living wage.  It is truly sad if someone is highly motivated by knowledge organization but becomes a landscaper or bank teller instead because the academic study leads to only a dead end and no social support. 

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kahlan_amnell.  Well you are right in some respects but VERY wrong in others.  With an MA in say, history, you can work for the government, archives, museums, and you can also teach.  It can also springboard you into a job that focuses on writing.  So, it is not useless.  A tenure track position is not the only thing that results from a history major.  That is limited thinking.  However, if you are after that much coveted tenure track position, then yes, it can be difficult to attain one even with a PhD.  Though, you can do so much more with that PhD than teach.  How about research, writing, holding a curatorial position in a museum? You see what I'm saying here?  What I am suggesting is that people consider other options to LIS.  It is a costly and often pointless endearvor.  You can hold a library position without it.  Perhaps not a librarian position (which is difficult to obtain since many people stay in those positions for far too long). However, if someone wants to pursue LIS, then by all means do so. 

Edited by Shep

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There is almost nothing you can do with an MA in History without a Ph.D. also.  Unless you want to go into public History, then you can find jobs with an MA.  Public History is about the only History field that has much in the way of jobs, the rest of the field suffers from the same problems that most liberal arts fields do in terms of oversupply of Ph.D.s and not enough jobs for them let alone people with just MAs.

 

Shep is right. I currently work for government as a writer. I am very lucky to have my position and almost all of the people in my office have M.A. degrees. It's difficult to get hired on with the public service (where I live at least...) without a graduate level education of any kind. 

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Very interesting to read everyone's input on this topic. I had vaguely considered library school because I worked in interlibrary loan in college and really enjoyed it. I had a positive experience with my supervisors, who encouraged me to look for library positions when I graduated. I also have job experience working with music metadata. Since returning to my hometown almost five years ago, I have applied to nearly every library job that comes up- ones I am qualified for, anyway. These jobs rarely, rarely come up, despite the fact that my city has eight public libraries, a dozen university libraries, two law libraries, a library services center, and every suburb or nearby town also has their own library. They just never hire. People must get those jobs and hold onto them for dear life. I've taken the library page exam twice...after taking this exam, you are put into a "pool" of candidates, and nothing ever comes of it, other than your score is kept "on file" somewhere for 6 months. I applied for positions at a university library but was not eligible for the job because I was not a student. So after five years of applying for library jobs, I got ONE interview- for a super-part time, LTE circulation position- and the position was given to someone else. I seriously have no idea how people get library jobs. Is there a secret handshake? I was hoping to find something before I forgot everything I had learned while working in interlibrary loan, but now I haven't used any ILL software since 2010. So, this whole experience made me wary of going back to school for library sciences, because if it's hard enough to get a library job with the experience I have, I can't particularly see a degree helping me...and, if I can't find a position in a city with numerous libraries, what does the rest of the country look like? But most of all, I'm not willing to go into any more debt.

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Very interesting to read everyone's input on this topic. I had vaguely considered library school because I worked in interlibrary loan in college and really enjoyed it. I had a positive experience with my supervisors, who encouraged me to look for library positions when I graduated. I also have job experience working with music metadata. Since returning to my hometown almost five years ago, I have applied to nearly every library job that comes up- ones I am qualified for, anyway. These jobs rarely, rarely come up, despite the fact that my city has eight public libraries, a dozen university libraries, two law libraries, a library services center, and every suburb or nearby town also has their own library. They just never hire. People must get those jobs and hold onto them for dear life. I've taken the library page exam twice...after taking this exam, you are put into a "pool" of candidates, and nothing ever comes of it, other than your score is kept "on file" somewhere for 6 months. I applied for positions at a university library but was not eligible for the job because I was not a student. So after five years of applying for library jobs, I got ONE interview- for a super-part time, LTE circulation position- and the position was given to someone else. I seriously have no idea how people get library jobs. Is there a secret handshake? I was hoping to find something before I forgot everything I had learned while working in interlibrary loan, but now I haven't used any ILL software since 2010. So, this whole experience made me wary of going back to school for library sciences, because if it's hard enough to get a library job with the experience I have, I can't particularly see a degree helping me...and, if I can't find a position in a city with numerous libraries, what does the rest of the country look like? But most of all, I'm not willing to go into any more debt.

 

I also applied to academic and public libraries over a five year period after working in an academic library. I also worked in interlibrary loans, as well as other areas of the library! Anyways, I never had any luck even getting an interview. My friend also wanted to be a librarian, and applied everywhere in our city and only gained one interview, and was not hired. This experience alone, having trouble finding even a page position while a student with library and archive experience, shows how easy it is to be turned away from the profession. 

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I was very excited about starting school in Fall 2015 but this whole thread is super disheartening. I hope it all works out the way I want it to now since I'm locked in at this point.

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I was very excited about starting school in Fall 2015 but this whole thread is super disheartening. I hope it all works out the way I want it to now since I'm locked in at this point.

 

It is not impossible to get a librarian job! Just work really hard, search out experiences, and stay dedicated! 

Good luck. :)

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Wow, what a disgruntled person it is that started this thread.  I graduated relatively recently (2013) with my MLS and within six months was full-time employed in a library job, so it's untrue that there aren't any jobs and libraries are dying.  I don't think libraries are dying - I actually think they're at the start of a renaissance/rebirth, and the librarians I know are very passionate about what we do.

 

Here is my advice to people considering an MLS/MLIS/MIS/whatever your particular program calls it.

 

1. Know why you want to go to library school.  This should go for any graduate program, really, but I'd say that at least half of the people I went to school with didn't have any idea why they were there beyond "I like books!  I'll get my MLS and then I can be around books all the time!"  Not one of those people is actually employed in a library job today.  

 

The people who could give me a) the specific job they wanted to do when they graduated, B) the reason they wanted to do that, and c) a realistic perspective on how long it would take and how flexible they would have to be about geography are the people who are employed in libraries.  They're the people who are actually passionate about the values and ethics behind libraries, as opposed to the people who dithered and took classes in anything and everything and hoped it would show them as being "well-rounded."  Yes, I have friends who wanted to be archivists who are now employed as archivists.  It IS possible, but you have to work your ass off and be PASSIONATE about what you're doing instead of seeing it as something to do with an English/history/philosophy undergraduate degree.

 

2.  Work hard to get into an accredited, good program.  Yes, there are good programs and bad programs.  No, not everyone gets into the good programs.  If you get into a good program and play your networking cards right, it will open a LOT more doors for you than going to any old online school.  You want to be an archivist?  Great, join the student chapter of Society of American Archivists, run for office, and get stuff done while you're there.  Go to student socials, no matter how stupid or lame, because knowing as many people as possible in the field can only help you down the line.  Treat the two years you'll spend in a program seriously and don't just blow it off as a bunch of "grade school BS," because if you truly want to work in libraries, it's not.

 

3. Be active in the professional community!  I cannot stress how important this is, even when you're in school.  Join your state chapter of ALA as well as the national one - you'll make better connections there.  Figure out who you need to know and get to know them.  Even if you think social media is stupid, take part in conversations on Twitter and Tumblr - a lot of professional conversation takes place there for librarians of all disciplines.  Being a librarian is every bit as much about liking people as it is about liking books, and all the people I know who are the most successful at it are comfortable in social situations and enjoy talking to people.

 

4. Don't take on an unreasonable amount of debt to go to graduate school.  You probably already know that librarianship is not a six-figure-a-year profession.  THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS, despite what some disillusioned curmudgeons around here will tell you.  I'm way happier making as a children's librarian than I ever was in any job I had before I came to library school.  But it does mean you should carefully consider your financial aid package and work your butt off while you're in school to get any scholarships that could apply to you.

 

5. Most importantly, do not listen to embittered cranks like Shep, who are going to do anything and everything to drag you down and make you feel like librarianship is the worst field in the world to go into.  It is not for everybody and not everyone I knew in school is still active in the profession - but the majority of those people didn't go into the program knowing what they wanted to get out of it.  If you know what you want to do and are willing to work HARD for it, and if you can be happy without a six-figure salary, librarianship is a really rewarding career.  But in the current hiring climate, it is critical to know as many people as possible and outshine the competition in every way.  That includes having a true passion for what you're about to do - that shows loud and clear in job interviews, now that I'm sitting on the other side of the desk.  

 

Good luck whatever you decide to do!

Edited by notdisgruntled

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"Notdisgruntled,"  I believe I have just as much right to voice an opinion on this thread as you do.  However, name calling certainly doesn't make your argument any stronger.  I am not a curmudgeon, cranky, disgruntled, nor am I dragging anyone down.  I was simply stating a fact that came not only from my actual program, but several librarians in academia and public libraries around the country.  Yes, this caused quite a bit of disillusionment given that I had years of experience in the library field.  The cost was astonishing and quite frankly, the coursework was embarrassing.  However, that is more reflective of my program than all MLIS programs out there.  I do contend that this is not an actual degree, it should be a certificate and YES, librarians are becoming a dying breed.  Sure, maybe this field is experiencing a transformation, but into what exactly? I don't know and neither do you. 

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I graduated from the program at UIUC just a few weeks ago. I can't speak for those graduating from the online (LEEP) program, but many of my peers from the on-campus program have already secured employment in the field. Others have had interviews and I have no doubt they will be employed soon. Many people in the program chose to pursue an MLIS after completing a masters or PhD in another field and finding they could not secure employment. This seems to be the case in archives and special collections especially. 

 

That being said, it still is a competitive field. The people who were first in getting jobs worked in multiple campus libraries, presented at conferences, and lead student organizations in addition to excelling in their courses. This type of experience combined with a willingness to relocate seems to be the key in securing employment after an MLIS program. 

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