Learning at Library School!
When I tell people I’m getting my Masters degree in Library Science, the reaction is usually, “you need a Masters to be a librarian?” Yes, you do! The art of finding information can be difficult, even complex, depending on the research topic. And there’s much more to being a librarian than just books! This past semester I completed 12 of the 36 credits for my MLS degree. I took the 4 fundamental, core requirements and, even though I have 5+ years of experience in a public library, as well as my current experience working in an academic library, I still learned quite a bit.
A little about the program: I’m in the Graduate Studies program of Library and Information Science at Queens College. Queens (and a few other institutions in New York) had a minor hiccup with their accreditation this past year, however, all is resolved and the program will be ALA-accredited until at least 2017. The program is 36 credits and offers certifications in School Library Media Specialist, Children and Young Adult Services, and Archives and Preservation of Cultural Materials.
The official titles for the classes I took are pretty lengthy, but essentially they circled around the following fundamental subjects: Reference and Research, Cataloging, Intro to Technology, and History of Librarianship. Of the four, Cataloging and Reference and Research were the most useful classes. In Reference and Research, we focused on different techniques for locating materials, how to conduct productive reference interviews, how to use reference guides, identifying reliable and accurate sources, and a few different approaches to teaching educational classes. It was a comprehensive class that covered all the basics of proper adult reference transactions (the techniques I learned in this class were particularly helpful to me as a Services Associate as it enabled me to conduct more productive material searches for students).
Cataloging was definitely a close second in its practicality, as I didn’t know much about the subject before the class. We learned a bit of the history of cataloging (how it evolved, the different types, etc.) and became very knowledgeable on RDA, which is the standard for instructional guidelines in cataloging. From there we moved to MARC21 formatting for bibliographic data. Although it looked intimidating at first, it’s a very comprehensive layout for constructing digital records. I actually quite liked it! When working with the data, you get a “behind-the-scenes” look at the makings of a catalog record and how each piece of information relates to the next. I love how systematic it is—if you love organizing data, cataloging is definitely for you!
Though I did not find my Technology class as useful as some of the other students (I already have a basic technology background), I am happy to see it is a required course. New librarians need to be versed in a variety of computer skills to help keep the profession moving forward and this class covered some of the most important ones. The main topics were how to create a database and how to create a website– both from scratch! We learned how to use Microsoft Access (a lost art, I think) to construct relational databases with information like ISBNs, item statuses, material availability, and patron demographics. Although it was tedious, and often annoying, it was a good way to get a foundational understanding of library information systems. Creating a webpage, and eventually a website, was much more enjoyable, partly because I’ve created websites before, and partly because I love coding and design work! It’s extremely gratifying to see all of these seemingly ordinary characters come together to create a working site. We started with text editor and worked our way up to Dreamweaver. We each presented our websites at the end of the semester and there was an overall feeling of pride and accomplishment at having created something so complex, yet fully functional!
The History of Librarianship was less rewarding but still compelling. The professor gave us an overview on the history of the library and the profession, from its inception to present day. It was interesting to see the gradual evolution of the establishment as a whole and how technology has exponentially increased this progression!
Next semester, I will be taking Collection Development, Science and Technology, Digital Libraries, and Systems Analysis and Design—bring on the technology!