Overall, I had a good library school experience. You know me, I’m not one to complain. But reading Meredith Farkas’ blog post about LIS education and training has got me thinking. Thinking, of course, leads to blogging. So, here we go.
In both my core courses and my electives, here’s some of what I learned and discussed in library school that I think is useful:
- How to do a reference interview (and how doing a reference interview is not the be-all and end-all of library reference);
- How to use print and electronic reference sources (and how to evaluate them);
- The theory of organizing collections of physical items and information;
- The theory of what information is and how people interact with it;
- The basics of DDC, LCSH, AACR2, MARC records and Dublin Core;
- The theoretical fundamentals of collection development and deselection;
- The ethics of information and how that relates to LIS, the ALA Bill of Rights and the ALA Librarian Code of Ethics;
- How to use Dreamweaver, Photoshop, and other commercial web design programs;
- A lot of business management jargon and theory;
- Library management frequently deals with a lot of non-theory stuff, like overflowing toilets and cranky patrons;
- How to write a resume and cover letter, and how to behave in an interview;
- How to evaluate a public library (based on librarian criteria).
On the other hand, here’s what I didn’t learn (or really discuss much):
- How to use the internet to its fullest–we didn’t even really talk much about the impact of the internet on library and information services, except in a very general sense in my Ethics class;
- How to evaluate an OPAC (or even why we should) and how and why we should change OPACs;
- How to evaluate any and all technologies;
- How to integrate and mash-up any and all technologies;
- How to use alternatives to big-name commercial software (like Open-Office.org, Nvu, The Gimp, etc);
- How to organize and implement individual projects;
- How to sell your ideas and services (to management and administration, to co-workers and to patrons);
- How to solicit, evaluate and implement patron input in libraries (and why we should);
- (And most importantly) Question Everything!
Few professors I had classes with knew much (if anything) about blogs, RSS, wikis, p2p and other current technologies. Maybe I was just taking classes with the wrong professors–but doesn’t that say something? Why should only the professors of technology-specific classes have a working knowledge of current technologies? And why were we not talking about this in classes?
And then there were comps. I had to pass my comps to graduate. Did comps test my mad librarian skillz? Nope. They tested my ability to retain and discuss what I had learned from my professors. In other words, I was tested on how good a grad student I was, not on how good a librarian I could be. I don’t know about you, but that seems a bit odd to me.
I don’t mean to harsh on my school. I liked my professors, I liked my fellow students, and I liked the majority of my classes. And I’m not saying I didn’t learn anything worthwhile. But really, there was a lot that I had to learn (and continue to learn) on my own, knowledge and skills that have a much more direct impact on my daily work. That seems kind of a shame.