Thoughts on “Back to School” for MLIS students

12 Sep

Back in School

Another school year has started and this time as a MLIS II, I feel myself sharing a lot of advice with the incoming first-year students.  Their biggest concern seems to stem from the fact that they are feeling overwhelmed and that they do not know what level of time commitment will be expected of them for their classes and assignments. If I learned anything over the past year it is that “you get what you give”.  In other words, you get out of your library school experience whatever you put into it. I would argue that it’s fairly easy to float through Library school without too much effort, but really, how boring does that sound?  Many professors have told me that grades will not be important once I am looking for a full-time librarian position. What will be important will be that I can demonstrate how I spent my time in the MLIS program developing skills that are vital to working in the library field.

This year, I am the president of the McGill student chapter of the ABQLA, I have two part-time jobs in two different types of libraries (public and academic), I am planning on doing a practicum and I have submitted a proposal to conduct a 6-credit research project.  I’m also planning on posting regularly on the BiblioBlond blog! There is no doubt that I will be a very busy person this year and so I might not have time to get through all of the books that I want to read or catch up to my friends who are on the third season of Mad Men.  But I will be learning the whole time and hopefully getting the most possible out of my experience as a student so that I will be a well-rounded, skilled librarian once I get out into the real world.

Being a MLIS student can be whatever you make of it, so I encourage all the new MLIS students to decide early on how you want to live your experience at library school. Good luck with this new stage in your life!

Top 5 tips for incoming students:

1)      Make friends with your fellow classmates!

– You will have more fun, trust me!

2)      Learn how to work in groups!

– There is a lot of group work which can be challenging so brush up on your team management skills! Check out books like Group Genius by Keith Sawyer or Time management for teams by Merrill E. Douglass.

3)      Remember why you wanted to be a librarian in the first place!

– It is easy to become disenchanted with classes and assignments. In order to not lose your passion, stay focused on the reason that first motivated to become a librarian.

4)      Attend visits by guest speakers!

-Throughout the year there will be many opportunities to hear information professionals speak about their experiences in the field. Attend these mini-conferences, ask questions and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself afterwards- These guest speakers could become valuable contacts!

5)      Get a part-time job in the field!

–  If you manage your time properly, the MLIS course load allows you the option of working part-time during your studies. Use your new contacts or subscribe to a  library job ListServ to find opportunities for part-time work. You will gain valuable experience and contacts in the library field and it might end up being more beneficial than what you learn in class!

4 Responses to “Thoughts on “Back to School” for MLIS students”

  1. maybee September 24, 2009 at 9:38 am #

    thanks for commenting on my blog, I can’t tell you how nice it is to know that some people are actually reading it! Knowing this I will try to keep it better updated. It’s also cool that I can now keep tabs on another “newbie” 🙂 I prefer blogging to facebooking I think…
    I hope I didn’t scare you off the “small town experience.” It really can be worthwhile. I get to do things that in a bigger library, bigger town, I would not have had the opportunity to dip in to. Also, my loneliness is also due in part to the fact that I’ve always been a bit timid. The best way to make friends when you’re new in town is to just ask someone out for coffee, or to an movie, or join a club… these wonderful pieces of advice are things that I know I should be doing, but it just takes me awhile to gather the courage. I’m getting there though.
    Anyways, for my next post I think I will be listing some pros and cons, maybe you will find it more helpful and less of a big “do not enter” sign.
    Good luck this year! You’re almost there!

  2. J. Kalinowski October 21, 2009 at 3:35 pm #


    I found your blog via a Google search. I’m curious how your experience has been so far at McGill, as I am strongly considering applying to McGill’s MLIS program for next fall. Currently I am in my sixth and final year of undergrad (yikes), and while I am not fluent in French, I know enough to get by. Adjusting to life in Montreal does not worry me; I am more concerned with the program itself. Any information you can give me of your impressions of the MLIS program and McGill in general would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!


    • Amanda Halfpenny October 21, 2009 at 4:48 pm #

      No problem! First off, from having spoken to librarians and other library school students, I get the strong impression that no matter what university you attend for a MLIS program the reactions are relatively similar. Now that I am in second year, I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoy my classes and my professors. I am taking Web Design, Information Literacy, Introduction to Knowledge Management, and the first part of a 6-credit research project. The classes and assignments interest me and the professors do a fantastic job at communicating the material. I feel that there is a good balance between theory and practical learning that will benefit me once I enter the workforce.

      However, had you asked me last year about my thoughts on the program, I might not have been so enthusiastic. The truth is, all library schools have a set course of required classes. These classes are supposed to give you a knowledge base for your second year by giving an introduction to key concepts in librarianship. These courses tend to be more theoretical and can represent a huge learning curve if you are not familiar with certain subjects. The satisfaction of completing this portion of the program is very rewarding!

      I came back to a masters program after having worked full-time for 3 years. I was not necessarily happy to give up my life in Quebec City to move to Montreal and return to the life of a student. However, any drawbacks that I’ve encountered are outshadowed by my excitement about becoming a librarian.

      On a sidebar, this past year, McGill was up for ALA reaccreditation, a process that all universities offering an ALA accreditated Masters program must go through to prove that they are still worthy. I attending a meeting with the reaccreditation committee and I found it reassuring to hear that all universities encounter similar problems and that the students are often frustrated about the same issues regardless of the institution. The ALA reaccreditation committee explained that what is important to them is how the institution deals with these problems and issues. Honestly, I think that McGill has done a fairly good job of dealing with problems that arise. They often introduce new classes to meet the growing interests in certain areas of librarianship and the professors are very friendly and are available to discuss a wide variety of topics with students.

      I hope that this helps!


  1. Tips for surviving library school – and possibly even having some fun « The Inspired Library School Student - September 14, 2009

    […] my first few weeks, then they could use some advice. First, take a look at Biblioblond’s Thoughts on “Back to School” for MLIS Students, where she lists her Top 5 tips for incoming students. Then, if you’re not afraid of slightly […]

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