Day 14: Turn Your Blog Over to Your Readers
In this post, I’m supposed to turn my blog over to you by asking you to answer a question. This one is actually something I’ve been thinking about for a while and am curious to hear other people’s answers.
I frequently get asked what courses I wish my library school had offered. And while I have my own answers (marketing and project management), I’d love to know what you wish your library school had taught that they didn’t. It could be an entire course on that subject or it could just be a subject that you wish had been a component of a class you’d taken (like budgeting in a management course or marketing library services to faculty in a course on academic librarianship).
So, what do you wish had been offered at your library school?
What do I wish I had been offered at library school? More reviews of budgeting and accounting. More hands-on learning in teaching courses would also have helped.
First I would have liked classes that focused solely on teen librarianship. Secondly, all the children’s librarian classes at my school focused mostly on school librarianship and had very little emphasis on public children’s librianship. I would have liked at least one class that focused on public.
Grant Writing and Writing For Publication
My school had a class on project management, and I wish I had taken that one. I took three courses in the management series (including one that focused on finance and human resources), but there was little there that I did not already get from my MBA program (focusing on governmental finance) and experience.
While I loved the collection development class, and learned a lot in it that I apply in my job (I select all our audiobooks and children’s literature), I wish they had dropped the section on the Patriot Act (more appropriate for a management course, in my opinion) and focused more on weeding and on approval plans.
The Real World. Most of my classes focussed on “best of all possible world” scenarios (eg, you had unlimited budget for salaries or all the teachers collaborated or your reference collection was up-to-date) rather than how to do your job well workarounds.
Having gone to school just after Netscape’s IPO and before blogs or anything 1.0 (I think I came in at .5 beta), I can’t say I wished we’d focussed on this stuff. But had these classes been around, I’d probably be saying the same thing: how can I blog/twitter/create a web page/podcast/whatever in the real world of filters, policies (school or district), content management systems, etc.?
I was in library school back in the days of black Apples. (I bet most people have no idea what those were!) I wish the school had taught courses on library management. I wish I had learned how to start a library from scratch (something I did twice in my career) as well as how to move a library (which I did four times). Oh…and how to read and negotiate vendor contracts. We were taught how to work in a library, but not how to run a library. And what was my first job? Managing a library!
Anything useful and not archaic. Teaching and pedagogy would have been helpful. Presentation and academic writing skills. Basic Programming.
Budgeting & accounting, PCs (although it was the days of Apple IIc and IIe) as I didn’t know anything about them until I started work and managing your managers.
How to make a case for a trial project or new service or similar — basically how to get past the “50 reasons not to change”. Both the formal stuff and some discussion of the, ah, social side of getting things done.
More IT stuff would have been brilliant except I remember how much trouble people had with the little IT stuff we did do, so I’m not sure how that could have best been managed.
What I wished my library school taught: I was fortunate to have an internship along with course work, but not everyone graduating the program left with experience. I think it should be required to have some apprenticeship/internship opportunity; in either public, academic, or special libraries. School media has their practicum – why not the rest of us? Putting our theory into practice, working with knowledgeable staff, and serving patrons should happen before we set out… of course many in library school are already working in libraries in some capacity – maybe that should count for some credit, too.
I’d have loved to learn more about project management. And that I’d taken a programming class or several – at the time I was too intimidated by the “real” techies and didn’t see the relevance to what I thought I’d end up doing.
I’ll add to the call for the teaching of reality as opposed to some pie in the sky ideal concept of what a library should be. But added to that is the fact that we need to teach that once you graduate you are NOT a librarian. You are a potential librarian and in five years (if you work alongside good people who take a lot of their own time and invest it in you) you will know enough to start calling yourself a librarian.
This has less to do with what I wish I had learned, because due to a misspent youth I managed to spend a lot of years as a library pleb before I became a librarian. And I learned more of what I use in my job from crusty old librarians (and technicians) and by being locked in a basement and forced to mend copies of Concrete Fancier’s Monthly from 1953 than I learned from my uni.
It has more to do with the unreal expectations of graduates I have worked with. Expectations that they know all they need to know, that they will be running the place by Wednesday. Add to that a failure to understand the workloads of the technicians and assistants they work alongside.
It’d be great if unis could turn out fully formed (ready to work) librarians, but in reality it can’t be done, so perhaps a subject where you teach the students that they know very little and are going to have to “rely on the kindness of strangers”
Interesting, my library school (University of North Texas) actually taught courses in many of the topics mentioned above, and I was fortunate enough to enroll in some of those courses. I wish I had learned more in library school about library services for those with disabilities and special needs – I think this should be emphasized more in library school.
I’m sad that some of the classes I really wanted to take/skills I wish I’d learned didn’t come around during the four semesters I was in library school–archives and indexing & abstracting.
I know this may sound goofy, but I also wish that I’d come out of it fluent in either LC or Dewey–that like a law or medical school student, that I’d had to learn and memorize something important to my trade. In addition to being able to being able to point someone to the right spot for browsing, without having to look it up, I think it would have given me a better big picture of library organization. And it might also have facilitated me as a reference librarian being able to have better conversations with catalogers instead of sometimes feeling stupid, frustrated, and dependent.
Same goes for programming. In addition to learning GUI interfaces, I would have loved to have had to deep my toes into the command line. That would have helped me have better conversations with systems librarians instead of sometimes feeling stupid, frustrated, and dependent.
Computer classes that hit the mid-range. There was one on one help for How to Attach a Document to an Email and there were advanced classes but very little basic programming.
A real indexing/taxonomy course that looked at current trends.
A course that actually used various ILS systems.
Less school media classes–half to three quarters of the offerings every semester were school media/children’s focus. I’m told it’s gotten more variety since I graduated, so hopefully it’s getting better.
Classes on managing multimedia resources.
I would have loved a required class in instructional design. My library school now offers an elective in it, but they didn’t 10 years ago when I graduated.
Project management would have also been extremely helpful as would conflict management and change management.
Customer Service principles would have also been very helpful as part of a larger class on how to interact with patrons – whatever type of library.
To echo Abigail, I’d also have liked to take a class that looked at the ILS. I also wish I’d been able to take the instruction class, but I couldn’t fit that in.
In general, I think that I got a good library education in my program, but there were a couple of things I wish I could take (and either didn’t or couldn’t) back when I got my MLS in the late 1990s, When Dinosaurs Roamed the Earth…
Management–specifically, the HR/Personnel, budgeting, and Leadership components like project management(you know, herding cats…)
Fundraising. Grantwriting. Friend-raising. Donor relations. Event planning. Each of these becomes more important over time for me, and the learning curve is steep.
I just finished my last semester of library school and I already wish I had learned more about:
1. IL Systems. We didn’t look at these at all, really.
2. More about cataloging. Our cataloging class was taught by a copy cataloger who had no grasp on the whys and wherefores of cataloging.
3. More advanced BI techniques and tutorial design.
I was lucky enough to take a fundraising and a management course in my program. And I am luckier than a lot of my fellow students in that I have real world library experience.
Our “library Management” class has a syllabus that hadn’t been changed since 1976. It would have been interesting to work with more up-to-date guidelines. Also, our Library Instruction class was mostly focused on developing online tutorials, whereas it would have been far more useful to develop skills in presenting 40-50 minute one-shot in-person instruction sessions.
Also, cataloging wasn’t required, and with all the other pertinent classes I wanted to take, I admit I skipped it. 36 hours didn’t seem like enough.
I wish I would have had some sort of overview of how libraries are organized. Not the books, but how different library systems organize and budget for their branches and how staff report to one another. I think this is the most confusing thing about entering a big system. I know everyone does this differently, but some practical examples would have been nice.
I agree with Jenna, who wished for memorization of Dewey or LC. Of course, while I was in school I would have thought it was a waste of time, but boy would it be useful! I had only worked in one library and knew things more by “location” than call number. I got to my first Librarian job and found my coworkers had the whole system memorized!
A side note, I think the most interesting and useful class I had was offered online and talked about all of the different automation systems and compared/contrasted their features. Also, the basic nuts and bolts of networks. Now, when I want to throw my computer across the room because I can’t find something in the catalog, I know a few reasons WHY all automation systems are imperfect tools.
I would have liked more on teaching – one of our assignments involved writing a teaching plan, but with little or no instruction provided as to how. I had to teach three classes recently and had no idea how to structure them. Basic programming and ILS, as mentioned by others, and cataloguing. Cataloguing was an optional subject which I was unable to take because it clashed with another (compulsory) subject. I’m familiar with Dewey but haven’t a clue about LoC (even though the library I currently work in uses it). I don’t have a clue about cataloguing or interloaning. Collection management would have been useful too.
Memorize DDC or LCC?
I imagine you mean the main schedules of LC (less than 26) and perhaps you mean to the 2nd level of DDC (100 classes) but if you really mean memorize all of DDC or LCC then except for the rare idiot savant who happens to have a love of bibliographical classification that is simply an impossibility.
And what would you do when they changed? Because they do. Slowly, yes, which is a good thing. And what about when you move to a library which didn’t reclass their items that had been affected by schedule changes? Reference works–which in essence is what the schedules are–exist for very good reasons.
Perhaps learning to appreciate that would have been a useful undertaking instead.
While I don’t like the way some of what ADHD Librarian wrote–do we have to get into who or what defines librarians again?–I agree with the gist and especially this: “perhaps a subject where you teach the students that they know very little and are going to have to “rely on the kindness of strangers”.”
Which also goes to Jenna’s comment about having become “fluent in either LC or Dewey.” Again, simply not a possibility. Most catalogers will spend a lifetime without ever becoming fluent in the entirety or half or even quarter of either. If one is lucky they get to specialize in a few areas in which they also have expertise (or a good education) and they can become fluent in that small part.
Learning to think, analyze, and realize what you do not know, how to learn, and where and who to turn to are far more important skills than memorizing a classification schedule or becoming fluent in one in such a short period. And what is stopping you now if you believe it even possible?
Back to ADHD: The same could be said of every single program, major, profession, etc. School’s only produce potential anythings in the sense that you mean.
Sorry for being so negative sounding but, in the end, I guess I answered Meredith’s question [with a twist] and I hadn’t even set out to do so.
you ask “do we have to get into who or what defines librarians again?”
and I say yes, that’s always fun.
Or at least I always find it fun, which is possibly not the same thing.
But, I came back to comment again because one of my staff today was talking to a student who had aspirations of working in a library. Her suggestion was a Library Technicians course because she thought it was a more practical education and she wished she’d done that one rather than the Grad Dip.
(noting that I’m talking from the Australian context, which has subtle differences from that of the US)
Yes, ADHD Librarian, there are certainly differences between these contexts.
And I do think defining can have value (and can be fun), but I have also recently come to appreciate the limits of definition, which are far greater than most think. But my biggest complaint is because of the recent (and perennial) discussion in liblogs. Even if we (the degreed librarians) could agree that would have no impact on what our users think a librarian is. Thus, a waste of time.
I do value my MLS–heck, I even stayed for a 2nd 40-hour LIS degree–but my reasons have little to do with why many others value it. I do not believe that it [US-version anyway] provides anything like most think that it does.
If I could have made a living as a library tech I would have stayed one. And I can assure anyone that my skills, knowledge and attitude would have been the equivalent of any degreed librarian’s, and far greater than many.
All that said, I do think you made the best and wisest contribution here in that we need to know we don’t know it all. 🙂
My program had many of the above mentioned courses like project management and also looked at specific topics like communities of practice, information literacy and information for development. What i missed was a course on philosophy as i think this is important for librarians. Also even if the latest developments are included, lecturers need to show the practical applications more often for the courses.
Well, this is a very interesting collection of suggestions! It seems like a lot of people would like to have gotten better training in the sort of work managers have to do (budgeting, project management, selling/implementing ideas, dealing with reporting structures, etc.) as well as in technologies beyond the very basic computer/Internet/design classes. I’m glad to see that a lot of other people missed out on instruction classes and it wasn’t just me. I know the instruction class at my school was very much geared towards K-12, so wasn’t of much use to someone like me who wanted to go into academia. I would definitely have appreciated a more academically-focused instruction course.
Wow, I think I feel a lot better about the Intro to IT class I taught, as it hit a lot of the points people are asking for, and will hit a couple more if/when I teach it again.
I’ll add a tick-mark under the “better management” box. My management class was a total waste, and I feel the lack daily. Project management I’m reasonably okay on (thanks to a really good systems-analysis class), and to my vast surprise I seem to be fairly decent at leading meetings and committees, but what I don’t know about budgeting, grant-writing, and library human resources would fill several libraries.