Friday, September 16, 2011

How To Pick a Library School

The first thing you need to do is watch this video about why going to library school is a bad idea. And then you should watch the sequel, about library job hunting!

So, there is lots out there about picking a library school - most recently for me, a thread on reddit from someone who wants to go to library school, asking where people went. I suggested that people going to library school should not worry about school reputations (unless you're hearing terrible things and want to avoid it), because employers don't care where you went to school. And I stand by that.

Employers care about:
  • You having a piece of paper from an ALA-accredited institution
  • Your skills
  • Your experience
If you have a very specific area of interest (archives; specific data or information management interests), you should go to a school that will cater to that. But everyone does public libraries, children's libraries, cataloguing, etc. So if you just want to go to library school, don't spend a whole bunch more money to go to a "better" school because you think it'll give you an edge up. School names rarely do.

Also, I'm very familiar with the challenge of "I need library experience to get a job, but I need a job to get library experience." The best thing I did at Western, in terms of my career, was to participate in the co-op program. (My first job was with the consulting firm I worked for for my 2nd co-op term; I was eligible for a special hiring vehicle, bridging, for my current position because I worked for the Government of Canada for my first co-op term.) So take advantage of work experience opportunities. Take advantage of networking opportunities. If you're the kind of person who will do that, go to a school with a co-op program. But whether or not you'll use those programs is highly dependent on the individual, and most schools do have some kind of co-op stuff (in Canada, anyways).

Bottom line: Don't spend extra money to go to a "better" library school. In terms of your career, it doesn't matter what school you go to. You're going to learn on the job. Do some research, avoid library schools that have bad reviews from students, and maybe pick a school with subject matter depth if you have a specific interest. Other than that, you should probably go to the cheapest place you can.

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