I read with interest Nicole and Jennifer‘s thoughts about library school. I’m a little less than halfway through my program, so I can’t offer the same insights. In general, everyone is in agreement about the convenience of online classes. I couldn’t work full time if I didn’t go to class (mostly) online. And in this job market, one has to have experience- so working would be a must even if I didn’t need the money (but how many people can afford to go to school and not work anyway?)
Why is my experience different?
The uber teacher
My experience has been vastly different from Nicole and Jennifer’s, though. There are many reasons why, although I think the biggest reason is the director of the Omaha program, Becky Pasco. The fact that we can meet with Becky face to face is a bonus, to be sure, but she’d be fantastic even if we never got to meet her. She sends upbeat email to her students, she responds to email quickly, she takes to heart suggestions from her students, she keeps content of courses new and fresh, and she draws other talented teachers to her. Oh, if only every library school could have a Becky Pasco of their very own.
Of course, the fact that I’m not REALLY a distance student has a lot to do with my positive experiences as well. For those that don’t know, the way the program works is, we get our degree from the University of Missouri of Columbia, but many of our classes are held in Omaha, Nebraska once a month. Once a month turns out to be a nice frequency of classes- not so much that it gets in the way with the rest of my life that often, but often enough it keeps me on track and in touch with my peers.
Because the program is distance but not really, it is strongly supported by the Nebraska library community. I’ve had lots of support from work in going to school- my boss has been willing to modify my schedule so I can get homework done. Coworkers from all parts of the library ask how my classes are going. Just about every class I go to, there are guest speakers from libraries all over Nebraska. One class, special libraries, had us traveling all over to visit different kinds of libraries. It’s really amazing how many people I’ve met- and for someone just starting out, that’s almost as valuable as the education itself.
Good core classes
I’m pretty happy with our required classes. I’m a cusp student- they changed the requirements right as I was joining, so I no longer have to take Research Methods or Cataloging. I’m not sure I agree with this – I took Cataloging anyway, and am glad I did, but am not sure if I’ll find a place for research methods. These are the other core classes I have to take:
- Introduction to Information Technology – I’m in this right now, and I’m learning a lot. It’s sort of a catch all intro to the history of computing, ILS’s, OPACS, HTML (I breezed through that part,) information organization and retrieval, ranking, etc. It is a nice foundation course for all things technical in libraries. It’s made me really want to take a course on ILS’s, which I probably will next semester.
- Organization of Information – I don’t actually have to take this one, since I took cataloging. I’m still not sure on whether I will, there are two other classes I’d like to take as well.
- Foundations of Library and Information Science – A one credit course covering the history of libraries. It was… ok. just ok. I finished it in the car (I printed all the reading and quizzes out) on the way back from a trip.
- Managing Collections & Access – Have not taken yet, I’m looking forward to this one.
- Reference Sources & Services- I’m in this now. I have to say, I’m still confused as to how a reference librarian does what she/he does. I keep expecting some magical bit of information. I think most of that will come from observation. We read the book “Ambient Findability” for class- awesome!
- Management of Information Agencies – This was an awesome course, my first in library school, and taught by Dr. Pasco herself.
We are also required to take a practicum, which I’m happy about.
A big part of the reason I don’t mind library school much is probably the fact that it’s all new to me. I’d like to get the opinion of some library veterans who are in the Omaha/Missouri program and see if it is the same for them. I’ve only been working in a library 3 months longer than I have been in library school.
How to make it better?
The main thing I think is needed for a successful online school experience is teachers that are:
- Truly devoted to libraries AND library students- not the last generation, but the next generation.
- Truly devoted to distance education.
A good administration is useful, but a bad administration can be overcome. I think a lot of the time my school really struggles against the distance program. As an example, every time I call for help with a screwup on my bill (happens every semester) I’m told to stop into the office. When I tell them I live in Nebraska, it takes them a minute to recover. A lot of the policies in place are really geared towards on campus students- they haven’t really thought what it means to follow the same policies as a distance student. BUT- I’ve had a lot of great teachers, and a lot of great help. All in all, it’s been a great experience.
Now I’m just hoping I won’t have to eat my words. :)