Advice for Choosing a MLIS Program

A couple of weeks ago, someone asked in the ALA Think Tank about what MLIS program they should enroll in. They wanted to narrow down their search to a school that would allow them to do well in a museums and archives library. It didn’t take long for many people to answer her question in a few different ways and it got me to think about what made my Graduate program as San Jose State so successful for me. I thought I would share a longer post about my thoughts on getting the most out of your MLIS Program for your future career.

Don’t Pay Too Much!
I know a couple of librarians who paid to go to private institutions or otherwise very expensive schools to get their MLIS. I would advise you not to do this. The MLIS that you receive is pretty much the same no matter where you go and the big difference is the dept you have when you’re done. You probably won’t get paid more if you go to a prestigious school and the starting salaries for librarians are pretty sad. However, you might come out feeling well trained or that you got a good education, but most librarians I talk to and many of the ones that paid for those expensive schools said that they learned more in their first week on the job then their entire academic career. I would suggest (as sad as it is) to select your library program on price.

Meet People
So what do the big schools have to offer if they’re so expensive? Well, a lot of those schools have professors or other contacts within the profession that will help you out later in your career. For example, Pratt has John Barry and his words of wisdom and mentoring have helped more than one librarian I know out of that school. But I’ll tell you this, many of these same people go to conferences and other events where librarians gather and you’ll do just as fine meeting them there. So the money you save from not going to those expensive schools can take you to conferences around the country where you get the same perks and the option to meet even more people!

If you can’t afford that then I would suggest joining Twitter, youtube, starting a blog, joining the ALA Think Tank, or another Facebook group, and connect with people there. In the end though, I would always suggest that you back up your online persona with your real one so at some point meet people face to face.

Make It Happen
Still don’t have the money to get to conferences? No problem, start your own meetups and gatherings for librarians in your area. For example, in the Bay Area there are three Meetup Groups for librarians. There is the Bay Area Librarians Group, the Information Amateurs Social Club, and the Information Professionals Social Club that put on events. But beyond just meetups and socials etc… you should just generally try to make it happen wherever you go. If there is something that you think that profession needs, just go ahead a do it! For example, Andy Woodworth created the People for a Ben and Jerry’s Themed Ice Cream Flavor, a bunch of people in SLIS made a Librarians do GaGa video that gained them notice in the profession, and there many other example. Basically, I’m saying make something awesome happen!

Get Involved
Schools typically have a student chapter of the ALA or various other leadership opportunities that you can take part in. These kinds of things look great on your resume and show that you’re taking a serious interest in your profession beyond the day to day job. If they don’t have one of these you can make it happen and start one.

Find an On the Job Opportunity

I know a couple of folks who didn’t work at all during their SLIS program and once they got out where surprised to find that employers want someone with some kind of experience. Please, I’m begging you, if you don’t take any of my advice, at least take this one! If you don’t have library experience prior to enrolling in your SLIS program then you need to volunteer, do an internship, find a library job as a page, or at the very least offer to wash a library’s windows or something! Here is a cool tip BTW – go to your local elementary or highschool districts and offer to volunteer in their libraries. Many of these are closing and you might get some pro-points by voluntarily running one. This is a rocky subject because these libraries SHOULD NOT be run by volunteers, but at least both parties get a little something out of it. If there are school librarians on campus they are usually way over worked, way underpayed, and in some cases they are not even librarians so they are even way undertrained. This place is a goldmine for exciting work that can show how important libraries are to these communities of students (but that’s another blog post)

In end, let me just reiterate what I said at the beginning – It doesn’t really matter what school you go to, but what you do with your time there.

Governor Brown’s Proposed Budget for FY 12/13 has no money for public libraries

Governor Brown’s Proposed Budget for FY 12/13 has no money for public libraries. We’re asking the State Legislature to restore $15.2 million in funding.

You can help:

  • Register today to receive legislative alerts here
  • Mail or fax letters NOW to the members of the Senate and Assembly Budget Subcommittees on Education Finance and other key legislators listed here
    A sample letter can be found here
  • Go with other library advocates to visit your state legislators in their district offices during the months of March and April. You will receive another message soon with a link to the CLA member who is CLA’s legislative contact for each legislator responsible for making appointments. You can contact that person to learn the time and place of the appointment. Talking points for those meetings are on the CLA website here
  • Be sure to add what the impact on your community is of losing all state funds for libraries and the double whammy of losing federal funds because of lacking the required matching funds.

    Act today – You can make a Difference and Save State Funding for Public Libraries!

    Two Awesome Internet Things that Libraries Should be a Part of

    Last week I took a good look at two different websites that I think could help libraries out quite a bit. Take a look and tell me how you feel about it.

    Is a crowdfunded media buying platform that lets people spread the word about things that they think matter. They’re vision is “to transform the medium of advertising from one that primarily drives consumption to one of civic participation. What if we had more power to shape which messages were promoted on our streets? What if our billboards inspired us toward a future we actually wanted?”

    Basically, this is just like the Kickstarter website that I’ve written about except for advertising through various multi-media things billboards, radio commercials, televison ads, etc… Since, I know that libraries spend almost nothing on advertising everything awesome that we provide, this could be an amazing way to promote our stuff! All you have to do is put together a campaign, let your friends know about it, and hopefully get them to give a couple bucks to make it happen. My big complaint here is that there is no way to search the campaigns that are going on now. I wanted to search for library campaigns but I couldn’t find any. Its a brand new website so maybe that’s coming.

    “ Book last minute or plan ahead. Browse, reserve, and check in to space immediately at hip coworking venues, high-end business centers, or handy hotel lobbies or libraries. With LiquidSpace, choose a better space for what you need to do now.”

    In the Silicon Valley there is a huge movement towards these kinds communally available workspaces for local start-ups and business meetings. In fact, there are some businesses that cropped up that ONLY provide a comfortable workspace and what’s worse is that people are actually paying for what libraries already offer!

    Almost all libraries have rooms and workspaces available to the public for free but don’t have an efficient way to manage them. This would solve that problem since this also works as a great online room reservation system. There is a mobile app and a web version. I set it up for my libraries and it only took a couple of minutes. All you have to do is put your library or its meeting rooms on the website and people can reserve the meeting rooms, or they can find out about your library as a workspace in the community.

    These Kimbel Library Instructional Videos are Filled with AWESOME!

    So, I thought I had a good idea once. No, it wasn’t a jump to conclusions mat, it was a library CREATING content for their webpage. We talk a lot about libraries allowing users to create content, or re-purposing libraries as a space for our patrons to create, make, innovate, and as hacker spaces. But what about the librarians themselves creating informative content? I thought I was on to something awesome!

    I started with this thought when I came across some amazing YouTube videos. There was the one about the best way to tie your shoes, how to properly peel a banana, and most importantly about how to open a bottle of wine without a proper opener. It occurred to me that the library should be creating these videos that are informational and educational and present creative solutions to real everyday problems in our patron’s lives.

    Wow! I was really on to something. I was totally going to come up with something awesome that hadn’t been done before. This is totally going to help our patrons in a great way! They would use this, they would enjoy this, they would use our information in their day to day lives! I thought about presenting my idea to director, going for some kind of grant, using the patrons for video ideas (or even to create the videos), and eventually presenting my idea at conferences, writing articles, blogs etc… I realized that Fame, fortune, money, alcohol fueled parties with rock gods and movie stars, and houses on the Riviera!! It would all be mine AT LAST!! (Because that’s why I got into librarianship in the first place) But then…

    I saw this EFFING brilliant site posted to the ALA Think Tank page by Kyle Denlinger.

    Click image for AWESOME!

    I guess it’s all been done. Kuddos to you Kimbel Library… Kudos.

    My OTHER Super Fun Project!! The Story Sailboat

    In case you don’t know, my other passion besides libraries is sailing. As part of that passion I’ve always wanted to get paid for it like I do for libraries. Isn’t it fantastic to get paid for what you love doing? Anyway, in order to make that happen I need to get my Captain’s license and have a business to do my captaining from. So, about 4 years ago Joey Elle and I put together the beginnings of a non-profit. Unfortunately, life got in the way and I didn’t have access to a lot of the resources I needed to finalize it. Well, it looks like I almost do now! So I started it back up again with some changes thanks in large part to a lot of brainstorming with Andrea Davis.

    This non-library (but still kinda librarianish) sailing project is being blogged about on its own website but I thought I’d re-post this introductory one here in case anyone is interested in following that blog and our sailing adventures. It’s called the Story Sailboat.

    The Story Sailboat is an epic project to travel the world by sailboat collecting the stories of coastal people and relaying them to the world while providing literacy training to the local people. This project is being put together by Patrick Sweeney (PC Sweeney) and Joey Lehnhard (Joey Elle). You can follow Patrick and Jo on various Social Media if you want to see what else we’re doing in life besides just this but let me tell you a little more about the two of us

    Joey Elle
    Joey is a teacher in East Palo Alto at the 49ers Academy where she teaches seventh and eight grade math and science. For two years before taking her job in EPA she was working as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the country of Lesotho (South Africa) as a primary teacher trainer. She also worked with African Library Project to establish libraries throughout the country. She has her undergraduate degree in molecular genetics and her masters in education.

    Patrick Sweeney
    Patrick works for San Mateo County Library and manages the East Palo Alto and Portola Valley Libraries. He has worked in libraries since 2005. He is also a councilor for the American Library Association, writes a library blog at, and is involved in a far too many library-related projects. He goes by the name pcsweeney online and just about all of his work can be found by Googling that name. He has a masters degree in library and information science and an undergraduate degree in philosophy. He is working towards getting his USCG captain’s license this year.

    Our Boats
    We live on a Columbia 34 named Surprise Me Too in Redwood city that we are rebuilding and preparing for some sailing. While this will probably not be our final boat, we are learning as much as we can about what we need to know about the maintenance and repair of a boat on it. It’s also the cheapest way to live in the Bay Area.

    We sail a Santana 22 called Sailboat Jerry (named after Patrick’s favorite rum). This boat is strong, in great shape, and ready to take us all over the bay area. Patrick purchased it from Spinnaker sailing and it was one of their school fleet of boats meaning it has been well taken care over the years. If you learned to sail from Spinnaker Sailing then you might have sailed our boat!

    Patrick used to live on Coronado 27 that was called Surprise Me (hence, the naming of the Columbia to Surprise Me Too). That boat took him and his friends on many adventures around the bay and was his first serious bay boat. It was traded for the Columbia because the owner of the Columbia wanted a smaller boat.

    Before that, Patrick and Jo owned and sailed a string of various small sailing dinghies ranging from Snark (made by Cool) to a wonderfully fun Lido 14. We’ve also sailed a wide range of larger boats all over California.

    The Journey Begins

    We have a long way to go and many different things we need to do before we are actually ready to set sail for good on this journey. So, this blog is going to be about everything we have to do to get ready to go. We are going to review the boats we are sailing, document the work we put into our boats, the resources we use to get Patrick his Captain’s License, the sailing equipment we learn about, our trial runs at collecting great stories, and also our sailing adventures as they happen. There is so much to do and we’d love to take you on our journey with us so follow us here or on Facebook!

    LibraryLab – Library Boing Boing is up and Running!

    ALA Happy Mutants Rejoice! Library Boing Boing is here with its inaugural post! This is something that I’m very excited about, but haven’t had a chance to be as involved in as I originally would have liked (sorry Jenny and Jason). Basically, the amazing and wonderful Jenny Levine from ALA put together an opportunity to post to the great website using the name Librarylab. The content will be based around libraries and exposing all of the amazing things that libraries do for people on a non-library based forum (which you know I support).

    Proposed Mission:
    To bring librarians and Boing Boing readers (aka, Happy Mutants) together to generate support for and raise interest in libraries via projects at local libraries.

    Proposed Goals:
    • Help find and propose content about libraries that could be posted to Boing Boing.

    • Provide active ways for Happy Mutants to support and get involved with their local libraries (eg, toolkits, best practices, ideas for local projects).

    • Create dynamic programming at library conferences that Library Boing Boingers can then take outside of the library community to promote libraries (eg, SxSW, local community events, etc.).

    • Work together to help Happy Mutants advance our shared interests (eg, copyright reform, net neutrality, game culture, digital divide issues, open government, etc.).

    • Coordinate an international community of librarians working with their own Happy Mutant groups.

    It’s being organized though the ALA Connect medium and you can join the backchannel discussion there. Jason Griffey and Jenny did an amazing job getting the folks together who did all of the background work and laid the foundation. But now, it’s time to get content and that’s where you come in! We’d love to hear what kinds of things your excited about in libraries that you think the world should know about. Have a great maker story from the library? A new library technology or innovation that you think the Happy Mutants would love to hear about? A thought on how folks can connect to the library in a new ways that people should know about? Tell us about something you think should be up on Boing Boing and see it up on the blog!

    This Facebook Ad Campaign Might Save Your School Library

    John Chrastka is a BOSS! This is a guest post from him about his campaign to get signatures on the White House Petition on School Libraries

    On Wednesday, January 25th, a call went out for donations to help support a targeted advertisement via Facebook in support of the White House Petition on School Libraries. Quick creative, keywords, and copy were built about the petition and fielded to an initial audience of 3.8 million people. By 10pm that evening, 34 individual donors pledged $1,250 in support of this outreach. The initial ad targeted Facebook users people who have keywords on their profiles indicating that they were supporters of libraries, reading, and books, or were professionally involved in the library field. From 2pm CST on 1/25 through 2pm CST on 1/27, the ad was seen at least once by 255,000 people.

    It quickly became apparent that the funding could be used for more targeted advertising to a wider audience. Within the first 24 hours, ALA’s Office for Library Advocacy created a special post on the I Love Libraries Facebook page to support this project. By Friday at Noon CST, five new ads with extensive, targeted keywords were fielded to the following groups out among the public: Libraries, Books and Writing, Education, Parents, and Friends of I Love Libraries Fans. A 6th group, ‘Civic Minded’, is ready to roll in case we need it. This phase of the campaign has a potential audience of 44 million people and will direct them to the special ILL page. The keywords and creative for this phase are attached and available to you open-source for future use in local, statewide and regional campaigns.

    As the campaign wraps up after February 4th, a full set of statistics about the efficacy of these keywords will be available for you to benchmark your own projects.

    This ad campaign is not the only thing helping this petition along nor is it the only driver. We could have $10k to spend but with our run way we need word of mouth and friends and family to help us deliver as well. We have 7 days (through Feb 4) to make it happen across the library ecosystem as we use our networks to get the word out. Help light a fire yourself by posting and sharing the petition and the I Love Libraries FAQ.

    Thanks to Jaimie Hammond for her social media skills and creativity, Marci Merola at ALA OLA for her leadership on ESEA reauthorization and school libraries, and the ALATT crew for stepping up when it is needed.

    Thanks to PC Sweeney for the guest post. (no John, Thank you!)

    John Chrastka | |

    Librarians, Tell Amazon to Piss Off And Go Buy Nooks!

    Libraries need to get away from Amazon and Kindles and jump on board with Nooks. I’m not saying this for any reason except that Barnes and Noble is a much better company for libraries to partner with. If you want to see reasons why you shouldn’t bother with Kindles, then you should watch this video from Sarah Houghton But I’m not going to make that argument myself. I’ve had enough with all that. Instead I’m going to tell you all the reasons that I loved working with Barnes and Noble to get our eReader lending program going with a collection of Nooks. I’m not even going to defend the collection itself (I’ll do that in another post)

    First of all, this whole thing started because someone just called my library one day and offered us $4,000 from a Cable Co-Op grant for no good reason at all. They just wanted us to use the money for some kind of technology. I offered the idea of eReaders and they went for it. Not only did they go for it, but so did my administration (since they didn’t have to pay for it anyway).

    Click here for Sacramento PL's Guide to Nook Lending
    So, I spent about 6-7 months procrastinating and watching the eReader environment play out for a while and it didn’t look like it was going well. The Kindles/Overdrive/Amazon/Publishers debacle was killing my enthusiasm for the project. I researched what I thought was everyone’s experience with Amazon and Kindle because using those was my original intention. Buffy Hamilton told me about her experience with Amazon and so did a bunch of other librarians. They had everything from really positive experiences to really bad ones. Soon, I realized that the very bad stories started to outweigh the positive few and I was getting worried. I started to HATE this project and put it off even longer.

    Finally, I found out about Sacramento Public’s Nook Lending collection at the California Library Association Conference and I spent some time watching their presentations and talking to the Barnes and Noble reps that were there. They were enthusiastic to work with libraries and librarians to put these collections together. They had ideas and wanted to share them. They spoke candidly and told me all of their concerns with the pressure from publishers and what I should expect in the future.

    A couple of weeks later I called my local Barnes and Noble and I got exactly the same treatment! I couldn’t believe it! I was guided to the closest Barnes and Noble with a Community Relations Manager (CRM – Key word to me being “Community”) who then guided me through the whole process of ordering the maximum number of Nooks I could order, while balancing with gift cards for the purchasing of eBooks from the website. They are even coming to our library to give my staff a hands-on training on how to use the Nooks. They even went so far as to offer to teach classes to the public about how to use the Nooks! To say I was impressed was an unimaginable understatement. I know they’re just trying to sell more Nooks, but they won me over! Also, they bought me and the employee that I brought with me a coffee. Nothing buys a librarian’s love like free coffee.

    If you want to start a Nook collection, call your local Barnes and Noble and ask to speak to a CRM (Community Relations Manager). If your experience is half of what mine was, this would make them the best vendor on the planet.

    Got the MLIS? How do you go from paper to interview?

    I spent some time reviewing some applications with a written question and answer portion for a position in our library system a couple of weeks ago and it got me thinking about all of the times that I have done this as a manager. The most difficult applications to apply to, and for me to review are those with a couple of questions to answer. But then again, those are the best for you to get your foot in the door. If there aren’t any essay questions, there is always the cover letter. In either case, I’m going to give you a list of the things you can do that will put you ahead of the majority of the applications for librarian positions that I have read. I’m partly doing this for you, but also because when a position opens in library land, there are hundreds of applications that the management team and HR have to wade through so I’m writing this, in part, for the sake of their sanity (and mine).

    Be positive
    When you’re answering an essay question or writing a cover letter, this is your first impression to your future employer. I want to hire happy people! Everyone I know wants to hire happy people! I mean, even McDonalds wants to hire happy people! And, because you’re deciding to work in a library, I know that you MUST be a happy person. So, when you write, make sure you use positive language. Don’t speak negatively of previous employers, bash co-workers, or even generally complain about anything. I want to hear about why you are so excited and happy to be applying for this position that you couldn’t possibly even think of anything negative while the option of working here may exist for you. I know we all have bad days, I know you’ve had jobs that were horrible, I know you’ve worked for horrible bosses or with horrible co-workers. But I want to also know that you don’t dwell on those things and won’t bring that into our workplace.

    Be passionate or at least sound excited
    You’re applying for a job! There is actually a job out there in library world for which you are able to apply! You should be excited! You should be thrilled! That should come through in the way that you’re answering the questions and writing your cover letter. You can even mention how excited you are to be applying, or talk about how passionate you are about Anime or Innovative Services to Teens or Database research. Whatever it is, be excited about it! If you’re applying for a library job and you’re not excited about it, I’m begging you, please don’t apply!

    Answer the question
    Ok, listen to me on this one. Listen very closely! Answer the freaking question. No, really… I’m begging you! This alone will put you so far ahead of most of the applicants that it is absolutely ridiculous. Especially if the question is something like “name a time when you had a conflict,” or “or talk about a time you couldn’t answer a question.” The point of questions like these is to see that you critically thought about where you might have failed, where you succeeded, or what you would do given the opportunity to do either. If you said that you did XYZ, but learned that you made a mistake and after thinking about it, researching it, or talking to supervisors or peers, you realized that should have done ABC, and then talk about why, YOU WILL WIN! Or if you did it the right way the first time and then explain why you believe you did the right thing, YOU WILL WIN! Or, if you’ve never had a conflict with a fellow employee or patron, but explain what you would do if you did and show that you are capable conflict resolution (for example), YOU WILL WIN!! Here is an example of what not what to write.

    Question- Name a time when XYZ
    Your answer – I have never had that happen.

    This is a fail. But it is a fail that we see in interviews and in writing all the time. Never answer like this. If you’ve never had that happen, tell me why you think that is, or what you would do if it ever did happen.

    Don’t employ exceedingly grandiose terminology
    I know you’re smart. I’ve seen your resume/application, I know what schools you went to, I should have an idea about your education level. I also have a hundred other applications to get through in the next two hours. If I have to get out the dictionary to get through yours, your application will find the garbage can even quicker. The best thing you can do is answer the questions or write the cover letter efficiently and effectively. I don’t need a lot of frills or language. I need to get a good strong answer that gives me a good picture of what kind of person you are and that you have the ability to give me the information I need. I’m also getting a clear picture of the kind of person you are through your writing, if you write like you have something to prove, then I’m not going to believe that you think you can do the job. Also, because you work with the public, I want to know that you can communicate with the public.

    Have it Reviewed
    This is important too. Mitsakes you make when witing a answer to an question show that you don’t take the care or time to want to make the job. There is no shame in having someone review your answers if you can. Always take that opportunity. I know that I have a large group of peers that I rely heavily on for reviewing what I write when it comes to more professional writing than my blog. There is nothing worse than having to struggle through a poorly written application. I always feel bad for the person. I think, don’t these people have friends? If not, why not? But sometimes its hard to find friends. In which case, get on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or even Myspace and ask around. Someone will most likely help you out. If you are a librarian and have no other friends and need someone to review your application, I might even be able to help (maybe).

    Don’t write too much
    This is simple, please don’t write a long overdrawn essay when a paragraph will do just fine. Unless they are asking for a one page essay, this is a cover letter, or there is only one question to answer, I would always try to keep things to somewhere around ten sentences. Just like in college, you don’t get extra points for writing more than what the professor asked for. If they ask for one page, please only write one page. The extra time I have to spend reading your three page essay, when I still have 100 more essays to read that same day, will make me want to kill kittens with bags full of puppies.

    Don’t write too little
    Don’t write to little.

    Don’t bullshit the answer
    If you don’t have a good answer, don’t lie about it. Typically, it’s pretty easy to tell if you’re telling a BS story or not. The better route, as I talked about in the answering the question part of this blog, is to say what would happen if you did have an answer. So, for example, if you never worked at the reference desk, but the question is about answering reference questions, you can say that you have never done reference work, but if you had a reference question to answer, you would do it through doing the following steps (and then outline the steps to answer a reference question). Or, if there is no question to answer and this is a cover letter for a job you’ve never worked, you can say that if you had the job you would do XYZ as well.

    Here is an extra tip
    All of these tips also work in the interview. Now get out there and Make It Happen.

    Battledecks at #calibconf 2011, the Slides, the Video, the Awesome

    Here are the slides and video (thanks to Marie Slim) from the California library association 2011 conference in Pasadena. Thank you to everyone who made this whole thing happen! The Winner was Glen Warren who took the championship away from last year’s winner, Lori Bowen Ayre. The competition was fierce, the battle was epic and the winner was clear. This year’s champion received the Gold Microphone and a t-shirt of their choice from the Library Advocacy Store.