Ingram Blog

What I Wish I Learned in Library School

By: Briá Woods
August and September are the two months across-the-country during which we prepare for Back-to-School. What does Back-to-School mean for librarians? Specifically, our librarians in training headed back to graduate school. One of the messages we pride ourselves with here at Ingram Library Services is that we understand, “The Library Life Changes, Our Commitment Does Not.”  We chatted with Wendy, Becky, and Debbie, some of (Y)Our MLS- Degreed Librarians, to dive deep into the mind of librarians. Grab your index cards, red pens, and highlighters to take some notes on what they wished they had learned in library school.

What is something you wished you were exposed to in library school? 

“It’s been so long since I attended library school that it’s really hard for me to answer this question. The things that are most useful now were learned along the way, on the job.

But I guess it can’t hurt to mention that I wish that I had been exposed more to cataloging, metadata, etc. Those are super important issues for librarians, and I feel as though they weren’t treated with the importance they deserve when I was in library school. (It’s possible that this has changed by now…).” - Becky, MLS, Collection Development Librarian

A lot of articles discuss libraries facing new crises outside of cataloging. Any instructions you wish you had to prepare you for situations?

 “I would say more instructions on dealing with difficult yet common situations.  For example:

  • How do I deescalate a situation with someone who is upset?
  • How do I approach someone I think may be drunk or on drugs?
  • What is my obligation if I see a child mistreated?
  • How do I cater services to a population that has a lot of homelessness?"

"None of these are particularly 'library' questions, but you often end up a little shocked when you are on the job and realize how much of your time can be spent dealing with drama.  I think there are some library schools that are now offering some more practical courses, but I don’t think it is widely practiced.” – Wendy Rancier, MLS, Collection Development Librarian

We constantly mention that #TheLibraryLife is changing, but does library school support this narrative?


“I wish they had impressed on us how much the library world is changing daily.  What might have worked yesterday, last week (month or year)- is not going to work today, tomorrow or later.  You have to always be able to think outside the box because of those changes, to keep your patrons happy and informed.” – Debbie, MLS, Collection Development Librarian

Anything else you wanted to learn while you were in school?

“Another area would be navigating the political structure of libraries. 

  • How do I get my idea heard by the director? 
  • How can I justify my collection budget and argue for more effectively? 
  • How do you present an idea to your local government to get community support and funding? 

As all local governments are different, it would be difficult, but many librarians have to learn business skills through time and are given little training.” – Wendy

“Another thing is funding. You have to be ready to beg for money from anyone and be prepared to defend your decisions with numbers (statistics) at a moment’s notice.  Stakeholders can be a picky, finicky bunch!” – Debbie

 

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