I know it’s been a few weeks, but I wanted to share a few of my reflections from the orientation held for all University of Maryland iSchool students entering the program this year.
The most incredible thing, and it’s something that I’ve touched on before, is the sheer variety of people, their previous expertise and what they plan to do with their career. I’m leaning toward working in an academic library right now, and that’s reflected in the fact that I’m pursing my Master of Library Science. But at UMD, there is also a Master of Information Management and a Master of Human-Computer Interaction, not to mention the doctoral program. Orientation brought all of these disparate students into one room and introduced us to each other. Being an online student means I’ll likely never see these students again, but it was exciting to learn about all the diverse interests that make up the iSchool and to hear from the professors of these incredible programs. The event really served to bring up my excitement level after a boring summer of waiting for school to begin.
John Bertot, the director of the MLS program, gave us all a pep talk aimed at refuting recent claims by a certain media organization that the MLS was the world’s worst master’s degree for getting jobs. There is a literally a firestorm of counter arguments from librarians across the spectrum, but I’ll just cite this one and let you find the rest (I am a budding librarian who believes part of learning to search is doing it yourself!). Dr. Bertot, while not denying that it is a difficult field and one that doesn’t make a ton a money (though it is roughly $20,000 more a year than journalists make), told us what he expected of us as the future of librarianship:
“We need you to be the next generation of leaders who will help the field transition to its new form.”
And that’s something I am all for. With my recent post about the field always being in beta, it’s no wonder that I support the idea that it needs to transition. And on the metro to where I was staying for the night, I spent an hour discussing with an on-campus student also heading home just how we go about making that happen. We both concluded that it was an exciting and terrifying prospect to be entering this field right now. But mostly exciting!
There were a few other benefits from the two days of meetings and seminars, including meeting and clicking with much of the online cohort. But the most valuable experience was hearing from a panel of students who had already graduated. They offered tips and advice. Here’s a few of my favorite quotes:
“Keep learning. You never know where your background and experiences will take you.”
“Explore. Take care of yourself. Take risks. Give yourself credit for what you know how to do and adapt to what you don’t. That is what all librarians do.”
“Get excited and show your enthusiasm. Find a project that drives you and represents you and get involved. And most of all, don’t pigeonhole yourself. You can do anything with this degree. Just find your passion and follow it.”
I would be lying if I said that orientation was all sparkles and unicorns. Besides the pep talks and learning about my place in the wide open field of information, orientation also made me feel a little left out. As a part of the online-only cohort, many of the opportunities that were focused on by professors either don’t apply to us or don’t apply to me, since I’m one of the few in the cohort who don’t live within an hour of UMD. It kind of made me sad that I wouldn’t be experiencing the traditional classroom, debating ideas with fellow classmates at the pub and getting involved in on-campus organizations.
As a part of the online cohort, I can’t specialize in e-government or academic librarianship simply because they have already laid out the next two years. The classes are two each semester for two fall and two spring semesters and then four accelerated, 5-week summer classes, two held each summer. It means we graduate in exactly two years (in August 2014), the cost is cheaper and we never have to worry about not getting into the classes we need for graduation. It also means that if we want specialized study and experience, we’ll have to do it ourselves. Luckily, the classes have already afforded opportunities to do this. LBSC 601, which is essentially about how people use and search for information, includes assignments where we pick whatever user group we want to study and research it. I’ve already written about undergraduates and plan to focus the research into a smaller user group, such as first-year undergraduates or nontraditional undergraduates. While strict, the program allows us to get everything we need to work in a library, while giving us the opportunity to direct our research at a particular type of library. And by the end of this semester, if not the next, I hope to have figured out just what I want to do and what I have to do to get there.