Stacey Mitchell is a member of our ILN community and shares with us here her experience of studying online to get her library qualification.
I live within driving distance of 2 ALA-accredited Masters of Library Science programs, yet I do not attend either of those schools; I am a 100% online MLIS student and am so glad I made the leap! While there is much to be said for following a more traditional, in-person (or a combined in-person/online) degree program, I have found that studying at San Jose State University’s MLIS online program has some wonderful perks and opportunities that the programs near me lack. Though you probably already know some of the positive factors of online education, I couldn’t imagine all the other “perks” my school offers compared to the nearby state universities. These are some of my favorite things about my online graduate school experience:
- SJSU is tuned in to technology & emerging trends: Located in the heart of Silicon Valley (California), SJSU is in the technological hub and at the forefront of emerging technologies. Even if you’re not as technologically inclined as you imagine others are in your program, it doesn’t matter; their tech infrastructure, training, and support to students is second to none. The iSchool has wonawardsfor their online programs, solidifying their positive reputation as a leader of online learning. They know what they’re doing and it shows.
- Course offerings: The variety of electives SJSU offers its students is something that appealed to me since I wanted to essentially design my own program that best met my career interests. Because of this, I have taken courses outside the traditional library scope and delved into subjects like web development, special libraries, and practical management courses. Additionally, they are always adding new classes to the curriculum that coincide with skills they hear employers want to see in their new hires.
- Transparency/Communications: The iSchool has an excellentwebsitefor current or prospective students. It is clean, well-organized, and offers a wealth of information on the program, the courses, the instructors, and syllabi from previous semesters (so you can see what kind of work a particular instructor expects before enrolling). The staff and faculty always respond quickly to e-mails and understand if something critical comes up. While the number of e-mails the school sends can be a bit overwhelming, I’m always careful to read them as they can contain great information on internships, scholarships, webinars, graduate assistantships, and conferences.
- Focus on a variety of career pathways: For me, this grabbed my attention instantaneously since I was initially attracted to the idea of taking my LIS skills and transferring them to settings outside of a traditional library. In a job industry churning out more grads than there are available “library” jobs, I think this is something more iSchools should be communicating to their students. SJSU does it superbly and even offers an “Emerging Trends”annual reporton what kinds of jobs are available for MLIS grads and what keywords to use when searching for a non-traditional LIS job. It’s always something I refer to when refining my career scope and job searching.
- Career support & development: SJSU has a dedicated career specialist that works directly with LIS students to help them assess and evaluate their skills, reviews resumes, and gives advice on applying for professional jobs. There are monthly webinars, newsletters, blog posts and a well-developed subject guide on the career paths available to LIS students. Plus,virtual internships!
Granted, all this does come with a price tag, one that is a bit heftier than if I attended a state university program. But, the way I see it if I am going to be investing a lot of time and money into a program I want to make sure I’m getting everything out of it that I possibly can. I’ll even be a bit sad when I graduate because I’m enjoying the experience so much. For me, the journey is just as, if not more, important than the destination.
Thanks Stacey for sharing your experience – we’d love to hear other stories too. Perhaps you tried online/distance education and loved it too, or maybe you decided it wasn’t for you? Share your thoughts in the comments below or via our usual social media channels using #interlibnet and #LibrarySchool.