The one question to ask yourself before applying to an ML(I)S program/library school

From the perspective of a recent Masters of Library and Information Science graduate, and recently employed library professional. 

  1. Do you have experience working with data or have you worked in a library, archives, museum or educational institution?


Perfect! This would be my #1 suggestion that you have before you consider becoming a librarian and applying to an ML(I)S program. Here’s why:

Data: Working with data is an integral part to every modern library job, and a skill that some libraries are very keenly pursing for new hires. Some retiring librarians just didn’t grow up in a digital age the way incoming professionals have. This isn’t necessarily true for all older librarians, just a percentage, but it’s still important. Having experience doing data entry, working on a website, doing cataloguing, or really anything with computers is an added bonus. But working with data in a database is the most marketable skill of all, since library catalogues are databases, and most of library resources are databases!

Worked in a library: You absolutely must have worked in a library of some sort before doing the ML(I)S program if you expect to get a Librarian position straight out of the program. No one told me this unspoken rule until I had already entered library school, so don’t repeat my mistake! Even if you got the highest marks in library school, or were super involved in student organizations, or networked your butt off, you are at a huge disadvantage when it comes to hiring if you don’t have previous work experience in a library. Even getting a job as an assistant, volunteer or page for 6 months helps. (The average co-op is 4 or 8 months, so this is a safe bet for how much experience you’ll need as a base line). If you don’t have this experience, you better sign up for a internship, co-op placement, or whatever your library school offers once you get there!!

Worked in an archives or museum: As memory institutions, you’re gaining valuable fundamental experience working in a place where budgets are tight, staffing is low, and people sometimes need that extra push to get in the door. You’re also likely doing some cataloguing, education, or research that is valuable to the role of a librarian.

Worked in an educational institution: Instructional design is a massive role in academic librarian’s work and in the work of school librarians, and a valuable perspective to have when it comes to the job hunt. You’re educating people, doing research, planning, dealing with budgets in some cases…it is all related!


Libraries are a challenging field to get yourself into, even with the ML(I)S degree behind you. By not having this vital experience, you’re committing yourself to a lot of work and probably a large student debt in order to do something you just don’t have practical experience in doing, which could mean you aren’t 100% sure its something you want to do. Don’t force yourself into a career when it’s not something you want to do.

If you are still confident that libraries are something you want to do without having this prior experience, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage by going to library school before completing this vital step. If you delayed going to library school until you’ve collected at least 6 months of experience in any of these areas, you’ll be far more likely to be employed at the end of the program, based on antecodal evidence of myself and others in the profession.  It will also make library school easier because you’ll have an idea of what type of librarianship you’d like to get into, and you’ll have experience to back up the heavy theory aspect of library school.

As the Annoyed Librarian has touched on many times,  library schools don’t limit enrollment to match the amount of library-related jobs in the market, meaning there are more ML(I)S graduates then there are jobs. Anything you do to make yourself more marketable before, during or after library school will help.

If you still want to give library school a shot, make sure you have allotted time, money and energy to doing a placement/co-op, internship or volunteering job either through your library school or in the community. Co-op placements (paid opportunities to work in a library or related institution and learn from real librarians) are your best bet, as you’re recouping some costs, networking, and getting practical experience that will be directly applicable to a a library job. For those lucky people, your internship employer may also offer you a position when you finish the program.

An internship is also good if you’re doing the work that a normal employee is doing – although the ethics behind unpaid internships is highly contested, and some libraries have union rules that will prevent you from doing “normal” library work at all.

If you can’t find any of these opportunities, get thee to thy library and volunteer! One of the biggest tips from library professionals on job hunting is to volunteer where you want to work, give it your all, and network while you’re there. That way, the recruiter may know your name before you apply.



List of Courses

I decided to write up a list of courses I’ve taken as a MLIS student, in part for myself and resume building but also for others who may be considering what to take at FIMS. I took a multidisciplinary approach instead of streamlining in a single area, trying to create a broad realm of knowledge to bring into the job hunting process. If you have any questions about these courses or instructors, send me a message.

  • 9001 Perspectives on Library and Information Science, instructed by Louis D’Alton
  • 9002 Information Organization, Curation and Access, instructed by Victoria Rubin
  • 9003 Information Sources and Services, instructed by Paulette Rothbauer
  • 9004 Research Methods and Statistics, instructed by Pam McKenzie
  • 9005 Managing and Working in Information Organizations
  • 9203 Records Management, instructed by Carolynn Bart-Riedstra
  • 9313 Electronic Resources Management, instructed by Catherine Johnson
  • 9315 Collection Management, instructed by Don Wicks
  • 9319 Science, Technology & Medical Information, instructed by Stephen Coulstring
  • 9320 Consumer Health Information, instructed by Jill McTavish
  • 9364 Young Adult Materials, instructed by Paulette Rothbauer
  • 9514 Information Management, instructed by Melanie Sucha and Cabot Yu
  • 9650 Special Libraries, instructed by Robert Craig
  • 9673 Archival Description, instructed by Lutzen Riedstra
  • 9723 Web Design and Architecture, instructed by Gord Nickerson

Ending and Beginning Again

This term I took Web Design and Architecture, Collections Management, Electronic Resources Management, Science Medical and Technology Information, and Young Adult Materials. I was happy with my selections, although I am ultimately disappointed I can’t take more courses at Western. The classes coming up in the Winter term look absolutely amazing – including prospect research, which I would have been very happy to take.

I’ve had my last class, and I am now a graduate of the Masters of Library and Information Science program at Western University. It’s been a long year, with some trials and tribulations. But I’m happy to have accomplished a masters and looking forward to beginning the job hunt.

Ending school is a bit of an adjustment for me, as I’ve been in school consistently for as long as I can remember. I like the structure school brings, and I like being busy. Multitasking can be daunting at times, but on the whole I enjoy it. And of course, I love learning new things. I’ll confess I’ve already been looking at professional certifications I could do next – project management and health information are the most interesting to me.

But for right now, I’m going to take a break from formal education and focusing my sights on some practical experience. I’ve so far applied for many public libraries, non-profit organizations, and other positions to build my skills and begin my professional career. It will be stressful, but I’m excited to begin working (and saving for some important life milestones too).

While my applications begin rolling out, I’m going to be continuing my education using the databases I still have access to at Western and new resources available to me through Ontario Library Association (OLA). I also am registering for the OLA Super Conference, and I’m excited to begin networking and learning more about my field!

End of Second Term Thoughts

Long time, no chat! This term has been a busy one with a full course load, volunteering at the Pride Library at Weldon Library, and having an archives practicum at the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph in London. Each week has been a new experience for me, and my time management skills have been very happy to be in such use!

This term I took classes mainly based on interest and scheduling, as my required courses have all been fulfilled. There was only one course that I went into the term being excited for, Consumer Health Information. The other four courses I ended up in were still interesting to me, but I didn’t have that same sort of excitement for the course content. As you will see in the reviews below, there has been an interesting turn of focus from public libraries in the required courses I took in first semester to other libraries, especially those in non-educational or private organizations. Originally, I was not interested in this field of library and information science, but as you will see from my final thoughts, I’ve changed my mind.

LIS 9320: Consumer Health Information (McTavish): I went into this course very excited to learn skills that will help me in one of my preferred career paths, health sciences or hospital librarianship. McTavish presents information in a easy to grasp way, especially for those who have no history with hospital librarianship previously. Topics include research in medical literature (including using PubMed, MedlinePlus, and other online resources, finding RCT’s and summaries and matching these articles to information needs, and presenting information to either health care professionals or consumers), with some basics in health sciences to understand the material. My girlfriend is a nurse who had learned things like social determinates of health previously, so I had extra help understanding the material that others may not benefit from. Projects include search exercises (participation marks only), some pop quizzes, a consumer health information seeking report, a current issues in consumer health information paper, a mock interview/PubMed search exercise, and a presentation on select resources on a specific aspect of consumer health information. I may be posting or discussing this presentation later on my blog since I really enjoyed working on it, and was pretty proud of my work.  Would recommend to anyone who wants to learn more about health sciences or hospital librarianship.

LIS 9650: Special Libraries (Craig): To be completely honest, I’ve never really understood what special libraries were until this course, so I only took it to fit my schedule. Turns out my hospital and health sciences librarianship lens could be considered a special library, so I was happily surprised. Craig is also an excellent teacher who brings humor and multimedia presentations into the classroom, so class time goes by quickly and enjoyably. This class is organized by group work, with only one assignment that was completed individually, though still related to the group project as a whole. It was nice to have every assignment flow together into one final cohesive report. However, the fact that you’re working with the same few students through the entire class can be exhaustive. As well, try to ensure your group members have similar work styles to you. If you don’t pick a good group, your life could become a lot more stressful, so choose wisely. Recommended for those who enjoy group work and are okay learning content that may not be 100% practical for professional life.

LIS 9673: Archival Description (Riedstra): As a history major, archives was a natural part of this program that I was interested in. Introduction to Archives, another course in this program, was offered this term but I did not take it, which may have been a mistake. Riedstra is an expert on RAD (Rules for Archival Description) but his skills as a lecturer could be improved. As well, the assignments were very difficult and his explanation of the assignments was not very clear. In combination with my archives practicum, I learned through this course that archives may not be of interest to me after all. I would not recommend this course unless you are absolutely sure archives is an area you will be going into, in which case the information you learn will be very relevant to professional practice.

LIS 9514: Information Management (Sucha and Yu, online): I did not really know a lot about this course when I went into it, but I’m glad I ended up enrolling. Information management basics are presented, including change management, strategic planning,  and legislation. There is also a networking assignment which I though was a brilliant touch to the syllabus. Sucha and Yu present their online course in a well-developed and supportive way, which was an advantage to me. You learn a lot about the practical exercises an information manager has to deal with on a daily basis. Readings were provided online, which is always nice, and reflected practice, not theory, of information management. Assignments were clearly laid out and the instructors offered students to hand in drafts of all assignments before final deadlines. As a result, I was able to fine tune my assignments to achieve 100% on nearly every deliverable. I found the focus on practical skills in this class to really open my eyes to information management and seriously consider it as a possible career avenue. Would recommend to anyone.

LIS 9203: Records Management (Bart-Riedstra): Records management and information management have a lot of overlap, and touch on a lot of the same broad concepts. Both courses look at how records and information management (RIM) can be implemented in business or organization contexts. Whereas information management looked at specific work of an information management professional, records management tended to be more theoretical (ie.e. what is a record, record life cycle vs. continuum model, etc). As well, records management was more dry in terms of the lectures than the online course which can obviously be done at your own time. Bart-Riedstra understands that her material is fairly dry and is empathetic for her students. She’s also an incredibly nice person and a good marker. I would recommend this course to those interested in this field of work. Those who aren’t interested may find it too dry. However, I came into this course not really knowing what records management was and I’m coming out of it interested in this career path.

Final Thoughts:

  • Online courses before enrolling in them were in my mind dangerous. I was worried that without the scheduled class time I would put the work off and end up getting behind. Instead I found my experience to work well with my schedule, and I actually tended to be at least 1 week ahead on all assignments during the course. I also think my time management skills were matched with online courses. As a result, I’ll be looking to take online courses in the future if possible.
  • Archives, as I mentioned above, were originally very interesting to me when entering this semester because of my history background. However, through my classes and archive practicum I realized that the detail-based nature of archives is not up my alley.
  • In contrast, records and information management was completely new to me this term and I actually found the idea of working in this environment to be interesting. While my first choice is still hospital librarianship, I will be applying to RIM positions at the end of the program.
  • Group work was a big feature of my term especially in comparison to my last term. I found most of my experiences enjoyable. I learned how to be a better group and team member a lot this term which I think will help me in the future.
  • Hospital librarianship continues to be a big interest of mine. For special libraries, our group created a fictional recreational library for the Children’s Hospital in London, and I really enjoyed the thought of working in this environment during this project. I’m planning on taking future science or hospital related courses if they are offered.
  • Volunteering at the Pride Library was a very enjoyable experience, especially considering my interest in LGBTQ+ issues in librarianship. Though it was very quiet in the summer and quite peaceful, I’m still planning on volunteering in the more busy fall term as well.

A look at next term:

Enrollment for my last term as an MLIS student was surprisingly easy, and I ended up getting into all the courses I wanted. These courses were selected based off of interest in the course content, reviews of the instructors (which are available in the GRC) and scheduling. I am hoping to begin working at some point next term, so I crafted my schedule to only be at school Wednesday and Thursday.

  • 9313 Electronic Resources Management
  • 9317 Information Ethics
  • 9319 Science, Technology and Medical Information
  • 9364 Young Adult Materials
  • 9723 Web Design and Architecture

That’s it for now!

Thanks for reading,


A review of my first MLIS term

Well my first term of my MLIS degree has come to a close, and I’m ready for some reflection!

I took the five required courses this term, which were:

  • 9001 Perspectives on Library and Information Science: (Dr. Louis D’Alton) This course provides an overview on some issues involved in modern librarianship, while going over some legal concepts relevant to the field. Topics included economics, the commodification of information, copyright, open access, the public sphere, library as place, progressive librarianship, professional values, information ethics, serving the marginalized, privacy and surveillance, fair dealings, and information policy. D’Alton goes over each of these topics in a detailed way, but you don’t need to be an expert in any of them in order to be successful in the course. Many of my classmates referred to this class as the “conspiracy course” as we discussed how “evil” Google is and how a few corporations basically own everything a lot of the time.  I really enjoyed these discussions.
  • 9002 Information Organization, Curation and Access: (Victoria Rubin) This is cataloguing, so we learned all about data recording and access. Out of all my classes, this was the most practical as we learned about DDC, LCC, LCSH, RDA, and MARC. Assignments are practice exercises using these systems to organize information. I found the course and the instructor to be the most rewarding, as now I’m a lot more confident in these schemes than I was previously. However, I wouldn’t suggest taking this Friday mornings as I was barely awake for it.
  • 9003  Information Sources and Services: (Dr. Paulette Rothbauer) This is reference but with a fancier name and a bit more substance. We learned a lot about searching, databases, readers advisory, the reference encounter, and some professional values and ethics involved in the process. The focus of the class was on how these activities occur in public libraries. I really enjoyed this class, and again came away from it feeling like I learned a lot. I also really enjoyed having Rothbauer as my professor, especially since I’ve been reading a lot of her work on LGBTQ+ issues in my spare time. I’ll take any class with her, no matter what it is!
  • 9004 Research Methods and Statistics: (Pam McKenzie) The dreaded statistics. I was really worried about this course and had the most trouble with it in terms of understanding the information I was being taught. I tend to psych myself out about numbers, so even though I actually got the statistics I didn’t think I had learned it properly. Our TA Nicole Dalmer did an excellent job helping us to explain the concepts that came off as confusing to us in class. The final project annoyed pretty much everyone, as it is this huge group endeavour and the weight of the grade was the same as the much smaller individual projects we had done through the semester.
  • 9005 Managing and Working in Information Organizations: (Dr. Sarah Roberts) This was the most enjoyable class experience for me because I love organizing, planning, and managing, which are all the core concepts you’ll learn in the class. It was pretty easy in terms of assignments and class discussions, which helped. Sarah Roberts is an amazing advocate for a host of really interesting topics such as privacy and surveillance, and has an active Twitter where she live tweets presentations and events happening in class. As a social media nut, this was an amazing feature of the class!

I also became an executive member of Librarians Without Borders, which I’ll post more about soon.

I’m looking forward to my classes next term, which are:

  • 9203 Records Management
  • 9320 Consumer Health Information
  • 9514 Information Management
  • 9650 Special Libraries
  • 9673 Archival Description

If you’ve taken these courses before, let me know how you liked them!