Library School angst

Where O where should this nice person go to library school?
I got this letter the other day:

I was thinking about applying to the Library and Information Science program at Wayne State University here in Detroit and was wondering if you had an opinion on their program? I’d love to go to U of M but I don’t think I’d get in nor do I have the money to go there. Just wondered if you knew or heard about Wayne State’s program.

Please keep in mind that I am not a career counselor, and am in fact a big web designer hypocrite who hasn’t spoken to a patron in years. If that doesn’t bother you, read on.

First of all: Nobody has the money to go to Big Expensive Schools like the University of Michigan. I certainly didn’t. My friends didn’t. Except maybe that one woman who wore expensive suits. The rest of us did three things: Took out Loans, Got Scholarships, and Worked Our Butts Off. Look, see? No butt.

Don’t worry about funding yet. Worrying about funding comes later and will represent one of the many delightful themes of graduate school. Worry about getting in first. Both schools are reputable and, I assume, have some sort of decent admission standards. Still, buck up little appleblossom. This ain’t rocket science. Write a decent essay, take the GRE a couple of times if you need to and cross your fingers. I’d apply to both schools just to cover your bases.

I suspect from the “here in Detroit” bit, that Wayne is geographically closer to you? This is nothing to sniff at, since driving to a distant city to attend class quickly becomes wearisome. If you are in a position to uproot and go to Ann Arbor, however, U of M is a great school. I have no complaints about my THREE years there (don’t ask). The library students I met were smart, funny, geeky and motivated. The interdisciplinary stuff was good for everyone, and you end up with all sorts of cutting-edge library and life skillz.

I don’t know much about Wayne because

1) it is a library school and I never wanted to be a librarian. Not a traditional librarian anyway, with the patrons, and the books and the reference.

2) it is in Detroit and

3) it isn’t as prestigious as U of M. I know this sounds mercenary, but hey, race you to the upper middle class.

If anyone out there can advise this promising young librarian about the Joys of Wayne State or any stuff I missed, please do.

26 Replies to “Library School angst”

  1. Hi everybody:
    I’ve worked in an academic library for more than 2 years (first at UofM, than at UCSB) and I’m more and more interested in going to library school. Right now I’m in Santa Barbara, California, and I should stay here for a couple of years (my husband is a post-doc) so the options are pretty much UCLA or on-line degrees. By the way, I’m Italian with a J visa, so I’ll have to pay out-of-state tuitions anyway. Any ideas/suggestions to help me to decide where to apply/what to evaluate in different programs? Grazie mille! Elena

  2. WSU’s program is very good. was accepted by both Wayne and U of M and I chose Wayne State. U of M Library Science program was too high brow for my blood. Wayne will cost you less and it will provide you with the same degree.

  3. Yeah, woo-hoo I went to Dominican Univeristy, I received my master Degree in Library and Information Science and spent over 30,000 dollars just so I could help some guy use the photocopier cause he didn’t know how and didn’t want to learn, so he could photocopy a business plan he’s probably going to plagerize.

  4. We have alot of students from Wayne come to the library I work at in Windsor. I also know quite a few people who graduated from Wayne State and really enjoyed it. I am Canadian and with all of the Border Crossing restrictions Bush imposed on Canadians after 9/11, I went to the University of Western Ontario. I was very happy with the results too. I find a good balance between traditional and technical will truly prepare you for a career, unless you want a Tech career in the future. Congrats on your internship! I did a co-op and it provided me with amazing wxperience!

  5. I don’t understand — how can someone running a site called “Librarian Avengers”, quote “I don’t know much about Wayne because 1) it is a library school and I never wanted to be a librarian. Not a traditional librarian anyway, with the patrons, and the books and the reference.” This ties in with my current fixation on why so many people are in library school yet either don’t end up or don’t want to work in libraries.

  6. This is the original poster and I just wanted to update you all. I started the Library and Information Science program at Wayne State University in Detroit in January and am thoroughly enjoying it (hoping to focus on Information science/technology). Additionally, I started working as a computer assistant at a newer library in the Detroit area and just recently accepted a full-time internship with the same library and department. The internship will last for two years and I will receive health insurance, tuition reimbursement and more importantly, invaluable hands-on experience in my field. Thank you for all of your thoughts and advice everyone. It definitely came in handy in determing which school to attend.
    I am on my way to becoming an information professional and I absolutely love it so far!

  7. I am currently a student at Wayne, and really enjoying the program.
    If you are thinking about the program and trying to figure out the money (and who isn’t?) check out Wayne’s graduate-professional scholarship. It pays full tution, and is relatively unknown, so quite a bit easier to get than you might imagine. If you had good undergrad grades and can get a few people to give you a letter of reference, you should absolutely apply.

  8. I go (distance) to Drexel. The the person in Germany, we had a soldier station in Iraq in our group. The didtance thnig really works and we have people all over the country.

  9. I guess I’m a bit late to this little blogging thread, but thought I would throw my two cents in as a UM alum of SI.

    I was in the first cohort who experienced the School of Information, and it was a bumpy ride with the change in curriculum, but the degree was worth it for me.

    I gained valuable hands-on experience along with the theoretical. Both are valuable, to my way of thinking. You need to know how to do some practical things, but much of that can be learned on the job. Gaining a bigger picture will help you as true big picture thinkers are a rare breed in most library settings (again only in my experience).

    I think that the curriculum at U of M is good because it gets you thinking about design, economics, information…and all those things do impact libraries.

    I didn’t even take the LIS track and yet landed myself squarely in academic libraries because that is where I wanted to go and I haven’t regretted it…well maybe I did in my first job when I had to decide if I paid my loan, my rent or ate…but that’s in the past now thankfully.

    Anyway, as for other programs just make sure they are ALA accredited and in good standing. You would not believe how many people I know who went to “library school” only to find that it didn’t count for much if it’s not accredited.

    Good luck…

  10. I went to U of M before they changed their name to the nonsensical “School of Information” so I cannot comment on the current curriculum. My feeling at the time was that U of M gave you a good education but some faculty seemed taken with being at a prestigious school (Dr. Frost is one) and were a bit pretentious. My feeling about what they are doing now is that they are very focused on hi-tech to the exclusion of traditional skills. If you go there, make sure you learn cataloging and how to do reference work when the computers are down. If you want to be a webmaster or some other library techie Michigan is good. Also I don’t feel that having a prestigious U of M degree has made it any easier for me to get jobs. The folks at Michigan gave me absolutely no help in landing jobs.

  11. I would love to hear more about Drexel’s on-line program. My family is stationed overseas in Germany, so I need a program that is totally on-line. I have applied to Drexel and am awaiting an answer. It killed me to come over here with my husband. The day after he was issued his orders, I received acceptance into grad school for a MS in math with a ga position – full tuition and a stipend on top of it. On the other hand, I am now working in a library, and as a bibliophile I love it! It is a small library on a military base, and I work as a jack-of-all trades. I catalog, work reference, circ, programs, requisitions… things normally no entry level tech would ever be able to do. My librarian is all for me learing what I can.

  12. Sarah, we should hook up, we’ll probably be classmates together if you decide to go to Wayne State. I had my heart set on U of M a year ago, being a techie person too but I feel a little better about my decision to go to Wayne State after some careful consideration, a visit to their information program, and a comparison of what it will cost me to go to U of M instead (woah boy!) Speaking of cost at U of M, if you’re coming out of state and take up residence in Michigan it is very difficult for you to qualify for in state tuition. Even though my husband is one of the lucky few that gets his tuition paid for by his program (those darned scientists), his program pays out of state tuition for him to go there and we’ve lived in Michigan for over two years now. I’ve heard stories of people even buying houses in Michigan and not qualifying for in state tuition at the University…I don’t know if that’s also true at Wayne State, but the admissions gal at U of M School of Information let me know that right away.

    Anyway, I attended an information session at both schools and I realized that I am self motivated when it comes to my tech skills, I will learn those things whether grad school teaches me them or not. I am the “tech guru” at my library, even though I’m a clerk our librarian is so happy to let me exercise my techiness ’cause she knows I’m darn good at it way better than she is (of course I’m lucky I’m in a great small branch library). The hands on experience will surely keep me in practice and I know my boss is eager to let me learn on the job too.

    Anyway, the plan is to start Wayne State in the winter. Ironically I’m moving to Ann Arbor next week so I’ll be making the trek to Detroit when I do…I really couldn’t pass up the chance to move there, my husband is a grad student at U of M and we just love Ann Arbor.

    There is one notable difference between the two schools worth mentioning. Wayne State is very understanding when it comes to the realization that we might have lives, families, and jobs outside of school. I got less of that sense when I visited Michigan…I suppose they are also more competitive. I like working my part time library job and spending time with my husband…if you enjoy those kinds of things too then Wayne State may be your school too. Wayne State did mention that they’re ranked 6th, although stats like that just sort of go in one ear and out another, stats are just numbers, whether it’s first or tenth, it’s still an ALA accredited school and I’m sure you’ll be fine.

    This is probably a super long comment, but I felt compelled to write something since you’re thinking about going to the very place I hope to attend next year.

    Good luck!

  13. Have you looked at the Information Science program at Drexel University in Philadelphia? Not only has Drexel merged the traditional library and the information technology sides of the program, they also have an ENTIRELY online distance education program. They do not require you to go to Philly at all in order to get a degree.

    You should realize however, that distance education is hard work, and you have to be really self-motivating. Think seriously about it and make sure it’s your cup of tea before you sign on.

  14. I didn’t want to move from Kalamazoo, so going to UoM was out, and the option that Wayne State offers (classes in Lansing, GR, etc.) didn’t appeal: there’s no way to know if the class you want/need will be offered at a time & place convenient to you.

    I looked at the ALA accredited program site for distance options, and went with a program that was in the middle range for costs, and offered a variety of courses. I started out on the Academic Library track but just switched to Special Libraries, and should be able to finish the program in December. Total cost of the program is about $18K (including books). Thank god we have a house that’s paid for – the home equity loan is not only tax-deductible, but was also large enough to pay for my degree.

    The bad news is that there aren’t a lot of great jobs in West Michigan, so it looks like I’ll take the ‘self-employed’ path and open up a business doing research for people… should be interesting. Good luck with your goals, Sarah!

  15. Check out the ALA’s section on accredited programs, which also includes several online MLS programs. I live in Oregon and there are no accredited MLS programs here; Emporia has an extension program, but I wanted to do something different from the vast majority of the librarians in this relatively small pond. University of Washington has a great distance program, but you must be on campus 5 days each term and that wasn’t feasible for my family and my husband’s schedule. After much angsting, I chose Drexel University’s online MLS program. So far, I like it quite a lot, except that I miss the interaction of a traditional classroom. As for the GRE, many programs will consider academic probation if you do not do well on the GRE (I didn’t: major test anxiety). Oh, and financial aid for grad students, I learned, is limited to Stafford loans and whatever scholarships you can find. The others who have commented that no one can afford grad school are right. Get your loans, get through school, and understand you’ll be in debt – but you’ll have a job doing something you enjoy.

  16. I would go the cheapest/easiest route. Wayne State is ALA accredited, so it’s going to be good enough to get you most any job out there.

    I was in a similar dilemma 2 years ago. I applied to both the U of South Carolina, and the U of NC-Chapel Hill programs, and got into both. UNC’s program is very highly respected and ranked. USC, less so. Most of USC’s faculty have PhD’s from UNC, so it looked to me as though it was a program that was moving forward and upward (thus hopefully making my degree worth more in the long run).

    The main dealbreaker was the fact that I would have to pay over 50% more for my degree to go to UNC. So, I went to USC, graduated three weeks ago, and I had a job as a systems librarian before I even graduated. I’m definitely pleased with my decision, and my education.

  17. Thank you for all your thoughts on this. I’m going to continue looking into both schools (most likely apply to both) and talking to people who have graduated from both. Next weekend my boyfriend and I will be going “up north” with some friends and friends of friends. Apparently one of the gals we will be hanging with is a librarian who just recently traded a job in Detroit for an even better one in Chicago. I plan on talking to her about librarianship as well as my dilemma regarding which school to attend. I thank you all again! You have given me much to think about.

  18. I went to Wayne State, and have talked to librarians who went to both. The sentiment I’ve heard is that, while U of M has better basic classes, Wayne has a better overall program. U of M tends to be much more theoretical, and a lot less practical. Wayne does tend to focus more on traditional library stuff, although what exactly that means anymore is up in the air. I think a lot of where you should go depends on what you intend to do with your degree. I’m not sure that if I had gotten my degree at U of M, that I might not have an easier time getting called back for positions that I apply to, but I’m glad I went to Wayne State.

    This is all anectdotal, but I figured I would pipe up.

  19. I did it the hard easy way…I got a job at the University and they paid for two classes a semester. Of course, taking only two courses a semester meant five years for a two year program!

  20. Yeah… my additional thought is, unless you’re going to UT or Michigan or another highly ranked library school (I’m not familiar with who’s ranked anymore!), as Dorothea said, it doesn’t matter so much. I went to Florida State because I could stay where I was and go cheaply. I only wish I’d gone a few years later so I could’ve done the MLS/JD program that was created a few years after I left. It would come in handy now.

    I’d say it only matters if one school focuses more on what you want to do with your MLS.

  21. Hmmm….maybe I will apply to both U of M and Wayne State University. I guess I’m a little hesitant about Wayne State because I am actually interested in more of the technical side of the library arts (similar to Erica). My undergrad degree is in Communication Technology and so I already have a technology foundation. I really don’t want to do what the stereotypical librarian does in a library. I guess I need to figure out what the two schools have to offer in terms of the technical side. Thanks for all the thoughts. This has really given me a new perspective to think about.

  22. If I were in your shoes, I would choose UofM. I went there with Erica(hi Erica, its me Scott!). The thing that I liked about it was the interdisciplinary aspect. It gave me a broader view of librarianship and what I could do with my degree. Good luck with your choice.

  23. That said, I think it’s silly to spend more on library school than you have to. If it’s ALA-accredited, it’s good enough for the Real World.

    Libraries don’t pay enough to drown yourself in loans. Go in-state, work, be frugal — keep debt to a minimum.

  24. You can console your little disciple that at least they will (if you are right and they are a Detroiter) be able to take advantage of in-state tuition. If I was able to make it through UM paying out of state tuition (Hello subsidized and unsubsidized federal student loans! Hello work-study! Hello debt!) Then surely they can make it…

    Get in before you worry about how you are going to pay tuition and all of the associated (rent, food, textbooks, high-speed internet) costs. NO ONE can afford to just open up their checkbook and write out a check for a semester’s tuition. (I think that even the chick in our class with the nice suits had some kind of tuition assistance.)

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