Seeing Through Librarian-Tinted Lenses: The Relevancy of MLIS Coursework

by Kimberly A. Price

I work in a law firm without a library (eek!). I’ve sometimes lamented the fact that I do not have a job  in a traditional library setting, or even a library associated with my work; but having a job pays the bills, and given the current state of the economy, I do truly feel blessed to have a job at all. While I still long for the day I can refer to myself as a “librarian”, I have recently realized that, even in my current job, I am already using many of the skills I’ve learned thus far in my MLIS coursework.

If I put on my “librarian lenses”, I can see that much of the work I do is relevant to my future career choice. I find this encouraging, and I hope you will too, as it is validation that the things we are learning are practical and important, in more ways than I originally anticipated. This realization has broadened my own view of what it means to be a librarian or information professional, and it has helped me recognize experiences outside of my MLIS courses that will be directly applicable to my culminating eportfolio and future job.

Looking at the glass half full, I’d like to share some of my experiences, with the hope of inspiring you to put on your own “librarian lenses” and recognize the value of the lessons and skills you have learned in this program, regardless of whether you are working in a library or not.

As I’ve previously mentioned, I work in a law firm without a library. That being said, I do work in a department that handles some records management functions. My official title is Document Management Specialist…(cue awkward silence and cricket noises). I know it doesn’t really give you any idea of what I do. Is it more helpful to say that I’m a trial paralegal/records manager/video technician/cataloger/graphic designer/public relations assistant? My job title aside, here are four of the areas in which I’ve seen direct correlations between what I’ve learned through MLIS courses, the work I perform, and the way these experiences help me achieve specific competencies that are important to librarianship:

  1. Attorneys Are Just People with Information Needs
  2. Despite what you may have heard, attorneys are people, and people need information. I get a variety of requests from attorneys and staff to help locate documents within our internal electronic filing system and our physical archives. My department also gets requests for medical articles either in our system or online. I imagine these requests are similar to what one experiences in an academic setting: we sometimes get full citations, sometimes a title or an author, and sometimes only a brief statement of “It’s about something like…”. These reference requests are often urgent, and they come to us in person, via phone, and via email. [Possible competencies B & I]

  3. A Willingness to Learn New Technology Goes a Long Way (maybe even on an airplane)
  4. When my department asked who wanted to learn a new video editing software to be used at trial, I volunteered. I then attended a 3-day training session out of state with a couple of coworkers; and when we came back, I helped to informally teach others. I’ve also readily shared time-saving tips with my coworkers for various technologies we use on a regular basis. People in my department, and within the office, have recognized that I am comfortable with technology, and that I am happy to teach others, even if it means learning myself first. [Possible competencies H & K]

  5. Share What You Know
  6. I’ve taken the marketing class (LIBR 283), and I’ve done some prep work this summer for the technology tools class (LIBR 240) that I’ll be taking in Fall. It just so happens that the firm is beginning a new marketing campaign and doing some different things with its website. My boss has been heavily involved with these projects, and at times I’ve been able to act as a bit of a consultant. I’m no expert in these areas, but I’ve been able to share what I do know and suggest additional resources, and they’re grateful for the help. I’ve also had the opportunity to weigh in on organizational procedures dealing with records storage and retrieval for different types of records in our office. [Possible competencies D, F & H]

  7. If You Want a Library, Build It
  8. Because our law firm doesn’t have a formal library, some attorneys recently suggested that we at least create an index of the materials each attorney has in his/her office. I obviously volunteered as soon as I heard about this. I spoke with the attorneys heading up the project and presented questions and ideas I had for such an index. We developed a fairly simple spreadsheet that covers the information the attorneys find most important. It’s been a good lesson in considering an intended audience, as it is a collaborative project, and it needs to be a tool that any staff member or attorney can search and update themselves. I wish I could say I suggested this project, but I didn’t because I made the mistake of assuming there wouldn’t be any support for such an undertaking. I was wrong. Don’t make the same mistake. If you see a need, especially an information need, that you can assist to fill, seek any necessary approval and make it happen. [Possible competencies E & G]

But enough about me—what have you done, or could do, to put into practice the things you have learned in your MLIS coursework? What can you do at work, where you volunteer, at home, at your place of worship, or in any clubs or organizations of which you are a member? In this program, we study how we can function in the information rich society that surrounds us, and we also learn how to help others do the same. This is very practical information. Get out there and put what you’ve learned to good use wherever you can.

Kimberly plans to graduate in Fall 2011. She looks forward to doing an internship or two during the latter part of her degree and hopes to someday work in an academic library.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Sidney Carton

    I work as a Library Assistant at the UCR Libraries, where we receive a massive amount of Science-fiction gifts for our collection. (We have the world's largest public-accessible Science-fiction collection, the Eaton Collection on campus.)

    Last summer we received the entire inventory of a comic book store that recently closed and I began the task of processing the over 4,500 titles contained in this collection. I had to find or input records for each title (or add issues to extant records) and then I sorted these items alphabetically and created a mini archive of comic books for the catalogers to work with. It was a lot of work, but ultimately very rewarding

    Shonn Haren
    Class of 2013?

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