This blog post may not have all the answers to assuage those incredulous shocked faces and concerned pleas from partners, family members, friends, in-law/out-laws etc., all urging you to quit your “eternal student” status, but it will hopefully be a timely consideration of the many solid justifications for pursuing a professional library qualification which can sometimes get lost in the ether. Although quite irritating to admit, it would be a lie to say that these nagging doubts haven’t occurred to me at one point or another, but particularly at the very beginning of my LIS studies. In fact, the decision to begin any further qualifications after completing masters and doctoral level studies was strangely daunting. The substantial financial cost is a major consideration for most applicants, accompanied by the fact that (as in most professions) funding is incredibly limited. Also, time constraints, work pressures, family commitments and general life obstacles can all feed into the mix and make a persuasive case for avoiding further study altogether. You’ve got the permanent post now, so why bother?
Well, as anyone who has been bitten by the library bug will know, there is a certain security and an empowerment in information literacy which encourages individuals to constantly reassess and reconsider the best routes to information discovery. No matter how “expert” we might feel, various different experiences in public, academic and special libraries have taught me that there is always something new to learn. Perhaps therein lies the intrigue with Library and Information Services courses.
So is it worth it?
In my opinion, you will get out of your LIS course as much as you put in. Certainly nothing beats practical library experience and it would be misleading to suggest that after a couple of years of library school you will be completely prepared for all that a library career can (and more often than not, does!) throw at you. We’ve all had those awkward queries, and so far I haven’t taken any LIS modules which prepare me for that old classic: “do you have that book? You used to, it’s a big red one”.
But without doubt, there are myriad benefits to the LIS course which should not be overlooked. Of course your qualification opens up new job opportunities and the chance to pursue professional posts. However, in my experience, the qualification must also be bolstered by a committed work ethic, self-discipline and a willingness to support and adapt to change. Also, you might find while undertaking your course that the skills you develop might be better suited to an organisation other than your own. Perhaps an unsettling realisation for some, again, this is the beauty of the many opportunities which an LIS qualification can make possible. Once qualified you may not necessarily sprint up the career ladder at quite the rate of knots you might like, but you will have a solid grounding in LIS theory and current and evolving key trends supplemented by your own practical library experiences, and these will make you a real contender when professional posts become available. Ultimately, the LIS course gives you options. Furthermore, during your course, the opportunities to network with other like-minded new professionals, often at similar but also different career stages will be invaluable (*shameless plug of LISNPN’s Slack channel and discussion boards here! * ). This source of support should not be underestimated, especially for those solo information professionals, or those working in niche areas or special libraries.
Overall, the personal gains from the LIS course will vary widely from individual to individual. Beginning my second year of the Distance Learning course, I am thoroughly enjoying the experience and look forward to what the remainder of the course has to offer – especially if there are any tips on that ever elusive big red book…
Featured image courtesy of Pixabay.