Q: I am currently seeking admission to graduate school for library science. Does the chance of finding a job increase or decrease depending on where you get your degree?
SM: It can. Getting your degree from a highly ranked program may help your job prospects. It all depends on who is on the hiring committee and how much importance they place on where you get your degree. Getting your degree at the same place as someone on the committee, or the director of the library you are applying to, may help your chances of getting that job. You never know. It won’t, I guarantee, get you a job in and of itself. You need to possess the skills and experience required for the job (which you can get while you are in library school), you need to be a good fit for the library and institution you are applying to, and you need to show proof of what you learned in your library school program (projects, skills, classes, experience, etc.)… so choose wisely.
You may not be able to move across the country or commute a long distance to go to library school. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t research several different programs, including online programs. You need to figure out which will be the best for your educational and financial needs and you need to find a program that will fit into your lifestyle, or be willing to change your lifestyle to fit the needs of the program. I do not think that going to the nearest school, just because it is convenient and just because you want to hurry up and get your degree, is the best thing to do. Let’s face it, you are not going to make a ton of money as a librarian so you should not spend a ton of money on your library degree. Luckily, some of the best programs are in large public universities. See if there is one near you, or in the same state that you live in.
If you plan on working in libraries during library school, which is something we always recommend, then take into consideration the number of jobs available in the institution itself or in the surrounding area. Your graduate education will help to define your career, and the people you encounter (professors, fellow students, graduates, employers, coworkers, counselors) will help to shape your view of librarianship as they become your mentors, your supporters, and your collaborators.
So, take some time to review different library schools. Look at the classes they offer and the areas they specialize in, and think carefully about what you want to get out of the program. Every program has its strengths. Visit the school, talk to people in the program, ask questions on an online forum like LISjobs Message Board.
Ultimately, it isn’t the reputation of the program, or school, that matters most. It is how you use your degree (+ experience + knowledge + communication skills) to secure that first professional job. Good luck!
A few links:
U.S. News & World Report Rankings – Library and Information Studies