Q: I have just been accepted into an MLIS program but I find myself unable to make a decision on what area I would like to concentrate on. Honestly, I find them all interesting and don’t want to limit myself. I love the idea of working in public libraries possibly coordinating programs for young adults/teen and yet I would love to conduct historical research/preservation in special libraries/museums. However, a position as a school media specialist is also quite attractive and has a ton of perks. While I hold a masters degree in interactive communications it doesn’t necessarily mean I want to primarily focus on the technology aspect of libraries. While I’ve spent many hours in public libraries and museums I’ve never volunteered or worked in any. I guess my question, albeit big question, what are the pros/cons of being a librarian in each setting? One last question….if one wanted to end up working at Library of Congress or The Metropolitan Museum of Art what would be the path to take?
TA: Libraries can be the same in many ways, and different in others. I think you’ll find the core values of libraries primarily the same across different types of libraries: access to information, privacy, intellectual freedom, diversity, preservation and lifelong learning (see http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/oif/statementspols/corevaluesstatement/corevalues.cfm for ALA’s Core Values of Librarianship). The most significant differences rest in the clienteles served, the expectations for additional education, and the salaries earned. I would recommend that you use your time in school to explore different types of libraries through internships or volunteer experiences, and that as you seek to specialize, you investigate salaries and educational criteria through the professional associations for each type of library. You can also review job ads for different types of libraries while you’re in library school so you can shape your educational experience around the required and preferred qualifications for the positions you’re most interested in.