Q: I have a Humanities BA, and a Bachelor of Education, but I ended up discovering that teaching isn’t my thing. My dream job would be to work in an academic library!
If I take the diploma program, I can start job hunting after only a year, and the cost will be minimal. It also seems like it provides directly applicable technical skills, as well as experience through work placements. If I later decide I want to advance my career, I could still apply for a MLIS in the future.
But it looks like the best academic librarian jobs require a MLIS anyway. So should I skip the community college diploma and just go for the Master’s degree right from the start? I’m worried that it would just put me in even more student debt without much payoff.
What are the differences between the kinds of jobs I can expect to qualify for with a LIT diploma vs. a MLIS degree?
SM: Correction: not only the best academic jobs will require an MLIS — all academic librarian positions will require an MLIS (or equivalent). While the LIT diploma may help you secure a library staff/technician position, it typically is not required for those positions. If you want to apply for staff positions, your current degrees should serve you well. If working as an academic librarian is your ultimate goal, I recommend that you go for the MLIS, rather than the diploma. I understand the economic incentive to spend the least amount of money, but if you go the diploma route, and then can’t get the jobs you want, you’ll end up spending more money (and time) for both degrees — rather than just getting your MLIS in the first place.
Spend some time perusing current job ads for positions you find interesting, and look at the requirements: degrees, background, specific skills, and experience that is expected in applicants. And then compare that to what you already have, and make an inventory of what you need to acquire.
As for library schools, do your research and look at programs across the country, including online programs. The costs will vary greatly depending on school, location, private vs. public, and specialization. And keep in mind that you may qualify for student aid and loans. You could complete an MLIS program, if you took the max workload, in under two years. I’ve known some people to finish in just a year and a half. However, it would be most beneficial to your future career as a librarian, if you could work in a library (preferably an academic one) while you are taking classes toward your MLIS. You will need the MLIS in order to apply for positions, but employers always prefer some experience, especially for academic librarian positions.
But, don’t just take my word for it. Contact a local librarian and see if you can talk to him/her about the profession and about his/her own career path. Get advice from online forums, and join local associations where you can network and learn more about what it might take to land your dream job in an academic library.
Directory of ALA-Accredited and Candidate Programs in Library and Information Studies
State of America’s Libraries Report 2015 | Academic Libraries