Career Strategies for Librarians
Why Procrastinate That MLS Degree? Excuses Are No Excuse!
by Amy Coffin
How long have you been putting off applying to library school? Don’t make excuses any longer! This is
an exciting time to be enrolled in graduate school. The dated image of the stodgy librarian is long gone.
In its place are exciting roles as children’s media specialists, archivists, researchers in the worlds of
business, law and medicine, and many other fascinating public and private information-related
I now know of these opportunities because I finally enrolled in library school after several years of
procrastination. Obtaining an information science degree was my perpetual short-term goal, but I
invented lots of reasons why I wasn’t library school material. Now I know every excuse I drafted was
completely wrong. Below I’ve listed many of the fears and insecurities that delayed my entrance into
library school and the wonderful occurrences that showed I was way off base. Perhaps you share some
of these hurdles. Hopefully, my experience will persuade potential applicants to become full-fledged
“I don’t work in a library.”
Though I’ve volunteered in my local public library for some time, I’ve never had a paid position in the
system. Several students in my program have paraprofessional positions in libraries, some are
teachers, and the rest have other types of jobs. I was very afraid I’d be lost in class discussions because
I don’t have inside knowledge of libraries. Nothing can be further from the truth. Class lectures are very
interesting and I’ve had no problem participating in conversations from day one.
“I don’t have anything to offer the program.”
This flimsy excuse is also tied to the fact that I don’t work in a library. I have no information-science know-
how on which to draw for assignments. When other classmates talk about their jobs, I used to think I’d
just have to sit there quietly. WRONG! Assignments are designed to introduce students to professionals
in their chosen field. I meet lots of interesting people and am able to share my experiences with the
“I’m too old.”
This is the silliest assumption of all these I’ve made. On my first day of school, I expected lots of career-
driven, intellectual 22 year-old MENSA members with fresh bachelor’s degrees in hand. In reality, I was
one of the youngest students in class. You’re never too old to start library school. The age span is about
45 years between the youngest and oldest students I’ve met.
“I can’t make a career change now.”
The career change in my case was returning to school after years of raising a child at home. I feared the
old brain gears were a bit rusty. Good grades and positive feedback from instructors proved this myth
wrong in my case. It should also be noted that during first-day class introductions in my program each
semester, many students mention that they are exploring different career paths. One classmate was
embarking on his fourth different career change!
“I’m not a computer wizard.”
I did my undergraduate work during the early 1990’s -- practically the Stone Age when it comes to the
Internet. Computer classes weren’t required back then, so I didn’t enroll in any. While some computer
experience is required for any ALA-accredited program, you don’t need to be a technical wizard. If your
skills are little rusty (or non-existent), take a refresher course and cross that excuse off your
“I can’t do graduate-level work.”
In my wacky library fantasy world, I envisioned and feared a workload that included stacks of academic
texts and dissertations. In reality, the majority of my assignments are interesting and fun. Graduate-level
work has allowed me to apply what I know and explore what I don’t. Class tasks often encourage
students to meet other information professionals, leading to a nice list of contacts upon graduation.
“I won’t pass the GRE®.”
The Graduate Record Examination® is required for admission by many colleges and universities. The
thought of taking the test was a significant fear of mine, responsible for many months of application
procrastination. I solved my problem by applying to a program that didn’t demand a GRE® score.
However, there are several study aids that include GRE® practice tests. Many students throughout the
country have to take the GRE® to get into graduate schools in all fields. If they can do it, so can you.
“My undergraduate grades aren’t that good.”
Most graduate programs also require a minimum undergraduate grade point average (GPA) for
admission. If there are more C’s than A’s and B’s on your report card, don’t fret. Call the university’s
library school or admissions department. Express your strong desire to be in the program and ask to be
admitted on a probationary basis. Once you have a few good grades under your belt, your good standing
as a graduate student will be restored.
“It costs a lot of money!”
Unless your pockets are lined with gold, finances will be a hurdle in your quest for a library school
degree. Do not let a lack of funds hamper your goal. Some employers offer financial assistance for their
employees to attend graduate school. If you work for a library, see if your organization offers
scholarships to paraprofessionals. You may also want to investigate financial aid through your chosen
college or the many scholarships offered by professional library associations.
“My local college doesn’t have a library school.”
My local colleges don’t have library schools, but I found a university several hundred miles away that
does. I attend class through their Distance Education Program. Today it’s possible to attend a graduate
school in an entirely different state or country. Examine library programs in your area and beyond. You’ll
be surprised by what you find, and out-of-state fees aren’t always applicable.
If you’re perusing www.LIScareer.com as a potential student, chances are that you’re somewhat serious
about applying to library school. I’ve shared my former doubts and dispelled fears so you can see that
attaining an information science degree is an achievable goal. Excuses are no excuse to put off
graduate school any longer. Examine the possibilities and apply today. You won’t be sorry!
About the Author:
Amy Coffin attends San José State University’s School of Library and Information Science through the
Distance Education Program. She also maintains www.TheBookHaven.net.
Article published Jan 2004
Disclaimer: The ideas expressed in LIScareer articles are those of their respective authors and do not
necessarily represent the views of the LIScareer editors.