I am not a librarian or even a library student, so if you’re reading this, you may be looking for some sort of explanation – why would I, a non-professional, be engaging in discussions I know very little about? A decent question, one that I am sure you will ask yourself if you continue reading this blog, as I am certain to say many uninformed things in the future. Eventually, I do hope to go to library school and become a real professional librarian with clout, but the sad fact is that could be a year or more in my future. As I’ve been thinking about graduate school and my future and the value of the MLIS degree, I’ve seen very little representation of someone in my position in the blogosphere, which I have been reading widely and deeply for more than a year. So in writing this blog, I hope to start discussion among those of us who are in-between: certainly passionate about libraries, but unsure of the best path to get us where we want to go.
At least, I hope there are some of you out there. Perhaps this is a shout into the void that will be promptly ignored and I will realize that I truly am alone in the universe. So be it, but I really hope that there are people out there struggling with the same things, and that you will let me know who you are. Aspiring, roadblocked librarians gotta stick together, y’all.
So here’s the story: I graduated in May with every intention to start attending graduate school this fall. I spent most of my senior year of college losing my mind over applications. I applied to four programs, largely based on location: the MLIS program at Kent State University, the MSIS at University of Texas at Austin, the dual Master of Archival/MLIS at University of British Columbia, and the MLIS at University of Denver. I was fairly adamant that I wanted to attend an in-person program rather than online. Happily, I was accepted to all four, leading me to continue to lose my mind over making a final decision. I decided that Kent State was too expensive for ratio of in-person to online classes. The cost of living in Vancouver made me cry a little, so I sadly crossed UBC off my list. I was really drawn to Austin, but decided I wasn’t up for another major move to another state and that I was ready to return home to Colorado – University of Denver it was.
I was aware of how expensive tuition was at University of Denver when I applied, but I got a scholarship and decided it would be fine. What’s fifty grand more in loans, after all? It was all very abstract in my mind, so I managed to justify it. Later in the summer, however, I began filling out my financial paperwork, and realized what a huge burden this would be on my future. On top of my undergrad loans, I was afraid that graduate loans would truly cripple me. I want an education, sure, but I also want a life. I was afraid of what these loans might prevent me from doing. At this time, I was also reading a lot of blogs and talking to a lot of librarians who were telling me that the degree is just a paper that you get that allows you to work – it can be boring and irritating and it’s just something you have to do. This made me question my commitment to reputation and in-person classes. Were they really that important, or was I just holding on to being a college student as long as I could?
In the end, I decided to defer at DU. I figured I could spend the intervening year deciding what I truly want and trying to acquire more funding. This has generally been a great decision – it’s been nice to have a break from being a full-time student, and I got a part-time job at the local public library as a public services and Interlibrary Loan specialist. I love this job, and I feel like I am learning so many practical things. I’m certainly gaining valuable experience. However, I don’t feel any closer to making my decision. Should I go with an online program in the hopes of one day achieving financial freedom? Or should I just sign away my life and go to DU? I honestly have no idea, my mind changes every day.
And that’s the story that I hope to chronicle in this blog for now. I know there’s not one right answer to my questions, and that any path I take will likely work out in the end. But I’d like to be on the one that will give me the best life, the best career skills, the best experiences. And most importantly, I’d like to know that there are others out there who have been or are currently going through the same thing, so please leave your comments, words of wisdom, and comforting anecdotes.