library school check-in (part 1 of 4)

I knew that I wanted to share pieces of my experience in the MLIS program but I wasn’t sure how often would be best. Now that I’m at the end of my week-long February break, this seems like an ideal time to look back on my first six weeks of grad school.

The Place
London is an alright city. It’s comparable to where I call home, Halifax. Keeping in mind that I arrived in January, I’m holding out hope that London in the summer will win me over.

Western is a different beast. The campus is enormous and reminds me of my brief year at the University of Saskatchewan. On my second day, I went on a walking tour that lasted two hours and we didn’t get even to see everything! Through volunteering on campus and attending events I’ve gotten to know the core central areas. My classes are divided between two buildings across the road from one another, and I don’t normally venture too far from there. The grounds are really beautiful (see above!) but, again, I’m holding out for the warmer months.


The Coursework
This is (technically) my second time at a “library school”… I have a diploma in Library and Information Technology and I’ve worked in libraries for almost a decade. But any ideas I had about repeating work or not learning anything are long gone. My courses are current, fast-paced, and engaging. I’m attending FIMS at Western University as a full-time student and so my first term is taken up by five prerequisite courses: cataloguing, reference, statistics and research, management, and “perspectives” which is really an intro course with plenty of theory and big ideas. Some of my favourite topics/projects so far have been a presentation on relations between professionals and paraprofessionals, analyzing the place of libraries within an information economy, and getting really into my reference course.

It’s been enlightening to see that some of my professional experiences don’t exist in a vacuum. A big one for me is that some librarians have really strong feelings about other people (people who are not librarians) who also work in libraries. Sometimes the focus is on support and advocacy, but other times it’s this strange air of exclusion. It’s been interesting to read through some of this literature and discuss in class, especially since I’ve worked at a number of levels within libraries: completely trained on the job, then as a library tech, and now as a future librarian.

Outside Class

Before I started school six weeks ago, I knew I wanted to get involved in things beyond the classroom. In my undergrad I was very involved with my department’s student club and academic committee and I wanted to emulate that here. I’m in a handful of student groups serving in various roles: ARLIS, SLA, Progressive Librarians Guild, MLIS Student Council, Society of Graduate Students, and the brand new Association of Canadian Archives student chapter. I’m also volunteering at the Pride Library, something that reminds me of my job back home. Getting to work there feels familiar and good, and it’s a fantastic space on campus.

Student spaces are vital for me and there are a few that I’m fond of. FIMS has its own in-house library, the Graduate Resource Centre, and it’s my new home base. Two other fave spaces are the grad lounge (which is replacing my work lounge in my daily routine) and the grad club (which has enormous and cheap nachos).

As full as my schedule is and as much as I love being busy, it’s important to find a balance between work and down time. Sometimes that looks like going to karaoke with my cohort pals and other times it looks like going to bed at 8pm. Having a mentor to turn to also helps. The MLIS Student Council organizes a mentorship program each term, matching incoming students with current ones. Knowing that I have someone who’s been here, and who has a schedule as full and involved as my own, goes a long way.


Everything Else
As I continue as a full-time student, my workplace not only granted me a leave to attend this program, but I am continuing working virtually on a contract/as needed basis. Having the opportunity to continue my e-resources work is triplefold: I can make some money, I reinforce the skills I’ve already gained through using Primo’s products, and (let’s be honest) sometimes it’s a nice change from schoolwork.

Being away from home is no picnic. Both sides of my family are loud and affectionate, and I miss them. I miss living on the ocean and its salt air. I miss Halifax, my home of seven years, and its familiar streets. Yet I’m grateful for this opportunity of getting to do something new in a new place.
The reality of being a first generation student is never far from my mind. As much as my family supports me, I find myself reaching out to friends at other schools, in other programs, for advice. Reading more about first gen students is honing my interest in how academic libraries reach out to them (or not, as I’m finding out through my research).


To close, here are a few highlights from readings:

  • Badke, William. “Ten Things we really should Teach about Searching.” Online Searcher 39, no. 3 (May/June 2015): 71-73.
  • Bell, Suzanne S. “The Searcher’s Toolkit, Parts 1, 2.” In Librarian’s Guide to Online Searching. 4th ed., 27–38, 49-62. Santa Barbara, California: Libraries Unlimited, 2015.
  • Nicholson, Karen P. “The McDonaldization of Academic Libraries and the Values of Transformational Change.” College & Research Libraries 76, no. 3 (March 01, 2015): 328-338. doi:10.5860/crl.76.3.328.
  • Sweeney, Miriam. “How to Read for Grad School.”



7 Replies to “library school check-in (part 1 of 4)”

  1. I’m a little bit jealous. I took the online route through U of Alberta, and while it is serving its purpose, I really wish I had a “real class room” experience. Its will take me three years to complete my MLIS this way, but I get to keep working and didn’t have to relocate to attend school, so there are pay offs and draw backs. I’m assuming you are taking the condensed 1 year program? Our Children’s library did that and had good things to say, and our last Teen Librarian did the same and loved it. Good luck!

    1. Yep, I’m taking the one year “intensive” as I like to call it. I considered both the online U of A program, as you’re doing, and attending Dalhousie part time so I could keep working at the same time, but ultimately I knew I wouldn’t want to draw it out that long. I also have the support of a gracious workplace that granted me a year’s leave to go to school, something I know isn’t possible for everyone.

    1. It’s a unique experience! I was excited to volunteer there before I even arrived. I had that many alumni rave about it!

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