and then i knew what i wanted to do when i grew up but i didn’t know how to get there

I always assumed I would get my MLIS. It’s what you DO when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life working at a public library. I’ve been encouraged to do so by every supervisor I’ve ever had. I’ve been encouraged to do so by our last director and our current director. Many people I respect graduated from Wayne State-which is the most convenient and economical option for this Michigander. I’ve explored University of Wisconsin at Madison. I’ve looked into University of Denver. I checked out University of Michigan.

I just…it all just…well…doesn’t…interest me.

Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely respect that degree and I definitely respect people who have chosen to get that degree.

But as I spend more time in youth services and I hone in on what it is I’m really passionate about I’m starting to wonder if I really need to take “Foundations of Library and Information Science” and “Introduction to the Information Profession.”

Here’s what I want to do:

I want to develop programming for caregivers and children 0-3 years old. I want to identify partners in communities providing services for this population and I want to support them with outreach opportunities highlighting best practices including ECRR. I want to create a network of organizations dedicated to supporting this population and I believe the public library is an appropriate place to do this.

My love of toddler storytime is well known. After each session, I evaluate what I believe worked and what did not. I incorporate new elements based on independent research I have done: books I have read, articles I have stumbled across, webinars and professional development opportunities. And this session it became abundantly clear with attendance numbers, programming for 3s and under in my community is very much needed. I love my storytime kids and caregivers. It truly is the best part of my job.

BUT there are so many people in my community who are not able to attend my storytimes. Two working caregivers, lack of transportation, wrong time of day, caregivers intimidated by how it all “works” (What if I have fines on my card? Can I still attend storytime? How do I handle a child who wants to check items out but I owe too much?), language barriers and simply not knowing what’s the big deal about storytime anyway?

One of the main reasons I’ve become so attracted to this population is that I honestly, truly, 100% believe that if every caregiver knew how important reading, talking, playing, writing, and singing is to the brain development of their infants and toddlers, the world would change. And I also believe there are a lot of people who have no idea how any of that reading, talking, playing, writing and singing even looks like with an infant or toddler.

And I believe it’s a good use of taxpayer dollars to extend the reach outside the library.

My current job is definitely not only about storytime. I work at our local Boys and Girls Club with elementary kids. I provide parent training at local schools on how to read with your child. I provide tours for preschools-5th graders. I provide programming for school aged children and families. I am assigned desk hours to provide reference for our department. And I love just about every single one of those parts of my job.

But my dream? My dream is early literacy.

So, an MLIS just doesn’t seem to be the right path for me. I am completely self-taught right now. I know I am a lifelong learner, but I also know I my dream won’t come close to coming true unless I get an advanced degree no matter how many books I’ve read or webinars I watch or conferences I attend.

I’m more than open to suggestions.

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3 thoughts on “and then i knew what i wanted to do when i grew up but i didn’t know how to get there

  1. Erin, An advanced degree will provide you with a credential for much of what you have learned outside of a formal education program. It also gives one mobility… it communicates what you should know in “shorthand”. It improves your earning potential and your potential authority over the direction your library heads. But you know all this…

    As I have learned more about the efforts in our state (and many other states) to enhance the learning of preschoolers, there are options for you… options in preschool education work outside of the library. And there are degree offerings in childhood development to round out your knowledge. This too might be worth exploring… and costs could be reimbursed too as job related education (at least I think there are still provisions for that in the labor agreement)… if you want to round out your background in this field.

    Now all this could be moot if your situation never changes… if you continue to work with folks who add value as you need it concerning childhood development and/or you have time to research and read on the issues that present themselves. You are a bright, inquisitive woman and nothing should be beyond you. You might want to look into the library’s laws on management of public libraries as there are limitations in size of communities that a bachelor’s degreed director can work… should you be interested in directing some day.

    There are legions of extraordinarily talented folks who work in libraries without the masters degree in library science… but, generally speaking, they are not very mobile beyond their present situation nor above their present situation.

    BTW: what’s shaking with the teen department?

    Tom G

    Sent from my iPad

  2. One thing that may be worth exploring as you look at MLIS programs is asking their admissions staff about taking classes in other disciplines that would count as credit toward your master’s. I’m not exactly sure how it works or what the limitations might be, but I know when I went through UW-Madison, there was a process and paperwork you could pursue if you wanted to take a class(es?) outside the library school for credit toward your degree. So perhaps you could focus more on the skill-set you hope to acquire and market post-graduation that way. But I would recommend getting an MLIS just because you have much more options for employment and advancement career with one than without.

  3. I’m pretty much right there with you Erin. This topic has been on my mind since the very first time I looked into working at a library. I somehow stumbled into my dream full-time job, and I love it. Awesome mentors of mine have gently nudged me towards a degree (I attempted to get into a program, but my GRE score in math killed that – so I felt burned by the monetary cost of that failure among other things). But, when I look at how my library is set up, I would not gain anything by having that degree – they can’t afford to pay me more beyond the set annual pay increases. We also have four employees with their degrees – all are part-time and have to work a second job to get by.

    But with that said, I’ve kept my mind open to it. If I ever *do* want to seek a job outside of my current library, or I decide I’d like to become a Director (a thought that currently horrifies me), then I know that jumping through the hoops to get that piece of paper will become very important. My mom returned to school in her 50’s, got her BA and then Master’s and loves her career. So I know that growth/change can happen at any age with wonderful results – which takes pressure off of me to DO IT NOW!!!

    But with all *that* said, my recent health diagnosis puts schooling into very serious doubt. Stress can be a trigger for flares, and I get enough of those with a job that I adore – I can’t imagine how I’d feel adding school work I can’t stand on top of that (I’ve taken a few Master’s-level courses and while interesting, they have not applied to my actual work in the library world – or given me insights beyond what I’d already learned on-the-job). I love learning and have gained tons from continuing education courses, and I think that as long as I have a passion to continue growing (maybe not in the academically-approved way), then that’s what’s best for me right now.

    Thank you so much for sharing – I know that couldn’t have been easy. It made me really reflect on some thoughts that have flitted about in my mind for years now. Rock on, lady!

    Also – it just occurred to me – might this be you trying to decide if that degree as a sacred cow? Hmmm…

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