by Claire Schmieder, Head Editor, INALJ New Jersey
MLIS + Non-Library Job = A Much Bigger Picture
About two months ago, I started a new job as Program Associate at the Alice Paul Institute. We’re a small non-profit organization, based out of suffragette Alice Paul’s childhood home, Paulsdale, in Mount Laurel, NJ. The site is on the National Register of Historic Places, but we’re not a historic house museum. There are no Victorian sofas, knick-knacks, or floral wallpaper. Instead, API is a leadership institute and education center for children and adults. Most of our programming focuses on girls, including two summer camps, our Girls Advisory Council, in-school programs for middle school students, just to name a few. There is, in fact, a small library on the third floor of our “office,” but we don’t spend much time in there. British suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst lived by the motto, “Deeds, not words,” which sums up nicely how we prioritize our work – we spend less time researching and writing and more time doing and educating.
I’ve had a number of people ask me, “So, what’s the library part of your job?” I’ve begun responding, “All of it.” Programming, outreach, education, social media, collaboration, development, fundraising, networking, applying for grants, running an organization within the confines of a tight budget…I could go on. I’m not bound by a specific daily routine, only routine responsibilities. I pitch in where I’m needed (to stuff envelopes for our annual appeal, for example), but I get to take the lead on lots of projects, too.
And guess what I learned about in library school? Programming, outreach, education, social media, collaboration, development, fundraising, networking, applying for grants, running an organization within the confines of a tight budget, etc.
If I did not have an MLIS, I would not have the skills necessary to do my job. Period.
Which leads me to the reason why I decided to go to library school in the first place – after reading through the program requirements and course offerings of a number of MLIS programs, I realized that a degree in library science meant I would have the skills to do so many jobs, both inside and outside of a library setting.
By virtue of the breadth of skills taught in library school, I posit that an MLIS is a slightly different kind of graduate degree, one that prepares library students with more than simply “library skills.” I took courses in information policy, library software, basic HTML & database coding, the history of the book, digital libraries, management, archival preservation – and these are just the tip of the library school iceberg. Folks take collection development, government information resources, database design, social media campaigning, information behavior, young adult literature, reference resources…and way too many others to list here.
This is why I tell people that my job is all about library skills – I just happen to use those skills outside of a library. And I couldn’t be happier about it.