MLIS: The First Few Weeks

by Paul Marks, Head Editor, INALJ Virginia

MLIS: The First Few Weeks

PaulMarksThis month, I moved to Pittsburgh, got a job, a pet, three houseplants, and the dozens of books I’ll need for my first MILS classes. The anxiety that had been built in anticipation was wiped away once the ducks were in their colloquial rows. And for a few days, the anxiety remained at bay.

Then classes began. The anxiety returned, but not under the sudden, cold weight of deadlines and word counts. No—I actually enjoy these things, sick as that may be. Rather, the assignments themselves inspired anxiety: prompts calling for a meditation on the threat to libraries in the 21st century, essays on the likelihood of a library “without walls,” and discussions on the need for archives in the digital age. Interesting, I thought, do medical students also spend their first few weeks analyzing the need for their profession? Perhaps I should have gone to law school. 

Of course, by their own admission, the first few weeks of coursework were crafted by my professors to inspire anxiety. Perhaps it was to weed out those who didn’t truly want to be there. But more poignantly, it was a push to critically valuate the information profession. It was a push to find intrinsic value in a field which is too-often considered without intrinsic value in contemporary American society.

In truth, it’s not a difficult task. The explosion of information validates the need for information professionals now more than ever. And libraries? They’re not going anywhere. Sure, they might look a lot different in ten years, but open access to information is always something that will need mediation—as the last few decades have shown, the ‘powers that be’ certainly cannot be left to their own devices.

Nevertheless, I’m beginning to realize that I might always need to justify my professional field to others.

And that’s O.K. with me.

Going into the third week of the term, I’m breathing a bit easier.

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