Library School Redux

by Amelia Zavala Vander Heide ,Senior Editor, INALJ Massachusetts, Maryland, and Virtual Work

Library School Redux

If I knew then what I know now, I probably would have done some things differently, including taking a different course load in library school. This article is for those INALJ readers who are either currently in library school or are thinking about starting library school. I asked some of my fellow INALJ editors, “What are some courses they wish they had taken during their MLS?”

Grant Writing

When I was in library school, I was sure that I wanted to be an academic librarian. On top of being an academic librarian, I was sure that I wanted to work as a digital or e-resources librarian. However, life did not turn out that way. Now, I am a very happy public librarian. Because I was so sure what I wanted to do, I did not take many classes outside my path. If I could go back and do it again, I would definitely have taken a course in grant writing. Now, as a public librarian trying to apply for various grants, it seems like such a great skill I wish I had.


Being a successful and fair manager is difficult, and they are not skills that necessarily come naturally, thus taking a course in management can offer a wealth of information for future career moves. Knowing the basic tools of successful management styles can help even before you enter a position of authority. Marketing and management go hand in hand– they are non-library skills that can help immensely in a library environment.


Have you ever thought about being an academic or instructional librarian? Awesome. More than likely you have either taken a class or you are thinking of taking a class in instruction/instructional design. Still, there are many in library school who have no interest in instruction, and they do not take these courses. When you enter your career, it can take many twists and turns, and suddenly you are asked to teach some kind of class or program. Having a course in instruction in your repertoire can be a great asset to your future career. Many INALJ Editors who answered my request stated they wished they had taken an instruction course during library school.


This is another course I personally wish I had taken. I was suddenly a public librarian with no storytelling experience. It took me a month to work up the courage to go in front of that crowd of kindergarteners. (Seriously those little faces can be super intimidating.) Now I feel like an old pro. I can whip together a storytime in little to no time. Still, there are times when I wish that I had taken a course in great and effective storytelling, and it seems that some of my fellow editors agree.

I hope that this gives all those future librarians out there some inspiration when they pick their electives. You never know where your career is going to take you, and you never know which skills you wish you had. Please add any advise for future and current MLS students in the comments below.

  6 comments for “Library School Redux

  1. David
    December 16, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    I wish I had taken the Readers Advisory class, there are so many times I ended up needing to give a book recommendation to a patron and sort of feel like I could improve my delivery and confidence, also my breadth of knowledge in fiction books which I don’t read too many of. Management was a required course at University of Arizona. However, there was never a storytelling course. I have always been a bit jealous of UNC students who got to take their course. Grant Writing is another one they didn’t offer. I am applying to an internship that features some grant writing so now I wish I had a class in that. I did just fine finding money for my family business though, which is like a grant writing, and my experience counts in that. My advice is don’t take too many digital library courses, they eventually get repetitive and you’ll just find yourself bored. Use a few credits to explore softer social classes even if you are a nerd like me.

  2. Whitney Zahar
    December 15, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    I’m thick in the middle of my program, so this has been very helpful. I also want to suggest taking a class in reference because everyone should learn how to conduct a reference interview. I also suggest taking a course in Readers’ Advisory if it’s offered.

  3. Chris
    December 15, 2014 at 4:48 pm

    I would probably do everything more or less the same. As a whole, I took very general courses. I am of the opinion that learning on the job is how I really learned to do most librarian stuff. For example I took a cataloging course, but it taught me very little practical cataloging information. When my second job made me the cataloger for my library, and it was of little use. In the end I figured it out. I took collections courses, and do collections

    I feel like most of school is just too thereotical to have a massive impact on how you turn out as a librarian. Storytelling for example, is more I think a matter of experience than it is something a course could teach you. School basically teaches you a way of thinking, as a librarian, and you do the rest through trial and error, and working with those at your place who have been there done that.

    • Chris
      December 15, 2014 at 4:49 pm

      *do collections, and feel the same about those courses.

  4. Pam H
    December 15, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    Thank you for the excellent advice!

  5. Lauren
    December 15, 2014 at 9:10 am

    I agree that all of these are great courses to take. Interestingly enough in the Library Technician programs in Ontario there are required courses on both management and marketing (a separate course for each topic), as well one for programming and another one on financial management that discusses avenues for funding even if it doesn’t teach how to write a grant application.

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