I'm thinking about jumping ship from IT to library/archival science. Am I nuts?
I know this has been asked and answered in various ways previously on MetaFilter, so please bear with me as I try to be original.
After 10+ years in IT, I'm thinking about returning to school to study library and information science - i.e., get an MLIS. I've worked as a technical writer and de facto librarian in a corporate setting for much of my professional life, and spend most of my time working on knowledge management, metadata, programming and other activities that seem to feed right into a sort of tech-focused librarianship role that's emerging in the profession.
After some investigation, I hear repeatedly that library school is, well, kind of brainless, and its value mainly lies in ticking off a job placement requirement. If so, should I be placing a lot of emphasis on school selection, location, etc., or can I prioritize by completing an online degree (e.g., Drexel) and pursuing work experience and volunteer opportunities locally (I live in Washington, DC)? Secondly, is it better to be a specialist or a generalist? In my current career, I've done well by being a technical communicator in a very small industry (IT security), so I'm leaning towards finding a subject area and tailoring my work experience and study towards that.
I've had the good fortune to be able to attend the American Library Association conferences for the last four years, so I think I'm pretty well acquainted with the challenges facing new grads going into the profession and competing for academic and public librarian jobs. I live in the Washington, DC region, so I'm a little more optimistic about job opportunities than I might be in another location.
I'm particularly interested in digital archiving and preservation, and I think my background would prepare me for that. I have no interest in working in a traditional library setting, but that's not to say I don't enjoy working with people!
I've been trying to do my homework on the topic. I've been interviewing friends who have completed or are completing some variation on a library science degree, and reading various blogs, forums, etc. I know there have been several questions relating to this topic on AskMe - these were particularly helpful, for example: 1 2 3
. Furthermore, the National Archives here in DC has a biannual two-week program called the Modern Archives Institute
which acquaints participants with hands-on archival work, and I'm considering applying to it as I think I need some experience outside a corporate setting to judge if this is right for me.
As an aside, I believe I can pull off grad school without going into grotesque debt. My current job offers tuition assistance.
Any suggestions or perspectives you can offer would be a big help. I'm at the stage where I'm enthusiastic about the possibilities for study and work, but wary of the time/cost commitment when considering how difficult the post-MLIS experience has been for others.