What is the best way to describe my future ambitions in my personal statement on my MLIS application?
August 13, 2010 10:45 PM   Subscribe

I am applying to a competitive MLIS program in a couple months, and I would like some advice on how to talk about my somewhat unusual plans for the future.

Hello all, this question relates to my previous post, in which I ask how I can combine my Spanish language skills and interest in translation with my professional ambitions to be a librarian.

For my personal statement, I very much want to talk about bringing my language skills and cultural competency into my future work as a librarian, but I am a little worried that if I don't approach this the right way, I may appear as though I don't know much about the field (since this isn't the typical path). I have several volunteer positions in libraries and also plan to discuss the events and research that led me to the current point, so hopefully that will indicate my level of knowledge, however I still want to be sure to handle this in a way that reflects I understand the nature of the profession, and what it is and isn't.

Essentially, I have several interests at the current time (which of course can and probably will change once I'm in the program, but that has no bearing on the admissions essay): 1. I think I'm interested in academic librarianship if I do not follow through with the next two options, which are the ones I really want to find a way to make happen; 2. the State Department (among other government agencies) hires MLIS grads to work abroad doing a variety of functions, which range from community outreach to working with government records, to helping build (sometimes literally) libraries in small communities; I would love to do this sort of work, and have seen several listings for these positions in different countries in Latin America; 3. If I can get the other degree(s) or specializations that would be required for this, I would also really love to be a librarian of Spanish language literature and/or reference materials (and I'm not sure if this would be in an academic setting or public libraries or special libraries only).

I really want to stress that I very much want to use my degree for community outreach and service functions, and that my language skills are a vehicle that I can use to do that. If I write about #3, I would like to mention that this would be one way to serve the growing Spanish speaking population in the US, by promoting their inclusion in libraries and/or facilitating the cultural exchange that is undoubtedly going to continue into the future.

Any advice on the best way to describe these goals? Anything I should avoid writing about? I know these are somewhat specific and a-typical goals for an MLIS aspirant, so advice would be very useful!

posted by wansac to Education (4 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Be careful to frame your statement as confident but not 'i just need the cert' - what specific coursework/faculty will enable/enrich your goals.
posted by k8t at 12:19 AM on August 14, 2010

They are somewhat specific, but those goals are not atypical at all. I articulated a version of those goals (admittedly, NOT the State Department one, because I wanted the Library of Congress libraries abroad but very similar idea) in my personal statement to my iSchool. I'm currently an academic librarian, though sadly not in an area where I can expect to use my Spanish skills often.

I think you need to acknowledge that you're interested in a couple of different paths, then articulate precisely how that school and their coursework in particular will help you decide which path to take (so, yes, follow k8t's advice!). Knowing the reputation of the iSchool you mentioned in your last question, I expect that they will be intrigued to get an application from someone interested in goals that are somewhat unusual. I would recommend (with the warning that I don't know anyone from the school) for that particular iSchool an emphasis in your statement on how technology and those library school courses related to it will help you achieve your goals and give back to the community.

A caveat: looking at your previous question, I note which school you're interested in. It's a great school, but be sure that their research interests align with your research interests. You can tell a great deal by what professor (if any) is researching in your area of interest.

For your third goal, as you note, you would need an additional degree; it's a great idea to get an articulated or joint degree so you don't spend as long in school wracking up debt. I don't think your school of interest has a joint degree in your area. The school that I went to does. If you're (or anyone reading this) interested in hearing more, MeMail me as my answer is too long to fit here.

While in library school, be sure to TAKE INTERNSHIPS and network like crazy. There is one way to find out if you like an area of librarianship and that's to do it. So, intern and decide which area you'd like to go into and narrow those goals of yours down so you can have a plan of some sort after you graduate and you can market yourself with that plan in mind. You may have heard that it's a little hard to get hired in libraries right now, and your particular areas of interest are quite narrow so you'll really need to interact and network with people from those areas.

Another thought for you to perhaps explore during library school: if you're really interested in promotion of libraries in Central and South America, look into San Juan del Sur Biblioteca and specifically the Hester J Hodgdon Libraries for All program. The program works to establish libraries in Central America, with an emphasis on community outreach.

Finally: it is a mini-scandal in the library world that library schools admit so many students of varying abilities and many of them exit the field quickly or never find a job at all. You do not sound like you're ignorant about the field, or at least, no more so than any fairly well-researched person who's never been to library school. So just write about your goals, how the school will help you achieve them, and what you plan to give back to the community as a result, and wait for their answer.
posted by librarylis at 10:26 AM on August 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think a lot of applicants write application essays that go something like, "I want to be a librarian because I love books!" Your interest in the field sounds much more well-developed. I don't have any general advice except to say I think you'll be fine.
posted by bluedaisy at 8:29 PM on August 14, 2010

Thanks to all three of you, this advice is very useful to me. I went through the UW's course catalogue so now I can be sure to mention the specific themes in the coursework they offer that I would like to study to reach these goals. Librarylis, I actually emailed the directora at San Juan del Sur Biblioteca to find out more about going down there over the summer as a volunteer, so thanks for pointing out this program to me!
posted by wansac at 3:20 PM on August 15, 2010

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