Tell me about MLIS programs in the US!
November 3, 2006 8:08 AM   Subscribe

MLIS Filter!: I'm thinking about heading back to school to snag an MLIS. However, reviews of programs seem to be far and few between. Tell me about your MLIS.

Outside of a few standouts (Chapel Hill and Rutgers come to mind), it seems to be awfully hard to find any comprehensive review of MLIS programs. I was hoping some Mefi-ites with MLIS experience could suggest some programs, warn me about the pitfalls and help me on my way.

I'm trying to avoid Rutgers (Too much time in NJ already) or someplace way out the in the middle of nowhere (I did my undergrad in a wasteland. And it was a fine time, but I don't think I could do it again). I'm in NYC now and I see that Queens and Pratt both have programs, but I was recently warned off the Pratt program and told it was "disorganized, at best".

For reference: I graduated with a degree in English and Philosophy and I have substantial experience in programming (However rusty I might be) and research. I've worked in libraries before as well in archives. I applied very last minute to the University of Hawaii last year and got shot down.

Thanks for any help!
posted by GilloD to Education (33 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
I went to Chapel Hill and would be happy to answer any questions you have about the program (I loved it, on the whole). Email's in my profile.
posted by leesh at 8:23 AM on November 3, 2006

Have you checked U.S. News and World Report's ranking of Library and Information Science graduate schools? You may need to read the print edition to get all the information... I wish there was some sort of institution that provided free access to periodicals... :)

I know there are a number of people on Metafilter who got their degree at the Information School at the University of Washington in Seattle, myself included. Salespitchwise, it's a nice school that's ranked highly, and you can't beat the location.

It is still experimenting with how technically-oriented it wants you to be, but there are informatics and information management courses within the same college which you can take for some credit.
posted by Hildago at 8:26 AM on November 3, 2006

I got my MLIS at Pitt, and while I can offer plenty of advice about the program as it was in 2000-01 I think it has changed a bit in the last few years because of the retirement of some key professors. I know they keep getting high marks in the US News and World Report surveys, so they must be doing something right nowadays. One of the interesting things about Pitt is that there's a major public library as well as a huge academic library just down the street, so you can see lots of "library science" in action in different environments. (Note: Anything with the word "science" in its name is not really a science.) Plus there's the Warhol Museum archives and a few other interesting museums and libraries in the area, for internship/practicum experience. If you think you might be interested in Pitt, send me an e-mail and I can answer specific questions about the program.

I also have this really long and embarassingly out-of-date e-mail about library school in general that I have sent to various MeFites over the years. I can forward it on to you if you'd like. Every once in a while I'll get the notion to polish that thing up a bit and post it somewhere online, but I never seem to get around to it.
posted by arco at 8:27 AM on November 3, 2006

I got my MLIS at Simmons College in Boston, about 7 years ago. I got a good grounding in cataloging, reference and technology. Although I was primarily focusing on children's services at the time, now that I am in an academic library doing cataloging and information access, I find myself referring back to my classes with Candy Schwartz more than ever.
posted by Biblio at 8:32 AM on November 3, 2006

(I received arco's form letter to would-be librarians, and found it helpful. Holy crap, has it been 3 years?)
posted by Hildago at 8:49 AM on November 3, 2006

i just started the mlis/msis program at drexel. i'm doing the distance programme, so it's pretty technology driven. i wish i had more to say, but i'm halfway through the first quarter.

i also looked into san jose state because i'm in the bay area and it's the only school in northern california. the deadlines didn't match with my schedule because i was told i had to be in library school this fall the day after san jose closed their admissions. i know they've been experiencing growing pains, but i went to a meeting that their new dean spoke at and it sounds like interesting things will be happening there soon. i'm pretty sure there are some mefites there now who could ellaborate.
posted by kendrak at 8:50 AM on November 3, 2006

I, like leesh, did my MLS at UNC-Chapel Hill. I am also happy to answer any specific question about the program, but in general, I'll just say that it was amazing. Great school, great professors, great's also currently tied for #1 ranked MLS in the US. Tons of opportunity, and you'll learn an amazing amount.

I'll also add: me = BA in philosophy, big techie. You're on exactly the right path...the MLIS is a great match for that skillset.
posted by griffey at 8:52 AM on November 3, 2006

What kind of job do you want? Are you looking to be a librarian or archivist? Do you want a more traditional library science education or something that's leaning more toward the information science end of things?

I went to the University of Michigan. My degree's in Human-Computer Interaction, but I think I could recommend the Library and Information Services specialization. I haven't heard too many complaints, except for the general Library Science complaints that no one seems to want to hire full-time librarians and pay them benefits. I imagine that's the case anywhere.

I've talked to people who went to Wayne State and it seems like U-M leans more toward the Information Science end of things (using the electronic resources, etc) while Wayne State is more traditional. I don't know if that's totally accurate, but maybe people can clarify.

A lot of Archives & Records Management students complained that there was a lot more attention paid to electronic archives than to old-school paper-based archives, but there seem to be lots of opportunities for hands-on experience with either.
posted by srah at 9:04 AM on November 3, 2006

IANAL (librarian), but if location is a concern, The University of Illinois' MLS program (among the best, I understand) has an online option, requiring just one campus visit per semester.
posted by j-dawg at 9:13 AM on November 3, 2006

I got my degree at Simmons 2 years ago, and the only reason I'd recommend it is if you really want to live in the Boston area, as it's your only choice here (other than online degrees and the questionably accredited school in RI). I'd be happy to share more thoughts over email with anyone who's interested.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 9:16 AM on November 3, 2006

I don't know if you'd consider Bloomington to be in the middle of nowhere, but IUB generally does well on comparative rankings (whether that means anything, and what that says about library education in general, I won't address). I graduated last May with an MLS and an MA; email in profile if you want more opinons on its program. There are lots of library and library-student communities on Livejournal; partial list by school here.
posted by nonane at 9:27 AM on November 3, 2006

Like Biblio and Banjo, I'm a Simmons grad (Go Fightin, uh, Shrill Undergrads!) and would only recommend it if you were actually in the Boston area to begin with. Given the haphazard quality of the current program, I would feel cheated if I moved here just for that.

One bonus side to Boston, though, is the sheer number of libraries we have about. This makes internships pretty varied, but also makes the librarian job market for newly-minted and still-in-school librarians pretty bloodthirsty.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:27 AM on November 3, 2006

I got my MLIS from McGill in 2002, but the programme has undergone some major changes since I was there. I'm currently living and working in Boston, and agree that the job market is bloodthirsty. The reason I chose to go to Canada was that the 2 year program at McGill cost less than the 9 month program at Simmons.

What kind of librarian do you want to be? A childrens' librarian or a technical services librarian? Figuring out what you want to do with your degree will help you decide what kind of coursework to study, which will help you choose a suitable school. If you want to be a generalist librarian, then pick a school in a city you like, and take a variety of courses (this was my education path).

If you want to go to Canada, UBC and Toronto have good programmes. McGill's current programme looks to be better than the one I went through, and if they follow through with some of the suggestions my class made, it could be an excellent program in the future.

Why not search for blogs of current LIS students at the schools you're interested in? You're sure to get plenty of opinions there.

Email's in my profile if you have any McGill questions. Good luck!
posted by bryghtrose at 9:49 AM on November 3, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks, guys. I'm really interested in research/information managment, I'm a Google-fu black belt etc. I love that stuff. But I also love the idea of working with people to help them find what they need, facilitating the flow of information to the people.

Good idea on the blog-front, I'll check that out.
posted by GilloD at 9:55 AM on November 3, 2006

Seconding the University of Illinois suggestion. The last I heard, their MSLIS program was ranked at or near the top -- and their online program (called LEEP) was included in that ranking.
posted by penchant at 10:16 AM on November 3, 2006

I went to Wayne State in Detroit for my MLS. I agree with srah, it's a traditional program, not a lot of programming/web design/ hi tech computer stuff taught, nor very academically rigorous (no thesis required). But Wayne's really very good in everything else: K-12 librarianship, cataloging, reference services, collections, archiving and management. The best part of Wayne is that they are very interested in connecting practicing librarians with students, with lots of guest lecturerships, visits to libraries, practicums, job fairs, etc. The students are mostly part-timers and skew older than most grad schools, in the 35+ age range.
posted by holyrood at 10:16 AM on November 3, 2006

Another MeFite with a philosophy B.A. reporting in! I went to the University of Michigan's School of Information, and graduated in 2004 with a specialization in library and information services (as opposed to srah's Human-Computer Interaction specialization).

I liked it pretty well. I found most of my classes to be interesting and challenging. My biggest problem with the program is that at times, I had to fight to figure out how the coursework applied to libraries.

I think U of M might be a good match for you given your interests. There are four specializations, three of which have been mentioned already; the last one is information ecology, management, and policy, and I imagine some coursework in that area might prepare you for the kind of career you're interested in. But don't take my word for it.
posted by rikhei at 10:31 AM on November 3, 2006

I went to the University of Texas juuuust before they changed the name of the program and the degree to be a little less library-oriented and a little more profit information-in-general oriented. I found it to be a fine program. Most of my courses were interesting; the ones that were not were not really the kinds of courses I expected to be interesting in the first place. I wouldn't say it was the most challenging academic experience of my life (though that seemed to depend on where you'd done your undergrad work). I happened to be fairly depressed at the time, and really did not dig Austin, so you might want to ask someone else about that part. I find that my degree from UT is very well-regarded in professional circles, job interviews, and the like (which is nice).
I'm a little unsure what else to tell you; to be honest, after reading your question, I immediately thought, "Michigan or Drexel," though everything I know about their programs is, of course, second hand. Both are well-regarded and tech-focused.
On the other hand, if you already live in the city, Queens College would be mad cheap. Especially if you're thinking of working in public or academic libraries, consider your student loan load carefully.
posted by willpie at 10:52 AM on November 3, 2006

well, i guess i'm the only illinois-minted mslis willing to step up and admit it here . . . but it's just an awesome program.

outside of library school, we had some great years there. do you like college basketball? delicious thai food? cute little art theatres? leafy, college-town neighborhoods? sweetcorn festivals? being close to chicago? all in all, urbana isn't as "in the middle of nowhere" as many other places are.

inside of library school, of course, you'll be in classes with the future leaders of the library profession. and the profs there are accessible, eager to teach, and know more about libraries, information, and all kinds of cool stuff (including mmorpgs, data visualization, competitive intelligence, and of course, the dewey decimal system). best of all, it's a big enough university that you can do what you want with your mls, but a small enough program that you'll get to know as many (or as few) other folks as you want.

drawbacks? you can't really hop on a subway and catch the latest broadway play. but you can't do that in austin, chapel hill, san jose, seattle, or anywhere else a fine library school is located, save for nyc.

i've got lots of friends who went to washington, and i work with folks who went to rutgers, and texas, and a whole mess of other library schools. they're all great librarians, and i can tell that their programs were top-notch. but i'm of the opinion that if you haven't lived through at least one midwestern summer, then you really haven't lived.

best of luck!
posted by deejay jaydee at 11:30 AM on November 3, 2006

I go to Pratt. It's not that bad--I feel I have learned some good stuff--but it certainly is disorganized, particularly around registration time. My experience has been that if you can afford to take a day off work in order to get in line for registration* two hours before the scheduled start time, AND you've talked to enough people to know who are the good profs and who are the bad ones, then it's fine, really. My e-mail's in my profile if you want to know more.

*Yes, they still don't have online registration, though they are attempting to get it rolling even as we speak. They intended to have it ready for spring 07 semester but it was a fiasco from the get-go.
posted by scratch at 11:46 AM on November 3, 2006

I'm another Illinois grad, and I highly recommend it. The LEEP program might be perfect for you if you don't want to leave New York and/or want to hold down a full-time job in a library or archive while taking classes.

The best advice I can give you on what to do while in school is rock the practicums, assistantships, and internships. This is what will get you your first job out of school, not the coursework alone. But really, if you're a programmer, you'll probably do well on the job search regardless. Still, read this before you enroll. I'm two years out of library school, worked for the LIS department at UIUC for a year, and am currently unemployed. The new librarian job market is tough.
posted by MsMolly at 11:58 AM on November 3, 2006

I went to Kent State. It's strongest in children's librarianship. They've got a fairly new information architecture/knowledge management program. I heard decent things about it when I was there, but I don't have any personal experience.

Kent's okay--very much of the Midwest/Rust Belt dichotomy that typifies NE Ohio, somewhat alt-culture-ish, very town/gown--if you're into that sort of thing, you'll like Kent. Black squirrels all over the place, too. Still, though, not many people choose to move to Ohio.

The KSU program can also be taken through the Ohio State (in Columbus) and Bowling Green State Universities.
posted by box at 11:59 AM on November 3, 2006

I got my MLIS from the University of Texas in 1998. As mentioned above, the school has since changed to the "School of Information" and I don't really know how that may have changed the focus of the program. It was huge (400+ students, maybe, including doctoral students and part-timers) when I was there. They have a renowned Preservation and Conservation program if that's of particular interest. As with the Boston folks, the large number of UT graduates coupled with crazy love for Austin means that it's harder to find good-paying jobs during and after graduation.
posted by candyland at 12:16 PM on November 3, 2006

I went to faculty of information studies at university of toronto. I liked the programme although (in my opinion and a lot of my friends) course work focused a bit too much on theory and leraning to manage a library and not enough on doing the work. But nice programme. They merged with the museum studies programme, too, so anyone studying (as I understand) can diversify their course work. Two year programme - can focus in one of four areas: information systems, library, archives, or museums.
posted by philfromhavelock at 1:33 PM on November 3, 2006

Sorry. Just saw your title specifying the US. Didn't see that earlier.
posted by philfromhavelock at 1:34 PM on November 3, 2006

I got my MLIS in 2000 at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and while the program has done fine by me, it's not one I'd suggest. For two reasons, one) the program is in a bit of an uproar right now, going through deans like beer through an old man and two) I personally think Knoxville is the most hellish place in all of the southeast.

However, if you don't want to go anywhere, UTK has a fine online program as does FSU.

You mentioned that you are interested in reference work, but may I suggest with the techy background you might want to consider Cataloging/Tech Services.

I'm working on an article about this right now, but it seems that there are far more cataloging/tech services jobs than there are librarians to fill them. In my personal experience I got my internship and emphasis in cataloging and sent out six resumes upon graduation. I got six interviews and five job offers. And on the hiring end, I'm in a mid-sized academic library and our last three cataloging positions have been quite the bear to fill. I'm not looking forward to the retirement of my other two catalogers.

For programs with a strong cataloging emphasis, it seems that University of Washington has the best course offerings. On the reference side I'm not sure. I would strongly suggest that regardless of where you go, you keep your options open as to what you think you want to do in the library world. I initally wanted to be a reference librarian in a public library and I ended up discovering a love of cataloging that got me a position in an academic library. And honestly, I'd never go anywhere else. Despite tenure requirements, I do adore being in the academic world and you just can't get more job security than a state-funded academic library.

Good luck.
posted by teleri025 at 2:22 PM on November 3, 2006

I'm doing the distance program through San Jose State, and I wouldn't recommend it. Feel free to email me if you'd like specific examples of how a library school shouldn't operate, IMO.
posted by booknerd at 2:58 PM on November 3, 2006

UCLA represent!
I thought it was a great program, a nice balance of information science and library science.
Feel free to email me at exceptinsects at gmail if you want more detailed information--no time to go into it right now.
posted by exceptinsects at 4:09 PM on November 3, 2006

Wow, there's a fair number of philosophy majors here.
I was a philosophy major and now I go to Pratt. I don't have much to compare it to, but I'm happy with my choice.
What scratch said is true; the administration can be disorganized. But there are good profs there and a lot of good connections to be made, especially if you're interested in working in New York City.
If you want any more specific info on Pratt, my email's in my profile. Good luck with the search.
posted by Hadroed at 7:16 PM on November 3, 2006

rikhei, that's Information Economics, Management and Policy. How I wish I'd had to take an Ecology class instead of SI 502. :)
posted by srah at 6:09 AM on November 4, 2006

I went to Wayne State. With a few exceptions, my profs seemed more focused on the number of hours of homework they assigned than actually teaching. We were given assignments such as, "find every reference to 'rose' in the reference collection of Purdy Kresge" and treated to long, Libertarian rants from one professor, who went on to get tenure. So did the one who gave the rose assignment, come to think of it.

My cataloging prof (who was excellent) also taught part time at U of Michigan's program, and said they were the same except that U of M cost more per credit hour.
posted by QIbHom at 12:33 PM on November 4, 2006

I just graduated from Queens in June '05, and I thought it was a great program. You do have to do some picking and choosing amongst the offerings and professors, but you can definitely get a great education there. Some of the faculty are some of the most well known people in their specialities (i.e., Mary Kay Chelton, who is an excellent professor to boot).

The feeling that I get from other librarians I've met around here was that people thought Queens gave the best value for the money. And by that, I mean not only that QC was less expensive than Pratt, but that it was somewhat harder and therefore more valuable, as well. But that's just an impression, since of course no one has attended both themselves.

Also, pay no attention to that U.S. News and World Report on LIS schools - they complete discount any school which doesn't offer a PhD, which eliminated a lot of excellent programs.
posted by timepiece at 1:50 PM on November 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

srah, that's too bad. . . . a program in information ecology actually sounds pretty interesting. . . .
posted by librarycat at 1:40 PM on February 25, 2007

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