Trying to decide on MLS school
November 7, 2007 9:46 PM   Subscribe

MLSFilter: Recommendations for a completely online MLS program?

First and foremost, let me explain my reasoning. I am in the Army (currently deployed but heading home soonish), and the Army covers tuition 100% while I am still active duty. Obviously, I can't just up and move to attend grad school, but I want/need the Army to cover my tuition. I have GI Bill benefits, but those are best used after I have exited the Army.

That said, does anyone have experience (or know of someone with experience) with an online Library Science program? I'm leaning towards Drexel, but am open to any suggestions. I would prefer to not have to travel at all, but a trip or two for exams or briefings isn't necessarily a deal breaker.

For what it's worth, I've done quite a bit of online degree work, so I am ok with the concept of not being in a "real" classroom environment.

Also, any MLS tips in general are much appreciated. Email is in the profile if you feel a need to pontificate. :-)
posted by n2linux to Education (14 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
UIUC's LEEP is the best (although I admit I could be biased). A lot of the other distance ed programs do it all through bulletin board postings, but LEEP has a synchronous structure where everyone is online at the same time each week listening to the lecture while discussing it and asking questions in a shared chat room. That makes all the difference.
posted by MsMolly at 9:52 PM on November 7, 2007

I didn't know UIUC offers an online degree, but that's awesome. UIUC is probably the most well-regarded MLIS program out there; check out US News and World Report--UIUC is #1, I believe. (Though I must say I had a blast at UCLA and our program was very good. Go Bruins!)
posted by HotPatatta at 9:58 PM on November 7, 2007

UW does a distance library science program. There's an online info chat session next week if you want to check it out.
posted by calistasm at 10:18 PM on November 7, 2007

LEEP is a really good program. My main advice with online programs is that you find some way to get work in a library either during or after your MLS. There are a lot -- some say too many -- MLS grads out there and one thing that makes finding a job tough is the lack of real work experience many grads have. If you could even look into getting work within the army doing anything that was information science or library-based that would really help you career-wise after school.

My only other advice about library school generally is don't go broke to go to library school. You may be in a different boat because of your current career and the GI bill but some schools cost a lot more than others and library jobs do not pay that well.

That said, if you are considering staying with the Army at all there are a lot of really interesting library/info science jobs in the military, and being able to obtain a security clearance would open up doors working at the CIA/FBI/NSA if those angles interest you. There are a lot of library students doing online degree programs who have blogs via livejournal or other sites. Google around for some of them and feel free to ask if they like their programs. Nicole Engard, for instance wrote this long summary of what her Drexel experience was like, might want to check it out.
posted by jessamyn at 10:23 PM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm in my first semester of the online program at Syracuse. I like it just fine. I was going to do LEEP, but then Syracuse gave me more money. Also, Syracuse only has one residency (at the beginning of the program). LEEP has residencies every semester, and it seemed like a hike to actually get to the campus.

LEEP might be the only synchronous program? My classes at Syracuse are asynchronous, which means that our lectures are either written or part of Powerpoint-y presentations (audio included). Then we discuss via messageboard. I probably prefer that, over live discussion, because it gives me a better chance to digest what's going on and address specific comments.

Jessamyn is 120% right that you should try to work in a library before you graduate. Our program requires an internship, but more than that is preferable. Do you have any specific questions? You can MeMail mail me too. I don't know anything about the Drexel program, sorry. I was looking at UW, UIUC, Rutgers and Syracuse.
posted by unknowncommand at 5:37 AM on November 8, 2007

Just seconding and thirding and xxxing what's already said and what's going to be said. Where you get your degree matters almost zero. ALA accreditation is the main bit. LEEP is probably the best distance ed program that I know of (and has been around forever; probably the first) but what really matters is what work in the industry aside from the MLS. The ALA, perhaps with its heart in the right place, perhaps not, has historically pushed the idea that there are tons of librarians retiring in the next x number of years and there will be a giant librarian shortage. This hasn't happened and it isn't likely to happen -- many of the retired jobs are being picked up by paraprofessionals -- but it's unfortunately led a lot of people to get the degree based on the dream that they'll have their pick of jobs in their pick of places.

You end up with a fair chunk of bitter, jobless MLS holders, which doesn't do the profession any good at all. You've already got a leg up from being in the Army, though, and not being, say, an English major. Just find some information-type work to do on the side for experience and you'll likely do fine.
posted by the dief at 6:34 AM on November 8, 2007

The UW program does require a few days of residency each quarter. (But I guess if you knew you weren't going to be able to make it on those particular dates, you could just not register for that quarter.)

And, yeah, get work experience.
posted by librarina at 6:42 AM on November 8, 2007

I'm completing my MLS degree at Florida State. You can get the degree 100% online, and although they may not publicize much, the majority of students are distance and almost all classes are online.

There's no residency or visits required at FSU, which helped when I was deciding on a program. UIUC's LEEP was also very attractive because of its repuation, but its out-of-state tuition is not inexpensive, and they require about 5 visit to campus (including a 10-day stay at the start of the program).
posted by dicaxpuella at 7:00 AM on November 8, 2007

Best answer: Speaking as a Colonel in the ALA (who don't really check up on the validity of honorifics when you join, fwiw), I can say your military background sets you apart from 99% of the library school applicant pool. You should not have any problems getting into the school or program of your choice and should feel totally entitled to see what each school can do for you by way of exceptions on residency requirements and campus visits.

Library schools are starting to realize that the "Glut of Jobs" myth is crumbling and less people are interested in going to school. Really, it's a student's market right now, which explains most of the horror stories I'm hearing from friends involved in the Simmons program. So whatever program you lean towards, remember that they need you (and your sweet, sweet Army money) more than you need them.

As for library experience, that's a huge must. But again, given your unique background, allowances can be made. Look into anything in the Army that can get you skills in research, operations, customer service, or information delivery. You may get your MLIS without any library experience, but if a newly minted librarian sat down across from me and said "I may not have worked in a library, but I ran a supply depot for 100+ soldiers and got them everything they needed, when they needed it." I'd reply, "How long until you can run my Circulation desk for me?" The new librarians of today seem to have little, if any, management or operational expertise, so anyone with that sort of background can carve their own niche.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:17 AM on November 8, 2007

May I recommend my alma mater, The University of Tennessee? Bonus: if you're a legal resident of West Virginia, Virginia, or Arkansas, tuition is in-state rates.

Requires two visits to campus: an orientation at the beginning of the program and a trip at the end to either take the comprehensive exam or defend your thesis.

The school itself is very supportive of its distance students and the library at UT is as well. Their distance librarian is terrific and they offer a lot of support to distance students.
posted by 100watts at 7:19 AM on November 8, 2007

Oh, also there are surprising number of folks in my program who were spouses of military people, if that means anything. Probably that's just the case for distance programs overall?
posted by unknowncommand at 7:49 AM on November 8, 2007

My sister did her MLS online at Southern Connecticut State University.
posted by aught at 9:09 AM on November 8, 2007

I'm in the MSIS program at UNC Chapel Hill and would be happy to put you directly in touch with the student services manager if you'd like that.
posted by tarheelcoxn at 10:15 AM on November 8, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all of your great suggestions, emails, and offers to help. I haven't made a final decision as of yet.

I didn't realize that me being in the Army would actually give me a leg up on the competition job-wise.

MeFite library geeks are the best! Someday soon, we'll take over the world. (I just have to get my degree first...)
posted by n2linux at 11:43 PM on November 8, 2007

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