ASSOCIATES (2005, July, v. 12, no. 1) - associates.ucr.edu
*Going for a Master’s Degree in Library Science*
Susan C. Tsiouris, MSLS
Francis A. Drexel Library
Saint Joseph's University
Part time Reference Librarian
Marple Public Library
Delaware County Library System
I recently completed my studies for a MSLS degree. Why did I do it? Would I recommend it to others?
I started as a volunteer in my daughters’ elementary school library, helping out where needed. As my children got older, I started to work part time at one of the local public libraries in Circulation and as a Reference Assistant. Eventually I was juggling two part time library jobs, the second in Technical Services at yet another public library.
Long story short, I suddenly became a single mom and was fortunate to find a full time position in an academic library. That is where my goals became more focused, initially out of necessity, but more because I found something I truly felt passionate about. It is a known fact that there is a broad chasm between the professional staff and the support staff, regarding both responsibilities and particularly salary. Although I respect what is demanded of librarians in a public library, I was fascinated with the big picture of an academic librarian. I liked the interaction with students and faculty. I liked the instructional responsibilities of the librarians and how the library’s resources can and should be used by the university community. How was I to accomplish my goal?
I was lucky, already having a bachelor’s degree and was seriously considering a graduate degree. A co-worker mentioned that her daughter had just completed her MSLS degree and she thought I might look into the same. I did some research, of course, and decided on an ALA approved course (an absolute must: http://www.ala.org/ala/education/accredprograms/accreditedprograms.htm) at a state university which offered some Web courses through their distance education program. Time demands and costs were major factors in my decision to go to graduate school. I was working full time, making the transition to single parent with the responsibilities of two teenage children and six pets!
How was I going to manage this? Money was beyond tight, family responsibilities overwhelming at times, and speaking of time, there just was not enough in a day. First I had to decide if I was really serious about this. Did I really want to go for a master’s degree? Yes. Would it benefit me? Of course. Would it open doors to bigger and better things? I hoped so. Once I decided that I wanted to go ahead with this, I had to figure out how to accomplish it. Where was I going to get the money to take the classes? Even though it is a state university program, I still had no money. The divorce had hit me hard financially. I now provided the sole income for my family. I discovered that the Federal Government Stafford Loan folks cannot turn you down! This is important for anyone thinking about going back to school. Being realistic, I also had to consider the eventuality of repaying the loan, and it seemed doable.
Next I had to seriously consider the time aspect of this venture. The Stafford Loan program mandates that you take two courses per semester! Easy for them to say. Consider the fact that you have just put in your full day at work, you come home, get the family settled, deal with pets, and other household responsibilities, and you still have to somehow squeeze in two courses, assignments, and research! This was the second determining factor for the program I chose, which offered many web classes through their distance education program. Even though I expected very long days and even longer nights for the duration, it was nice to be able to sit at my own computer with a large cup of coffee in the comfort of my home after a long day at work.
I also expected to meet some interesting people and was not disappointed. Although some of my classes were on the Web, I also had the option of going to classes held locally. These were an endurance test of Friday evening and day-long Saturday classes, but well worth it. My classmates, some of whom were changing careers and others, already working in libraries, were the most diverse group of individuals I have met in quite some time: variety of ages, many diverse backgrounds: lawyers, teachers, library staff, etc., all bringing something special to the table. Interaction with these folks, both in person and on the Web, was invaluable.
After two years, an intensive year round approach, I completed my degree. Now I am on the job hunting track hoping to land that first job as an academic librarian, an odd feeling to be a “newbie” with over ten years of library experience. I remain ever optimistic while continuing in my full-time day job as Library Assistant in an academic library, networking, perfecting my resume, participating in library committee work, and working part time as a Reference Librarian in a public library.
Was it worth it? Yes.
Would I do it again? Yes.
Would I recommend it to others? Yes.