Choosing a LIS Program

I’ve been reflecting lately on how I chose to enroll in my current LIS program. Making this decision was a really big challenge for me, but there were a few resources that made it easier. For one, the ARLIS/NA document Library Schools in Canada and the United States was a good starting point. For more current information on the LIS programs listed in document I’ve recently discovered Peterson’s search guide to be very useful.

Beyond print and online searches I did a lot of informational interviewing – I think that the professionals who shared their time and perspective with me were the most helpful resource of all.

What are other useful resources that prospective students should investigate before making their decisions?


  1. Carter, I think you hit some of the key resource human, print, & electronic. I’d also suggest taking a look at ARLIS/NA’s Core Competencies.  Matching the potential school’s courses to what art librarians should know will help in the decision making process.

    I’d also suggest looking at the resources in the surrounding area. In my case, I looked at UCLA & Pratt because of the Getty & the NY MOMA. When reviewing these schools and other schools, I looked closely at what the professors were actually researching. If they were researching an area that I was particularly interested in, I would gravitate towards that particular school (this helped me disqualify Drexel as a prospect).

    Finally, you are the master of your own course. Although I was accepted with scholarship to Pratt, I decided that I would craft my own education to meet my three main interests (art librarianship, management, and visual resources/metadata). At Kent State University, I pursued the management track, and every project that I did involved art libraries (including VRL’s). I also took into consideration that I would be able take courses at OCLC and that I could complete my practicum at OSU’s Fine Arts Library–again, look at your surrounding resources.

    So, with a little research, you can find your “perfect” LIS program. And, if it’s not already perfect, you have the power to make it so.

  2. Excellent advice.

    One thing I noticed is you said that if an LIS program “is not already perfect, you have the power to make it so.” I was unable to do this at my school. Jobs in digitization are available to undergrads so do not come with assistantships. Without one of these, my schooling would be over $25K a year. I was unable to get a job in this department though, even though I tried. In fact, the entire time I was at school, I was unable to find work related to visual resources and only know one other person who did. Not all schools are equal.

  3. Jennifer,

    I’m sorry to hear that it was difficult to get an assistantship. I’m guessing your schedule did not allow for volunteering at your VRL. Again, just guessing, the VRL probably hired undergrads because they are work-study.

    I would still argue that you still have the power to make your education perfect. You’re absolutely right, not all schools are equal.  That’s why I suggested looking outside the school (e.g. Getty and the MOMA have paid internships or provide for unpaid volunteers).It boils down to the threshold of change one is willing to accept. If it means taking an extra job (or two–I worked three part-time jobs during most of my undergrad and my entire graduate) to enable yourself to have opportunities, is one willing to take that on? Can one take on such changes given other responsibilities (family, etc.)?

    There are no easy answers to creating the education and life one wants. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people who want to see you succeed is maybe the best advice that I can give for any endeavor.

  4. Library school can be expensive, especially if there is not a state library school in your area. ALA offers many scholarships, but they are sometimes competitive.

    Another option is to establish residency in a state before attending a state library school. To do this, you have to be patient, and move to the state usually a year in advance and not for the purpose of education (so don’t apply for library school until after you’ve moved).

    There are many jobs that are not quite related to art libraries, but where you can use skills that will apply to art librarianship. Reference experience of any kind goes a long way. I worked at a resource hotline where we provided reference information about financial aid, college and career choices. I picked up most of my database skills in non-library positions. And, if you can afford the time, Bryan is right about volunteering. I know several volunteers at art libraries who were eventually hired. There is an extensive network of art librarians around the country who are very willing to take you under their wings.

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