by Dr. Sandra Hirsh, Silicon Valley Chapter, Leadership & Management Division
Tomorrow’s information professionals, who are in graduate school today, need to be ready for the rapid changes facing our profession. When they complete their degrees, will they be prepared to enter a profession that’s evolving so quickly? I encourage students (and those who mentor them) to start thinking creatively and flexibly about future career opportunities as early as possible in their graduate program.
Today’s MLIS students need to think broadly about their skillset and how they can apply their knowledge to a wide range of career pathways. LIS professionals have valuable and unique skills that are in growing demand, yet many of today’s students don’t recognize the value of an MLIS degree. During their MLIS program, students should take the time to network with faculty members, practitioners, and industry leaders, who can inspire them to think more broadly about the range of career opportunities for tomorrow’s LIS professionals.
Students need to be strategic as they choose their courses, thinking about how the knowledge they gain in graduate school can help them pursue tomorrow’s jobs. They should take advantage of their program’s academic advising and career development tools, and read blogs about emerging trends for LIS jobs. As our field is quite broad, before selecting courses, students need to understand the relevance of specific electives to potential career pathways they may want to pursue. Students should also complete an internship, where they can make connections with practitioners, gain real-world experience, and see how their skills can be applied in a variety of professional settings.
I also think it’s critical for today’s MLIS students to be comfortable exploring and adapting to new technology, as technology will continue to play an important role in our profession. Students should seek out opportunities to use technology in their learning activities. For example, students should be comfortable using web conferencing, blogs, wikis, and social networking sites. They should make it a priority to explore how technology is impacting our profession so they emerge from graduate school ready to share their ideas with their employers.
Today’s MLIS students also need to develop a lifelong learning community, made up of a diverse group of colleagues, who are eager to collaborate and explore solutions to changing priorities. While still in school, students should take time to build their professional network. One way this can be accomplished is through participation in professional associations, including student chapters based at their university.
In the past, attending professional conferences has posed challenges because of difficulties getting time off work and affording travel expenses. However, many professional conferences are now offered virtually, opening up new opportunities to get involved in conference planning, presentations, and networking. For example, the upcoming Library 2.011 worldwide virtual conference in November will bring together a global audience to explore how the digital age is impacting the roles libraries and librarians play in how we learn and consume information. These types of conferences provide excellent venues for students to get involved in the professional community and learn about new trends in our field.
It’s an exciting time to be preparing tomorrow’s information professionals. I look forward to feedback from any of you who would like to engage in further dialogue about how MLIS programs can help today’s students be future ready.
Sandra Hirsh is Professor and Director of the School of Library and Information Science at San José State University. Prior to joining the School as Director, she worked in the Silicon Valley for more than a decade at major technology companies: Hewlett Packard and Microsoft. As an industry user experience researcher, leader, and manager, she contributed to R&D research projects and influenced the user experience of web, mobile, and TV consumer products resulting in 5 U.S. patents. She was previously an assistant professor at the University of Arizona, and has taught courses for San José State University and the University of Washington.