The Big Picture

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It has been a year since I started the GSLIS program, and it has taken me this long to understand the value of a degree program.  I am not just talking about the “getting a job” piece – this is a professional program so it goes without saying that the purpose of the degree is to enhance employment options.  There is another value that isn’t well understood.  The degree program doesn’t just teach us skills. It teaches us how to be visionaries.

That might sound a little lofty, even to me, but I came to this realization recently at my job at a public library. I am in a pre-professional job, which is great experience, but ultimately a dead-end position.  (Hope my boss isn’t reading this, but I think this is important to share with you.)  I do a lot of circulation and I am the inter-library loan coordinator.  I answer reference questions, coordinate the use of the library meeting rooms, do an occasional program,  prepare user instruction materials, and maintain some usage statistics.  Sounds fabulous for a library science student, doesn’t it?  I thought so, too, but in my present position, I really don’t get to do much with the BIG PICTURE.  That didn’t seem to matter a year ago.  The problem is that suddenly, the big picture is all I see.

When I started this job, I was thrilled with all this experience, but I am no longer satisfied to make inter-library loans happen – I want to track their usage, and see what that usage can tell us about the strengths and weaknesses in our collection.  I don’t just want to prepare materials to help users access eBooks or online databases;  I want to evaluate the users’ needs and the usefulness of those materials.  I want to create online learning tutorials for the website, and explore new marketing approaches for library programming.  I want to run analytics on our website usage, analyze cardholder statistics and see who uses in-library resources versus online resources.  I want us to be accountable to the taxpayers and revitalize our library to meet the changing needs of the community.   I have a vision of bringing our library into the future.  I want to work on the big picture.

In this first year of graduate school, I have been given the tools to do so many things – create websites, evaluate programs, create databases, do a good reference interview -- but more importantly, I have learned how the tools fit into a larger framework.  I have learned why they matter and how to have the vision that puts them to good use.  So, a degree program leads to job dissatisfaction?  In the interim, perhaps, but ultimately, I feel like the future holds great things.

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