I hated library school.

Let me say it again: I hated library school.

Library school was my back-up plan. I was going to get my MLS so as to get a job to support myself so I could study for the degree I “really” wanted: Master’s in Social Work. The master’s program in library science at the Rutgers School of Communication, Information and Library Science was only 36 credits. I’d be done in two years and maybe even get a job at Rutgers, where I was already working as a graduate assistant.

Let me start at the beginning. As an undergrad at Rutgers College, I got a job working for the mother of one of my friends, who was the Serials Cataloger for the Rutgers University libraries. I searched NUC (National Union Catalog) sets, NUC catalogsLibrary of Congress publications and Rutgers local authority file – and was phenomenally bored. I kept at it because I could make a work schedule around my classes and had a secure job for every summer while getting my undergrad degree. Plus, I was making more than minimum wage at the time. When I started library school the summer I graduated from college, I won a position as a graduate assistant, working 15 hours per week while also being able to take advantage of tuition remission. It was enough money, at the time, to pay the rent on an apartment I shared with a friend.

Meanwhile, while I was still in academia, my friends were getting “real” jobs and moving into “real” apartments and buying townhouses, and I was still in school. I hated being in school, not being able to go out because I had a paper or project to finish, etc.

So, I stopped going. Yup, just stopped.

But, God intervened. Okay, maybe not God, but someone in the church I was going to intervened, and to this day, I have no idea who it was. And it is to that person (and God) I give credit for as my impetus to finish library school. I went to church one Sunday because my family and I were going to do something together afterwards. I sat down, opened the bulletin – and broke out into a sweat. I saw my name listed with the other high school and college graduates that were being honored that day during the service. It was too late to do anything – it was already 10:59:59 AM. What do I do? I did what anyone would have done. I went up, accepted my honorary gift, thanked everyone and went running to my mother. To this day, both my mother and father have sworn they never said anything, and they were unable to find out who submitted my name.

So, you see, I had to finish my degree or burn in Hell for eternity.

This is the part of the story where I learned what the phrase, “Please don’t kill the messenger” meant. My friend and co-worker, who was going to library school at the time, was in the school’s office and casually mentioned I wanted to finish my degree. The office manager told her that I couldn’t just register for classes; I had to re-apply to the school! I had to humble myself, ask permission to be re-admitted and devise a plan for finishing the degree. Then, I had to tell my boss how I screwed up.

Oh yeah, and work real hard to make up for the F’s I got for the semester I just “stopped going.”

I finished the 10 ½ credits I had to take in one semester while working full-time. I was miserable, but determined, to finish the program and get my degree.

Thirty years later I am still working in libraries. I did take four courses in an MSW program and really loved being in class again, but came to realize the social work profession wasn’t for me; I liked being in school. Ah, the irony. And then I met my husband… and you know how that goes. I got the cataloging job at Chesapeake in 1999 and still love cataloging and database maintenance and making sure people can find what they are looking for by ensuring the integrity of our catalog through the work we do in CMS.

P.S. Remember how I hated being in school because none of my friends were in school? Two of them did go back to school about the time I was finishing, one to law school and one to get her MBA. I was just ahead of the curve!

Check out the Rutgers School of Communication and Information. They have online programs!

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2 thoughts on “Staff Stories: I hated library school!

  1. I enjoyed your story. I finished my MLIS last year and now work as the Cataloging Librarian for Hampton University. I love it and am so happy I chose this career path.

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