What I Wish I Learned in Library School

I enjoyed my MLIS program, but to be completely honest I don’t think it prepared me all that much for working in a library. There were two required classes on web design, for starters. Ultimately they’ve been useless in my professional life, since I work for a system large enough to employ its own full-time tech team. Despite knowing that I wanted to go into youth services, there was only one class on children’s literature offered to distance learning students at the time. And who could forget my cataloging professor who opened the first class with explaining that the system we were using was quickly being replaced by another, and that we likely wouldn’t be using what we learned in class at all more than two or three years in the future?

Ultimately my best teachers have been the kids and families themselves. That’s why I call my MLIS a very expensive piece of paper that let me into actual library school: the real world.

I’ve started keeping a list of everything I wish I had been taught in my program to prepare me for children’s librarianship. In no particular order:

  • Child psychology & development
  • How to teach reading
  • Customer service skills
  • How big, corporate/non-profit structure work
  • What exactly is HR and what does it do?
  • What exactly is a union and why do I need it?
  • My rights as a library worker
  • How to organize with colleagues to advocate for ourselves
  • How not to bring the job home with me
  • Literally anything about taxes, retirement, benefits, and insurance
  • Dealing with “difficult patrons”
  • Reading levels, how they help, and how they don’t
  • Performance and public speaking
  • Social media marketing

What do you wish your library program had covered? What should children’s librarians absolutely know? Leave a comment below!

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