Friday, April 13, 2012

Five Things I Wish I Learned in Library School

Yesterday, I wrote about why you should or shouldn't go to library school. Assuming you did decide to go to library school (or are already there), then for today's Friday five, here are five things I wish I learned.

  1. Statistics
    I spend a decent amount of my time looking at numbers (door counts, circulation stats, etc) and wondering how best to interpret them. I've never had a statistics course in my life. So I do somethings that I'm not sure are totally valid. But usually I just divide and find the average. Every now and then I have a question and I'm sure I have the right raw data, but I don't know how to find the answer. My sister is a stats genius. I should ask her to do it for me for a birthday present. That's what sisters are for, right?

  2. Management
    I had one management class in library school. Only one and it was only one credit (as opposed to most library school classes that were two credits). It was the most helpful class I took. But I'm a manager now of a small public library branch and I'm mostly self taught. I've read a lot of the books, but I made a lot of mistakes at first and I continue to do so. It's not just managing people. It is also managing a budget, supplies, everything. Running a small library is akin to running a small business. Since I see my future in management, I'm considering going back for a masters in public administration (MPA), but I could understand the appeal of a masters in business administration (MBA) as well.

  3. Advocacy
    What training I've had in advocacy has come from conferences and other similar opportunities. I had zero in library school. Libraries are under fire and if we had more graduates coming out of library school who were politically savvy, knew how to woo donors, knew how to get politicians on our side, I would feel better about our chances. It isn't the MOST important thing, but it would be a nice one credit seminar. We need to know how to prove our worth (then again statistics help).

  4. Graphic Design
    I design a lot of fliers and I'm not good at it. Now that I'm a manager, I delegate that to more talented people. Previous library systems I've worked at had in-house graphic designers and PR systems, but this is a lot smaller of a system. Even larger systems are loosing those positions as budgets are slashed. Knowing how to make a pretty flier/display/newsletter can never hurt. (Web design can be a similar experience. Our system has a person for that, but I still taught myself elements of CSS so I could alter and customize our Summer Reading online program).

  5. Psychology
    I had one psychology course my freshman year of college which was quite a while ago. I'm in an urban library with a large homeless population. We see our share (more than our share some days) of mentally ill patrons. I don't want to offer treatment, but I would like to have a better handle on why the homeless man charged me last week. And perhaps better strategies to work with them. Quite often, I end up in the bartender/priest role of hearing a lot about people's lives. I offer sympathy and general comments without any specific advice. I keep hoping my good intentions and vague generalities will cover up that I don't know the first thing about counselling. (Nor do I want to be a counsellor).


Kalen said...

I majored in political science as an undergrad, and I think it might be one of the most valuable majors for people planning to become librarians, at least if you approach it right. I focused on public administration and American gov't, particularly classes on budgets and taxes, voting and elections, and public policy. I also took a lot of electives in children's literature and child development, since I knew I wanted to be a children's librarian.

One of the required classes for my major was Empirical Research Methods, which I think was a requirement for all social science majors. It basically taught how to construct and conduct a survey or poll, and how to do statistical analysis on the results. I haven't had to do it in years, so I'd have to look up some of the specifics if I actually needed to do analysis again, but it really changed the way I look at statistics, charts, and polling numbers.

Jill said...

I had a management course and a statistics course, both taught by the same professor. I am less skilled in math than in words, but I enjoyed the statistics class. Unfortunately, I don't remember any of it.

From the management class came the only thing I concretely remember learning in grad school. The professor told us, "All workplace problems come down to two things: 'He has a cookie and I don't' or 'His cookie is bigger than mine'." I add, "He won't play with me," and in my limited experience, all conflicts come down to these three principles.