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Author Topic: MS before MLIS?  (Read 29613 times)
gotoars13
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« on: February 03, 2011, 2:59:52 PM »

I am planning on a career as an academic librarian, specifically one who specializes in China and East Asia. A quick background: I studied Mandarin as an undergraduate and have worked and volunteered in libraries since high school. I have been accepted to the University of Pittsburgh's MLIS program for Fall 2011. Since I am intent on focusing on China, I also applied to Oxford's Modern China Studies program, which is a one year Master of Science degree. I just found out (much to my surprise) that I have been accepted into the program. Normally, I wouldn't hesitate at choosing Oxford, but the hefty price tag - nearly $40,000 USD - makes me cringe. I've scoured scholarship and financial aid sites, but the deadlines have either passed or I do not have a high enough undergrad GPA to apply. So at this point, I'd have to take out a loan. I'm fortunate enough to not have any undergrad loans to pay off at the moment, but 40k is still a lot of money.

So my question to you is this: given the current job market for academic librarians and the desire on the part of many employers for a second degree, would taking out a loan and going for a MS at Oxford before getting a MLIS be worth the investment? I'm inclined to say yes, but I do know that employers also want to see experience in addition to degrees. I'd appreciate feedback from people who have spent time working as librarians and are familiar with how things work in academic libraries. Thanks!
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hmaria1609
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« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2011, 6:22:25 PM »

That's awesome!  Even if you can't immediately do your speciality, having someone with a working knowledge of Mandarin on staff can come unexpectedly in handy!
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punchnpie
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« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2011, 10:01:57 PM »

gotoars13 - I wouldn't go to Oxford. You can get your MLIS, get an academic job, then most likely have your employer pay for your 2nd masters. Once you have the MLIS, it would make sense to apply to schools that have an Asian Studies/China program whatever so that you don't have to quit in order to get the second degree.

I'm a SLIS prof and if you were my student, in today's market, I'd tell you to save your money. Maybe you can do something at Oxford over the summer, but the cost of the program and your MLIS probably will not equal what you'll be able to make as a new academic librarian. This economic consideration is something that is important -  don't overspend to get your degree.

Also, due to budget cuts, many academic library staff have to pull duty in areas that are not their specialty. We have government publications people doing duty at the reference desk - and this at an R1 school with significant resources, lord knows what's going on at schools with deeper budget cuts. Get your MLIS first.
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collegekidsmom
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« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2011, 1:19:00 AM »

I agree with punchnpie, but I would add that if your dream is to do the Oxford program, and you would want to do it anyway even if you weren't going to go the library route, you should do it for those other reasons. The academic library market if full of applicants with all kinds of multiple degrees. I don't think going to that Oxford program would make or break a library job search. I do think it might be something you really want to pursue for other reasons and it will be seen always as a missed opportunity. I am also old enough to know that it is best not to have too many of those.
I also agree with punchnpie that you might find yourself not focusing on that specialty in a first job, but may be pulled into many other areas. Your experience in the library will definitely be of interest in any job search. I would say our most successful early librarians are able to hit the ground running by pitching in to help where needed. The library world seems to be changing very fast, and I cannot see exactly how it will play out. I have been a librarian for a long time, and am a subject specialist, but the ground is shifting all the time, every day.
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libr1527
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« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2011, 6:04:20 PM »

Most academic libraries will not hire for a librarian position, you unless you have an MLS (unless it is for a technical position) so I doubt than an MS (even from Oxford) would make you more marketable to an academic library.
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libr1527
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« Reply #5 on: February 10, 2011, 6:08:30 PM »

I forgot to include this information-I have responsibility for hiring at my university, and we have tenure status.  We will not hire a librarian without an MLIS because of the tenured status.  There are academic libraries where the librarian have faculty status, but not tenure.  At some libraries, a second masters is a requirement or is looked upon with favor, other libraries do not require it.  The MLIS is usually the minimum requirement as far as education is concerned.
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collegekidsmom
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« Reply #6 on: February 10, 2011, 8:39:12 PM »

I think the OP was planning to get the MLIS anyway and become an academic librarian. The issue seems to be doing the Oxford stint before doing the MLIS, and wanting to know whether that degree (in addition to the MLIS) would make a large difference at the time of the job search. In my university, the MLIS degree is the requirement and all other graduate degrees are considered as adding value. We have discussed the idea of becoming more flexible but we have not yet changed the requirement for the ALA accredited MLIS. We do also find experience to be a definite plus with all of our new librarians.
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gotoars13
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« Reply #7 on: February 10, 2011, 10:45:31 PM »

Many thanks to everyone who took the time to respond to my question. You all have given me quite a bit to think about. And in response to collegekidsmom's latest post: you read my intentions correctly - I am planning to get a MLIS eventually.
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anonlibn
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« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2011, 5:42:18 PM »

I'm a librarian at an R1 and was on our search committee for an Asian Studies specialist last year. I agree with everything said by the others. Another point to consider: this is a very specialized role with very few libraries hiring. It's pretty competitive when positions do open up. While my library only requires an MLIS and librarians have faculty status but no tenure, we really did not (need to) consider anyone without an advanced degree in Asian Studies or similar. Several candidates had PhDs. However as collegekidsmom indicated things are changing and one of my friends has excellent technical (IT) skills and was able to parlay that plus MLIS and significant experience into a position at a major EA library.
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