On Being a Librarian

Trends, Achievements, and Perspectives

Thing 10: Master’s Degree and Certifications

Another week in my adventures with 23 Things for Professional Development brings me to consider master’s degrees, certifications, and other designations that support my profession, add to my body of resources, and align with my professional trajectory.

Why I joined / chose this profession . . .

I graduated from the University of Waterloo in 1992 with an Honours B.A. in English Literature and a Women’s Studies Option, applied to the MLIS program at the University of Western Ontario, was accepted and declined.

Why did I decline? At that time, I was offered a job that seemed appealing and after 6 years of studying at university as a single parent raising two children from infancy to primary school age with no income, I was rather easily swayed by a pay cheque. An income, no matter how low, meant new second-hand shoes could be purchased, and more fresh fruits and vegetables could be found in the fridge. I intensely regret not continuing to that Master degree immediately after completing my undergraduate degree. It took me nearly 20 years to get back to school, out of the cycle of raised and dashed professional expectations and hopes, promises of higher commissions, appropriate promotions, and weak or surly commitment to job security from employers.

I chose to return to university for a master’s degree not because of the appeal of librarianship and definitely NOT because I value and respect books but because of the lure of engaging and interacting with information, synthesising information into new knowledge, and moving around my own mental furniture in the context of emerging technologies. Propelled from a state of deep disillusionment with professional sales environments, I bravely (identified only through the lens of hindsight and reflection) applied to and was accepted into the Master of Library and Information Science degree at the University of Western Ontario. Why that program?

1) It offered the possibility to complete the degree in 12 months with the potential for reducing the period of income interruption.

2) I believe in the strength of co-op programs and specifically for me this would provide experience in a profession where I previously had none.

3) Ontario is my home province where my mother resides in London. I felt strongly that this would realise a much desired connection to my octogenarian parent with whom I had not had much relation in recent decades.

4) I was eligible for multi-province student financial support.

These were not reasons based on vigorous academic activity, intellectual rigour, or institutional accreditation and reputation. Not at all. I balanced my personal needs with a perceived potential professional trajectory. While at Western, I took advantage of the co-op program, found employment at the Federal government’s Citizenship and Immigration Library in Ottawa and subsequently with the University of Lethbridge in Alberta. Each position was surprisingly in-depth and offered a broad scope of responsibilities and duties. All experiences provided:

  • opportunities to work with knowledgeable and professional librarians
  • situations where hands-on interaction with information and information users presented steep learning curves honing my already high-calibre customer service skills and competencies
  • insights into the organization and environment of very different types and styles of libraries

It is with this rich and diverse experience that I was able to confidently apply for and accept a position at a college within weeks of completing both my degree and the contract position.

What I found lacking in the program was any course work on vendor databases. I had to learn about the features, benefits, and advantages of the interfaces of EBSCO, ProQuest, ScienceDirect, Web of Science, Wily, WilsonWeb, JSTOR, etc. while at the reference desk, on my own time, and with the help of the vendors’ online tutorials and webinars. There were many times I pounded my fist to the sky exclaiming my disgruntlement at the Master program’s lack of courses dedicated on these ubiquitous licensed databases. In our profession,, we have to work with these products daily if not hourly, our users expect us to expertly navigate these interfaces, and our subject faculty demand we be proficient researchers using the databases licensed by the institution. It seemed rather presumptuous of the MLIS program’s developers that students would already be skilled and proficient with such databases.  Perhaps there is an understanding that our future employers will train us in the efficient and effective use of these interfaces.

Where I am not . . .

Change agency movements are now cresting heady and strong within Canadian academic libraries and I read about it as I review and research Canadian academic libraries in library literature and by networking with my colleagues from those institutions. I believe that the entire profession of librarianship is at the fore of thought creation, developing and emerging pedagogies, and has great influence in how technology influences and supports our libraries, our users, and information. I am excited to be part of this profession and find my stride.

What I am planning to do next . . .

This next year is one of many foundational periods where I will write for publications, present at conferences, and refine my areas of interest.

I will:

  • continue to research transliteracy competencies for librarians identifying trends, gaps in training, and areas where competency levels are not articulated
  • develop a series of standards aligned with ACRL Standards but specific to 21st century librarians’ transliteracy
  • create competency rubrics for librarians in the context of transliteracy
  • apply for and be accepted at a highly regarded university to study toward a PhD
  • write for and be published in professional publications
  • be employed in a dynamic library engaged with my colleagues in a cooperative and collegial environment to achieve and exceed goals
  • foster profoundly valuable and rewarding professional relationships with colleagues
  • develop a relationship with a mentor
  • finish Certification in eLearning program from the University of Calgary
  • continue studying for the Library Sector Leadership Certificate at the University of Victoria

My ePortfolio http://juliekent.ca details my Mission Statement and Goals, highlights some of my work, and presents a Statement of Guiding Principles.

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This entry was posted on 08/05/2011 by in Competency, Professional Development and tagged .
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