Student Snippets A Window Into The Daily Life & Thoughts of SLIS Students

Program Change

For the second week in a row, Danielle’s post has provided a great springboard for mine. She discussed how many of her friends/colleagues in the program have been questioning their concentrations in GSLIS. I began my career at Simmons GSLIS as a dual-degree History/Archives student. For a better part of this semester, I had been questioning whether I wanted to continue to pursue my MA in history. After much debate (as outlined below), I’ve concluded that, while I will continue to maintain an archives concentration in the MLS program, I will no longer be pursuing an MA.
There are three main considerations that guided my decision pursue the dual degree:

  1. An MA would make me a more competitive applicant than the MLS alone would.
  2. Archivists make collections available to and work with historians, so being a historian myself would help me be better at my job.
  3. Academia is fun! I like thinking hard and writing and exploring new avenues of thought.

Especially over the past semester, as I’ve learned more about myself and the field I’m going into, I’ve begun to see the flaws in these considerations.

  1. An MA wouldn’t mean automatic jobs. I’d still have to work hard and prove myself worthy at any step in the job search/hiring process. It’s not a free ticket to success.
  2. Something we keep hearing about in class is that historians are not our only users anymore. As more people are discovering archives (on the Web and otherwise), different kinds of people are coming in, even members of the “general public.” In fact, moving away from talking about the Web for a second, I’d say that archival users have been diverse since long before the Internet, and the profession has just been slow in recognizing this. This means a history degree isn’t the all-powerful solution to making things more accessible to my users, because my users won’t all be approaching their work the same way a historian would (like there’s “one way” a historian approaches things anyway).
  3. Academia is not that fun. I still like thinking hard and writing and exploring new avenues of thought, but I don’t need to spend extra time and money to do so. I have the Internet! Okay, not the same, and I know I could learn lots of cool things if I went for a scholarly master’s, but at this point I’m just a little burnt out. I want to learn things that are practical, do the best job I can at them, and start working. I want to get a move on here.

Really, what this boils down to is me gaining more of a sense of what I want to be doing and the kind of repository I want to become a part of. If I wanted to work in an archives at Harvard or a giant historical society that sees a lot of scholarly traffic, then yes, an MA in history might be game-changing. But I don’t. I want to work somewhere small, somewhere not fully-established yet, because I want to be the one to establish things. I’m still thinking a small regional college/university would be ideal. I want to work hard to get the word about archives out to members of the public; I don’t want to cater only to historians. ARCHIVES FOR ALL.
Additionally, my newfound love and aptitude for technology skills is opening up another viable path for me. I can replace my marketable MA with marketable technology skills that might end up proving more valuable for the kind of career I want to have. Another plus: if I go full time next year, I can be done in the Spring of 2013. I like that a lot better than “I’ll be done in 2-2.5 years-ish after I’m done writing my thesis.”
I feel like I know where I’m going now and I have an idea of how I’m getting there, and I’m liking my decision and these feelings a whole whole lot.