Why I'm a Library School Dropout
Confession: I only have half of a MLIS degree.
I decided to get my Master of Library and Information Science degree in 2014. I applied to 4 schools and got into all of them. After 4 semesters at Kent State University, one of the top library schools in the country, I had a 3.85 GPA.
But then I dropped out.
It's not because I don't value the work libraries do in the world. (I do, now more than ever.) It's not because I got in dire financial straits. It's not even because of the lousy pay most––but not all––librarians make. It's not because of funding cuts or the difficulty finding jobs in libraries.
It's because I came to the realization that I really don't want to be a librarian.
The truth is, I felt pressured to get a masters degree because I feared people would think I was stupid if I didn't. I know that's completely illogical, not to mention utterly ridiculous, but that's how I felt at the time. Maybe it's some complex I have from growing up in Alabama and being born to a working class family. Maybe it's because I was the first in my family to go to college. Maybe it's because I'm self-conscious about my own intelligence from watching too much Jeopardy.
The reasons, however nonsensical they may have been, were real to me at the time. I thought the only way I could live with myself was to get that piece of paper that said I had earned a masters degree. Since I love books, I thought a masters in library science would be a good fit for me.
And in truth, it was!
Like I said, I had a 3.85 GPA. I loved my classes, I loved my professors, I loved what I was learning... But what I didn't love was how my classes prevented me from reading for pleasure and writing my creative nonfiction essays and novel drafts.
Despite all the things I loved about being in the program, I would find myself depressed because I would work a full-time job (all on the computer), then do schoolwork (all on the computer), with little to no time for pleasure reading or creative writing, two of my favorite things in the world.
I was essentially on the computer doing work (whether paid or school) from 9am to 6pm and 7pm to midnight every weekday, with several more hours of homework on the weekends. To say I was exhausted was an understatement.
What I realized was that when I was working on my library school classwork, I would be dreaming about writing. I'd either be wishing I was writing, making notes about things I was going to write when I had more time, making lists of things to research for a story, or wishing I was reading a book (which is itself a form of studying for writing).
It finally occurred to me what I'd known my entire life––what I really wanted to do was write.
It seems so obvious to me now, but at the time I worried I wouldn't be good at it, that I wouldn't be able to find a job in creative writing, that I wouldn't make any money at it... But those are all the same fears I had about being a librarian too.
The difference was that when I was doing something other than my library school classwork, I wasn't dreaming about libraries. I was pretty much always dreaming about reading and writing.
My fears about not being able to write successfully (and perhaps lucratively) are still there. The difference is that even if writing doesn't work out, I'm going to be happy I tried because I feel like I'm living as the best, fullest version of myself. It's what's most innate to me. It's what brings me joy. While library science is a noble profession, it just doesn't light me up the same way.
If there's anything library school taught me, it's that librarians are incredible assets to our communities––even more so than I imagined. They're at the frontlines of self-education, which is vital since not everyone is in a position of privilege to receive a quality education. In the library, all are equal and education is freely available, regardless of one's ability to pay. That's a beautiful thing and it takes a special kind of person to do librarianship justice.
Although I'm not destined for the library profession myself, I'll always support the work libraries do in our communities and in the world. And maybe one day, the books I'm writing will be on library shelves too.
In the end, I don't regret my time working toward an MLIS at all. Not only did I learn a lot and get crystal clear on what my purpose in life is, it proved to me that I'm not stupid at all and that my fears were unfounded. I'm damn proud of my 3.85 GPA from one of the top library schools in the country. I'm a more confident, happier person thanks to my time in the program. Although I wouldn't change a thing, I'm glad that I'm now free to follow my dreams.