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Reflections on Library School Thus Far, or: Why I am Glad I Quit My Newspaper Job Last Year

Gabby Barber

Let me be frank: I honestly had no idea just exactly what I was getting into when I applied to the iSchool last January. The decision to do grad school had been hanging about my head, whispering in my ear like a ghostly mosquito for some time; I was at the time working as a copy editor at a fairly respectable and well-known newspaper in San Francisco, a job I was pretty proud of and pretty darn good at, but I knew, watching the harried senior editors slam doors and yell into telephones all day (and well into the evening) that I didn't want to climb this corporate ladder, despite the awesomeness of working in a newsroom (swearing is fine, T-shirts are fine, correcting everyone's grammar is encouraged and making fun of public figures -- the public at large, in fact -- is de rigueur).

Nestled snugly in my cubicle one day, I came across, in my habitual daily perusal of the Internets, an article in the New York Times about the growing number of youngsters (read: Gen-X and Y-ers) who were enrolling in library school. I read the article, transfixed: could this be the answer to my post-graduate malaise? I had looked at other programs: Journalism, no; English, what's the point?; communications, eh; computer science -- maaaaaybe? But Library and Information Science seemed to encompass all of these things and more. The graduate program of my wildest dreams. And lo, the University of Washington had a top-notch one! Having lived in Seattle before, I was familiar with the area, and that day set about signing up for that horrible ordeal known as the GRE and contacting references. My mind was set.

So, what exactly did I get into? After that nail-biting period between January and March, when I waited with bated breath for that oversized packet to come in the mail (it did, obviously), I felt pretty home-free. The plan was simple: go to school, become brilliant at "information science" and land sweet job that would leave me plenty of time to write and travel and look at books and computer screens all day.

The verdict thus far? Well, I'm not sure I'm on my way to information science brilliance just yet, but I've adjusted quite comfortably to the schedule of a student (naps, anyone? Happy hour on Tuesday? Yes, please) and I'm beginning to see a burgeoning interest in users, searches, indexes, databases and all of those other weirdo terms we cub librarians know and love. I think I just may have selected the right program, and just in time, too -- I've watched with growing alarm the increasing number of newspapers that have shut down their presses over the last months, including our own Post-Intelligencer. So, while I'm still not sure just what I shall do with this degree next year -- when do we ever know what we want to be when we grow up? -- I'm happy to have found my way to the iSchool, safely ensconced within the walls of academia as our economy disintegrates around us; and I look forward to a future for iSchool graduates that will include decidedly sunnier forecasts.

April 15, 2009
Vol. XIII Issue 2

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