Masters in Library and Information Sciences: To Dual or Not to Dual?

At my current job at a law library, I do a lot of digitizing and preservation of documents, and it’s interesting enough that I’m now planning to follow the archives track in my MSIS program at UAlbany. For the fall semester I’ve signed up for IIST 546: Introduction to Records Management and IIST 655: Rare Books. I’m excited for both of these courses, and hoping to confirm that this is definitely the track I want to pursue.

In the meantime, another debate is waging: to dual or not to dual? UAlbany offers joint MSIS programs with an M.A. in either English or History. The dual-degree requires fewer overall courses (about 9 credits fewer than completing the degrees separately) so it’s advantageous in that respect. The idea of graduate studies in English was appealing to me long before I even considered library school, and as much as I’m looking forward to my archives courses this fall, I daydream about the English course listings daily. It almost seems like a no-brainer. However, with my full-time work schedule and part-time school schedule, I estimate it would take approximately five years (possibly more) to complete both Master’s degrees. I have to wonder whether the potential career benefit is worth the additional commitment of a second Master’s degree.

Having witnessed many of my dear library friends’ arduous, and often fruitless, job-searching, my outlook is centered on doing everything possible to make myself stand out from other candidates. To this end, I’ve been scouring the job listings to try to get a better understanding of the requirements for jobs, specifically oriented in academic archives, preservation, or special collections.

Some recent postings:

Archivist/Librarian, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Digital Preservation Librarian, University at Iowa

Curator, Modern Literature Collection/Manuscripts, Washington University Libraries, St. Louis, Missouri

In a nutshell, academic jobs are more likely to require a second Master’s degree in addition to the MLS (even if not required, it obviously helps). The curator of Modern Literature collection/manuscripts is basically my dream job as I currently imagine it. However, I fear that jobs like this one could be going the way of the Chinese river dolphin or printed books.

There are also many archival jobs popping up that don’t require the second Master’s, but lean more toward IT/digital library skills. It seems like it would be prudent to bulk up on programming and digital library courses so that in the event that I do not find myself curating the papers of Virginia Woolf, I can at least be somehow gainfully employed as an archivist of some kind.

This recent post at HackLibSchool and the comment thread got me thinking about how difficult it can be to find a job in a niche archival field, especially without a strong history background.

I’d love to hear from anyone that did or did not pursue additional Master’s degrees, and why. And realistically, what could I do to better my chances of finding a job in literary archives?

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2 thoughts on “Masters in Library and Information Sciences: To Dual or Not to Dual?

  1. Hi Marissa! I’m a fan of your work on the blog here, and just had to comment as this is a great question. Basically, I think you answered most of your own questions in the post. Yes, to get an academic library job, a second Master’s is crucial to putting you ahead of the pack. Yes, if you’re considering archives, a history and digital background will be very very helpful. However, the bottom line, while we all want to get jobs, is that you follow through with what you will enjoy as that will make your school and work life mean something, which will enrich your life.

    My advice is pick something you enjoy, become the consummate expert in that area (get online and blog/tweet about it all the time) and then work very hard to convince employers that they need your skill set whether its called archivist, rare book specialist, digital informatics nerd-girl or what-have-you. For the motivated, interested and passionate – there will always be jobs (I say as I am 4 months out and still working part-time! Don’t lose hope!)

    Keep up the great blogging and stay in touch with HackLibSchool. We want to know how your experiences in the degree are.

    Micah V.

  2. Marissa K. Mason says:

    Thank you for the sound advice!

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