Hack Library School: Looking at SJSU SLIS!

THANKS to everyone at Hack Library School blog for permission to republish this piece by Brian McManus:

General Overview

San Jose State University’s SLIS program is the largest ALA accredited library school in the world, which I was not aware of before I began writing this post.  The SLIS curriculum is implemented and provided completely through the online format, using both synchronous (communicating in real time) and asynchronous (not communicating in real time) methods, tools, and technologies.

SLIS serves approximately 3,000 graduate students from within the state of California, the U.S., U.S. territories, and other countries.  I have had the opportunity through the program to be classmates with students from Guam and Australia. It was a unique experience I am not sure I would have gotten anywhere else.

The program delivers the curriculum through the D2L (Desire to Learn) Learning Management System (LMS).  As recently as the Spring 2011 semester the SLIS program was using ANGEL, however it has now completed its transition to D2L for its summer courses and into the future.

Programs

SJSU SLIS offers several different types of programs.  There is the MLIS, the MARA, and the San Jose Gateway Ph.D. programs.  As you have no doubt already correctly guessed, MLIS is the SLIS program’s Master’s of Library and Information Sciences degree.  The MARA program is the Master’s of Archives and Records Administration, which is for students interested in working with archives and emerging electronic records and digital asset management … yes, that is directly from the MARA Web site.  The San Jose Gateway Ph.D. Program is an external Ph.D. program due to the nature of SJSU being limited by the state legislature to only offer master’s degree level education to students.  By partnering with Queensland University of Technology in Australia, SJSU is able to offer a doctoral degree in library sciences to a small group.

In 2009, the SJSU SLIS program was ranked 22 by U.S. News and World Report.

 Courses and Pathways

The program requires each student to complete four core courses which act as prerequisites to many of the succeeding courses in the program.  The first is an introductory technology course that needs to be completed within the first two semesters called Online Social Networking: Technology Tools, It’s a one credit course and acts as an excellent introduction to using the different technologies and software each student will need to know to successfully complete their program.  This course has a shortened time frame to complete and is not taken for an entire semester. Some students complete this course during the summer or winter intersessions.  The other four core courses are Information and Society, Information Retrieval, and Information Organizations and Management.  A complete description of each of these courses can be found on the course description web page.

The School of Information Sciences offers a multitude of career pathways to choose from: Academic Librarianship; Digital Services and Emerging Technologies; Information Intermediation and Instruction; Information Organization, Description, Analysis, and Retrieval; Leadership and Management; Management, Digitization, and Preservation of Cultural Heritage and Records; Public Librarianship; Special Librarianship; Teacher Librarianship; Web Programming and information Architecture; and Youth Librarianship.

The course work is not easy and can be challenging at times, even if a student is attending part-time.  As mentioned above, courses are delivered via the D2L LMS.  Knowing and understanding how to effectively communicate with your classmates and professors using the LMS is extremely important.  Most of the courses I have taken have followed a similar format, with the exception of a couple seminar courses that were either more or less structured. For instance, the advanced reference course where I was an embedded librarian for a distance graduate course at the University Central Missouri.  This course was loosely structured so that my teammates and I could develop library literacy and other helpful content requested by the instructor.

Discussion boards for readings, assignments, and projects are extremely helpful.  With only a couple of exceptions, all  of my professors have been active in the conversations and discussions, which adds a considerable amount of learning and perspective to the learning environment.

Lastly, courses are added and dropped using the SLIS’s MySJSU.  Once admitted to the program, each student has an account they can login to that helps them manage their student account, including classes and finances.  Many administrative emails from SJSU are communicated via this system. It is helpful to set up your email notifications to your personal email so that you do not miss these messages.

Financial Aid/Scholarships/Assistantships

The financial aid services provided by SJSU are mainly the same as those provided by other large state universities.  There is not necessarily a great deal of red tape involved with receiving financial aid once you are admitted and once you register for classes.  The key to this and many other graduate programs is to maintain a good academic standing within your coursework and to meet the minimum requirements for course load.  SJSU’s SLIS program requires its students to maintain a 3.0 overall GPA while in the program and to be at least half-time, which translates to taking 4 credit hours per semester.  Since all but one of the classes are 3 credits, students who wish to receive financial aid must take 6 credit hours per semester.

There are multiple scholarships available for students in the SLIS program that can help with the costs of attending SJSU.  The SLIS program maintains their own list and SJSU has a more general list.

Per credit cost of the SLIS program for distance students (special session) can be found here.

Per credit cost of the SLIS program for CA students (regular session) can be found here.

Student assistantships ($/hour) are also available through the program. The type of work ranges greatly from writing and researching in specific areas of study to working as a student peer trainer.  These are wonderful opportunities for some hands on experience while getting paid and supplementing a student’s income or lessening their cost of attendance.  Since this is the largest SLIS program in the country, there are many opportunities for assistantships.

Internships

Being affiliated with and a part of the SLIS program provides for some benefits. One of these are the internship resources.  As part of the graduate experience, students are encouraged to locate and complete an internship if they do not have library experience already.  SJSU’s SLIS program has an internship database that lists internships in the United States and abroad.  Students may gain credit towards their degree by enrolling in an internship designated class, LIBR 294, as well.

Involvement

There are opportunities for student involvement within the SJSU SLIS program.  There is the ALASC, American Library Association Student Chapter, which organizes social events near the SJSU campus and promotes professional development among other events.  There is also a student administeredprofessional development society called ASIS&T (American Society of Information Science & Technology).  In addition to these, every student admitted to the SLIS program is automatically a member to the LISSTEN (Library & Information Science Students to Encourage Networking) group, which is another group to promote and encourage professional development and networking within the program.  Also, the LISSTEN group has a blog called the Call Number, which invites students to make contributions.  Another blog and opportunity for students to publish their work or perspective and edited by fellow students called the SLIS Descriptor.  There are many opportunities for students to be involved, network, and post their perspectives.

Why Prospective Students Should Consider SJSU’s SLIS Program

The SLIS program at SJSU is robust, flexible, and geared towards the student’s overall success.  The program’s course offerings are immense and from what I’ve seen students never have trouble registering for the core classes. The administration will add courses as needed and work with students to get them into the classes they need (I’m sure there are those that will disagree and have a negative story, but I have never had a problem.  Just make sure you register on the first day of registration and follow all the steps. This seems to hang-up a significant number of people.)

The program is geared towards both students who want and can go full-time and those that need to work full-time and attend courses part-time.  Also, student advisors are embedded into the LMS (Learning Management Software) so that you have access to them just like you would for your other courses.  This makes it extremely easy to email your advisor and post questions that other students may also know the answers to via discussion posts/rooms.

There are many great opportunities for SLIS students become involved in their profession and at varying levels.  Students have their choice of assistantships, networking within the student organizations, and publishing their class projects or sharing their unique perspective on multiple blogs.  These and others are opportunities for professional development and exposure to aspects of librarianship and the information sciences profession that can only enrich and further each student’s career.

Finally, SJSU’s SLIS program hosts lecture series, colloquia, and other professional development series throughout each semester via web casts and other streaming technologies.

Weakness/Room to Grow On

From my perspective, there are not many areas of the program that I can identify as having a weakness.  I think all programs could use more faculty and increase their course offerings, however I have never thought to myself, “Why doesn’t SLIS offer class XYZ.”  Perhaps some of my fellow SJSU SLISers can chime in and share their thoughts on our program.

Hacking SJSU’s SLIS Program

Stay organized: Make sure all your accounts with the program are sending notifications or forwarding content to one central location so you do not have to check multiple emails and accounts to stay in the loop.  Also, sign-in to the D2L LMS every day and keep up with all your class discussion posts.

Take an active role in one or more of the student associations and groups within the program.  You can never start networking or getting involved too soon.

If you are not already gaining actual library experience, take advantage of the SLIS internship database and resources.

Check the SLIS homepage for updates on upcoming colloquia series, conference SLIS will have a booth at, and program sponsored webinars and professional development opportunities.

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2 thoughts on “Hack Library School: Looking at SJSU SLIS!”

  1. Hi Michael. I graduated from SLIS in August 2010. Although I graduated with high marks and consider myself well trained it’s been very difficult to find a job. I was working as an LMA and was laid off due to budget cuts. I have been looking for a full time position for over a year and have had only one interview. My work managing a small school library counts for nothing in the world of public libraries and so I am starting from scratch. Luckily I have my first interview this year in a few weeks but it’s not for a librarianship — it’s as a part-time library assistant which seems like the place to start. My point is that instructors, advisers, and administration should encourage students to take as many internships as possible. Get all the experience they can because it’s hard out here in the real world. I also wish that I would have had an opportunity to take a class with you.

  2. Michael, a couple years ago I introduced myself to you during a break in your presentation at the Santa Clara City Library. Although I encouraged you to visit the merged SJSU/SJPL King Library where I worked, your busy schedule prevented it. Now retired (since June) from my 25-year career as SJPL reference librarian, I’ve been meaning to tell you how glad I am that you’re employed by SJSU. It may be the best thing that has happened to the SJSU SLIS department in a very long time, and I hope you find it a good match. Please keep in mind that King Library reference librarians (both public and academic) assist SLIS students (be they on campus or distance students) and that local SLIS students can obtain valuable experience by working at the reference desk. Thanks, rcn (SJSU MLS, 1986)

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