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Write Now! Publishing for MLS Students

Nov 01, 2006

Students pursuing master’s degrees in library science often assume they need their new degrees in hand to write for publication, but much the opposite is true. Every way we involve ourselves in the profession while in school helps increase our opportunities, our career prospects, and our name recognition. Just as it is counterproductive to wait until you finish school to join professional organizations, become active on committees, or put in time working in a library, waiting to write will not help you achieve your goals. Instead, you should begin thinking about writing for publication as early as possible.

Indeed, why wait until you finish school? There are plenty of opportunities available to students who want to publish, and publishing now only furthers your career. The earlier you start, the longer the writing career ahead of you. The earlier you start, the sooner you are able to put your hard-won knowledge to work. The earlier you start, the more practice you get.

Starting early is especially important if you plan a career in academic libraries. Any record of publication will help you get that first job, and practice in doing research and writing for publication will help you jump-start the tenure and promotion process.

The earlier you start, the longer the writing career ahead of you.

Where to Start?

It is not too hard to get started on the path to publishing. Take the process one step at a time, and leverage the efforts you make during your MLS studies. Your library school experience can do double duty in moving you toward your goal of publishing in the library literature.

Taking the following steps while you’re in school can improve your odds of being published.

Take a course in research methods or writing for publication.
Even if you do not see yourself moving into an academic environment, try to fit such a class into your schedule. We never know what paths our careers may take, and the instruction can only help you later.

Take advantage of resources available to you now.
As an MLS student, you have free access to publications and databases that may be more difficult to get to post-graduation. As you develop specific interests while in library school, conduct searches of the literature and save search results. Also read broadly and deeply in specific subjects in which you may wish to specialize.

Think proactively about your career when choosing paper and research topics.
If you have the opportunity, write papers that build on your previous coursework. This helps build up a coherent mass of research and writing you can build on later, and helps you gain subject expertise.

Keep copies of your research, your printouts, and your notes.
Create files you can refer back to while working on related projects in years to come. Organize notes, printouts, bookmarks, and copies for easy retrieval later.

While working on papers, group projects, or theses, think about ways you can adapt your work to other environments.
You may be able to transform an annotated bibliography into a literature review, or a survey project into an article.

Take this unprecedented opportunity to connect with others.
Writing never occurs in a vacuum. While in school, you are thrust into an atmosphere which encourages research and collaboration. Talk to your classmates about collaborating on projects and articles with an aim to getting them published. Talk to your professors and get their advice; let them know you are interested in publishing your work and solicit their input. Pay attention to areas your professors publish in and where such areas dovetail with your own interests.