Choose USC-SLIS for your MLIS!

This was asked today on our SCASL Listserv by a 2nd grade teacher, and I responded.

I decided to share my thoughts here as well.

My name is Cathy Jo Nelson, and I am the current President of the South Carolina Association of School Librarians, and am a product of the phenomenal MLIS Program from the University of South Carolina’s School of Library Information Science (1997). USC-SLIS prepared me so well for my career choice to move into a school library. Every class I took was extremely relevant and made me quite the “future-ready” librarian I am even today.


I am proud to say that USC-SLIS is totally committed to all SC Librarians, and works hand in hand with SCASL and our very own state department of education liaison, Regina Thurmond, to make SC Librarians the very best in the nation. Truly together, USC-SLIS, SCASL and the SC SDE have created a partnership for professional development targeting librarians that is one of the strongest in the nation, and other states and SLIS programs vie to pattern after. I attribute this dominantly to our proactive MLIS Program from USC-SLIS.


You won’t find a more caring staff of adjunct and full professors. You will find yourself completely ready to pass certification exams after only a few courses. You will find yourself on the cutting bloody edge of technology in education, best practices in teaching and learning, and totally embracing the concept of collaborative partnerships within the school and community, all to benefit the young minds educators are charged to teach.


Another great take-away from getting your MLIS Degree from USC-SLIS is the lifelong connection you will have. My professors and classmates even today remain friends and mentors to me in my professional practice. I can pick up the phone or text, tweet, or email and within minutes usually have a response, answers, or readily available ideas for a project or problem, and often even an expert to consult.


I graduated from the USC-SLIS program in 1997, fully certified and ready to take on any school library program, equipped with skills and expertise to be a trail blazer in my first library job in, of all places, your district, Aiken County (New Ellenton Middle.) The position I took in the fall of 1997 was for a part time librarian, part time middle school English teacher. While disappointed it wasn’t a full time position in the library, I gladly took on the challenge of running a dynamic library program while splitting my time between middle school English classes. I had no assistant, so essentially closed and locked those doors for half a day. I did not complain, though, but rather made the best of my situation, seeking to collaborate, offer technology professional development, and working to get kids, teachers, and community involved in library programming when the library was open. I used everything I’d been taught from USC-SLIS to make this part time librarianship the best I could bring to that school. By the end of the first nine weeks, my principal was enamored, and not only hired a full time library assistant so the now active and thriving library never had to be closed during the school day, but also hired a part time teacher to take on my English classes taught half of my day. I was finally a full time librarian, able to collaborate, work to improve the collection, teach teachers about best practices in technology and instruction, and become the librarian I am today.


I will close with this. The return on my investment in choosing the University of South Carolina’s School of Library and Information Science Program is immeasurable in many ways. As a younger professional married to a football coach, I followed my husband’s coaching career all over this state from district to district (Orangeburg, Aiken, Chester, York/Rock Hill 3, Horry, and now Spartanburg 6.) I never struggled to prove I was capable of taking any existing library program and making it better, no matter where these moves took me, and often despite typical public school library issues (fixed schedules, limited budgets, etc.) I have thrived in all the positions I have had. I attribute that to not only my training from USC-SLIS, but also the continued support from this very same institution.


Yes the faculty and staff have changed over the years, as there is no longer a Dan Barron encouraging me to “grow or die,” nor a Donna Shannon encouraging me to make the student’s library program indispensable, nor an Elizabeth Miller walking into the shelves and pulling a book with a kind and gentle reminder that it is too old for the shelves, and to be sure and have that intern find and weed it. I do have new friends there in which I’ve never had a course under, only the luxury of following their blogs, youtube channels, or professional development offerings through a variety of resources, from face-to-face to online and virtual (Dr. Karen Gavigan, Dr. Heather Moorefield-Lang, Dr. Lucy Green, Dr. Davide Lankes). The learning these new faculty and staff members continue to add to my practice is still very much valued. Amazingly, I don’t hear my librarian connections from other programs say or share anything even remotely the same. As a matter of fact, they also clamor for offerings from the USC-SLIS faculty offerings too. If you want to check for your self, just come to our SCASL Conference March 14-16, 2018 in downtown Greenville, SC, and see the standing room only sessions offered by the very faculty and staff from USC-SLIS. This truly speaks for itself.


USC-SLIS is truly where you will get the most bang for your buck, simply put.

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