QUESTION: Librarianship (distance programs/volunteering in a public library)

question / pregunta: 

I am interested in a career as a Reference librarian. Due to my financial situation, moving away for school or commuting seem both improbable, and I don't want to put my education on hold for too long...Which is why I am very interest in online/ distance programs. Which ones do you recommend?

Also, I was thinking about finally heading to my public library to volunteer. What should I look into as a volunteer?

Are there any specific courses I should take at the community college?
(I am not particularly comp tech savy)

(I received a B.A. i Chicano Studies (far from library science, right?)...I definitely would appreciate any additional help, recommendations)




Hello, the American Library Association has a searchable database of accredited programs here. You can limit your search to “100% online,” “Primarily online with some face-to-face courses required,” etc.. As far as volunteering goes, I believe that any way you can get a foot in, will give you an opportunity to learn about librarianship and how many different jobs there are within the field. If you feel you aren't particularly "tech savvy" taking some basic computer classes at your community college would be a great first step. Let us know if you have other questions, we have a number of Radical Referencians in California.

Regarding the volunteering -- I think it would really depend on the library system. The large urban system where I work takes on volunteers for pretty specific, mostly low-level tasks. I've never heard of the possibility that someone could be taken on as a volunteer doing the sorts of activities that would be relevant to a budding professional. (Though that might work in the area of children programming.) Of course, if you want to do shelf-reading or tech assistance (e.g. helping people sign up for the public computers), I'm sure any public library system would welcome you.

On the other hand, right after I got my MLIS, I contacted a suburban public library where I'd worked as a clerk and asked if I could do volunteer work and be "mentored." They were enthusiastic, and I spent a few weeks before I actually found a job helping with a weeding project and revising some topical Web guides. So that was certainly beneficial to all parties, but the set-up was unlike my current centralized/bureaucratic system, and of course I did have a history with that library.

Good luck whatever you decide to try!

Answer posted by:

Adding to my RR colleagues here: on scholarships, and on the connection of Chicana/o studies to librarianship:

While not everyone who graduates with a BA in Chicana/o Studies is necessarily a person of color, I would like to point out the scholarship opportunities from the American Library Association directed to such folks. The Spectrum Scholarship has been around for a decade now and has helped a number of students-of-color with costs through library school. The American Library Association has a bunch of other scholarships that anyone interested in librarianship should seek out as well. I am a spectrum scholar and like to promote when i can!

As for the connection of Chicano Studies to librarianship:

I see that you're in Ventura, between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. In Los Angeles, if you have time to get out there (and you can just email or call these folks, as well), there is the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research (SoCalLib)which broadly has materials on social movements in LA, there's UCLA's Chicano Studies Research Center Library & Archives, and the County of Los Angeles Public Library's Chicano Resource Center.

In Santa Barbara there is the University of California's California Ethnic & Multicultural Archive (CEMA) which is another institution to contact about the connections between your degree and librarianship.

I did a cursory search of Ventura County's libraries, and didn't find a specific repository of Chicana/o materials, but you should contact that system as well to see what they have.

Good luck!

Distance Programs

CSU, San Jose has a distance program that is accredited by the American Library Association. You can read about the online program here.

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