Getting Your Doctorate as a Professional Librarian
1 April 2011, 12:15PM – 1:15PM Roundtable 29, Exhibit Hall A, Pennsylvania Convention Center
Tip #1 Librarian vs. Student
If you are pursuing your doctorate in a field other than Library Science, then try not to tell too many people you are a librarian; your fellow students will try to get you to do their research for them. While it is okay to help your fellow classmates (and it is hard for librarians not to help others), you are not there as a librarian but as a student with your own work to do.
Tip #2 Time Management & Sacrifice
It should go without saying, but pursuing your doctorate takes a lot of time. Great organizational skills and time management are a must. Also, be prepared to sacrifice more than just money; time spent with friends, family, and engaging in a social life all decrease greatlly; you have to make time for your classes, studies, and research.
Tip #3 Pleasing Your Advisor
You write your dissertation to please your advisor and committee. Sometimes you have to make changes with which you do not wholly agree, but your chair really wants.
Tip #4 Changing Your Advisor
You and your advisor will work together closely. Make sure your advisor is a good fit for your personality and work style. If you decide to change advisors, then most will not take the change personally. They understand the need for a good working relationship between advisor and advisee. Plus, it lightens their workload.
Tip #5 A Good Dissertation
A good dissertation is a done dissertation. If your chair or any member of your committee does not understand that, then make a change. You want to do quality work, but you do not want to set about to change the world.
Tip #6 Research and Write as You Move Along
Develop an idea of your dissertation topic early in your class work. This way you can write and research as you progress through your classes. When it comes time to start writing your dissertation, you will have a bulk of it done.
Tip #7 Align Your Class and Professional Work
If you have established a research agenda in librarianship, then incorporate that into your class work and dissertation. You may be able to publish some related articles while you are taking classes.
Tip #8 Understand Why You Are Doing This
Earning your doctorate is a marathon, not a sprint. At times, you will want to quit and go have a life; and plenty of people do quit along the way. If you have strong reasons for working on your degree, and you keep those in mind, then it is much easier to stay the course and finish. Your reasons should be personal. Also, what is it you want to do with your degree once you finish?
Tip #9 Focus on the Positive
You will hear a lot of horror stories while pursuing your doctorate. Try to focus on the positive stories while not becoming a horror story.
Tip #10 Find A Buddy
Find someone currently enrolled in your program or who has completed a doctorate with whom you can vent, ask questions, and generally share in the craziness. Unless someone has gone through this process, they do not understand what it takes to finish or what happens along the way.
Tip #11 Make Everyone Call You Doctor
Once you finish, and you will finish, make everyone call you doctor. It just might be the single greatest feeling in the world.
Tip #12 No One Can Ever Take It Away From You
The doctorate is the highest academic degree in America; less than 1% of the population has earned a doctorate. To earn the degree takes a lot of hard work, time, blood, sweat, tears, and the loss of some sanity. But once you are a doctor, the personal pride you feel can not be matched, nor can anyone take it away from you.
Tip #13 Know the Requirements of Your Program
Are they going to allow you to attend part-time? Do you need a GRE score from within the past 5 years? Re-learning the skills for the GRE, paying for, and taking the test can be a serious source of stress. Do you need a master’s degree in that subject area? How many and what kind of hours can you transfer from your master’s program? Most importantly, what are the requirements to graduate and finish the program?
Tip #14 Get It In Writing
Get any kind of agreement in writing, especially if you are getting permission to make changes to your program description.
The Dark Side
Pursuing and earning your doctorate does have some drawbacks. Be prepared to sacrifice time spent with friends and family and watch all your free time disappear. Plus, some librarians and library administrators feel threatened by the doctorate, expect some “playa hatin.” This requires you to understand the culture of your library and campus.
The Light Side
Once you complete your dissertation, you will have a strong grasp on the fundamentals of research, increased credibility with the teaching faculty and university administration, and be well-positioned to advance in academia.
Special thanks to Dr. Penny Beile, Dr. Linda Colding, Lisa Nickel, Rachel Mulvihill, and Blake Stephens for their help in putting together this webpage.