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Insights from an LSU Master of Library and Information Science Graduate

Newsroom | Articles May 13, 2024
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The world of information management is becoming increasingly vast and complex. It draws professionals who are curious and capable of handling large amounts of data. Karlee Ursta, a recent graduate of LSU's online Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program, saw this opportunity and decided to take advantage of it. Inspired by a good book and a desire to live out her dreams, Karlee discovered a field that extends beyond the traditional library.  

Read more about Karlee's story and how the MLIS program at LSU transformed her career.

Meet Karlee Ursta

Why did you decide to pursue the online MLIS degree? 

Like a lot of other people, 2020 gave me nothing but time to think about what I was doing with my life, ha! I read Susan Orlean's The Library Book, and something clicked. We all romanticize certain careers or circumstances (I have one recurring daydream that my fiancé and I affectionately refer to as "headcanons," where I live above a bookstore in Edinburgh, for example). But this career and this circumstance seemed like it didn't have to live in my head. I already had many of the skills Orlean talked about needing to work in this field; more importantly, I enjoyed those aspects of my current work.  

So, I started researching library schools and learned that library work fell under " information management," a massive industry. "Library and information science" basically boils down to records management – archive, museum, and library management records, yes, but also any collection of records. Hospitals, governments, film production studios, parking services, restaurants, and real estate companies- if you can think of an entity, I can guarantee that they have a collection of data somewhere that needs managing. 

This world looked like it was offering me an opportunity, so I just started calling the people in it to ask how they liked living there. Dr. Edward Benoit answered one of those calls, and his anecdotes – about the field and LSU – convinced me that not only was library and information science the world for me, but LSU was my path to get to it.

Describe your time during the program. Did you come across any obstacles? 

Time management will be your biggest ally, most irritating opponent, and most valuable tool. Being able to manage your time will make or break any student's experience in this program, but, really, in any higher education program. 

"Time management" is a catchall phrase for finding your unique formula for establishing necessary self-care habits, creating a personal prioritization system, and maintaining a complementary support network. Over the past two years, I have spent time reading books and journal articles, completing assignments, listening to lectures, sending emails, studying for exams, working with new software, and scheduling group project meetings. But it also included actively participating in a 40-hour work week managing projects and supervising employees, making a point to make sure I ate enough and slept enough and showered enough, and asking my friends and my family for reassuring words and hugs when I was sad or stressed.  

Like anything else in your life, this program is one big choice, but it is also a series of little, daily choices throughout its duration. You must choose to prioritize it, then choose who and what will help you prioritize it. I could not have completed this program without the financial support of my job, the emotional support of my family, friends, and fiancé, and the physical and mental support of healthy daily habits. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to time management; my experience with it will not look like yours, and that just means it's working.

What was your favorite aspect of the program? 

Finally feeling like I found my niche in the world. That's a very broad statement, so I'll break it down: LSU's MLIS program was the right combination of curriculum, environment, and personnel for me. I was learning about things I was interested in and could see myself applying to my professional life in a place where I felt I belonged, with people I admired and liked to be around. That's the scientific solution for a happy life. It doesn't come without struggle, but the trendline is positive.

Judging by how many other students also attend LSU, I can't be the only one this program is right for. 

How has earning your degree impacted your career? 

I believe in full financial transparency, so I am not shy to say that my professional salary from pre-LSU to post-LSU increased by $30,000 per year. The time for this increase was two years. The driving force for it was that I was actively earning a master's degree in the industry I was working in. The professional value of this degree, in particular, lies in the practically applicable information management skills the professors and their curriculum provide. These skills transferred directly into my career. Specific examples include: 

  • Learning to implement standardized system program evaluation metrics. 
  • Dissecting what the phrase "change management" means operationally. 
  • Creating strategic plans that are inclusive of organizational and personnel values. 

Just to name three! I could easily list more. 

Financial gain is not the only reason to earn any master's degree, and sometimes it's not even the best reason. Like I said earlier, there were other reasons I chose to pursue LSU's online MLIS. But money is an important factor for nearly everyone. That said, I sincerely think you will see a return on your investment in this program if you effectively leverage both the skills and the network you gain. Success is opportunity combined with initiative and strategic thinking. This program is the opportunity portion of that formula.  

Do you have any advice that you would like to give to prospective students? 

Get to know both the department staff and faculty as people. Email them, ask to schedule a call, just introduce yourself and say "hi". Look up some of their previous work. Not only are they accomplished professionals in their respective fields, but they're also all individuals with funny, interesting, and kind personalities. They have great stories and lots of advice to give if you just ask them. Everyone I've spoken to in this program is an incredible role model. I say confidently that the LSU staff and faculty's sincere willingness to work with anyone – prospective student, current student, colleague, alumni – is what differentiates this program from other online MLIS programs. The department sees everyone as a three-dimensional person with a unique story. That sincere compassion is hard to find in life, in general, so seize this opportunity if it is offered to you. 

About the Online Master of Library and Information Science from LSU 

LSU's online Master of Library and Information Science empowers you to thrive in the ever-evolving field of information science. Accredited by ALA and taught by expert faculty, this fully online program combines practical skills with theoretical knowledge, preparing you for success in diverse information environments. 

You can earn optional Graduate Certificates in Archival Studies or Records and Information Management for further specialization. Overall, LSU's online MLIS program is your pathway to a fulfilling career as an information professional. Learn more about the program, or apply today! 

Explore the online Master of Library and Information Science from LSU!


Photo by Andrew Latham, @gibranphotolab 

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