Margaret Henderson

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Margaret Henderson

MMLIS’ business focus gives librarian an edge

Before Margaret Henderson began the University of Southern California’s Master of Management in Library and Information Science online program, she rarely considered the day-to-day logistics of library management. Now as she nears the end of her degree, she said the courses have shifted how she thinks about her work as the assistant to the executive director of the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Library.

“My education at USC has given me insights into the management and daily operations of libraries that I did not have prior to starting the program,” Margaret said. “I have often approached the executive director with insights and ideas that I’ve gained from the program, and he has been receptive to my input. I have also used issues at work for research topics in my courses — most recently a semester paper examining the best practices for library partnerships.”

She said she was drawn to the MMLIS degree because it allowed her to focus on leadership and management to help her shape the future she wants.

“Before discovering the MMLIS program, I did not give much thought to the business side of libraries,” Margaret said. “However, the management focus of the program and its association with the top-ranked Marshall School of Business factored into my decision to choose USC. Learning library science combined with general business management and library management will, I believe, give me an edge in the job market over graduates from other library science programs.”

Relevant and convenient

Margaret quickly adapted to USC’s online learning platform. She said the program’s flexibility helped her succeed in her courses.

“The professors understood that most of the students also have active careers, and they were flexible with deadlines when I needed them to be,” Margaret said. “The online format had a bit of a learning curve, but I quickly learned the technology, and then I found the Moodle online learning platform easy and convenient.”

She said she benefited from all of the courses, but the most inspiring course came in her final semester. “I got the chance to dig deep into research and write on a topic of my choice, and I finished with ideas for taking my studies further,” Margaret said. “The course also gave me several ideas to improve operations at my workplace.”

Propelled by peer review

Margaret also encountered an unexpected source of motivation during her online MMLIS program — her student colleagues. Their diverse backgrounds spanned public and academic libraries, as well as other fields. This demonstrated a wider practical application for the degree, and also pushed Margaret to work harder to match her peers’ high-quality coursework.

“It is fascinating to meet people from all over the country who bring a variety of experiences to the MMLIS program,” she said. “I’ve learned how to use new technologies from my more tech-savvy classmates. I’ve learned about public libraries from others, and, through class assignments, they’ve given me insight into aspects of libraries that I was not previously aware of. Being part of a program where students are encouraged to pursue their interests creates a rich learning environment.”

This engagement has led Margaret to form a deeper connection to the USC network.

“Even though the MMLIS is a distance program, my professors and classmates have made the experience much more personal than I ever expected,” she said. “There is something special about the USC experience, and the people who choose it, that will make me want to stay connected with the university beyond graduation.”

From assistant to advocate

Margaret is close to completing her online MMLIS degree and is preparing for her internship at the Oral History Center at University of California, Berkeley.

“It’s difficult to choose one outstanding memory when I’ve had such an overall positive experience in the program,” she said. “I’ve built good professional relationships with some of my professors and classmates, and that has been an invaluable part of my education. The option to intern is another great feature of the program. I’m looking forward to that experience and know that it will greatly enhance my library science education.”

Now Margaret feels more prepared to compete for a range of opportunities to lead modern libraries.

“We are no longer simply managers and preservationists of print materials, although we still do that,” Margaret said. “Librarians must be tech-savvy information professionals, educators, innovators, partners and advocates. We must look not only at what is trending now in libraries but also at what is ahead. The future of libraries and our ability to survive and thrive depends on these skills. My education at USC has prepared me by providing a clear picture of the issues librarians face today and will face tomorrow, and my professors have given me the knowledge, skills and confidence to take on those issues in the workplace.”