Drexel's MSLIS: A Bridge from Banker to Librarian

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This article was first published August 5, 2015, in Drexel's Digital Dragon. Republished with permission.

James Ritter, Maine State Library

James Ritter didn’t always dream of being a librarian. In fact, during his undergraduate studies, he thought he’d become a lawyer or a politician. Yet somehow, through a unique transition from working in the banking industry to pursuing a Master’s in Library and Information Science degree online with Drexel University, Ritter now finds himself in the top position in one of the largest libraries in his state.

Ritter’s journey to his current role as State Librarian at the Maine State Library began in 2008. Having worked for a major bank holding company for nearly a decade, Ritter’s interest in library services peaked when he was given the task of overseeing the creation of a grant program for local libraries in Maine. He enjoyed the experience so much; he decided to make a career change from banking to library management.

With years of corporate experience, Ritter was able to assume the role as deputy director at a public library in Maine. But in order to move to the next level in his field, he knew he needed a graduate degree.

“In the library world, and especially at the management level, it’s not common that they hire someone without the MSLIS degree,” said Ritter. “My boss at the time said ‘If you want to grow in the library field, you’ve got to get the degree.’”

Online learning was the only real option for Ritter, a married father of two children, working a full-time job. He learned about the Drexel online MS in Library and Information Science program while attending the American Library Association’s annual conference.

James Ritter, @RitterMSL on Twitter, with permission

Not unlike most students engaging in online learning for the first time, Ritter had his hesitations.

“I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to work and I was a little apprehensive. I just didn’t know what to expect,” said Ritter.

But once he began the program, he was surprised by how flexible the courses were and how connected he felt with his fellow students.

At least in the online environment there is flexibility. I’ve done papers at five in the morning or on my lunch break at work,” said Ritter. “We did group work in some of the classes, and that was fantastic. To be working with each other, emailing back and forth, and using Blackboard Learn (Drexel’s online learning platform); some of those experiences were better than face-to-face work that I’ve done in the corporate world.”

Ritter is now just six credits shy of earning his MSLIS degree, but he doesn’t plan on stopping there. He says his Drexel experience has encouraged him to embrace the mindset of lifelong learning.

“Drexel Online, the way its set up, it has opened my eyes to the value of lifelong learning, and it has actually been fun,” said Ritter. “I could finish my MSLIS and be done. But because it’s been so engaging, I’m inspired to keep going.”

Ritter has already applied to enroll in Drexel's online Master’s in Creativity and Innovation program in the fall. He hopes the program will teach him how to inspire his staff.

“I tend to be really creative and I seek innovative practice from my staff as well as myself,” said Ritter. “I think this program will teach me how to do that well.”

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