Sunday, February 1, 2009

Librarianship is dead. Long live librarianship.

OK, now that I've got your attention, I decided to create a complimentary post to this blog entry called instructional design is dead

Much discussion has been had on publib recently about the downgrading of librarianship as a profession.

One comment says:
I certainly wouldn't suggest that we should make our cataloging
systems deliberately arcane or complex simply to justify our existence(s). But there are libraries and library systems who are working hard to downgrade the profession and thinking about making libraries increasingly bookstore-like makes me wonder who, in this new model, will be at the Information Desk?

Things change in life. So do libraries. If you do the same old thing decade after decade, your position will be downgraded as newer customer service models evolve, newer technologies come into the limelight and people expect more and different kinds of services. It's up to the library folk to provide a value added for their communities and maintain their professional standing.

A subsequent respondent says:
I completely support the MLS as the basic qualification for a librarian. But there are special challenges, especially in urban areas and rural areas. I'm sure that there are many excellent library directors, for example, on publib who don't have the MLS.

I disagree. Having looked at the MLIS curricula from respected library grad schools I think that the type and amount of knowledge your get from an MLIS is not work the monetary and time investments that you need to make to obtain one. In addition, many of my colleagues who are MLIS librarians say that it is just a union card. Period. Requiring an MLIS pays too much attention at what you do in 12-18 months rather than your skill-set as an employee elsewhere. I know many people who would be better librarians than librarians I've met.

Finally, Carol comments:
This may rub some people the wrong way and I'm sorry for that but I strongly believe that minimizing or discrediting professional standards does not help the profession. And libraries that lack regular professional staff are missing a core piece of what makes a library a library - no two ways about that. Sometimes you have to make do with what is available, which is understandable, but by and large professional, degreed, and accredited librarians are the most highly qualified people to perform their role.

I actually agree with Carl. Where I don't agree is that an MLIS is the only path to become a librarian. There are many avenues, in my opinion, to become a librarians depending on the position. A library director for instance can have an MBA instead. A systems librarian can be someone who's been in IT for a long time or have some Masters in an IT field. A children's librarian can be someone with a Masters in Education, and so on.

There are many jobs in libraries from "librarians" and someone with an MLIS cannot possibly cover everything through a 10-12 course curriculum that has no BA/BS equivalent, so you need to cover everything you would learn in a BA/BS and what you would learn in a Master's level degree in 10-12 courses, something that is not possible and falls flat on its face.

Yes you need professionals. Yes librarianship will be reborn. The MLIS is not the only way to get to become a professional librarian.
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