Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Dear Annoyed Librarian #4: ALA-Accredited MLS!

Dear Annoyed Librarian,

I just earned my MLS from an ALA-accredited library school. Of course, I assumed before going that with genuine ALA-accreditation behind it this would be a tough program, rigorously preparing me for a challenging career as an information professional. Boy, was I wrong. Talk about easy! And now I'm wondering, just what do these schools have to do to call themselves library schools?


Bored in Library School


Dear Bored,

The Annoyed Librarian can certainly sympathize with your situation. She also had trouble staying awake during library school. She made the mistake of dozing off during a crucial half-hour of cataloging class, and so to this day still does not understand what exactly a "MARC record" is or what kind of machine one plays it on.

So on to accreditation standards. It apparently is very difficult to become a library school, as there are only around fifty in the North America. That there are so few explains why they are so highly competitive, and why a potential library school student must actually have a degree in something from some kind of college somewhere to be assured of acceptance. And at a few of the more highly ranked schools, the students must have scored at least a 400 on the GRE. Thus, you can already see that this puts the MLS above other such "advanced" degrees as the M.Ed.

For some inexplicable reason they tend not to be at the best private universities. Columbia and Chicago eventually shut their schools down as being something of an "intellectual embarassment." (Though since Columbia still has that teacher's college, one suspects that may not have been the real reason there.) Though there are of course a couple of library schools at excellent universities, such as the one the Annoyed Librarian attended.

According to the official guidelines listed on the ALA website, a school has to meet the following criteria to be an ALA-Accredited library school:

1) It has to call itself a school of "library science" or "information science" or studies or something similar. Alternate spellings such as "liberry" or "libary" are not allowed. No one is quite sure what library science really is, but information science, so I've been told, is like computer science, except for people who can't do the math. (There might be an exception to this rule however. Some place in Washington state calls itself the "Eye School." The Annoyed Librarian was under the impression that it was a school for optometrists or perhaps private detectives, but apparently it is also an accredited library school.)

2) The school actually has to notify the ALA that it is now calling itself a library school. That is the crucial step that some places inexcusably forget, which explains why sometimes fine programs such as that at East Carolina University go unaccredited. (Perhaps they forgot, though based upon my knowledge of geography, East Carolina could in fact be in the Atlantic Ocean, making communication more difficult.)

There. That exhausts the qualifications to become an accredited library school. It used to be a requirement that the library school also had things like classrooms and teachers, but the rise of distance "education," this standard was thought too elitist and so was dropped.

Now that you have obtained your MLS, you are as you know well on your way! According to the "ALA Resources for Prospective Graduate Students in Library and Information Studies" you are now prepared for an "exciting career in the information field" and may be able to obtain an exciting position as an indexer or a records manager! Please try to contain your excitement!


The Annoyed Librarian


Anonymous said...

This is so true. I got my MA and after not being able to find a job and being annoyed to death by a librarian wife, I went to library school. WHAT A JOKE. But at least I get my certified union card and can get a job.

Anonymous said...

WOW! I'd love to know where you all went to library school. The ALA Accredited MLS program I completed was a rigorous program in Texas. Many who had been straight "A" students all their lives walked away with B's, much to their dismay. I was lucky that I wasn't still a full-time teacher while going through the program because I was able to give much more time to my research and projects--I'm sure that's the only way I made straight A's.

I graduated about 18 months ago and am now working part-time in an academic library while I raise my babies. I deeply appreciate my former professors and still communicate with one or two from time to time.

Anyway, just had to put my .02 in. :)

Bunny said...

Same here-- it was a very rigorous program! (Could you be from TWU as well?)

Perhaps it has to do with individual state requirements. Texas requires at least two years of teaching prior to becoming a school librarian, so a lot of what we learn is drenched in standards and ways of teaching as well as library management and ways to serve patrons.

I also have to work hard (I quit teaching to focus on my studies). Most of my classmates are averaging with B's.

Courtney Parker said...


I'm guessing you know that TWU was on a conditional accreditation back in '04 and apparently stepped it up to get it back. Maybe that's why it's so much harder than the rest? I'm guessing they are still accredited since you just came from there. I'm thinking of going there (well not literally-I'll do the distance thing too probably).