Tuesday, July 18, 2006

At Least Someone Benefits

In order to combat the alleged shortage of librarians, a library school in Missouri is getting over $600,000 in Federal grant money to train people not to be librarians.

At least someone is benefitting from the alleged "librarian shortage" we keep hearing so much about. You know the routine: "According to a 2004 study by the American Library Association, 45 percent of current librarians will reach age 65 between 2010 and 2020." I'm terribly concerned about this alleged potential shortage, as my loyal readers know (thanks, you two!), and I'm really concerned about how to fix this terribly important problem. Fortunately, someone else is trying to fix the problem as well.

Check out this article from the Show Me State.

"In the wake of what many [idiots] see as an impending national librarian shortage, MU’s School of Information Science and Learning Technologies is set to receive a grant to replace those leaving the profession."

Hey, wow, replacing those leaving the profession. That sounds like a good idea. And who are those people leaving the profession?

"With many librarians set to retire, especially those in senior positions, the grants are intended to aid in the education of those seeking to enter the profession and bolster its ranks."

Especially those in senior positions! Since all those leaving the profession are going to be geriatric library directors, perhaps we should recruit some of them. But we're trying to recruit new librarians now to replace all the retiring ones? Isn't this something ALA should have thought about, oh, TWENTY YEARS AGO! So what's this grant for? Is MU going to train some newbies to be library directors?

More importantly, is the grant going to "aid in the education of those seeking to enter the profession and bolster its ranks"?

Nope.

"The school got word on June 26 that it would receive $615,365 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to recruit and educate nine doctoral students. "

That's right. Doctoral students. Doctoral students in LIS, no less! Does this count as "entering the profession"? There must be some point to this. Are the doctoral students going to become library directors? Or even librarians? I don't think they'll be responsible for much rank-bolstering.

“(The nine students) will become educators,” said John Budd, a professor of information science and learning technology. “In their careers, they will probably reach thousands of people each.”

Educators!! Is there anyone less likely to be useful to libraries than "library educators"? Regardless, notice the logic here. It could be called Grant Logic. How do I justify getting half a million dollars when I'm not really fulfulling the purpose of the grant? Because I need money!

In all seriousness, how far are we at this point from addressing the future potential dearth of librarians in "senior positions." So we prepare these doctoral students, and they spend the rest of their careers inflicting upon us such exciting courses as "Libraries, Society, and You" and "Rapid Response Informatics." I should point out that NONE of these "doctoral students" is going to "enter the profession." They won't be librarians, and they will be of very little use to librarians.

They're getting a grant to pay a bunch of people in Missouri to become library science professors, who are going to reach thousands of people by teaching the most boring and useless classes in the entire universe!

Perhaps I'm in the minority here as in most other things. However, looking back on library school, I can honestly say I learned some things, and I had a couple of worthwhile classes, but I can just as honestly say I never learned anything from an actual library school professor that was either inherently interesting intellectually or practically useful for my job. Never. All my most interesting and useful classes were taught by librarians. And I went to one of the best library schools in the country, as you can probably tell by my sparkling prose (though I unfortunately missed the class in writing for librarianship).

I have a friend who became a library science professor after he failed at everything else, even at being a librarian, and he keeps telling me how much we librarians will learn if we just read library professors' articles, because apparently no one reads most of the "scholarly" output of library school professors except other library school professors. My friend doesn't take the obvious lesson from that, which is that he's doing research for a group that finds most of his research totally irrelevant to actually working in a library. And I oughta know whether something is relevant to being a librarian, because I am, in fact, a librarian.

At least Professor Budd is honest about it. He's not doing anything useless and underhanded, he no doubt thinks. He's helping to improve the "librarian shortage" by getting Federal grant money to train people NOT to be librarians, and to do research that no librarians will ever read but which will no doubt be incredibly fascinating to other library school professors. It makes perfect sense! Part of what annoys me is that a library school professor who in fact does do some interesting work has a hand in this.

"Budd will be working with others in the school to recruit students nationally to the project. For each of the nine students, the grant will cover tuition and include a $21,000 stipend. He said that the school hopes to attract students who have an interest in taking library faculty positions."

Free tuition and $21K certainly attract them! Is that $21K/year? Not bad for a grad student in Missouri, I bet. And if they're interested in library faculty positions, you can be sure they don't want to be librarians. Those who can't do, teach; and those who can't teach, teach library science.

But wait? Is this grant really meant to help save us from that terrible librarian shortage? Are we being totally honest here? Not according to yet another MU library professor.

The grant project is called “Educating Doctoral Students to Prepare the Next Generation of Public and Academic Librarians," so it tries to make us believe the problem is the librarian shortage. I mean, who else is going to prepare that next generation of librarians if we don't have any doctoral students? Who's more useful for educating future librarians that people who aren't librarians?

However, "Charles Seavey, associate professor at MU’s School of Information Science and Learning Technologies, published an article in 'American Libraries' in October about what he calls 'the coming crisis in education for librarianship.'" And what does he think the coming crisis is? Haven't we been assured by the best and the brightest at ALA that the crisis is the librarian shortage? But this must be a different crisis.

What could it be? I assume the coming crisis isn't that everyone is going to suddenly wake up and realize what a joke library science "education" has been for its entire existence. We all know that, so it wouldn't be news.

No, the crisis is different.

“It is past time to consider who will educate that next generation and where those library and information science faculty members will come from,” he wrote.

You see, the crisis is where the library school faculty will come from! Yes, that certainly sounds like a problem--for library school faculty! I can't see how that effects anyone else. Librarians need more library school professors like they need your grandmother's old issues of National Geographic.

I sure rest easy knowing $600K of Federal taxes are going to support 9 lousy Missouri doctoral students who might become library science professors. That will certainly solve someone's crisis. Maybe with more library school professors, the current library school professors will get reduced teaching loads and more sabbaticals. At least someone benefits.

20 comments:

The Hag said...

I've been teaching a class of library school students (file under Whoring for $$$$) and I have been trying to teach them something about budgets, something about copyright, and something about how actual jobs are structured and paid. However, my class is not compatible with the new Student Learning Outcomes (SLO) developed by the tenured faculty, so this upcoming semester is my last. I'm not a 'professional educator', I'm a library manager, so I know nothing about what an upcoming librarian need to know. Frankly, with the schools in their current condition, perhaps a class in polishing buggy whips is the next thing?
And upcoming librarian shortage? O, ha. I'm just hoping I can keep the doors open here until I retire. After that, the hell with it.

PBILibrarian said...

Spot on.

If the boomers at my library are any indication, they're going to have to install an oxygen tent around the reference desk soon..the only way any of these are getting out of here is on a gurney.

Do you know I actually got told recently that I don't use print sources enough? I pointed out that I am in fact finding the correct information, and was told that that didn't matter. I needed to use the print sources 'out of respect for the senior librarians...they had to do it, snd you do too."

Annoyed Librarian said...

Actually, I think some library school faculty are in fact doing some useful work, though it tends to be very practical. Consider the Seeking Synchronicty Project I read about on Library Garden. (I'm pretty sure that's done by a Rutgers library professor.) Terribly exciting? I don't think so. But potentially useful to librarians in a way that some more esoteric research is not? Definitely.

However, for the most part I do think there's a lack of connection between library education and library practice. I also think many parts of librarianship are best learned under a guild-like system of mentoring.

Regarding the Boomer librarians, I in fact work with 2-3 really outstanding senior librarians who are often inspirational and have managed to continue to the lifelong learners I hope to be myself. Others, well.... Regardless, when they retire, they're not going to be replaced by people straight out of library school, that's for sure. I've never been told to use more print sources. The favorite line to use on me is, "well, that's just the way we've always done it."

miriam said...

The education I received in getting my MLS was 90% useless. I can imagine the intellectual content of the PhD program. No, let's not think about it.

Guardienne of the Tomes said...

Having a brand new MLS, I can say that 90% of the classes were a joke - I'm surprised the MLS hasn't been laughed out of existence already. The best and most useful classes were on instructional services and the new ways (web publishing and tutorial software)...our management class syllabus is from 1983. My concern is this: most universities have practicing librarians that are tenured, but don't teach. Why not? They actually practice. Let the MLS holders doing the actual work teach a class in return for their faculty status, and maybe we'll learn something...

Guardienne of the Tomes said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
danceswithbooks said...

Indeed, there is such an irony to this, getting paid for not doing much of any much of anything. I won't mention names, but I believe one of the big A-lister librarian bloggers got a PhD on that (IMLS) grant, but at least he was a librarian first. So, it may be not only train people who will not be librarians, but remove a few librarians out of circulation while we are at it.

The Boomers are not leaving anytime soon. Gurneys and oxygen tanks indeed, but hey, they will retire if and when they feel like it because they did not promise anyone to retire by a certain time (yes, I actually heard one of them say that). I am sure there are some good seniors out there, but there is a lot of deadwood too, which will either be replaced by another deadwood, or the position eliminated, you know, budget cuts and all. Personally, I think librarians should be teaching other librarians. It works in other lines of work, but then again, that would make sense.

Bunny Watson said...

See, the thing is I have a tendency towards finding esoteric knowledge exciting. I know, I'm a dork, what can I say. But I had one incredible class in library school that taught a combination of taxonomy, hierarchical structures, information organization. If I were crazy enough to even think about getting another PhD, I'd consider one in library science just so I could work on that.
However, government money just to put people in library "science" PhD programs is on the absurd side.

Jillern said...

What we really need to fund is a way to give those staff folks that toil as paraprofessionals credit for their experience and so zip them through library school. Give them class credit for work experience! That would be a good use of that money!

Annoyed Librarian said...

Sounds plausible to me. If a person can get graduate credit for "Children's Storytime," then they should be able to get credit for work experience.

CT said...

As someone who was forced to teach FIS (faculty of information studies) students, I have to say that the most interesting thing about them was their total lack of interest in reading, writing, thinking, organizing information, sharing that knowledge, or just about anything beyond some fashionable little widget. Luckily I teach early childhood education now, and I will be able to fix the problem. Just give me another generation. :)

Annoyed Librarian said...

Hey! Did you teach at my library school?

Anonymous said...

New MLS graduate here. After venting my frustrations about how much of a joke my classes were, I was told, "your MLS is a union card."

Anonymous said...

I am bemused by the hostility toward boomers. Having just returned from New Orleans, and seeing how our profession is dominated by 50+ aged women, perhaps I should sort of understand, but--do boomers deserve the level of contempt expressed in these comments?

Annoyed Librarian said...

For myself, I have no particular hostility toward any librarians because of their age, and I've worked with annoying and incompetent librarians of every age cohort. As a contrast, I'm also not very impressed by new professionals who think they suddenly have all the knowledge they need, and who quite often don't understand that traditions often embody the wisdom of generations, even in libraries. Hand in hand with the criticism of library science education and the emphasis on the practical has to be the realization that it's experience which usually makes a good librarian. However, that certainly doesn't mean that librarians who have been librarians for 30 years are necessarily any good.

It seems to be that the "boomer librarians" represent to the youngest new librarians the group that dominates the profession by sheer numbers and most resists the technological change that the younger librarians have never lived without. Every library group I've been in has been overwhelmingly composed of 50+ women. Most of the librarians I've worked with haven't been that impressive, though some have been astoundingly so. So, if most of the librarians you work with are not that great and many times seem condescendingly to resent any change, and they all happen to be twice your age, it seems natural that you might begin to label them as a group.

Personally, I prefer to group people by their abilities rather than their age.

Anonymous said...

You sound like sour grapes. A PhD too academic for you, Annoyed (Annoying) Librarian?

Annoyed Librarian said...

Sour grapes? Umm, no. If I have any resentments, it's that there are PhDs that seem to qualify people for little more than low paid adjunct work. But considering your google search path to get to my blog, you must be referring to a PhD in LIS. Too academic? You're kidding, right? Frankly, I would be embarassed to have an LIS PhD, unlike PhDs in other fields. If the LIS PhD is so academically respectable, how come none of the good private schools offer them anymore? Now that Columbia and Chicago have dropped their programs, all that's left are a handful of gigantic state schools that will grant PhDs in anything. If the LIS PhD is your idea of academic and intellectual rigor, then have fun with it, though.

Oh, and thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

I certainly understand all of the concerns posted in response to Annoyed Librarian. I have those same concerns. I also know that Professor Budd is pressing the envelope in LIS; he and folks like Wayne Wiegand are working on bringing LIS into the larger academic community. I presented at the III Library Research Seminar, and Budd was at my presentation. He was extremely supportive of my work in critical theory and understood the implications of critical theory for libraries on a practical level. Skill sets will always change, and librarians need to have theoretical underpinnings to guide the field and their practice. I manage to be a skilled librarian, but I also manage to articulate a conceptual and theoretical understanding of information in culture and of libraries in culture. Having said this, I don't want to be overlooked for senior library positions because I do not have a PhD. I also do not want mid-career librarians to be passed up for senior positions by PhDs in LIS...particularly those who have not been working librarians. If indeed these PhDs will become educators and not library directors or librarians (which I'm not convinced is the case), I hope they do something to stem the tide of entering library students who will graduate to no jobs or jobs that do not pay enough. I have been in applicant pools of over 100 with PhDs and subject MAs for library positions that paid in the high thirties or low forties.

I do think Wiegand and Budd's concerns on the dearth of theory in MLIS programs is extremely valid. But I believe our current pool of librarians are fully capable of doing both. Sure, we do need to recruit talented folks for future LIS faculty. My top-ranked school promoted PowerPoint as if it were a discipline instead of an over-used Microsoft tool that has been around since the 90s. As long as you had a PowerPoint, you were good. The dean started requiring the use of PowerPoint for thesis and capstone presentations as a way to bolster the quality of the presentation?! So, clearly, we need quality professors (like Budd). But it seems imperitive that existing library resources (such as hefty grants)are needed to enhance and create job opportunities, augment salaries and contribute to professional development resources for existing librarians.

Karin Dalziel said...

I'm embarrassed to say that, although I am an LIS student at Missouri, I don't know a whole lot about the issue.

I will say that if it were not for a meeting over coffee with Dr. Becky Pasco (professor for Missouri), I would not have become an LIS student. I would not be excited about the field of librarianship. I would likely still be lost.

No doubt it is possible to train nine useless people- but it is also possible to train inspirational people who truly care about the future of libraries, who are energetic and excited, and who can pass on that excitement to students. I hope for the latter.

I don't know that I completely agree about the stipend - I think there are plenty of people that would be attracted by free tuition alone, and plenty of people work their way through school- even a PhD.

simon&schuster said...

Job Descriptions-

It makes me wonder sometimes who puts together those job descriptions especially if they are asking for technical skills.