Monday, July 31, 2006

The Rising Generation Resents Our "Education"

Consider this third installment of my Rising Generation series another wallop at the dead horse, but I'm finding this fascinating, so you'll have to bear with me for today. If you're tired of the rising generation, skip this and come back in a day or two when I post my American Libraries column analyzing the official mission of the ALA. Exciting stuff!

Someone calling himself Wally Whateley says he would LOVE to be a librarian. Apparently, he needs a job. "Sure enough, my employment isn't getting renewed. Not very many employment opportunities here in Lubbock, but we'll see. Maybe I can find the richest grocery store in town, and they'll pay me enough as a sacker to let me keep my car..."

When job hunting, he says, there are those jobs you might hate but take to survive, like truck driving or teaching school.

"But the worst ones are not the jobs that you'd hate but would do just to survive, but the jobs that you'd love and would be good at, but are not allowed to apply for. "

You can imagine which job that is--Librarian!

"I would love to be a librarian. I did it for a couple of semesters back in my freshman year in college. And I really thought it was pretty cool. I would love to try it again -- I love books, I love recommending books, I know my way around your average library, and I would dearly love to get to hang around hot librarian babes."

You see, he was a librarian for a couple of semesters as a college freshman. And, you know, he loves books. And he knows his way around your average library. Oh, and all the hot librarian babes! (Apparently he's seen that Cognotes photo of me in my Daisy Dukes, but hasn't visited the exhibit floor at a library conference yet.) He certainly sounds qualified. Perhaps more than qualified. And one would think if he was a librarian as a college freshman, he could certainly be a librarian as a college graduate. He should probably go back to that library and get them to hire him again.

He has a lot of other posts about his comic books, and he often makes highly intelligent statements like, "Why do Republicans want to make war on Fundamentalist Islam? They're basically the same damn thing, aren't they?" This just shows he's no elitist high culture snob and that he's a really critical thinker with informed and carefully reasoned views about the world. With that sort of brilliant political savvy, he would probably fit right in at the SRRT!

But then, depression sets in.

"But every time I look up the job requirements for any library jobs, they all say, 'Must have a Masters of Library Science degree.'"

After that it gets a little rude, but he asks legitimate questions:
"Is this whole 'Library Science' thing anything other than a scam to keep Library Science professors employed and to ensure that people who love books but never managed to go to the right schools will never get to work in libraries? Does insisting on Library Science degrees actually do anything to make libraries better?"

It may indeed be a scam to keep library science professors employed. What else could they do, after all? And it's a shame Whateley never went to the "right schools." In this context, I assume he doesn't mean Harvard or Yale, but more likely Michigan or Chapel Hill, or for that matter the University of Southern Mississipi or the University of North Texas, both of which offer genuine ALA-accredited MLS degrees. Yes, we librarians are an exclusive lot.

"Seriously -- take me into any library in the country, big or small. Give me a week to familiarize myself with the classification system, the filing, the layout of the facility, and how to check the books out, and I'll put my abilities to recommend books, file and retrieve materials, and keep general order up against anyone with a damn Masters degree."

Now take that, you overeducated librarians! The main job of librarians is recommending books, filing and retrieving materials, and keeping general order! You don't need no stinkin' MLS for that! Hmmm, except for recommending books, which to my knowledge is generally restricted to reader's advisory among public reference librarians, I'm trying to figure out which of these duties is typical of librarians. Depends on the size and type of library certainly, and what your function is, but I haven't done any work like that since I was a pre-MLS library clerk. Whateley sounds well qualified for such a clerkship. That's what we have clerks for, so that we important professional librarians can spend time doing high-level productive work like having multiple coffee breaks and writing our instructive professional librarian blogs and surfing the web. Other people surf the web, too, but when I surf the web, I'm surfing like a professional, baby!

I wonder if we gave him a week to explore the library whether he'd be able to catalog data, or develop an approval plan, or evaluate a database, or teach advanced research techniques, or maintain a server, or develop a website? None of them terribly difficult once you know what you're doing, but they probably couldn't be learned well in a week. We'll be generous and give him two weeks exploring his average library.

One of the commentors upon Whateley's post remarks, "I work in a library, would like to be a librarian, and I know what the librarians do, but no one needs a degree for that [poop]. It's just another scam, like the MBA or the masters in journalism (yeah, dropped out of that program, too). Just another way of eliminating the middle class by making decent-paying jobs unatainable."

Bravo to the commentator for noticing that master's degrees in library science and journalism are both intellectually suspect. The implication, though, is that she couldn't complete either degree. If you can't complete one of those degrees, what does that say about your own abilities? Maybe the purpose of requiring an MLS is to make sure that librarians were at least able to complete something, even if just an MLS.

Nevertheless, you probably noticed the most alarming point this commentator makes. That's right, professional librarians are working hard to eliminate the middle class, and I bet most librarians though that was President Bush's tax cuts! (Probably not most of the librarians in my readership of cranky conservatives, but just librarians in general.) I bet that's a charge you never thought would be brought against you! This is the first time I've ever been the focus of envy and resentment, at least because of my job as a librarian.

Consider the figures, though. The median weekly earnings for all Full-Time Wage and Salary Workers in the US in 2004 was $33,176 [latest data obtainable without having to search for more than two minutes]. Here's where we might start to feel a little better about our pay. According to my own investigative journalism from last week, the median wage of all librarians in 2005 was $50,274. Thus, on average, librarians are considerably better paid than other Americans. And how do we maintain this high status we have compared to your average American schmo? By building up a huge wall to keep out the riff-raff, that's how. And what is that wall? You guessed it, our prestigious and exclusive library schools!

I'll admit I live in a fantasy world located somewhere between P.G. Wodehouse, Evelyn Waugh, and Henry James, but now I'm feeling very exclusive indeed.

Consider also this statement from The Bell Curve, by Herrnstein and Murray:
"Think of your twelve closest friends or colleagues. For most readers of this book, a large majority will be college graduates. Does it surprise you to learn that the odds of having even half of them be college graduates are only six in a thousand, if people were randomly paired off? Many of you will not think it odd that half or more of the dozen have advanced degrees. But the odds against finding such a result among a randomly chosen group of twelve Americans are actually more than a million to one." [p.47]

If we consider the MLS an "advanced" degree, which I suppose we must for statistical purposes, I'm willing to bet that if you did the calculation, you'd find yourself in very statistically unlikely company, at least compared to the randomly paired off average American. (I avoid the randomly paired off average American whenever possible.) Despite the fact that library school is somewhat of an intellectual joke, even that minimal barrier keeps out many of the poor and beaten down and lets the rest of us enjoy the high-powered, privileged lifestyle of the professional librarian.

How do you feel now, you elitist librarian scumbags? Are you starting to feel a little guilty about your high pay, your juicy perks, and your exalted status? Nor am I.

We must beware the rising generation, because they want to destroy the exclusive privileges we have built up to protect our high salaries and cushy middle-class jobs. I want to make library school intellectually rigorous; the non-librarian Jacobins among us want to tear them down to make way for people who love books and stuff. We must be prepared for them when they storm the barricades shouting "Liberté, égalité, fraternité" and trying to beat us to death with our own book trucks. When the revolution comes, you'll be the first up against the wall!


Cincinnati NAMjA said...

I agree, that like with most professions, you do not NEED an advanced degree to perform the job at hand. Let's take librarianship for instance. A very determined library staff member who has worked in and around library's for a decade or so could perform as well, if not better, as a librarian than a person right out of Library school.

Annoyed Librarian said...

I'm not even sure it would take a decade.

Greg said...

Give me a high school grad and in 12 months I'll give you a professional librarian.

Annoyed Librarian said...

You radical! It might depend on which job in which type of library.

Taupey, the Bush Kangaroo said...

Wally might need to spend a little more time with the Beaver.

Seriously, Beaver had such a pragmmatic, wistful and yet ultimately accurate view of the world. Viz:

Wally: "I can't even figure out what Library Science is, exactly."

Beav: "Gee Wally, y'know you gotta go to school to learn all kinds of junk."

Wally: "I don't know if there's more to it than that. But if that's the bulk of what you're learning -- what a crock of fucking bullshit."

Beav: "Gee Wally, you oughtn't curse like that! And if you don't know what you don't know, then you gotta go to school. Like I didn't even know what a fraction was until Miss Landers class."

Wally: "Do I need to know who built the oldest library in France to help a 16-year-old find reference books about postmodern poetry?"

Beav: 'Gee Wally, for an older guy in his you care a lot about 16 year olds and poetry. We had a meetin' in school and Officer Barnes said there's lots of guys like you in the library lookin' for pron, pern, porn-ig-raph-ing, in the bathroom, I think. Anyway, you know, what if doctors said "Gee, I really like making people feel better, what do I need all this medical school junk for?"'

Wally: "Don't end sentences with prepositions you turd."

Beav: "Don't be an asshole."

P.B.I. Librarian said...

The sad thing is, his observations are largely spot on.

Annoyed Librarian said...

May be, but if he wants to be a librarian, he should have to suffer through library school like the rest of us. It's sort of like hazing.

Wally said...

Hi, Annoyed Librarian. Wally Whateley here.

Thanks for curing me of wanting to be a librarian. If all of them are quite as sneering, contemptuous, and rude as you, I suspect I'll be better off digging ditches.

And "The Bell Curve"? Wasn't that discredited as dishonestly-researched racist tripe about three seconds after it was published?

Annoyed Librarian said...

"Thanks for curing me of wanting to be a librarian."

Glad to be of service!

"If all of them are quite as sneering, contemptuous, and rude as you, I suspect I'll be better off digging ditches."

Rude! Surely you jest. You forget, Wally, I've read your blog--rude, contemptuous sneers and all. If all librarians were as rude as me, you'd fit right in. However, since most of them are excessively nice, you might feel out of place.

"And "The Bell Curve"? Wasn't that discredited as dishonestly-researched racist tripe about three seconds after it was published?"

Uh, no, it wasn't actually, but that's beside the point. Had you ever read the book, you'd have realized it doesn't talk much about race. Regardless, you might certainly notice that the passage I quoted had absolutely nothing to do with race. But keep trying!

Anonymous said...

I've been a librarian for over 10 years, eight of those in public libraries.

I've never seen a public librarian perform any task that couldn't be performed just as well by any college grad. And it would take no more on-the-job training to get the generalist up to speed than it would to get a new MLS there.

Annoyed Librarian said...

"I've never seen a public librarian perform any task that couldn't be performed just as well by any college grad. And it would take no more on-the-job training to get the generalist up to speed than it would to get a new MLS there."

For the vast majority of library jobs, you'll get no argument from me. With all his rage (perhaps justified, since I probably shouldn't have picked on him), I think Wally has missed the point of my criticisms of the MLS. I've pointed out MANY times what an intellectual joke the MLS is. I think one only need read my "Dear Annoyed Librarian" letters to find out what I think about library school.

Reactionary said...

Ms. Annoyed Librarian (aka The Dream Killer),

You need to back off Wally here. Your rudeness clearly knows no bounds. Wally has demonostrated his intellectual street-cred with his use of the words "sneering," "contemptuous" and "tripe." I'm not sure what they mean, but they sound bad.

Wally has started off a really interested topic here. Why do we need degrees at all? Aren't "qualifications" just another way for The Man to keep us down? Most degrees don't qualify us for anything anyway. That undegraduate degree that Wally picked-up isn't doing too much for him other than teasing him with dreams of what could be. Poor Wally may have been blinded by flying too close to the sun as a freshman.

Annoyed Librarian said...

I think tripe is a kind of fish that comes in both sneering and contemptuous varieties.

That post was probably over Wally's head, frankly. He definitely missed the joke, which wasn't really on him at all.

Except for the MLS, my various degrees qualified me for very little, but then I wasn't training for a job. That's why I went to library school, to pick up a marketable credential and maybe a few skills. As my readers know, I don't have much respect for library school education. I mean, really, part of my point was that the only purpose of the MLS might very well be to put an obstacle in front of people, when we all know that most library jobs don't require it. Perhaps none do. Though I'm almost positive that a recent college graduate wouldn't be able to do my job with even a year's training.

Annoyed Librarian said...

On the other hand, what is the MLS but an attempt to guarantee that a person has had some kind of library training. But then again, with library schools as incoherent as they are, what possible guarantee could that have?

Anonymous said...

The University of North Texas offers an excellent online program. I don't think you should discredit it because it's online. There are mandatory face-to-face meetings that last an entire week each semester. It's a great option for someone who doesn't live in a state with a library science program.

As for the MLIS in general, I think it's important. A person with a BA usually isn't familiar with AACR2 or anything else unique to our profession.