Thursday, April 19, 2007

LIS Education Article

Today I'm not going to provide you with a provocative opinion. I think I've run out of provocative opinions until I read that ALA news article on the "Librarian Act."

I want to point out an interesting article from a couple of years ago on the MLS and library job situation that a kind reader sent to me. It's "Shibboleth: a next-generation view of the MLS" by Rachel Holt. I wish I could link to the entire article, but I think the link will only take you to the full article if your library subscribes. The article puts in a succinct and researched way some of the arguments I've been making about LIS education and the library job situation, both about the incoherence of LIS education and its relative worthlessness for getting a library job.

To give you an idea of the article, here's the penultimate paragraph:
"As was said earlier, this bears repeating: everyone has to start somewhere. When there is no place to start, no standards or strong guidance, it is virtually impossible for a young graduate to become accepted as a professional. Yet, we are blamed for being unqualified. Somehow, the group that is ultimately forced to take responsibility for not providing opportunities for graduates is the graduates. It is a bewildering betrayal of trust, not to mention an egregious failure of stewardship. Who will replace the retiring generation if not this current generation of leaders that is not being nurtured? The answer that many people have to a question like this is to point the finger at us, the graduates, to say that we should have known better or that if we wanted to be librarians than we ought to know how to research these things. We say shibboleth, but are turned away. We obtain the MLS but soon learn that it is not enough. What is not required – indeed, what is not even formally communicated – is the thing that we really need."

Well put. Wish I'd read it before I started rambling on the topic a few weeks ago.


Anonymous said...

You know, this seems true in other areas of "professionalism" as well. Particularly MBAs and lawyers. If you graduate from a lower tier school, your job prospects (if you have no relevant experience) are clearly not economically feasible give the cost of the advanced degree. Yet the educational establishment foists itself on the airwaves, on billboards, etc. ad naseum.

IMHO it's not the students or the "profession" but the "machine" of university education, which are largely equivalent to "matchbook cover" schools with nicer buildings and staggering student debt.


Anonymous said...

"If you graduate from a lower tier school, your job prospects...are clearly not economically feasible give the cost of the advanced degree."

But if you went to a "top" business or law school you will have little trouble finding a job--I worked at a law firm that was built around Ivy League grads and other supposed hotshots.

I went to a "good" library school. (I think, is the University of Washington considered decent?) But that has meant nothing in my job searches.

Ideally, personal qualities should mean much more than the brand on your diploma, but at least business and law school grads are given some credit for their education. I am not sure about business school, but many if not most law school graduates went to grad school straight from their undergraduate studies and that does not seem to bother potential employers.

The Rachel Holt paragraph cited is spot on in the lack of stewardship and communication in library education: the library school wants to just cash your check and employers want the perfect candidate served on a platter.

AL said...

One part of the article not quoted discussed the way that the MLS tells libraries absolutely nothing about the education of the librarian because of the incoherence of LIS accreditation. Thus the demand for experience. One major irony discussed in the article is that library schools recruit people that know nothing about libraries and have never worked in libraries without telling them that libraries don't care at all about the specifics of your MLS; they want someone with a track record in libraries.

Anonymous said...

Rachel Holt first appeared in my consciousness as a member of a listserv that I was subscribed to shortly after I started library school. And she was none to happy with things. At the time, I thought that she didn't really know what she was talking about...that she was just a complainer.

Now? Different story. I have to give Rachel credit where credit is due...she saw the light WAY before I did.

Rottle said...

Holt refers to the distinction between the "leading" schools full of info theory and the schools based on librarian fundamentals. My well-regarded library school offered both options. I briefly considered taking the snazzy Info Science option, but stuck with the fundamentals, figuring I could pick up the glitzy stuff as I needed it. I have never regretted that decision.

Anonymous said...

Dear AL,

I've been skimming, reading, and digesting your blog entries for half a year already and I have finally decided to post a comment.

Currently, I am a senior page interning at a prestigious research public library (well funded supposedly)

It has been almost a year since I first started interning at this research institution. I wanted to get a MLS degree, and eventually work there...

but soon, I realized ... everyone (the librarians and staffs) are disturbed, troubled, tired, and stressed; not to mention, boorish and abusive.

They order me around a lot and I get my work done pretty fast.

I thank you are for consistently posting the *real deal with library schools and the agony of being a librarian.

I no longer want to obtain a MLS degree or become a librarian but I still love to conduct scholarly research etc.

Maybe I should consider a PhD degree?

Anyway, keep the post rolling!

-Annoyed Page

AL said...

Annoyed Page, thanks for the kind words. I'd like to say things aren't as bad as they're painted on the blog, but I think for a lot of librarians they are. As for a PhD, I hope you're thinking of one in a real subject!

Anonymous said...

Annoyed Page,

I want to pursue a PhD in History seeing as how my MLIS hasn't led to anything. Trouble is, funding cuts are forcing schools to accept fewer students for grad programs. In several cases, less than ten per cent of all applicants are accepted. Just a word of warning. I do, however, wish you the best of luck in pursuing a PhD.

- Ian

Anonymous said...

Here's the other problem...the library schools take in far too many candidates...

I really wish the respective departments or ministries of education would put a quota on these schools. They are flooding the job market and making the degree worthless. When Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia did that with their Social Work degree, the dept of education threatened them with closure. Dal backed off pretty quickly.