Monday, September 17, 2007

Golden Age of Library Education

I was so overwhelmed by the sheer mediocrity of the August American Libraries and its "Manifesto for Our Times" that I missed some of the other oddities, and I thank a kind reader for bringing this one to my attention. When trying to find something to blog about, the AL often relies on the kindness of strangers.

On page 8 of the August issue of that august monthly I like to think of at the "other AL," one will find a letter to the editor from one Thomas W. Leonhardt, who serves on the ALA Committee on Accreditation. He's not happy with any talk about library school being an intellectual joke, or at least not any talk about it being inadequate in any way. He begins his letter:

"Exploring LIS Education the notion that lis education and ALA's Committee on Accreditation (COA) somehow fail to meet the needs of students and employers is unfortunate and I can find no evidence to support that view. The anecdotes about ill-prepared graduates that have been shared at education forums and elsewhere to support the notion that lis education is in crisis indicate instead faulty hiring practices or insufficient employee-development practices."

As a member of COA, he'd probably have to write something like that. That's one reason I write under a pseudonym. If everyone found out I'm really an ALA councilor or toil away in the Washington office of the ALA, then it wouldn't be nearly as much fun.

To reverse his statement, I wonder if he can find much evidence that LIS education is in fact meeting the needs of students and employers, but that's another issue. LIS education is certainly meeting one need -- the need of library schools to suck a lot of money out of people for a tedious degree whose intellectual content could often probably be conveyed with a longish email. But that's neither here nor there. The good news is that all the anecdotal evidence, conveniently for Leonhardt, doesn't really count as evidence at all, except as evidence of the "faulty hiring practices" and other flaws of the folks complaining about LIS education.

Fortunately, we have Mr. Leonhardt to set us straight and give us hope for the future. "As I move toward retirement, I am optimistic about the future of the profession I have worked in for more than 30 years. We are not in danger of running out of good librarians and we are not in danger of running out of library schools. " I guess I'd have to agree with him on both points. At least he acknowledges that there is no librarian shortage. Only the ALA and the administrations of prospective library schools seem to think we're running out of library schools. Do we really need any more of these things? My goodness, the low quality of many of the ones in existence would indicate that if anything we have too many.

Because of Mr. Leonhardt's optimism not only can we be sanguine about the future, but also about the present. When I survey the offerings of library schools, I'm always impressed by the incoherence of what passes for education in the profession, an incoherence shared by the profession itself. What a jumble of inanities. But Leonhardt thinks differently: "We may actually be in a new golden age of library education but are too close to the issue to recognize it."

A "new golden age of library education." Wow! Now I'm excited. But before I wet my pants with enthusiasm, let's examine this statement carefully. A new golden age implies that there was some previous golden age of library education. Do we have any evidence at all for that? Even if we eliminate the "new," we still have the odd notion that this is a golden age of library education. If for some reason this statement is true, and I seriously doubt it, then the fact that library education is in a Golden Age is only true relative to the Dung and Mold Ages which preceded it. But we're certainly in a golden age of library propaganda.


unstricken said...

"a tedious degree whose intellectual content could often probably be conveyed with a longish email." It's *so* true.

Anonymous said...

I can say that the library school I went to may not have been intellectually rigorous, but it sure was a lot of work, more than some people doing their MBA at the same university.

One of the last comments on your post about the job shortage was a position in Florida that was another of those "Digital Initiatives" projects which no library school could have realistically prepared a graduate for. Further, the job was practically written either for a library person or a computer science graduate.

I wouldn't try for that job, I have the Whammy of an old degree, so even though my skills are up to date it's assumed I'm behind the times.

So how to fix all this? We could try accreditation after graduation, which is done haphazardly by some states and primary schools. So how about a consistent national system?

........nyaah, bad idea, they'd never work it out. Plus, with the toxic environments and feeding shark mentality at many libraries it would more likely come down to who likes you enough to pass you.

Then there's continuing education credits, to keep those rusty skills sharp. Shorely another win-win for the library schools as we all take long distance courses and fill the coffers with more money. But would the libraries accept my coursework in LIS 561 Digital Initiatives into a job? Probably not since they won't accept anything less than the perfect God candidate. Can't be picky enough today.

I think a lot of it comes down to definition; library schools--or at least the one I went to, are teaching some quasi-information worker training where supposedly we can go out and get all kinds of jobs, but we're not trained really for anything specific. Just what is the job they're training people for?

The IT "information" jobs more likely go to Comp Sci people, anything can go for a special library, and libraries in general are wanting people who have more qualifications and experience than the schools deliver. Even people who have been in the field for years have trouble finding new positions because the qualifications are so stringent.

Heck, if you have a PhD and come across as a good catch an academic library could take you with no MLS degree. I may have had this all wrong, it's all about appearances and connections, not skills and experience.

How many people in the academic world have seen the sweetheart deals where the spouse gets a good job because the significant other is working there? Those have resulted in some of the most poorly qualified people taking jobs that rightfully should have gone to another candidate. I've seen so much BS at the academic level I wonder why they even bother trying to portray themselves as fair and balanced, just hire anyone they please and say "we do it because we can!"

I also find it telling that in all your posts we find occasional people saying they've been on hiring committees, but no one justifying or even explaining why libraries are putting out such demanding requirements. Who's driving this? But the schools are content to keep taking people in and telling them they can get a job in four months.

Educator-To-Be said...

Very interesting and provocative. thanks. Amy

Anonymous said...

The sad thing is that libraries seem to honestly believe that they are competitors with industries, such as biotech, that are more than justified in requiring stringent qualifications for applicants. For the most part, librarianship (sans "science" cause it is simply NOT a science) is something that can be taught on the job. Academic libraries, in particular, are so full of themselves--the hubris found in the typical academic library classifieds are laughable.

Soren Faust

Anonymous said...

AL and other posters:

Where did you get your library degrees? I think that makes a big difference.

Would we assume that college is worthless because someone drank and screwed and slept their way through a B.A. at Fitchburg State University?

Maybe library school pre-Internet was a different ball game. Lots of schools caught a lot of guff for becoming "information" schools.

However, many became multidiscipilnary and more rigorous.

I went to the University of Michigan School of Information and we studied economics, neurology, cognitive psychology, logic, computer science, mathematics and project management in addition to our library courses (if you were on that track). It was hard as hell and I worked hard and I did ok.

If your library school didn't teach you anything why assume that it's because library education is a worthless enterprise?

Maybe you went to a crummy school.

Anonymous said...

I have a theory about the exacting requirements in Library vacancy announcements. It consists of 2 parts:
1) Librarians are encouraged by Admin to be very particular about whom they hire, because that keeps the vacancy open longer, and during that time nothing has to be paid out. So funds budgeted for a vacant position can be used for something else for as long as it is vacant.
2) During the time the position is vacant, Admin can see how well the Library gets along. If the same amount of work gets done, or the work that is not getting done does not have a serious impact, in their view, the vacancy can be eliminated.

Anonymous said...

I went to the University of Michigan School of Information and we studied economics, neurology, cognitive psychology, logic, computer science, mathematics and project management in addition to our library courses

I would say mine was one of the schools that went into the "information" bunk too quickly, 'tho it's still nationally ranked. (And no, I won't reveal the name) Funny thing is the courses I took are still offered, with a few new ones like "Information Consumer" and project management.

Your university does offer an impressive array of courses, although I question what need there was for a course in neurology.

But I do wonder if it's almost too much choice, some of the degree tracks aren't for libraries at all; at the last university I was at there was a new "Information Systems" department that taught similar sounding courses yet had nothing whatever to to do with libraries.

Which for libraries is sounding like the Audiology program I walked out on. Ever increasing requirements for a job that didn't need it. For people who take the Information courses and can get jobs as systems designers and e-commerce consultant more power to them, but they're not really having much to do with libraries at that point.

DearReader said...

I went to the "best" library school in the country (according to rankings) within the last 10 years, and I received a good education in spite of myself. Aside from Reference, the classes that helped me the most were taught by local experts and library directors - not LIS PhDs. The low point was my Admin class, which was taught by someone who had never been an administrator or worked in a public library. The school offered casual support, at best, to those who wanted public library or archives work, and spent most of their resources on what we called the "techie" people. I made a point of learning (through projects and internships) what the courses didn't bother to teach me. I have a MA in an academic subject, which was much harder to obtain than my more prestigious (because of the rankings) MLIS.
So no, I don't think the supposed caliber of the school makes much difference.

Anonymous said...

During the time the position is vacant, Admin can see how well the Library gets along. If the same amount of work gets done,

That makes so much sense it's not even funny. At one job I had (not in a library) there were three positions. One guy left, leaving us short handed. Despite begging and pleading to replace him, the administration kept saying it wasn't in the budget to hire someone, and completely stepping around how the money was already there for that position.

The result was we had to do an effectiveness study (Woohoo! More work!) to justify hiring a "new" position, and they finally caved in after six months, but not before saving a little in the process.

Another place I was at a new division head decided to have us justify a project we had already bought the software and equipment for. To make a long story short they had a revolving door of people doing studies on the project, showing there wasn't an open source alternative, how much actually doing the project would save, blah, blah, until after over a year and untold money spent on studying it we went right back to doing what we had planned on originally.

It all so clear's a Dilbert cartoon. I'm going to bang my head against the wall for awhile now......

Brent said...

Congrats on using "sanguine" in a post.

I don't think I've ever heard someone use that word in a conversation, only in written form.

janitorx said...

During the time the position is vacant, Admin can see how well the Library gets along. If the same amount of work gets done,

My former place of employment (community college) is being very picky about hiring a director. I suspect the institution would rather than shell out 70k for a permanent, qualified director they'd rather skimp by paying the unqualified interim 52k.

I went to the University of Michigan School of Information and we studied economics, neurology, cognitive psychology, logic, computer science, mathematics and project management in addition to our library courses (if you were on that track). It was hard as hell and I worked hard and I did ok.

That curriculum sounds a lot like my liberal arts undergraduate education, sans library science courses!

I have a MA in an academic subject, which was much harder to obtain than my more prestigious (because of the rankings) MLIS.

Same here. Although I attended a LIS program whose rankings fluctuate in the bottom half of the top 10.

Anonymous said...

Golden Age of Library Education? Try Gilded Age.

No, seriously. Anonymous number 1 made a point about the quality of library schools. I'll be honest: My library school was the pits. No high-caliber faculty, no resources, just bare bones library material, plenty of good luck, and propaganda posters.

A classmate I knew had the good sense of earning a Comp Science degree after she graduated with her MLS. She had the funds and time to do so, lucky her. Today she is hot property. Digital Initiatives, Web Services, whatever techy-sounding library job posting you can name, she can apply and be guaranteed a spot.

Meanwhile, I move from one contract job to another. Rather than learning new skills and improving others, attending meetings and conferences, or raving and wetting myself over the latest 2.0 whatever, I drift along doing random acts of work...with a full MLS after my name.

This, I believe, will be my final chapter in library land.

Fabulist said...

Golden age; isn’t that a euphemism for being old and on the way out? Golden age, golden years… it’s all the same. Unlike library schools; I attended two different programs and they were night and day. The first (in and area near Texas) was a place people went to become Library Scientists and to look down on the peons. I couldn’t believe the snobbery and viper pit nature of the school. Heck I just wanted to learn about conservation and the Sears list of subject headings. Then I quit and took a year off and then found another school – Emporia State distance education. It was fun… can I say that? We learned how to do story times and book talks and to deal with unhappy patrons.

I don’t work in a library – I did once and wouldn’t mind it again, but I’ve learned that my MLIS and years of experience in both academic and public libraries isn’t worth a hill of bean. I think I’ve described the job-hunting process as trying to pet a piranha. What I’ve learned is the “old school” librarians are afraid of the “new school” librarians who realize that Librarianship is mostly smoke and mirrors. It is a lot of fun and work, but not rocket science. I swear they sit there and say “we can’t hire her/him . . . they’re having too much fun!” And here’s the Karma Kicker for me: I, with my MLIS work in a museum. The other day I was in a library and a woman (who had applied for a job at the museum) who has a Masters of Museum Studies is working at circulation. I actually said, “trade you jobs”.

Golden age . . . “All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost”.

Anonymous said...

AL article: Library schools aren't so bad.

You: Yes they are!

Yes, very provocative debate.

AL said...

Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

LIS education is certainly meeting one need -- the need of library schools to suck a lot of money out of people ...

Have people been ambushed, bound, gagged and forced to enroll in graduate school? Is this what I miss not reading the Chronicle?

The good news is that all the anecdotal evidence, conveniently for Leonhardt, doesn't really count as evidence at all, except as evidence of the "faulty hiring practices" and other flaws of the folks complaining about LIS education.

Isn't all your evidence ancedotal too?

When I survey the offerings of library schools, I'm always impressed by the incoherence of what passes for education in the profession, an incoherence shared by the profession itself. What a jumble of inanities.

Such as?

Anonymous said...

What a timely post for me to read! I was just explaining to a friend today how the LIS degree I’m currently pursuing seems to be run by people who aren’t sure how to teach Library Science. Not that they’re incompetent--far from it--they’re just a little “incoherent”, as you’d said.

The teaching seems to be muddled by far-reaching technological implications and various musings about “Library 2.0”, etc. Lots of theory. Not too much consistency. Very few opportunities for real world experience except for minimal field work requirements. I’m seeking out volunteer positions in reference to try and fill that particular void.

Knowing a lot of old-school librarians, I suspect that this “golden age” people speak of may have been one where libraries were more sure of what they were. Many old-school librarians I know got a very strong humanities base to their educations. Foreign languages, art classes, exposure to literature. Now, it seems like Library Science is focused mostly on tech and, by implication, simple information retrieval. I think librarians are more then retrievers --but I'm sometimes not sure of what my professors think.

Anonymous said...

I see the baiting but I can't resist:

Have people been ambushed, bound, gagged and forced to enroll in graduate school? Is this what I miss not reading the Chronicle?

No, not unless some great conspiracy has silenced them all. Actually it's the shocking idea that for investing tens of thousands of dollars they might in return be able to get job. The nerve of us to expect that!

Isn't all your evidence ancedotal too?

Sometimes that's the best evidence, since it saves us from having to commission a study and create a committee to debate the findings. More to the point, a lot of people including me disagree with Leonhardt from our own real world experience, so there.

Such as?

Read the posts prior, some library schools offer a multi-disciplinary program to teach everything from e-commerce to web 2.0 fantastickness. Others teach plain old library stuff with a smattering of high tech.

People can and are hired at librarian jobs without an MLS, whether because the title is in name only or they got a glossy PhD and wrote a book. Each library for all practical purposes can define what experience is necessary and what constitutes experience for a job, as opposed to a common standard.

Lastly, and the big point made here several times, is people get out with a degree that doesn't give them the skills or experience to get a job. The Catch-22 is the jobs often don't really require or need the paper credentials, it's oversell for overkill.

I'm at the point of leaving my MLS off my resume hoping I might get a better chance with at least a staff job, or practically anything at this point. That's how much good it's brought me.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that people who had bad library school experience (the ones here specifically) never post the name of the school?

You can post anonymously, folks.

It seems silly to think that a couple dozen universities across the country are going to do things the same way.

It's not true for anything else in higher ed. It's not even thru for football.

If we don't cite specific schools or at least include that in the discussion, what's the point? How do we separate the good from the bad?

I've never seen anyone say "I got my MLS from Generic University and it sucked for the following reasons."

Why is that? I know that, to me, it makes the complaining look like sour grapes or just bitching.

AL said...

Sorry I've been absent from the conversation today. That's a good point asking why no one posts the name of the school. In my case, I think it's obvious why I don't post the name of my school, but I will say that it was a highly ranked library school. Also, for me it's not a case of sour grapes at all, since I don't necessarily regret library school being so boring and tedious. I've had good luck with jobs and salaries, but I don't think much of it had to do with any classes I took in library school.

I'm merely pointing out that library school, even at a supposedly "good" school, seemed for the most part like an intellectual wasteland. This is certainly not just my experience. I've been talking to librarians about library school since I started considering it, and the most common response I've gotten is something like, "library school is easy and boring, but it's a hoop you have to jump through."

For people who don't have the same experience, there are a few different explanations. First, your school could just be a lot better than mine was. I doubt it, but it's possible.

Second, you could deliberately take difficult classes, though difficult doesn't necessarily mean intellectually challenging. I took courses I thought relevant to what I wanted to do, deliberately trying to finish quickly while also teaching a heavy courseload and working in the library. If I can do that, then there's a problem with the school.

Third, my previous academic preparation made my library school courses seem easy by comparison. Perhaps those who have trouble in library school haven't already been through umpteen years of college and graduate school to prepare them. Compared to all my previous graduate study, library school was a breeze.

Fourth, it's possible I'm just a lot smarter than you are.

Anonymous said...

Okay, anonymous 5:27. I attended UNC at Greensboro. I will say this about the program, I would highly recommend it. Not because of its intellectual rigor (after all, this is not a biology r mathematics degree) but because it teaches library "studies" instead of the highly misleading and false, library "science." There's no smoke screens in this program. The professors are great, because they're not pretending to be something they are not, i.e. "scientists." I didn't leave the program with the inflated idea of the nature of my job like you see graduates from other schools, like UNC Chapel Hill, do. I mean, that they're more than managers of information resources and instructors in the use of these resources, nothing more. Btw, I have a full time job and can't really complain. I'm doing exactly what I was trained to do. Now, whether I want to continue on this level or not is a different story.

Soren Faust

Anonymous said...

I went to library school to get out of doing straight IT, after nearly a decade in that field; I didn't bother taking any of those courses since I did that sort of thing every day at work. My goal was to use my IT skills in an archives/special collections context, but I'm still stuck in IT. Sure, I make more money than I would in a library setting, but that wasn't my aim -- I wanted out and still do!

Even if you take it on faith that more IT-related courses make the degree practical, it's hardly much of an intellectual exercise -- and I'm including some interesting, thought-provoking metadata courses in that. When compared to my other 'real' master's degree, it required essentially none of my time beyond going to classes -- by contrast, the degree I did ten years before was my entire life.

That's not to say that library school needs to be that comprehensive, simply that it should not pretend to be more than a largely practical exercise -- ideally one that ends up in a job.

Still looking...

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:27
Well since you asked, NC Central University. They have a new dean now, so hopefully changes will be made, but there were lots of problems when I was there.

I selected it because A) it was cheaper than UNC-CH, B)required 36 hours instead of instead of 48 hours, C) offered needed classes on weekends and nights, D) and was closer commute. To bad ECU isn't ALA accredited as it would have saved me a commute.

In addition to the lack of the problems common to library schools, I also faced university administration problems,i.e. they kept screwing up my transcript, constantly got the run around when trying to deal with the university, and also racism by one university administrator.

SO TRUE about UNC-CH folks.

Anonymous said...

I'm merely pointing out that library school, even at a supposedly "good" school, seemed for the most part like an intellectual wasteland.

I agree about the wasteland part, all the discussions back in library school about "information" and how to quantify it seem positively silly now.

However, I still feel it was a lot of work, if mostly busy detail work. The one project I remember as a real bear was writing these little blurbs comparing and evaluating dozens of reference sources, which went out to over a hundred pages.

Today with a laptop and a laser printer at my hands it would be a breeze, but back then with no computer and writing it down in a notebook and then going over to the computer lab whenever it was open and retyping everything was a chore.

As I said in my first post, the MBA program at the same university had nowhere near these projects they had to do. The library school classwork and tests themselves were a breeze.

However, if you want to hear something really silly, in the Audiology program I walked out on a professor had us spend an entire semester assembling flash cards of speech sounds.

These were used to instruct people how to practice/emphasize certain parts of words to improve their speech, etc. You can BUY those things from several suppliers, but the point wasn't in how to use them, but actually MAKING them.

The professor phrased his instructions as "you could do it this way" which in professorspeak was "do it my way or you won't pass." So we had to cut down shoeboxes to store it in, get dozens of 3X5 cards, handwrite everything in blue ink, and buy these rub-off stickers from the bookstore for the various objects the words would represent.

I got callouses in my hands from all the rubbing, and could see no point in making something widely available, and the *@!*! thing took all semester. I actually kept the little box for several years as a memento to show people why I left Audiology.

Now compared to *that* library school was an improvement.

Anonymous said...

I'm getting my MLIS at the University of Washington, which I think is currently ranked as a top 5 program. I have to say that I'm happy with it at times and bored at times. It all depends on the class and the instructor and my interest. Some of the classes are BS while others require a lot of study (not just work). Still others require a lot of work, but not much study. As is typical of other schools (I think), the classes taught by the practitioners can be the most useful. But some students will always gravitate toward taking a class from the "star" professor in the foolish thought that that will be the most beneficial. Or easiest, maybe.

It's an information school, and we've heard all the complaints about not getting prepared for real library jobs. But isn't that what internships are for? There's a plethora of opportunities to do directed fieldworks within the UW libraries, any of the other university libraries in the region, or city or county libraries. They don't hand them to you; you have to go and make them happen. The people who don't, and have no previous experience in libraries, will have a tough time getting library jobs. But it's not like getting an MLIS is a substitute for having some good old-fashioned common sense. If you don't have that to begin with, no library school can help you.

Anonymous said...

There are some silly people here at UNC-Chapel Hill but in general I've been pretty impressed with the quality of the students. The only thing that drives me nuts is the ones who sit in class with their laptops open, watching sports videos or twiddling their fantasy football team or whatever the fuck they're doing. I usually sit in the back so I can see it all. The faculty: pretty good too, except for reference class... I've never seen someone phone it in quite like that. I'm doing my best to get some experience before I graduate, but the hiring process here is ridiculous -- apparently an "urgent need" to fill a position means it will stay open for months.

Simmons Alum said...

I think a good deal of what you "get" out of library school is directly related to how much effort you put into your studies.

I went to a well-ranked program at a private college and feel that though not all classes were exciting (some were downright tedious) that most of this was based on my fellow students who just wanted to do the bare minimum in work, preparation, and participation. If you are a slacker dullard to begin with getting an LIS will not change it.

Sure, there were some bad professors, but there are bad professors in any program. I don't think one can blame the lack of rigor completely on a program; a good portion of the blame, or at least half, can be placed on the students.

Much like how I wonder if many of those who have a difficult time locating a job after library school maybe just aren't trying hard enough or didn't go beyond the basics in school.

Privateer6 said...

Simmons Alum,
My program was not intellectually stimulating, and no I am not a slacker either. I have another master's, and my MLS program was a joke compared to the MA.

While my wife's MLIS program was extremely rigourous compared to mine, she went to one of the top 5 library schools, she stated that my MA program was much more demanding than her MLIS. She couldn't understand why I needed to spend so much time on the MA as I did, until she read my syllabus for a class that had 14 required books to read. That was an eyeopening experience for her.


Anonymous said...

I have my BS in engineering from the #2 ranked school in my program. So yeah, compared to my undergrad, library school is pretty easy. I can also say that library science is not a "hard science" and that if I wanted to work as a systems developer I'd just go out and get the computer degree (I'm sure I meet the prereq's and could pass the classes).

I want to organize things. (I'm specifically interested in records management.) I don't really care about technology - technology is just a tool. If I need to learn how to use that tool I will, however, I have no desire to study the tool or theorize about the tool. I'll improve the tool if it will make organizing faster/better/cheaper, but I'm not going to stake my career in that (again, if I wanted to, I'd just get a computer degree).

"library school is easy and boring, but it's a hoop you have to jump through."

This is my take on the situation as well. However, if that's how the game is played than that's what I'm willing to do. I'm not out to change the establishment (although I recognize that others who post here may want to).

Granted, my library school doesn't seem to be anything like the ones some posters are in. We've never been promised a job 4 months out of graduation or that there are massive openings or anything like that. They don't focus on the technology-2.0 aspects of things either. I find all of those blanket statements and emphasis appalling.

However, I do agree with the posters that some of the unemployed may not be applying themselves. I also agree that an internship or other library-related work experience is essential. Not just so you know what you're getting yourself into, but so you can have experience before you graduate.

I wish someone had told me that before I got the engineering degree and realized I hated engineering.

Privateer6 said...

Anon 1:13
Another option for Records management is getting a History MA or Public History MA that has an archives and records management program. My MLS concentration was in archives and records management, and all those specific courses had to be taken at a nearby university that offered the MA in Public History.

While the MLS gives you greater employment opportunities, look at me I focused in archives and work as a medical librarian, if all you want to do is records management, then the Public history MA is and option.

What makes the archives and records management field so interesting is that some employers only want MA in history or pub. history, some want the MLS, and some take either. Lukcily I got both.

As for the hoop comment, that is so correct. My primary archiving instructor told us the first night of classes that the MLS is basically a union card. However he also advised that those not enrolled the joint MA-MLS program offered by that school and another nearby school, should consider doing so.


Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Response about Mr. Leonhardt,

Do you honestly think Mr. Leonhardt will admit that the Library Schools are not preparing students for the real jobs that are out there? I wonder what his qualifications are? Probably Reference, BI, Cataloging etc. Not Web Programming, Digital Initatives, Systems Coordinator Digital REsources Library 2.0(Keeping patrons out of the Library)

Anonymous said...

Wow.. this is a pretty thoughtful post and interesting responses, so I'll throw in my own pennies. I was reading this comment:

"why libraries are putting out such demanding requirements. Who's driving this?"

I guess what is driving the market is the fact that information at the library is definitely complex and because the role of a librarian is a very demanding one. The people who would ever require the librarian's expertise, would always expect the librarian to understand and be able to supply them with information.

This is pretty much a half baked thought.

Anonymous said...

I haven't looked at the rating of my school but I bet it isn't the greatest. I choose it, because in CA you have 2 choices, and I did my time in LA already. I am about halfway through, taking the AA approach, one class at a time. I work full time at a small public law library doing the things that I am in class to "learn". Mainly I hear a lot of belly aching about the state of the "profession" which sadly is a lot of what is being taught. If you don't like the low pay, the sterotypes etc and I am sitting next to you in class this means you still have time to get out and do something else. Get an exit strategy.
To much time is spent wringing our hands over whether or not we are a profession. We appear to want the same degree of respect accorded to doctors, lawyers and certified public accountants... until a decision we make affects the life, liberty or property of one of our patrons AND we are held accountable we are not on the same playing field. Librarian's taking this argument make us all look silly. I wholeheartedly agree with the assessment that you get out of it what you put into it. There are some good classes and some not so good classes, but if you are paying for it (and don't have Perkins Loans and a desire to work in Butt Scratch, Nowhere) then get the most out it you can.

Fabulist said...

If anyone is still out there wondering, my "bad" school was University of Oklahoma. The school is fine, but the library program...*makes a face*. I can't prove it, but I have a feeling I was failed by one teacher because of my religion.

NOW if you're looking for a History program or football *thumbs up* and Norman is a great town!

Guardienne of the Tomes said...

I would say that the exacting requirements in library positions are a fence against the fact that library schools are churning out folks who have NEVER worked in or interned at a library.

I do not think library education is bunk, but I do believe we need some sort of standardization if they're going to be 'accredited' programs. Like, can we get a REAL research methods course, that requires data analysis? Not having this as one of the electives for academic librarian tracks puts us behind in publishing possibilities, and is one of the reasons other university and college faculty get pissed when librarians are offered faculty status and tenure.

I worked in my library program (University of Kentucky), but I could have sleepwalked through most of the classes - ESPECIALLY the online ones. A rigorous program is one I envy. The lucky few library students who have the fire are going to do it anyway, but still, some of the rest make us a laughingstock.

It would also be nice if schools started looking at the quality of the incoming students - this has been a beef of mine for some time. It's a MASTER'S degree, people, not an entitlement just because you're willing to pay the tuition.

Anonymous said...

My pathetic library school is Dominican "University" (but I had no other geographical options). One determinant of program quality is the ability of the students enrolled in the program; Dominican seemed to let in people who couldn't write in complete sentences or synthesize information.
I also have a "real" graduate degree so I know the difference between a challenging academic program and one that revolves around busywork and inane group projects.
Yes, I have a good job, and I'm a damned good librarian, but not because I have an MLIS.

Anonymous said...

I'm a brand new librarian (1 month in), so take my opinion with a grain of salt. I have to say, though, that so far I've been very happy with the preparation I received at UIUC's library school. I felt that the classes were fairly rigorous, yet many of them focused on the knowledge and skills we were likely to need on the job. My new job is going very well so far, and I really credit the preparation I received.

Anonymous said...

library school? Sounds like a fucking joke...sorta like librarians. Admit it you are dinosaurs of a bygone era...get a real job.

Snurfa said...

Come on, people. Don't protect them... The school where I learned nothing useful (but still made nearly straight A's) was Kent State.

Anonymous said...

zpxylAh yes, the University of Kentucky. I went there, too and can sympathize with you for going through such a mindless experience. I think that I went there at least a decade before you did and believe me, it was just as bad then - if not worse. We didn't even have online classes - our study of computer research consisted of doing Dialog and Orbit searches on computer terminals that didn't even have screens! If you spent too much money on your searches you were out of luck and could not do another search for the rest of the semester. Not that it mattered; our "tests" consisted of mindless quizzes that proved whether or not we had memorized enough minutae which no one was going to remember anyway 48 hours after the test was over. It was made clear to us that we were not there to learn anything worth learning but to jump through hoops in a kind of initiation ceremony that would prove that we were worthy to enter the ranks of one of the lowest paid and least respected "professions" in the country.
The instructor (who insisted on being addressed as "Dr. So and So", was a neurotic dingbat who spent classroom time arguing over the phone (on the line through which we were supposed to be doing the allegedly important online searches) with her husband, a professor in a legitimate academic department at the same university. She was as nasty with her students as she was with him. Perhaps it is needless to add that she insisted that she was an "information scientist" rather than a librarian. She was apparantly intelligent enough to realize that librarian was a low-prestige occupation but not intelligent enough to realize that information scientist was a non-existent one. Most of the class knew nothing about computers at the beginning of the semester. Most of the class knew nothing about computers at the end of it, too.
I used to wonder if UK was an unusually bad example of the so-called graduate education that librarians get. I no longer wonder; in the past 22 years I have heard stories from librarians who went to "library school" in every section of the United States that indicate that it was no more mindless than the rest of them. None of them teach any skills or knowledge that deseve to called graduate education or that could not be picked up in a quarter or two at a community college.

Anonymous said...

My library degree was hard work and I earned every bit of it. The problem with the degree is the lack of employment with it. Unless you are already working in a library when you get your degree, you might as well hang it up. Library schools do not prepare you for the reality of employment or should I say unemployment. I wished I had pursued another degree because this one was a waste of my time. The people who find jobs have another Master's degree or they know someone in the field. I don't care what anyone says, while Library school wasn't a piece of cake, it was still a joke. I have been looking for a job for 17 months. I am going in another direction and would encourage those of you who are thinking about a library degree to do the same.