Take a week or so off and the bibliotek blogosphere just keeps on rolling. On the AL, commenters were wondering why so many library bloggers don't actually work in libraries. On Twitter, Steven Cohen irritated a gamey librarian by implying he played videogames to pick up teenage girls, or something like that. It was a fun week. Glad I missed it. The key question last week for a lot of librarians was, who exactly has the right to the title librarian? The Liminal Librarian asks the question, and got as many responses and arguments in the comments section as a hot AL post does, so we know she's on to something. (I hope she's not the Annoyed Librarian, though, because that would be weird.)
Apparently there are insufferable folks out there in libraryland who disdain or mistreat those people in libraries who do the work of librarians but don't have an MLS. (On the question of what to call those people--para, sub, etc.--I suggest "librarians" for concision.) One of my favorite comments began, "'In the olden days, whenever I expressed an opinion in front of a 'librarian,' I would be asked, 'Where did you get your MLS?' This was code for, 'Do you have permission to speak?'" (The full comment is great; go read it.) I have to say this is about the rudest and stupidest response that any librarian could give to someone expressing an opinion.
So there are people out there who think they are somehow special merely because they have an MLS? I just find this sad. You all know how I dislike being uncharitable toward my fellow librarians and the profession of librarianship in general, but believing that the MLS is anything special or difficult just shows how thick you probably are, and publicly declaring your belief how desperate and insecure you are.
I say this having a genuine ALA-accredited MLS, which I earned by performing large amounts of busywork totally devoid of intellectual content at a highly ranked library school. And please don't comment that library school is what you make of it, and if I'd wanted to I could have turned it into a difficult intellectual endeavor and powerful learning experience. No, I couldn't. I tried. It was still easy. I found it easy. All my friends found it easy. Just about every librarian I've ever talked to found it easy. Rather than using IQ as a measure of intelligence, librarians have an even better measure--did you think library school was difficult? If so, I'll write slowly using short words so you can understand me. And if you're offended, that's just tough. I don't write this blog for dullards, because they already have plenty of library blogs to choose among.
Some of these insecure librarians seem to know instinctively that library school is an intellectual joke, and yet still think the MLS should be required to call someone a librarian because they went to the trouble of getting the degree, so why not everyone else. As the Liminal Librarian characterizes this argument: "I spent a heck of a lot of time and money earning this degree, so everyone else should too, dammit." She responds to this, but I'd like to as well. My response to this argument is, this isn't even an argument and you're a pathetic git for even bringing it up.
I know librarians working in libraries with no MLS. They have PhDs and subject and language experience appropriate for their very professional jobs. To be honest, some of them don't particularly like being called librarians, but that's because they don't think much of the library degree or most of the profession. It doesn't bother me because I'm the same way. They know, as all of us brighter librarians know, that the MLS is a hoop set up for some people to jump through. It's job protectionism, pure and simple, and it should be clear that this protectionism is starting to break down, especially at some public libraries. But to think that someone with a PhD and no MLS who is doing collection development in, for example, area studies, is somehow too lowly to be called a librarian is ridiculous.
Let's look at the other group, the "librarians." I know people working in libraries who are highly educated, often with several degrees. They work in a library, and I wouldn't necessarily call them librarians. Some of them are doing surprisingly low-level work, and I can't quite figure that out. Some of them trail academic spouses, some of them have spouses who make enough money it doesn't matter what they do. Some of them, however, do fairly high level cataloging or reference work, for example, and the only difference between them and some of their colleagues is the MLS. Thus, it's only the artificial hierarchy that makes them less than "professional," and I'd be willing to bet that what they do is much more "professional" than what a lot of people calling themselves librarians do. Based just on what some bloggers seem to think is work worthy of a professional librarian, I can only say, don't be so impressed with yourself, because the rest of us aren't.
These days I notice a lot of ads for professional librarians that ask for an "MLS or equivalent degree or experience" or words to that effect. I hate to break it to you sad, insecure librarians who think holding an MLS makes you special somehow, but advanced degrees, appropriate subject knowledge, relevant languages, superior technical skills, and a few years library experience qualify people for some of these "professional" library jobs, and you'll have a difficult time arguing that you are somehow more prepared or intellectually qualified just because you managed to slog through a year or two of library school.
A lot of this argument is really about professionalism and deprofessionalization and lots of other Latinate words. The insecure librarians so desperate to keep their professionalism by tying it to the MLS don't have very pretty futures to behold, it seems to me. It should be obvious to everyone that nobody outside of libraries cares who is a librarian or a "librarian." Library school has always been something of an intellectual joke, and the twopointopians and the gamey librarians are doing their best to make the whole field an intellectual joke, that is, if it isn't already.
Tie your professionalism to what you can do related to libraries that others can't do very well. Since just about anyone can get an MLS if they apply to the right school and spend a little money, then that can't be the measure of professionalism. The MLS is a joke, and if that's your criterion for being a professional librarian, then being a professional librarian is a joke as well. If that makes you feel better about yourself because otherwise it would be difficult to consider playing videogames or pointing the way to the bathroom professional behavior, then so be it, but don't drag the rest of us down with you.