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Distance Education, or Distance From Education?

I’m just full of questions today.

For some reason, lately I’ve been hearing or reading more about so-called distance education. One of the perks of working in academe, I fear. There’s no doubt the trend is increasing, especially with the growing popularity of the for-profit online universities (or perhaps "universities" would be better). Supposedly the separation of higher education from face to face contact is a good thing. Students don’t have to waste all that time hanging around college campuses. The classes are available anywhere with an Internet connection, which would include everywhere in America except parts of Appalachia or somewhere like that, and hillbillies don’t go to college anyway. When I look around at these distance education programs, they don’t tend to be in any serious academic subjects, though.

Look at someplace like Walden University. They have programs in "education" or "nursing," not physics or economics. They do offer degrees in engineering, but it turns out to be "software engineering" and "systems engineering," not regular engineering. They offer undergraduate degrees in "business administration" and "criminal justice," but not in any of the subjects one would normally find in an arts & sciences curriculum at any ordinary college. I’m pretty old fashioned, I know, but I find it hard to take seriously any institution of so-called higher education if one can’t study physics, chemistry, economics, history, or foreign languages. The subjects seem to be ones that lend themselves to conveying information rather than educating people.

Speaking of, the trend is obviously increasing in library schools as well. I’ve heard of at least one that has no in-person component to it at all. Thus, one can earn their prestigious ALA-accredited MLS without ever setting foot in a classroom, or even the library associated with one’s university. There are classes where the students don’t even have to come together for virtual meetings. The whole thing is asynchronous. People read stuff, do stuff, write stuff, and they have a degree. What a brave new world we live in!

I hesitate to admit in these days of distance education and twopointopia that the trend is a bit after my time. When I was in library school, I had to sit in classrooms and associate with other students and listen to the instructors drone on about reference or cataloging or whatever quaint subjects we studied in those days. Had there been a distance ed option, especially an asynchronous one that was as dirt cheap as my program, I would have considered that route, except for the undeniable fact that I learned more from a couple of years actually working in the university library than I ever did in library school. I might not have liked it any better, and based on my experience of a few "webinars" and such I probably wouldn’t have, but it would have beat showing up in class to cover material that probably could have been condensed into a longish email. If only I could have worked in the library but taken all correspondence courses. Now, that would have been ideal.

Thus, it came as something of a surprise to me that some professors at library schools with distance ed programs don’t like teaching in them, and don’t even have much respect for them. This is obviously some sort of LIS heresy, because it was my impression that these programs were big cash cows for the library schools, since the classes can be taught by almost anyone and students never get tuition waivers or assistantships or anything like that. And since cash cow=good, we should all like these programs.

And then I heard another interesting story, this one about a dean at a library school with a distance ed component. This dean allegedly said that while the MLS degree was online, the PhD would never be put online. Hmmm. What are we to think of that?

I think it confirms several of my suspicions, both about library school and about distance education. First, distance ed has always featured those semi-vocational subjects that the old normal schools of yesteryear exploited to offer "graduate" degrees and then promote themselves to "university" status. They aren’t real academic degrees, but vocational degrees, or to put it more charitably, "professional" degrees. Distance education just doesn’t lend itself to advanced degrees in real academic subjects. I’ll admit that I’m wrong when lots of schools start offeringPhDs in traditional academic subjects in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. Until then, I think the evidence speaks for itself.

The other suspicion concerns the MLS, and, what’s more, its distinction and separation from an LIS PhD. The MLS is a vocational degree. There’s little academic content. It doesn’t require much thought to acquire. There’s not much in the way of a body of knowledge one would expect a holder of the degree to have, which distinguishes it from most academic degrees. Programs have a grab bag of requirements, and little consistency among different programs or even within the same program.

Given this, we can only speculate what ALA accreditation means. My guess is that a school has to meet two criteria to gain accreditation:

  1. It has to call itself a school of "library science" or "information science" or studies or something similar. Alternate spellings such as "liberry" or "libary" are not allowed. No one is quite sure what library science really is, but information science, so I’ve been told, is like computer science, except for people who can’t do the math.
  2. The school actually has to notify the ALA that it is now calling itself a library school. That is the crucial step that some places inexcusably forget, which explains why sometimes fine programs such as that at East Carolina University go unaccredited.

Contrast this with the PhD in LIS. Depending on how it’s done, this borders on being a serious, respectable degree. The only problem is it doesn’t have much to do with libraries or librarianship (which is why it bugs me when $600,000 of our Federal tax money goes to support a handful of LIS PhD students at Missouri in the form of an IMLS grant, but that’s its own sordid story). I wonder if the alleged opinion of this one alleged dean represents the norm among "library educators."

If so, isn’t this an admission that the MLS is a vocational degree with little academic merit? If that’s the case, why do we need one to work in libraries? (My next post, inspired by a listserv discussion last week, will be on this topic.) And why do they cost so darn much? I hear of some darn fool people spending $20-30,000 on an MLS, apparently not realizing that the motto of some MLS programs is "There’s a sucker born every minute."

Admittedly, I live in a rarified world of cocktails, jazz, and serious books. But as always, I want to know what it’s like out in the real world. For those of you who got your MLS online, was that the way to go? Did you miss out on anything? I liked rummaging through a good size university library during my MLS days, but is that an advantage? Or for those of you who went the traditional route, would you have chosen online if you could? For those who mixed both on-campus and distance ed courses, was one better than the other? Should an MLS just require reading a book and taking a long quiz? Enquiring minds want to know.

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Comments

  1. dork says:

    I’m not really sold on the idea of online classes. It’s funny how the all-knowing AL and many other librarians here view the MLIS as a vocational type of degree, even a hack degree, yet you keep hearing the debate about who should be called a librarian or stories about how libraians raise their nose in disgust at other library workers who don’t have an MLIS.

  2. Megan says:

    Eh. As someone that got a MS in biology and is now working on an MLS, I can say that even an in-person library degree is a whole different animal from my first MS. I’ve always considered the MLS just an annoying vocational degree that I had to acquire before I could be seriously considered for a librarian job.

  3. Dr. Pepper says:

    One of my degrees was from a hybrid program. I started out in-person however some of the specialized courses were distance ed. because the instructors who specialized in the field were not local. Back when I was contemplating an MLIS I had already been working in a library for 4 years and I had read through the books for the intro classes (intro to librarianship, cataloguing and reference – thank you google for helping me find the syllabi!). Anyway, when I started asking around in library schools I was told that some “rigorous” schools required you to memorize all reference sources in Katz’s books and then take a sit down exam. Booooring! I decided against getting an MLIS because by that point I already knew all the basics (60% of the curriculum), so why pay 20k,30k,40k for a degree that only gives me a 2k pay increase? I found the brief description of the write up of the ACRL debate over the MLIS quite funny. It just goes to show that the MLIS just doesn’t hold any water. A fool is born every minute and he goes to library school. As far as the whole distance ed. versus in-person education goes, there are advantages to each. Hard sciences cannot be done in a distance ed. fashion – just my opinion. Social sciences can, however what I have gained out of my social science classes in in-person situations is not the reading and the lecture, but my interaction with other people. The distance ed. courses that I have taken are more technical in nature – those lend themselves to distance ed. provided that there is a good instructor.

  4. Melanie says:

    I am currently in an MLIS distance program, and it is a means to an end. I work full time at an academic library, and take compressed video classes (basically glorified conference calls), classes online, and classes in person. I think that it is a pretty good set up, since it means I can continue working full time – the main campus is almost 2 hours away from where I work.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, the 19th century approach to learning is way better.

  6. BricksMortar says:

    “A fool is born every minute and he goes to library school.” Yeah … there were fools in my program and I’ve met a few over the course of my 25 year career. I have not been impressed by the caliber of applicants we’ve had with the “super-prestigious” degree from the University of North Texas. Sorry we’ve had applicants from UT Austin, University of British Columbia, University of Washington, Drexel University, et al. Far better programs that weren’t completely online. These candidates had lots more to offer us in terms of education and experience. We have yet to hire someone with an online degree.

    Back in the ’80s we actually worked with the collection at UT Austin. How can someone in Vega, TX or the wilds of Alaska possibly learn anything about good “library practice” if they don’t have a decent library anywhere near them?

    The MLIS is a union card but I did learn some valuable stuff in those classroom settings. Of course, the best teacher of all was a first job and a fabulous mentor. Thanks James!

  7. tjwilliams says:

    Yet more evidence that the MLS is nothing more than a union card. When I got my MLS (a year ago) all of my classes were in person and I got the distinct impression from my friends who were taking online courses that, while the LIS program was certainly much easier than other grad programs, the online classes were far less time consuming than in-person classes. And given that 90% of library school work is busy work, that made online classes far easier.

  8. outraged on behalf of hillbillies says:

    “The classes are available anywhere with an Internet connection, which would include everywhere in America except parts of Appalachia or somewhere like that, and hillbillies don’t go to college anyway.”

    They he** don’t and I’d put the universities – and their libraries – of America’s Appalachian region up against whatever joint she’s in that’s tawdry and ramshackle enough to give her the ‘tude she always cops.

    Though I’m not from the region it’s in, I’m a Virginia Tech Hokie so I’d NEVER think I’d have something nice to say about WVU, but – since AL is copping such a ‘tude, I’ll say it… both Virginia Tech and WVU are schools that have lots of educated, articulate “hillbillies” that I bet are smarter than AL….and both schools have da*n fine academic libraries. And that’s only two examples. UT-Knoxville can hang with the best, and if THAT school isn’t full of hillbillies, what is?

    So don’t tell me hillbillies don’t go to college.

    (Not only could we outthink AL, I’m sure we could also outdrink her. Martinis. Dang, girl, you need a real drink.)

  9. Privateer6 says:

    Well I only took 2 online courses. One was a joke in which the instructor had 80+ students, and we kept getting the same exact assignment week after week, with one minor change to the directions. As a result, I kept turning in the exact same assignment week after week, with minor editing in the papers. Got an A in the class.

    The second class was definately more challenging. Then again the prof designed it to be a programing class for the MIS folks, but it was advertised only for the the MLS folks.

    Sis-in-law took the entire online apporach for her MLS. She found it boring. Fortunately she was a library tech at both the public library and college library, so she knew what she was getting into.

  10. Post Postmodern Librarian says:

    For distance education as both a pain and a plus. In SLIS I was the GA for distance education so got to handle Blackboard and mailing for 8 or so professors across half a dozen sites and hundreds of students. It was annoying Blackboard crashed, teachers broke copyright laws and examines got lost. In the end everything got done. At that time I did not like distance education and felt the need for a class room.

    Now I am going back for my second masters in MA in anthropology this is a distance education program too through Union Institute and University. Its actually in the bottom of the top 50 grad programs. They make you work hard and you pay a good bit of $$$ for it. Since I have one masters I really do not feel the need for the classroom setting. I find their flexibility very useful as a full time librarian and volunteer. This time I am like it a lot.

    I am thinking about going for a PHD in geography now I do not want to do that online and most professors agree the PHD is not just about what you learn but the research partnership with the professors and learning to fit into the ivory tower or library.

  11. annoyed_library_student says:

    I am working on my MLS online as we speak. To be quite honest, I find it very boring. I believe the same would be true if I was in class as well. All my courses are asynchronous and I do like this part. Actually, that is why I chose the school I did. I am a full-time public library manager and also spend about 20 hours a week volunteering for teenagers. This was the best option for me because of my schedule. I cannot say I have really learned very much though. Having almost eight years of library experience has taught me more than I have ever, or ever will, learn from library school. Why can’t we earn respect from our experience instead of a useless piece of paper?

  12. kci says:

    I understand the concerns, but you can have quality distance programs. Most of the reaction against them is a knee-jerk Luddite-type thing. People will get over that. Now the initial offerings may need work, but the established universities can and should adopt them as part of their model. It will happen and there will be those who are against it just because it was not was done before.

    It opens up the world. Not everyone can pack up and move to some college town to spend however many years just to shlep around on campus. It is not necessary. Now if you can and want to, cool.

  13. Auntie Nanuuq says:

    Ah…I am one of those people who got her MLIS online…I was working full-time and really didn’t want to quit my job &

  14. Auntie Nanuuq says:

    I was cut off….and I can not be bothered to rewrite my thesis! Someone might want to fix this glitch!

  15. Dr. Pepper says:

    I always copy the contents of what I type before I hit submit. This glitch is annoying. Auntie Nanuuq please reconsider sharing your thoughts :-)

  16. YQV says:

    da nineteenth century approach to education iz dead lol

    omg

    My proferssers avitar is sooooooo dreamy.

  17. Enlightened says:

    I am pursuing my degree through distance education, and I feel that I’ve received a quality education. So what if I don’t have to visit a classroom or step foot on campus? I’ve gained my experience though internships (something every student should consider).

    When I go to apply for a job, no one will know the difference between whether I earned my degree via online classes or in a traditional classroom. And because of the convenience of the internet, I am able to work full time and support myself. I can’t see anything wrong in that.

    It sounds like some people had a less than stellar experience with online schooling. They must have gone through sub-par universities then. My University seems to have hired quality professors who take the time to deliver the information we need in each class. I have real assignments to complete, papers to write, and I have been required to make multiple library visits in several classes.

    Furthermore, through my online education, I probably have a competitive edge against others new graduates in the field

  18. Enlightened says:

    continued from above…

    Furthermore, through my online education, I probably have a competitive edge against others new graduates in the field as I have experience and practice using digital resources, and providing digital reference (we are required to work for the Internet Public Library).

  19. kci says:

    YQV, it is not dead, no, but times do change. Branding distance education as bad or worthless or inferior is short-sighted. I don’t recall using any IM speak in my post, though I do navigate teh intrawebs frequently. I could as easily ridicule you by picturing you as an old geezer in a patched-elbow corduroy blazer, shaking your cane at the young whippersnappers crossing your lawn. Making education more accessible is a good thing. It doesn’t mean anyone is advocating traditional classes go away. YMMV, BB P.S. The Cake iS A LIE!

  20. Dr. Pepper says:

    One of my distance ed classmates bemoaned the use of IM speak in some discussion posts, and the fact that discussion posts were more like a paragraph rather than a written paper. To their credit this was the first time they had exposure to bulletin boards and forums – the pedagogy behind the forum is to solicit communication, like in a classroom. Just like an in-person classroom you don’t get up on a podium to make a speech and then no one ever hears from you again, you have a dialogue. Yes some online programs are awful, some are not. Taking an in-person course and translating it word-for-word in blackboard…well that’s a recipe for failure:-)

  21. Mr. Kat says:

    Thus, it came as something of a surprise to me that some professors at library schools with distance ed programs don’t like teaching in them, and don’t even have much respect for them. This is obviously some sort of LIS heresy, because it was my impression that these programs were big cash cows for the library schools, since the classes can be taught by almost anyone and students never get tuition waivers or assistantships or anything like that. And since cash cow=good, we should all like these programs.

    Here’s the kicker, AL; you might not have realized this: A Distance Education class can be taught by ANYBODY. You don’t need a professor – you can have GA teach the class instead!!

    Now how much do you think the university saves by having the GA teachthe class instead of a Full Fledged university Professor? AHA!!!

    See why professors might decry distance education? It’s Unfair Competition!!!

    And from something that isn’t even “education!!” [remember, the status quo are still in the mindset that a proper education cannot be had without a teacher at the front of a classroom filled with students - just like a librarin can't be a librarian unless tey're working in a huge place filled with books - because librarians work with BOOKS, right??!]

  22. Mr. Kat says:

    Thus, it came as something of a surprise to me that some professors at library schools with distance ed programs don’t like teaching in them, and don’t even have much respect for them. This is obviously some sort of LIS heresy, because it was my impression that these programs were big cash cows for the library schools, since the classes can be taught by almost anyone and students never get tuition waivers or assistantships or anything like that. And since cash cow=good, we should all like these programs.

    Here’s the kicker, AL; you might not have realized this: A Distance Education class can be taught by ANYBODY. You don’t need a professor – you can have GA teach the class instead!!

    Now how much do you think the university saves by having the GA teachthe class instead of a Full Fledged university Professor? AHA!!!

    See why professors might decry distance education? It’s Unfair Competition!!!

    And from something that isn’t even “education!!” [remember, the status quo are still in the mindset that a proper education cannot be had without a teacher at the front of a classroom filled with students - just like a librarin can't be a librarian unless tey're working in a huge place filled with books - because librarians work with BOOKS, right??!]

  23. AxelDC says:

    I took 2 online courses as part of my MLIS from a prestigious university. Both classes were the most poorly taught, least content-filled of my MLIS education. We met 5 times during the semester and did group projects together, which differs from ”

  24. Experiencestudent says:

    I streched my undergraduate education out over 18 years. I have had the opportunity to take classes at 9 different universities, taking online versions of classes at three of them. First of all, language classes (like Spanish) are an awful option for on-line, if really want to learn a language. Though, I did listen to on-line audio recordings, made audio recording from my teachers, and received audio feedback from my professors. It was a quality on-line class, but I finished the remainder of my language classes in the actual classroom. I really wanted to learn the language, and needed more exposure to actually hearing it being used.
    I have had classes that varied from amazingly easy to classes I was elated to make a B after extraordinary efforts on my part to make an A. (I almost always made A’s.) Quality can vary from school to school, teacher to teacher, class to class. I have attended the University of North Texas, and over the past few years have seen the quality of their classes increase. There are so many multimedia options: videos, discussion boards, chat, voice discussion boards, recorded lectures, PowerPoint presentations with audio, links to very relevant and neat websites, etc. If nothing else, it really sharpens written communication skills. Most professors were very responsive. (I never had a class without a professor teaching it, though graduate students did assist.) Also, being forced to deal with all these different types of media really does help one’

  25. Experiencestudent says:

    Also, being forced to deal with all these different types of media really does help one’s technical skills, and important skill set for emerging librarians. Right?

    The negative trend I have seen in the past few years is overloading a class. When I started, the classes contained about the same amount of students a real classroom, might have. By the time I graduated last year, we had doubled that in some classes. I think some of it allowed for the percentage of students who inevitably dropped out, which seemed high. Though, come to think about it, there were different sized classes on campus too. I attended many humanities courses on campus that were 150+ students.
    I have never taken a class at a school that was exclusively on-line, and I am suspicious of these school’s quality.
    As a mother of three, and PT library paraprofessional, an online distance program is ideal for me. At this time, it is that or no school. We have a graduate of the UNT program at our library. She seems to be very competent, and she is technically one of the stronger librarians at our small library.
    You might be surprised by the rigor of some online courses, and in many way the discussions can even be better than in class discussions, where that one annoying person monopolizes a conversation. The discussions can happen over days, which in some cases lends to more thoughtful dialogue, than off the cuff discussions in class. When people have more time to respond and formulate responses, when they are slowed down a bit, it can and often does increase the depth in which you can discuss things. (Once you get people going, it seems classes are sometimes slow to get warmed-up.)

  26. accreditedstudent says:

    As odd as it sounds, accredited for-profit institutions (like Walden, and yes U. of Phoenix) are held to the same criteria as the University of Michigan and Pima County Community College, and yes even Appalachian Bible College.

    As an online student in an MLS program I am thankful. I am thankful these people cannot see me roll my eyes when they make ridiculous comments about the reading or how haaarrrddd web 2.0 is to deal with. The most interesting was having the opportunity to take a course through a university other than my own and seeing the difference in the quality of students. But really, I don’t think I would treat the classes any different if I were in the classroom or in my living room. I still wouldn’t read the books.

  27. Anonymous says:

    re: Here’s the kicker, AL; you might not have realized this: A Distance Education class can be taught by ANYBODY. You don’t need a professor – you can have GA teach the class instead!!< <

    Mr. Kat is an idiot. There, I said it. If Mr. Kat would think about it for a minute, he would realize that “the university saves” NOT “a dime by having the GA teach the class instead of a Full Fledged university Professor.” Perhaps Mr. Kat doesn’t realize that professors are paid their full salary for the number of classes in their contract — no more and no less. “AHA!!!” indeed.

  28. the C student says:

    I don’t think online coursework provides as rich of an experience as conventional schooling. For me, it seems that the things that have stuck from grad school are mostly derived from serendipitous discoveries, like learning something from overhearing your classmates talking about something random or somewhat off-topic from the class itself. I learn more from those experiences than the droning 2-hour lectures and 30-page overkill reading assignments, but still they don’t happen in online forums where correspondence is minimal and very goal-specific.

  29. Cynic says:

    Liberrians who don’t like to read? shocking :)~

    You know that it’s those 30+ page “overkill” readings that provide you with information. If you serendipitously learned how to use Delicious or what DDC means…well I learned how to do that quite a few years ago as an undergrad without going to library school

  30. Brent says:

    AL bounced all over the place in the post. Anyway, I think at the end of her post, those questions were rhetorical. AL doesn’t care, MLS is a joke of a degree to her.

  31. DVB says:

    Distance learning is ok, but I hate having to get my date for the prom from match.com and watching the homecoming game on espn.com.

  32. LIS Student says:

    I am about to graduate from a mostly online program. When available, I completed on site classes, and wish all could have been available. Here is the run-down:

    1. GA’s do all of the grading, and real professors are hardly present.

    2. A jumble of outdated readings and busy work are in Blackboard (this is how are efforts are measured).

    3. Professors are getting paid to not “teach” but rather recycle poorly presented lectures every term. Some don’t even bother to change the dates on the work.

    4. The in class section in did attend consisted of showing Power-points of the same notes handed out to online classes.

    5. Though I have all A’s, I feel like I have learned very little and have wasted my time and money.

    6. Yet if you challenge the work, program or professors you are considered negative and told you will not succeed as a librarian.

    7. Some of my fellow students think this is a difficult and quality program (direct result of low admissions standards).

    7. It it takes being an ignorant pushover without a grasp on reality and with little self respect, I DON”T WANT TO BE A LIBRARIAN!

  33. Dr. Pepper says:

    LOL @ LIS student.
    I know people that describe the exact same thing as you do (some of them from UNT, I don’t remember the other schools). When they asked for more challenging work (annotated Bibs, LOL, childsplay!) they were told by the GAs that everyone has to grind through the boring parts.

  34. ExperienceStudent says:

    < <<. GA's do all of the grading, and real professors are hardly present. 2. A jumble of outdated readings and busy work are in Blackboard (this is how are efforts are measured). 3. Professors are getting paid to not "teach" but rather recycle poorly presented lectures every term. Some don't even bother to change the dates on the work.>>>

    I am failing to see how these make it different from on campus classes. The same things happen in real life. I have had low professor contact in some courses, like the ones that called for annotated bibs, but that seemed in line with the demands of the class.

  35. ExeprienceStudent says:

    cont….

    I have also taken an excellent course, where the professor was extremely engaging, and the class was very challenging. This professor participated daily (even on the weekends at times) in the course. {{Inserting a shout out to Professor Sharon Almquist}} So, like anything the quality can vary.

  36. Auntie Nanuuq says:

    Ah…I am one of those people who got her MLIS online…I was working full-time and really didn’t want to quit my job & move back in w/ Mommy & Daddy so I could attend UCLA full-time and drive the 45+ miles each way everyday. I did attend classes in person, at least once a semester sometimes once every month on weekends (Sat & Sun) and in summer for 5 days straight. I even drove from L.A. to the San Diego campus 3 times which is about 150 miles from me. I worked on group projects (and I am still sane ,but my boss will debate that), and I can play nice with others. There is one thing, online = Freedom. I happen to be a night owl, so staying up writing papers & reading materials until 1:30 a.m. was fine for me. I really liked being able to do my “class” work in my p.j.s, drinking a beer, eating a snack with my cat on my lap. I made myself responsible for the time I spent online going over lectures and in live chat. Our final grad project was an e-portfolio (talk about work) not a thesis, nor the 2 30-page topics papers (which had been required earlier). The one thing that really peeved me, was when our Dean (a Librarian) retired and was replaced by a Business Major (like this is Library School), who decided to make the school run on a profit and the first thing we know our tuition jumped 70+% (that was a pisser and had I not had only 2 semesters left, I’m sure I would have quit). Also, everyone was encouraged to get into this “second Life” thing and play act out their library school life (what the hell is that all about?) as if this life isn’t enough. But for me it was a great experience and because I had 25+ years experience in the library behind me, it made school easier…. Thank-you Dr. Pepper for your interest!

  37. Kim says:

    My classes were both, and some of the online classes were excellent, some weren’t, and two were awful. The in person classes didn’t seem to be better than those that were online. It came down to the quality of of the professor’s teaching (and they were all full professors, well known in their fields of expertise). I didn’t think I would, but I ended up preferring the online classes because all the material was recorded electronically. I could save what I wanted, and used it a good deal of it my first year or so in the field. I think the distance students didn’t get as much out of the program as those who lived near the school. Being able to have access to the professors, a major research library, different types of academic, public and corporate libraries, other students and other departments was what made the experience work for me.

  38. Liberry Student says:

    I’m working on my first course in an on-line program. I’m going on-line instead of to the local school because my work schedule makes it impossible for me to reliably attend either morning or night classes. I looked at an on-line school with a synchronous component and rejected it, because if I could do that, I could attend classes at the local school.

    So instead of doing the assigned readings, listening to the professor’s lecture, and doing homework, we do the assigned readings, read the professor’s lecture, and do the homework. I think some programs, like philosophy or history, are more suited to on-line instruction because you pretty much get everything from reading regular text.

    Anything with a significant lab component, including physics, would be pretty much impossible on-line. Anything with math would be difficult when the student has to sit down with the professor and work out a problem together.

    As far as the value of an on-line MLS, if the MLS isn’t worth anything, what does it matter where it came from? Especially if the school also has an on-campus program and doesn’t stamp ONLINE on the degree? It’s just the ticket in.

  39. Annoyed says:

    If you won’t move to do the degree, then you won’t move for the job, which means there is no entry level job for you.

    ’nuff said.

  40. Evensong says:

    I live in a large city that is within driving distance of a pretty decent in-residence MLS program. Problem: there are people in every academic and public library in this city getting their MLS online, hoping they’ll get hired as a librarian. They have no professional experience and have to compete against people from the far more prestigious school within driving distance (a state school BTW). When we have an open position, we are hiring people with experience. We’ve had a couple do the online MLS. Guess what? They aren’t working for us or any other library as a LIBRARIAN. The jobs aren’t there but the online schools and ALA make out like they’ll be able to make a living in LibraryLand. It ain’t so folks! That is my beef with online programs – too many degrees handed out to people who cannot begin to compete with folks who have experience or a degree from a better school. Let’s add in the current economic conditions – I’m 50. Retirement within the next 15 years is not an option. And I may decide to work until I’m 70 … sorry!! No jobs for them!

  41. Kim says:

    Yes, had to move a long distance for the first job, and moved to attend the school, feeling I’d get a better experience in person, whether or not there were classes online. I thought it was better than it would have been from a distance, unless I had been able to tailor the schooling with significant work experience where I had been living. My question is, are there any entry level jobs? Mine certainly wasn’t. I only knew one person in school who found an entry level job, and she had quite a bit of experience, including supervisory. I wouldn’t have been able to obtain a job without having experience — move or no move. And now things have to be much more difficult for new grads than they were a few years ago.

  42. Auntie Nanuuq says:

    “If you won’t move to do the degree, then you won’t move for the job, which means there is no entry level job for you. ’nuff said.” How little you know of us, that you should make such a judgment…speak for yourself

  43. Morse says:

    When I worked on my MLS, about ten years ago, I had to take one online class because the program stopped teaching this course in person. I enjoyed it, because during class I could eat, play guitar, drink a beer, whatever, and it would be fine. It didn’t matter. Was it worse than the in-person classes? Not really. At least I didn’t have to show up for three hours and do a lot of groupwork. I just hope the people earning online degrees are people already working libraries, because otherwise they’ll have a hard time getting jobs. It’s being in the library (whether in person or virtually) and working with library users that one learns about library work.

  44. Demosthenes says:

    Being around the debate as a GA at an MLS program, instructors who taught online were worried about the perceived lack of prestige or credibility in teaching online. This lead to certain outcomes, namely more busy work and less substantive assignments (yes I really do think there can be engaging learning in an MLS program) The whole process seemed to be a charade. But this was three years ago, maybe things have progressed a bit, however knowing the instructors and their minders I doubt it.

  45. Ahab says:

    In most cases in my experience Distance Learning is a cash cow and it is inferior. And that goes for a degree in just about anything.

    Its also practical for the student because thats the only way a working stiff can get a degree in some areas of the country.

  46. Auntie Nanuuq says:

    A “cash cow”, when the tuition increases 70+% overnight, ayup, you betcha! Although the work was easier than I expected, my education was quite good, and well rounded. I worked hard and put quite a lot of thought and effort into my work…especially my e-portfolio grad project (most of which was original work, researched and written especially for each competency). I learned quite a bit about Children’s Literature, online reference sources, Ethnic & Adult Services, as well as database queries & information compilation that I had never come across before in my 20+ years experience. Heck, I can even “professionally” critique a webpage, write a mission statement (complete with S.W.O.T.) & a grant proposal! If you want to learn something, you just might be able to do so…

  47. Kim says:

    Auntie Nanuuq, like you I found it was what you put into it, and the quality of the professors teaching the courses. Some professors are actually pretty good. I find work experience is what I draw on more now, but am still using what I learned in school several years into the field.

  48. Mr. Kat says:

    Anonymous said: Mr. Kat is an idiot. There, I said it. If Mr. Kat would think about it for a minute, he would realize that “the university saves” NOT “a dime by having the GA teach the class instead of a Full Fledged university Professor.” Perhaps Mr. Kat doesn’t realize that professors are paid their full salary for the number of classes in their contract — no more and no less. “AHA!!!” indeed.

    If you could think in terms of LONG TERM planning, then perhaps you might see the bigger picture!

    Today the University saves not a single dime – CORRECT! BUT your ever present future planning department heads and deans are naturally looking at ways the university can cut corners to boost future revenue. And as it becomes obvious that a GA instead of a faculty member can teach certain classes, the university simply stops hiring faculty for those positions. Your science labs are a prime example of this phenomenon. If you would go to a University website, you would find job listings for Adjunct professors amongst many other similar positions.

    Naturally schools still need a proper professor governing the class. So in this case the department makes one professor in charge of the distance education component. That professor’s name then appears in the header for the class. Each section within the distance education component is then assigned to a different graduate student within the department as part of their course work. This Graduate Assistant is then the only person who students communicate with throughout the course.

    In the short term this frees up as many professors as you have classes in this component. Furthermore, your university can go the route of “rent a prof” and simply pay a professor from a university elsewhere to teach the online course. Right off the bat University A saves by not having ot provide this professor with benefits. And further, they can get them at a cheaper rate then those professors they hire full time as faculty eligible staff.

    This may not be a problem for you if your life is stuck in a shallow narrow focus. However, this is very different for those professors who are teaching in less desirable University B as a means to gain the experience necessary to gain a position in University A. It is furthermore a problem for those professors who are still trying to get tenure. And it is another problem all over again for those who are trying to recruit new people for the field; how can they get new graduate students if there are fewer prospects for these students once they graduate?

    Look at the BIG picture!!

    AHA INDEED!!!

  49. Mr. Kat says:

    Liberry Student commented:Anything with a significant lab component, including physics, would be pretty much impossible on-line. Anything with math would be difficult when the student has to sit down with the professor and work out a problem together.

    What little you appear to know about Math and Science!! My GF finished a Virtual Chemistry course last spring; it was essentially no different then the same class if you took it in person, except it was entirely online. And this class had a large mathematics component, including manipulating multiple expiations to solve a single problem.

    Naturally there was an email that she could use for contacting the professor. Otherwise, she had the book and the class notes to complete the exercises – and you know what, it was no better or worse.

    The class came with a Chemistry kit that cost $100 or so and contained everything that was necessary to do every single lab experiment at home minus a few things like nuts or marshmallows or toothpicks or bleach or skittles; you were expected to buy these things on your own.

    The real problem about distance education is that it is exposing a number or courses throughout higher education as the scams that they are. The only difference between these lower Community college classes and your standard University classes is – gasp – the price tag. This may not be a problem Today in Anonymous’s time, but this is a very real problem for the future of those who wish to be employed or stay employed in higher education.

    And this problem extends far beyond library science! I’d estimate that in a good ten to twenty years it will not matter where your degree came from even if it has “Cracker Jacks” stamped on the seal. You will be asked for your levels of certification, similar to how computer professionals are graded today, and from there all that will matter is your Experience.

  50. Lea says:

    I am looking forward to your next column. I have spent the last five years thinking about getting an MLIS, and what’s held me back is the cost of the damn degree. Why should I have to pay $45,000 for a degree to get a job that pays $37,000 a year (which I currently earn in an unrelated field)? I strongly believe that if an MLIS is required to become a librarian, then the cost of the degree needs to come down or the salary needs to be high enough so librarians can afford to pay off their student loans.

  51. Wondering says:

    Mr. Kat – sounds like your girlfriend took a basic chemistry class online. I admit that I am surprised that even a basic chemistry class could be offered online. But they could certainly NOT offer a full chemistry degree online unless they somehow offered access to a full chemistry lab. It sounds like YOU don’t know much about math or science. Any graduate degree (or undergrad degree at a reputable school, for that matter)in a science involved a significant amount of original research which is NOT going to be completed with a $100 kit!

  52. The Jig is Up!!!!!!!! says:

    March 24, 2009
    In response to: Distance Education, or Distance From Education?
    Annoyed commented:

    “If you won’t move to do the degree, then you won’t move for the job, which means there is no entry level job for you. ’nuff said.”

    Correct:There are few to no jobs in the field and almost everyone will have to move to obtain a position, that is if you can even get an interview or offer for a low salary. There are few to no good jobs out there, yet correspondence schools, oops I mean universities like UNT are reeling in students and setting up shop in every state. I think the jig is up. QUANTITY,numbers, and dollar signs has made QUALITY suffer. Even the GA’s can see the charade.

  53. Wondering says:

    It’s sad but true…. my MLIS is from a very prestigious school (not saying the LIS program has contributed to that prestige, but the prestige of the school makes people think the MLIS must be a good degree – and I have to say, it was a much better program than most.) The people who are getting the jobs are the people with library work experience. The degree is a required credential to get a professional position, but in most cases (not saying ALL cases, but most that I have seen) isn’t not enough. Necessary but not sufficient. The people who will suffer the MOST are those people who not only have no library experience, but no real work experience (beyond student jobs) at all. And there are A LOT of those people graduating. They end up working in book stores. Or they did, before the economy tanked.

  54. Wondering says:

    Sorry about the double-negative, it was a typo. I meant ”

  55. Wondering says:

    Christ almighty this blog posting systems sucks. I meant “IS NOT ENOUGH,” not “ISN’T NOT ENOUGH.”

  56. futurelibrarian says:

    annoyed, you sound like such a lovely person. I’m sure all the people at the cocktail parties can’t wait to talk to you. Keep spreading the joy!

  57. SATXLibrarian says:

    This morning I attended a presentation given by Megan Oakleaf of the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University. Students enrolled in that program are fortunate fortunate fortunate. The discussions, the information relayed, the face-to-face interactions – it all took me back to my in-residence degree program (long before virtual ed.)and I remembered how much I learned over cups of coffee in the Commons, at happy hours, before class, after class and, occasionally, in class. This is what virtual students miss out on and I rather think it hampers their ability to get ahead. They’re learning in a vacuum and many aren’t working with substantial library collections & services or real library users. And there are far too many people in this area working on an online MLIS and chasing after a paltry handful of jobs. UNT is probably making money hand over fist with their online program but I’d like to know how many of their graduates get a job as a librarian. All the graduates I know have wanted to stay in this area …

  58. Not surprised at Backlash says:

    Wow, it seems like plenty of people have an opinion on UNT and you know what, it is probably deserved. No matter how much they market themselves, the students and graduates are going to talk. Why do they have to even market themselves if they are a quality program? If they were good, the numbers would speak for themselves. They would have tough admission standards with limited numbers accepted into the program, and small classes, plus high placement rates. Not 1 professor for 200 students to a class. Try classes of 15 students or less like other quality programs. Do they even have a librarian job placement program? They actually had the ALA fictitious ” plenty of library jobs” info posted on their website until last year. I am glad I graduated from there long ago, except as they get a bad reputation, I still have the name on my degree. Wonder how many students graduating this spring will get jobs?

  59. Mr. Kat says:

    Wondering commented: Mr. Kat – sounds like your girlfriend took a basic chemistry class online. I admit that I am surprised that even a basic chemistry class could be offered online. But they could certainly NOT offer a full chemistry degree online unless they somehow offered access to a full chemistry lab. It sounds like YOU don’t know much about math or science. Any graduate degree (or undergrad degree at a reputable school, for that matter)in a science involved a significant amount of original research which is NOT going to be completed with a $100 kit!

    and I would know nothing abotu Undergraduate Science…although I have a B.S. in a Science discipline???

    Yes, her class was a lower level class. But you actually think original research is done at the undergraduate level? Alcontrair! The first two years are simply aimed at building a broad competency in science. the next two years fo a four year program are aimed at developing competencay in a specialized segemnt within science.

    master’s students will work closerly with a professsor ont he professor’s research project and perhaps even do some research themselves, but that research is piqued by their mentoring professor. The real point of the master’s degree is to develop the candidate towards a very specific segment of their chosen discipline. It is not until the Ph.D level you actually see students engaging in original research problems in the sciences.

    So in essence, you do not need to attend calsses to get a degree in science. Furthermore, the undergraduate labs have each been done so many milion times beofre that you can now find nearly every single lab experiment online, complete with the hard mathematical discussion so vital to each experiment [acid-base titrations, measuring the acceleration due to gravity, etc].

    It is clear you have never set foot inside a Science classroom, so I will give the lowdown on what happens. First, a professor gives three hour long lectures each week; these lectures are traditionally spent discussing the mathematical theory behind the equations necessary to do the homework. The homework problem set trationally consists of anywhere between 10 and 30 questions, of which five are actually graded [but you don't know which five]. Next, there is a subset of 30 to 100 questions you are encouraged to do on your own for extra practice. And the final part is three exams and a final exam. And there is of course the prementioned labs. That is my experience across Biology, Chemistry, Calculus, Statistics, Engineering, Geology, Physics and other smaller sciences as well.

    You might consider math to be an extremely hard subject, but it is nothing more than a set of definitions and logic problems. People who are stong in Math do a problemset much like you write an essay – and I ask you, how often do you ask your professor for help on your essays? I know I went through my MLS without asking once – it wasn’t necessary!

    If you think the MLS is a Door key, You aren’t holding a real door key like a scinece degree – it’s just more expensive. The Plight of the library science field hit the sciences a long time ago, and at this point, if you wish to continue into the fields you need a Masters in your discipline and preferably a Ph.D – the exception being the Engineering Disciplines.

    There are some components youc annot get in a $100 box, such as the geology field trips. However, I contend you could box up most of the first two years of the general science educaiton [chemistry, physics, biology] and have students do the entire thing at home. The community colleges are blowing the walls off the universities right now, and it is catching up. the charade that is Higher educaiton is rapidly deteriorating!

  60. The Library Dwelling RN says:

    My MLS will be a traditional degree since I work full time on the campus I’ll be going to school at (UNC). My undergrad degree in nursing (supposedly not a “serious academic subject” according to AL, but I won’t get started on that) was traditional as well, but it did have one online course, which happened to be nursing informatics. I had a great experience with the course, but I did have very intelligent classmates since I was attending a competitive program, and we may have benefited from knowing each other and the instructor outside of that particular course. The online discussion board allowed everyone to raise interesting points, which was a refreshing change from listening to the same handful of outspoken students in our traditional lectures. I recently attended an online conference (on using Technology in Teaching, out of all things) which went really well. We used online Elluminate classrooms for the seminars, and the features (text chat, VoIP, video, whiteboard, ability to virtually raise your hand, etc) made the sessions as interactive as they normally would be in real life.

    Distance education doesn’t *have* to suck, but as mentioned by others the quality of the program is going to hinge on the motivation of the students admitted and the quality of the instructors, just like a traditional program. I taught at a junior college with somewhat lax admission standards, and trying to provide a quality education in that environment can prove challenging. It certainly can be done, but it takes a lot of effort from the instructor to do so, and unfortunately some are just not up to the task.

  61. badlibrarian says:

    core” courses are relatively easy, but the rest aren’t filled with busywork. We’re doing original research in my information behaviour class, learning how to design and conduct proper studies in research methods, learning how to construct databases, negotiate contracts with vendors, etc. The children’s literature classes are no joke either. I think there are room for improvements, but I get the distinct feeling that my degree is “harder” than a lot of U.S. schools, especially the online ones. We don’t get busywork assignments. It’s the difference between schools that train only librarians, and schools that train librarians, but also produce IS researchers and PhDs.

    I also wonder if it has something to do with pay. Public librarians here start out at $55,000 CAD, which isn’t worth as much as the USD equivalent at the moment since our dollar is taking a bit of a beating lately, but a year ago it would have been at parity. You’ll probably never be rich as a librarian here, but you will make a solid income after a few years of experience. I’m always shocked at the low, low pay for US jobs. Canada doesn’t produce an over-abundance of librarians, so the job market isn’t flooded.;

  62. badlibrarian says:

    sorry, it cut off the first part of my comment. i won’t bother retyping.

  63. Jason says:

    To the writers of the comments in opposition to UNT:

    stop spewing out elitist crap. It sounds to me like you’re just pissed off that a school is making education in this field more readily available–flooding your job market with equally qualified applicants. Well guess what? Join the club. Many professions, not just library science, have too many applicants and too few jobs. Don’t attack the method of education for the sake of satisfying your own frustrations about the job market.

  64. Mr. Kat says:

    badlibrarian, my research methods course WAS a distance education course. If I wanted, I could have taken my Reference Course and Collection Development course online as well. And I solemnly tell you, it would not have made one iota of difference if I ever actually saw my professor or the other stuednts in those courses. We did substancial research projects in these courses, but it isn’t anything more difficult than busywork.

    Seriously, developing a collection of 50 books for a collection on a subject is no harder then opening up Amazon and entiering that subject. It is even better if your local library has a rich collection on the subject already, especially if the professor asks that each piece be physically reviewed before being entered into that list. The assignment was a piece of cake. Yes, this IS a “busywork” assignment. And much of library work IS “busywork” hince why you see so many “paraprofessionals” and students working in academic libraries!

    I took the database management course – that was one of the few courses that kicked me up and down the street. But then that course was offered by a Computer Science Professor who was very good at cramming the world into one sentence!

    All the same, this professor has made database desgin teaching an art, and with his lectures [all on powerpoint, all available through his class website] it was quite possible to accomplish everything in the course without spending more then ten minutes with him on quesitons. That could have been done on the internet through a discussion forum. In short, this electronic learning thing is only going to expand further to more places than you might think. Your children’s literature course, for example, could be electionic. You only have to think it through and it IS possible!

    Jason, the remarkable part is how suddenly this shift occured. Go back ten or fifteen years and basic college degrees carry significant weight in the job market.

    I suuspect the great change in the last fifteen years that led to this situation is the increased visibility of the personal computer and the Interent as a household staple. I ran into one of the early internet junkies on another forum a couple days ago; when he started, he paid $12.00 an hour ot be on the Internet!

    The result is precisely as you stated: education is no longer solely available to those elitists who can take four to eight years of their career off and sit in a classroom.

    There has been some other warnings unfolding that few people wish to pay attention to even as those warning manifest into serious problems. For example, we have been told for years now that our per-capita earnings has been in decline; we have all been made aware about how little our dollar is worth today versus the same dollar back in 1950, adjsuted for inflation. The manifestiation of this problem? The Boomers didn’t retire!! And many can’t afford to retire for a good ten or twenty more years, and many may stay on working further just out of spite for the system and everything they were promised that didn’t happen for them.

  65. SpellWell says:

    Jason, it isn’t elitist crap. A poor program is raking in the money and delivering sub-standard education. I don’t know if ALA accreditation has a librarian placement component but I believe if your graduates aren’t getting jobs there’s a serious problem with your program. And let me repeat: the job market wasn’t that great 30 years ago and some of us had difficulty finding a first job then. UNT is enrolling people who have little or no hope of ever landing a job BECAUSE they want to stay in Waco, Houston, San Antonio, Austin, wherever. The “I cannot move” population is being robbed by UNT.

  66. Wondering says:

    Mr. Kat, the quality of your undergraduate education depends on where you go. I went to a top 3 liberal arts college (which does not have a graduate program) and the students there worked closely with professors to work on the prof’s original research, and got published, etc.. Working closely with a professor like that is one of the draws of education at a small liberal arts college.

  67. Wondering says:

    Also, yes I did set foot in Science classrooms. I took a broad base of science classes and math-wise went through multivariate calculus (3 math courses beyond AP Calculus, which i took in high school.) No, my major was not ultimately a hard science, though. But good friends and my college boyfriend did major in hard sciences. As I said, different people have different undergrad experiences, depending on the type of school they attend.

  68. Wondering says:

    badlibrarian – I also went to library school in Canada, although I am American. My program was longer than any American program I have seen, and it was harder than any I have seen. I managed to write some serious and interesting research papers. But I still maintain that none of it was any harder than what I did in undergrad (although I went to a very selective undergraduate school so perhaps I had a more difficult undergrad experience than most.) My program was half stupid busy work, half serious work, but still nothing I considered to be truly graduate level.

  69. EXC says:

    The problem is that librarians are thinking that they are getting educated when they get an MLS. It is actually training, similar to what you could learn at a vo-tech school.

    So stop calling it long distance education and call it long distance training.

  70. Wondering says:

    That’s the thing, though EXC… it SHOULD be training. But most of it isn’t. It’s a hodgepodge of stuff, with some very heavy on theory (which is not training) and some busy work that would be training if it were anything you’d ever really do in a library, which it often isn’t.

  71. Mr. Kat says:

    I went to a large public state tier I research university – population: 30,000 to 50,000+ depending on who you could as a memebr of the university [students, faculty, support, services]. The student research partnerships you speak of do exist – but they are not common. But when there is a ratio of ten or twenty students to every professor, how could anyone expect this to be the case?

    Thus, it is in this environment particularly where distance educaiton development is most active – particularly at the community college leve. Community colleges have to compete for students as actively as ever before because University education has become the first and foremost route for a wide range of high school graduates. In the process they have developed highly profitable distance education courses on nearly everything the major Universities would have never before considered eligible for the “at home” learning model.

    I think universisties are quite possibly suffering from the impact of “insatiable demand” for their product and reeling over how much they an charge for tuition and STILL fill seats, in the process, admitting too many students. In the process their programs are being diluted to rotate the chaffe through the system. Afterall, the part Universities are being graded on is how many freshmen ultimtely maturate and how high the average GPA is. I’ve heard and seen too many accounts and articles on grade inflation in action through the system.

    At this point in my life I have seen the bottom drop out of the sub prime market, the real estate market, the securities markets, the auto market, the research market, the mineral/metals market, and I bet I will see the bottom drop out of the education market before I hit 40.

    Education won’t go away; it will simply be restrutured so all competencies can be met at home. The only students on campus will be those who are actively employed by research grants or working under professor partnerships. And the main words for these positions will be “Extremely Competitive.” Students will be admitted to these partnerships only after an excruciating interviewing process, part of which would look at their completed academic competencies – and automatically weed out all students who have not yet completed at minimum two to three years of college level coursework.

    Call me an idiot, but from where I sit and watch the current system is both fragile and insustainable and there will be a fallout from all these overeducated people who cannot get a job to save their lives.

    Spellwell, My boss at the University library coasted into his position by starting as a Clerk III shelving books and then working as a student worker in the cataloging department around 1980; when he graduated in 1984, he then applied for Librarian III and got in with little trouble. Back then the cataloging department had over 20 people in it, so they had relatively more positions to fill than today. Today Cataloging is a part of “Technical Services” and has no more then 5 librarians in the whole department.

  72. Mr. Kat says:

    I echo the training sentiment; I further insist the degree should have a AA level roof, regardless of where you get the training. The disguises on the degree are thick…

  73. Elitist? says:

    If you know the meaning of the term, then why are you using it, Jason? I don’t think that it applies in this situation. What I am reading here is that many students and graduates are dissatisfied with the program because they courses are not quality and there are a high quantity of students. Is it elitist to expect a good education for all of your hard work and money, as well as maybe a chance of landing a job? I don’t think so.

  74. Speculating says:

    I wonder if this forum wouldn’t work better if it was more in a bulletin board type format. It would certianly make for easier reading. I think Annoyed Librarian has the readership to support that.

  75. DWB says:

    “I wonder if this forum wouldn’t work better if it was more in a bulletin board type format. It would certianly make for easier reading. I think Annoyed Librarian has the readership to support that”

    Let’s form a committee and generate a report in six months. Then send it out for publication and then in 2 years when no one cares anymore, the change can take place.

  76. SpellWell says:

    Mr. Kat, need there be any librarians in Technical Services these days? We have a lone cataloger and she lives in fear that the powers that be will decide she’s no longer needed. I don’t know that she is.

  77. Dr. Pepper says:

    You do need librarians in Technical Services. You just don’t need MLIS librarians ;-)

  78. Techserving You says:

    I have always worked in tech. services – for about 10 years prior to library school, most of the two years I was in library school, and now. For a year I worked in the technical services department of a major vendor, working with academic libraries which are outsourcing their tech. services.

    Don’t forget that technical services encompasses not just cataloging, but acquisitions. There’s so much more going on in tech. svs. than most people think. It’s actually, I would argue, the most important department in the library – the one that allows the library to BE. It will always need staffers. I don’t know that it needs MLIS librarians, but that can be argued about all areas of the library. I’ve always kind of felt that my job, and most acquisitions positions, were really more business-y than librarian-y, though. I deal with budgets, funds, vendor negotiation, negotiation of licenses for electronic products, etc., as well as doing some selection.

    I argue that most (not all) libraries will at least need ONE acquisitions librarian and one cataloger (to do original cataloging.) The vast majority of the nitty gritty acqusitions work, I admit, could be done by clerk-types. And my job could be done by someone who simply has experience in the sorts of things I do… the almighty MLIS did not help me ONE BIT. But as I have said, the same is true in all areas of the library… in most cases, all areas could be staffed by someone with experience doing the job, not just someone with an MLIS. But unfortunately, they will never hire someone without an MLIS/MLS to do any of the professional jobs.

    Oh yeah, I mentioned the vendor experience because I worked closely with libraries who HAVE gotten rid of many tech. svs. staffers. So I understand and even agree with that idea. But they still need a small staff to deal with the vendors, organize projects, finish loose ends.

  79. booklover says:

    This is hilarious. Annoyed looks down on “hillbillies” and online degrees. It’s like the WalMart assistant manager looking down her nose at an hourly employee (while she drinks cocktails and listens to jazz!). Priceless!

  80. Techserving You says:

    The fact that someone has an MLIS, which is, I admit an easy and at times useless degree, does not automatically mean that that person is stupid and uneducated. I don’t know the AL’s full background, but I know that I, for one, can validly sit and criticize plenty of fellow librarians and library students (not that I do, because it’s kind of pointless.) My undergrad education was top notch, at a top school. I’m otherwise well-read, have travelled the world, and have interesting hobbies. I fell into library work while in school, and ultimately found that it allowed me to maintain access to great institutions of higher education, to have great benefits and ample amounts of time off, and allowed me to have the time to have a rich life outside of work. And my jobs have actually been interesting and challenging, for the most part. The MLIS was just a ticket to be able to get a professional position.

    I may be misreading booklover’s comment, but it seems like he or she is suggesting that the AL cannot validly critique anyone or anything because she (I think AL is a she) is only one notch above that on the totem pole. Judging by AL’s posts, which I find to be witty and almost always on target, I would say that the AL does have the goods to allow her to critique others.

  81. booklover says:

    Look, I just wandered into this blog searching for something else, but come on! AL supposes that they don’t have the internet in Appalachia, which is fine because they are all hillbillies who wouldn’t go to college anyway. Her opinions on MLIS vs. online MLS may very well be valid, but her snobbery undermines them. My point is, to the rest of the worl, being a librarian (while in itself a perfectly respectable profession) is not exactly brain surgery. She finds it distasteful that you can receive a virtually eqivalent degree without leaving your trailer (or Appalachia!) Get a grip, AL. Just check out books and get over yourself.

  82. Techserving You says:

    Yeah, but I think that AL is deliberately over the top, for entertainment’s sake. It’s a kind of humor that I use myself. I’m sure AL knows that some people in Appalachia go to college… Anyway usually librarians are not the ones who check out books… as I’m sure you know.

  83. Mr. Kat says:

    SpellWell commented:Mr. Kat, need there be any librarians in Technical Services these days? We have a lone cataloger and she lives in fear that the powers that be will decide she’s no longer needed. I don’t know that she is.

    It’s a question worth pondering. In a simple sense, Yes, they must keep at least someone. The MARC catalog will always need someone to go though and clean up the records, make original records, and delete old records. But….

    …Then Mr.Mrs. Techserving You crashed the party and let you in ona little discover I made for myself back in 2002; the library is BUYING the MARC records right along with the books!! Each month a mess of boxes show up and right on top is a little disk contianing everything the library needs to update their library catalog to reflect these new book bibliographies and holdings!

    That the end! I was the Student worker putting the barcodes on the books and making the new item records for each book. It was EASY!!

    But now What if we did something DRASTIC? Are you fimailar with how Amazon works? Let us suppose Amazon puts up a website cally Amazonlibrary and on that site they put up all of the bibliography records they have on their website.

    Now each library becomes a member of this website and through a little pharsing the computer database transfers the library holdings from the MARC System to the Librarie’s AmazonLibrary Account.

    Anytime the book is checked out, the holding informaiton for that particular book on AmazonLibrary changes to “Checked out.” If a library does not HAVE a book, Amazon Library gives you a list of the closest Libraries AND Vendors who HAVE the book available!

    What more, every library that subscribes to LibraryAmazon can submit a little profile describing themselves and what kinds of boosk they need and want for their community. LibraryAmazon could then turn around and simply ship the LIbrary a new box of books each month – perhaps even complete with library barcodes, spine lables, and all that jazz without the book ever once touch inhouse services! The Books simply comes out of the box and head straight to the Shelves!!

    And in that thought you can eliminate inhouse cataloging, aquisitions, bindery [or whoever does the preparation] and even potentially eliminate the weeding process as well – you have book A that never circulates, so Amazon alerts the cartpushers to pull it off the shelf and put it in the “ship back to Amazon for In House Credit’ box…

    ~Shudder~ I scare myself sometimes…

  84. Mr. Kat says:

    Booklover, part of reading and enjoying Satire somes by learning separate that information which is farciacal and obviously false from that information which is true and then that information that is true in the saddest sense.

  85. Techserving You says:

    Oh, Mr. Kat, you can do more than that these days!!! First of all, OCLC WorldCat will also tell you what library and vendors have the books. But also, the vendors can send you the books completely COMPLETELY processed. Barcodes and all. If the library has special barcodes, special RFID tags, property stamps, what have you, they send them to the vendor. Some vendors, such as where I worked, even take extensive specifications in order to allow for customized MARC records and as little cleanup as possible. So oh yeah, I fully agree that most tech. svs. staff – certainly most MLIS librarians – could go. That is less true in the large university libraries in which I have worked, though – you know, those who buy virtually EVERY book published in order to maintain a record of human scholarship. But smaller libraries can and do almost completely dispense with their tech. svs. (particularly cataloging and processing) staff. I have to say, though, that serials present a problem. Almost no libraries are having their serials cataloged by the vendors, although it could be done with massive amounts of set-up work on the vendor side. (I worked on a small project to create specifications for just a small group of serials in a small specialized library within a large university system.) I won’t get into it, but the problems reside in how the vendors actually do the cataloging (much is automated once programming is done for the specific library) and the intricacies/unreliability of serials, the difference among how different libraries catalog serials. Also, these university libraries I mentioned, who create exhaustive collections, are so obsessed with making everything perfect that although they are beginning to rely heavily on vendor cataloging, they will always want to check things for themselves.

  86. Techserving You says:

    Although that means that the VENDORS will provide jobs for MLIS librarians, though not as many as will end up out of work.

  87. Dr. Pepper says:

    Why will vendors provide jobs to MLIS librarians instead of non-MLIS candidates?

  88. Techserving You says:

    Well they provide some jobs to non-MLIS holders. I mean, of course there is the whole business side, and they need SERIOUS business people to keep the company afloat, not librarians. And they hire non-MLIS people for the hourly positions. Most of the professional vendor positions I have seen, though – I mean those that relate closely to the field, whether it’s customer service, cataloging, profiling (designing approval plans), technical services, etc., at least say MLIS preferred, if not required. This is for two reasons. First, vendors like to tout how many so-called professional librarians work for them – this is a selling point to other librarians who tend to be hesitant to hand over work to vendors. They want to feel that the vendor understands them. Second, in my experience, having previous experience in an actual library helps immensely in being able to understand a customer’s workflow, in order to create products, implement products, trouble-shoot, etc.. But of course you don’t need an MLIS to have useful library experience, and having an MLIS doesn’t mean you have much, or even any, library experience. So the vendors are more flexible about it than libraries tend to be.

  89. Techserving You says:

    To clarify, though, the kind of library experience that is useful to someone working for a vendor is only going to be technical services experience. A general handle on technical services workflow – on selection, acquisitions, and cataloging – is needed. Something like experience in reference or circulation is totally irrelevant. Vendors work with technical services librarians, even when the product they are providing is just books rather than any outsourced technical services product, because, of course, acquisitions falls into the technical services category. Oh, to return to what Mr. Kat said about MARC records on CD-ROM – virtually no libraries get their records on CD anymore. Records are ftp’ed and the library picks them up remotely.

  90. SpellWell says:

    I work in a small academic library – there is little if any original cataloging being done. Our cataloger spends much of her time reviewing what the copy cataloger pulls from OCLC, adding ridiculous notes that no one cares about, and hoping no one notices that she really isn’t doing much at all. Years ago in the cataloging dept. of a major institution, we accepted an LC record as good enough. Why we don’t at our dinky little library bothers me immensely. But if we accepted records “as is” she might not have a job. A lot of the work in tech services could be outsourced. I think it’s something to consider, particularly if some of the people could be deployed to public services (the real reason any of us have jobs). That way we’d have a few more hands to show students how to use the resources they prefer: electronic. At our institution circulation of printed materials has fallen off as we’ve increased the number of electronic materials.

    As for electronic subscriptions – we’ve had a non-librarian handling that for years and years. I’d say it doesn’t require an MLIS. This person is a direct report to the library’s head honcho.

  91. Techserving You says:

    Spellwell, I hear ya. I have had the same experience. I have experience (in addition to other experience) at two large Ivy League universities. I do have to say that they did not accept the LC record as is – there was a lot of customization, particularly in the Leader and 008, plus we did holdings and authority work. BUT, as a paraprofessional, I was able to do that myself (except for the authority work, which they would not let me do.) They ultimately created a macro to do most of the customization, since we were always doing the same thing to the record, or at least doing the same steps. I’d hit a button, wait while the cursor jumped all around, type a little, and voila. I did all of the searching in OCLC and corrected any errors, etc.. Now I work at a small liberal arts college, and they have one useless cataloger who – get this – searches OCLC for records (for books which are ALL going to be copy-cataloged!) and then saves the records, and our cataloging assistants do the actual importing of the records. It’s ridiculous!!! She doesn’t do anything that they couldn’t do, and it just adds an extra, unnecessary step. Heaven forbid that the cataloging assistant with 12 years of experience hear actually exercise judgment and search OCLC to find the matching record. Only someone with an MLIS can do that!

    In my previous life as a paraprofessional at an Ivy league university, they also combined acquisitions with cataloging, and the OCLC record was imported at the point of ordering. If you’re going to do the work yourself rather than having a vendor give you records, this is a very efficient way of doing it. Once the book arrives, just double check, do some minor customization, and you’re done. The way we do things in my current library is incredibly inefficient.

  92. Dr. Pepper says:

    Here’s a devil’s advocate moment: If the two bastions of librarianship – organizing info and finding info are no longer there, what IS the value of the MLIS (real value, not the “union card” value) ? Cataloguers don’t catalog. Reference departments are leaving paraprofessionals staff reference desks, and paraprofessionals staff the circulation desk. I can bet you that paraprofessionals know what it means to be working in a library and what services they provide for the public. So… I am hard pressed to find value in the MLIS. I am saying this as someone who sees undergrads who like working in the library and contemplate an MLIS without realizing the dearth of jobs available. What differentiates the MLIS, online or face to face, from another degree?

  93. Techserving You says:

    I don’t think it has a value, beyond the union card value, and of course, attempting to legitimize the profession by making up special credentials. It does impart some skills which are still used on the job, but all of those skills can actually much better be learned on the job. At my library we have this crazy rule that only a degreed librarian can staff the reference desk. And yet, we have paraprofessionals who have been here much longer than I have, and they know the collections much better than I do. And I know they know how to perform searches, etc. (as any 12-year-old can.) And they know how to determine what websites are authoritative, etc. (which is supposedly a skill-set held only by degreed librarians… or that’s what they say in order to explain why patrons need librarians when performing internet search – puh-lease.) My boss feels that people will feel that they are in better hands if they are being helped by a degreed librarian. But the thing is, most people don’t know or care about what levels of education the various staff members have! They think everyone is a librarian.

    Basically, I think that plenty of people without the MLIS can competently perform librarian work, and those with an MLIS and no prior library experience CANNOT necessarily competently perform that work. It’s all about having experience in the tasks you need to do.

    This is, of course, all a generalization, and there are occasional exceptions, but generally an MLIS does not have value beyond being a ticket in. I had a decade of very good library experience, but was never going to get a professional job without the degree, so I went ahead and got it. There is also the much-touted value of indoctrinating the tribe… members of a profession should have a common background and shared values. I do think that the MLIS program can be good for that sort of thing WHILE the people are in the program. I know that despite knowing exactly what the library field was all about, I suddenly idealized things while I was in school. But as soon as I was back out in the real world, I forgot it all and was as cynical as always.

  94. Dr. Pepper says:

    I’ve heard of the shared values argument however it is my belief that in this day and age people can get that sense of common values through communities of practice for free. Also shared values are only useful if people stick to them. I could go to library school and pretend to be indoctrinated and when I go get a job just say “good bye to that balloney”

  95. Mr. Kat says:

    Teschserver, here’s a fun tidbit: I ws doing OCLC seraches and imports as a Work Study Student in the library technical services department as a Freshman/Sophomore/Junior and I had NO previous catalog experience. CatME worked really really well!!!

    I am not at all surprised to hear of these upgrades in the process. I was already seeing this wal writing 8 years ago…

    Serials are only a problem because Librarians do not want to handle them like they would individual monographs. Each volume and each issue is unique upon itself, and if that information was in the MARC record, we would no longer need many of these article index databases. The university I was at simply gave each item a record with a stylized arrangement of the Volume and hte year and that was it.

    I’ll tell you now the sciences don’t like that one bit – they want an index of all the articles – becasue it is the articles that actually matter in ther research. We have that in the form of the databases, which are now choking library budgets left and right; I saw a figure elsewhere that said electronic subscriptions now acount for 50% of the budget at library X…YIPES!

    The problem with the marc record is simple: the technology is pre-windows gui format, which means I can’t click on the author name and be taken to a page about the author, as would happen in say Amazon or Wikipedia.

    Another advance for another day?

  96. Dr. Pepper says:

    @MrKat – MARC is actually worse than pre-gui! It’s based on time-sharing machines of the 60s, before the PC ;-) I still have punch cards to prove it :-) MARC is also very US/ASCII centric

  97. Mr. Kat says:

    I seriously felt like I was playing Oregon Trail on an AppleIIE when I was working on the records…I guess that helped pass the time!!

    The last time I played Oregon Trail on an AppleIIe was 1989. It was part of my second grade computer curriculum!

  98. Techserving You says:

    Yes, MARC is ridiculously outdated. There are some pretty cool advances in ILS interfaces, though, but it’s ridiculous that they had to be built on top of MARC. Check out Innovative Interfaces Inc.’s Encore system, as used at UNH:

    www dot library dot unh dot edu (it won’t let me post a URL.)

    Do a search in the catalog for, say, Da Vinci Code. Encore is an attempt to make the results screen more like young people today are used to seeing on other sites.

  99. The Liberal Liberrian says:

    I wouldn’t even consider hiring someone with an online degree for an academic job and would have grave reservations about doing so at a public library. Perhaps a small public library.

  100. tesslibtech says:

    I’m doing an online library tech diploma because I live too far to attend classes in person. Then again, I already have a BA and MA in History, so have done my fair share of sitting in classes and learning. More importantly, I’m already working at my local libary and learning a ton there – to my mind, it’s what’s making the online thing work for me. I don’t have to spend hours commuting, can do my homework in bed if I want BUT I’m able to see the practical applications of what I’m learning every day I’m at work.

    Why a library tech diploma and not an MLIS? Because I already have that one MA, so don’t really see the need for another one. And for the work I want to do and the library I want to do it in, the diploma is what I need.

  101. Mr. Kat says:

    You might seriously consider getting the MLS doorkey if for no other reason because it does open more doors thent he library tech degree…if you acn find one that is not that much more expensive. My mom has the tech degree; she gripes about how so many minimum requirements are…sigh…an MLS. The work between the two is really not that much different. The price is a real matter to consider.

  102. Techserving You says:

    What kind of jobs require or even prefer a library tech diploma… especially for someone who already works in a library? Prior to becoming a full-fledged librarian, I worked in several paraprofessional positions at top colleges and universities, including at two Ivy League schools. All they required was a BA. It sounds like library tech programs are just money-making scams.

  103. SpellWell says:

    Hmmm … I was working on a BA when I worked as a paraprofessional in one of the best university library systems in the U.S. A college degree was not a requirement. The willingness to work for slave wages was …

  104. Wondering says:

    Given that “Librarians” are clerks these days anyway, why make obtaining the “Union card” any more difficult or expensive than it has to be?

  105. Mr. Kat says:

    Wondering, it all comes down to Business and the fact that library schools are now run with capitalist mentality – whether that is good or bad, we have yet to see.

    In short, a high price diminishes the field of potential applicants – while getting library schools the maximum return on a farce degree.

  106. budding info ninja says:

    I’m currently in an online/distance MLIS program. While I would love the option of pursuing my degree in a full-time classroom setting, I have this pesky need to actually support myself while going to school. I’ve taken both day and online courses, and I personally prefer the interaction of an in-person class (particularly getting to know the instructor). In my experience, however, the day courses were much easier and less rigorous than the online courses. This may be partly because I haven’t taken any of the core courses in a day format, only electives

  107. budding info ninja says:

    however, the online electives have been far more time- and labor-intensive than the day elective courses. While I’m not impressed with the quality of the education I’m getting, and I’m one of those ”

  108. budding info ninja says:

    “suckers” who is paying a great deal for the privilege, there really is no other alternative for me if I want to pursue a library career.

  109. Depressed and Discouraged says:

    Yeah, just try to get in the U of I GSLIS program. Good luck. They only want the top of the heap, the creme de la creme. If I sound bitter, it’s only because I am!

  110. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    Having met with my little mentee from Online MLS U a couple weeks ago, I can see how it could be loads of work trying to get that degree. Turns out a fair bit is based on interacting with Real Librarians in a Real Library – don’t know about ya’ll, but my calendar is pretty dang full these days. Not nearly enough staff to get all the work done (but if we outsource TechServices and bring those folks out into the Public Service light … but that’s another posting) and this sort of “mentoring” falls to the very back of my oven. I only met with this student because they were willing to come at what was a terrifically awkward time. But they really
    want the degree and, having met, I wouldn’t mind working with the youngster. One of the brightest lights I’ve seen in Liberry Edukashun lately.