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Library Science Majors as Unemployed as High School Dropouts

People with college degrees have a lower unemployment rate than high school dropouts, unless that degree is in library science.

A number of kind readers have sent me stories on how badly library science majors fare in the workplace. First came an extensive spreadsheet from the Wall Street Journal based on U.S. Census Data, and then one of those clickbait articles from the Huffington Post based on the WSJ spreadsheet.

Even the ALA Joblist Twitter Feed helped spread the news, tweeting that a “New report shows library science with 4th worst unemployment among 173 majors – 15%.” Brilliant marketing!

You can sort the spreadsheet at WSJ and find out without clicking through the Huffington Post that Library Science has the fourth highest unemployment rate at 15% and the fifth worst median salary at $36,000.

The links from readers are accompanied by appropriate comments, such as “Why would anyone go into our profession again?” or “Another reason not to go to library school today.”

On the surface, that seems fair. After all, if the only college majors with worse unemployment are United States History, Miscellaneous Fine Arts, and Clinical Psychology, then you’re not doing that well. I didn’t even know people could major in just United States History, and I have no idea what a Miscellaneous Fine Arts degree would be, but they don’t sound like they’re producing widgets for the workplace like a good college degree should.

Before we get too despondent about the future of library school or our profession, we should stand back and realize that the WSJ survey isn’t talking about library school at all. Majoring in Library Science as an undergraduate qualifies a person for no professional librarian jobs whatsoever.

For that reason, it’s a bit of a travesty that any colleges even offer the degree. The MLS, for better or worse, is a professional degree that at least qualifies one to be a librarian. It’s not a substantial degree – or at least it doesn’t have to be – and many librarians have much more substantial undergraduate and graduate degrees to go along with it.

A library science major has the trappings of a professional degree, but it doesn’t qualify one for the profession of librarianship. In fact, I’m not sure what it qualifies anyone for, except maybe going on to library school, and even that’s questionable. That’s one reason holders of the degree are less employable than just about any other majors.

The College Board sort of warns people away from the degree. Their website states up front that “Most librarians study library science at the graduate level only. If becoming a professional librarian is your goal, you may want to major in another area of interest as an undergraduate.” Good advice.

It also asks telling questions: “Did You Know? Most bachelor’s degree programs prepare you to work as a school librarian. Other librarians need master’s degrees.”

I thought even school librarians needed degrees in education. Maybe some of those students double major in education and library science. I can’t imagine a more intellectually stultifying undergraduate experience.

It gets even better when the College Board suggests what a library science major prepares one for:

Are You Ready To…?

  • Work as a volunteer or paid staff member in a library
  • Volunteer as a coach, tutor, or camp counselor (if you plan to be a school librarian)
  • Join Beta Phi Mu , the library science honor society
  • Get involved in a student chapter of the American Library Association

If I had to choose any of those, “paid staff member” would be my top choice. I don’t necessarily think that every college major has to be vocational in nature, but a major that seems to prepare people to volunteer is maybe not worth the money.

Anyway, another reason those majors face higher unemployment and lower wages than others.

Yet another reason is that there aren’t that many colleges that offer the degree, and the ones that do aren’t exactly top tier. Again, according to the College Board, only 22 colleges offer the library science major, and only 19 of those are in the United States.

Of those 19, 3 are in Mississippi alone. Itawamba Community College in Fulton and Northeast Mississippi Community College in Booneville might provide a lot of opportunity for students in that impoverished state, but I doubt they’re producing many employable librarians.

There were a number of community colleges and branch universities, but the only school offering the degree that might be considered the flagship public university of the state is the University of Oklahoma.

It’s an unpleasant fact of life that degrees from higher ranked universities often lead to better employment opportunities. So if you went to Yale University in New Haven instead of Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven (which offers the LIS major), or you went to the University of Pennsylvania instead of the Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, your job prospects will be improved.

On the college checklist, the College Board suggests you ask, “Does the program offer a master’s degree that’s accredited by the American Library Association?”

Of those colleges with majors in library science, the only ones that have ALA-accredited library schools are the University of Oklahoma, Clarion University of Pennsylvania, the University of Southern Mississippi, and Southern Connecticut State University (which for some reason has only “conditional” status).

According to the US News & World Report ranking of library schools, none of those programs are even in the top 20. Oklahoma is tied for #22, Clarion is tied for #40, and Southern Connecticut and Southern Mississippi are at the bottom of the list with “rank not published.” So none of the library science programs with both bachelor’s and master’s degrees are top-ranked programs.

Some of the top-tier, ALA-accredited library schools offer undergraduate degrees. For example, four of the top five ranked library schools – Chapel Hill, Syracuse, Washington, and Michigan – offer undergraduate degrees in information science or informatics or something similar.

That might sound like the same boondoggle as a library science major, but what hasn’t been pointed out as much is that the WSJ survey shows that “information science” majors have a 5.9% unemployment rate and a median salary of $71,000, considerably better than the library science rank.

That could be because graduating from Washington or Michigan with an information science degree makes one more employable than graduating from the Allen County (KS) Community College with a degree in library science. I’m just speculating here.

Library science majors may be less employable than high school dropouts, but instead of fretting that this signals the demise of library school or the profession of librarianship, it should instead be a call to abolish those undergraduate programs.

Library schools and librarianship have enough problems without being associated with these degrees.

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Comments

  1. AL – if the MLS is a boondoggle, and the undergraduate degree should be abolished, what do you propose?

    Would an undergraduate minor be satisfactory for most libraries, with the option for a robust graduate degree for highly specialized and better compensated work?

    • Andrew says:

      We’re already moving towards a situation where a good chunk of library workers are paraprofessionals without the MLS. That will likely continue being the new normal without the need for an undergraduate minor in library science.

      I know a couple of people who got a BA in library science, but both of those ladies were first wave baby boomers who got those degrees back in the ’60s when that was still a viable option, and both went into education.

      I have to agree with AL on this one. There just isn’t any viability to undergraduate library science degrees. The only parties who stand to benefit from those programs are the universities bilking students out of their money.

  2. I did the math awhile ago as did the good people over at IN the Library with The Lead Pipe: when you have more graduates than open positions, then you’re going to get a surplus of applicants. Combined with the relatively free college lending and the expansion of online MLS courses, it’s not a shocker that the rate of graduation increases. Combined with the reduction of positions overall, the library graduate programs have manufactured our high unemployment rate.

    As to the undergraduate library degree, that does sound like a giant redundancy.

  3. Ojala noticed the same thing:

    http://www.onlineinsider.net/2011/11/09/employable-librarians/

    Basically, the WSJ article may be flawed.

  4. Joyce says:

    My daughter has been looking for full time employment for over two years.She works as a paraprofessional part time. I am not only fed up with the ALA but with librarians in general. Our local librarian told me they hire the creme de la creme. Well her creme responded to my question about westlaw “How do you most efficiently search this database?” With “I can’t give you legal advise.” Oh really, sounds like the creme does not recognize a question a librarian should know. I have also found books that have been cataloged wrong and marched up to the reference desk – you are right – they tell me, and I do not have a master’s in library science. Librarians refuse to mentor new grads. they refuse to tell the truth about the profession. MY daughter has been involved since high school, graduated with honors, but sill sits. I told her forget about it, pretend the MLS never happened, go for something else. Librarians are in general self centered arrogant individuals. I have an advanced degree, never had an employment problem, and wish my daughter had not gone into debt for this. She doesn’t deserve it.

    • Randal Powell says:

      I agree with your comment, unfortunately. And I seriously doubt that your library actually hires the best, or even tries to.

      I also agree that “Librarians refuse to mentor new grads.” I would add “most”, but that’s a technicality at best.

    • Jen says:

      Maybe your daughter should be the one asking these questions.

      I’m not one to be all stereotypical of the younger crowd, but when a mother is upset with the ALA about the fact her daughter cannot get a job, there are other issues there.

    • novice librarian says:

      I’m sorry to read that your daughter is having such a difficult time and that this has caused you to generalize the character of all librarians. I know that my experience is not necessarily the norm either but I have found many librarians willing to share their knowledge and offer guidance. I hope your daughter can look past your view of librarians and find employment at a library that meets her expectations.

    • Ryan says:

      I am a new librarian (graduated in May, accepted a position in August) and have thus far gotten fantastic guidance from my more experienced coworkers. Also, receiving your MLIS with honors means nothing. It is a rather easy graduate degree and many people graduate with a 4.0. Also, classifying an entire profession as arrogant is a bit ridiculous. I’m sorry that you had an unpleasant experience with your local library.

    • Tracy M. says:

      I am sorry to hear your daughter’s experience has left a bad taste in your mouth and that you both are disenfranchised with both ALA and librarians in general. I am in my final semester in my MSLS program, and have had the good fortune to be embraced by my local library system, as well as the adjacent library system which I am researching for a class project. I came to library school with retail management experience, not library experience. When I applied to become a volunteer to gain experience, I was immediately welcomed. In the past year, I have worked my way through volunteering to paid positions including circulation, adult reference, and youth services. Nearly every librarian I encounter is genuinely pleased to welcome a new librarian into the ranks (whether they have room for me after I graduate or not) and have offered their assistance wherever they can. When I need help or information for a class project, a countless number of librarians, many of whom I do not know personally, have jumped to provide me with what I need and offer further assistance. This, to me, is the essence of librarianship, and why I am entering the profession. The same customer service skills drilled into me in retail are essential in librarianship, which is, indeed, a customer service profession. Perhaps your daughter has been unlucky in her endeavors to network thus far, but that does not mean that “librarians are in general self centered arrogant individuals.” You said it yourself– the word “general” demonstrates you are generalizing one experience to every librarian in the profession. Why do you think most of us are doing this? Because we really want to help people. The spirit of collaboration and team spirit in my library system is amazing. I have never been treated so well in any of my jobs. And is it just my organization? No. As I mentioned the adjacent library system earlier, I called the library’s administrative assistant, and within an hour, had an interview with the library’s director for the next day to help me get started on my project. Since then, I have been invited to a management meeting, and am interviewing the director as well as one of the branch managers this Friday. Do they stand to gain anything from taking the time out of their busy schedules to help me with a project? No, except the knowledge that they want to help people in any way possible, and they’re excited to help a library science student succeed at a project. Best of luck to your daughter– hopefully she at least will be able to rise above her negative experience thus far and add to the ranks of friendly, people-loving librarians.

    • library_yeti says:

      I mentored a library school student (of an online program) recently, and I will think twice about ever doing it again. She asked to “observe” reference transactions for two hours. What she did, much to my chagrin, was actively participate in reference interviews, continually butting-in while I was trying to help students. She was a loose cannon. Sadly, I suspect that she’ll be one of the unemployed that will add to the grim statistics for our profession. I want to help mentor students, but if they prove to be a liability, I’m out…

    • Steve says:

      Joyce,
      Sorry to be late to the party, but I totally empathize with your daughter, and you. What ALA should be advocating is a bachelor degree as entry level into the profession. There is no VALID reason for a masters degree to be entry level for the librarian profession.

      I had numerous responses to my own Blog post Library Science Ranks #4 in Highest Unemployment, but none have any valid reason to reject a bachelor degree as the required entry level. It’s just been that way for over 100 years, so why change. Maybe change is necessary to address the needs for more technically competent librarians within the profession, inadequacies within the degree programs, and changing demands on librarians, not to mention changing library missions and operations, and maybe a more fair and compatible educational advancement structure.

      Although, there are lesser degrees and certifications for lesser positions within the profession. Library Technician is a big one for an associate degree, or even bachelor. You just can’t get hired as a “librarian” without a masters degree – from an ALA accredited program. Granted times are hard right now with many libraries not only closing but cutting staff and services. Gee, this sounds like a GREAT time to restructure the library school education system. It does seem like ALA would be in the forefront of that rather than reinforcing the fortress.

  5. Natalia says:

    Well, in Spain librarians are mainly government employees and although there are several universities that offer a LIS degree, most of the jobs are filled by humanities graduates.
    The government could actually control this by demanding that those who sit for competitive examinations to become librarians must be LIS graduates (or at least have studied a MLIS). It would make sense since it is the government who approves the existing degrees and their competences and the LIS degrees competences match those of a librarian.
    BUT there isn’t a proper national professional association so we can’t claim anything and anyway older professionals are against changing things because they are mainly, as I said before, humanities graduates and they feel somehow threatened.
    (Sorry if I made some mistakes. :/ I’m trying to improve my English…)

  6. curious says:

    So to bring up the eternal issue, why is the Masters degree even needed? What is the difference between a newbie MLS grad and a seasoned paraprofessional other than the student debt and the piece of paper?

    • spencer says:

      There is NO reason at all.

    • Andy Woodworth took this question head on in The Master’s Degree Misperception. He wrote “It is a disservice to the education, to the degree, and to the profession when the bulk of a librarian’s daily tasks could be performed by someone with a GED.

      Andy was speaking of public librarians, however the same could be asked of the academic library I worked in for 3 years. There, student workers did most of the material handling and librarians mostly did negative closure, which trained students not to bother them.

    • LibraryGuy says:

      Amen to that. So, maybe the undergraduate degree wouldn’t be so useless if we didn’t keep pretending that we can’t have librarians without graduate degrees.
      If we could move away from the Masters requirements, we could have perfectly good librarians with Bachelor’s degrees.

    • Steve says:

      AMEN!!

  7. Bob says:

    Just a cursory look at the “22″ indicated that Simmons isn’t there… their GSLIS has been around since 1902 (per them) so…

    Perhaps the MLS still has value as lowest common denominator, specialisation within the broad field is what cuts the mustard.

  8. curious says:

    Thanks for the link to that Woodworth article. I just wonder, based on the AL article, why the bachelor’s degree can’t be a standard, with graduate degrees for say, University Librarian, or Services Director, etc. So that tells me it’s primarily about money then. What a surprise.

    • Curious – most occupations, it seems, fall prey to professionalization. This phenomenon keeps a lot of people in business, especially those in academies, institutes and societies who employ numerous techniques and resources to perpetuate themselves. As a long-standing occupation, librarianship is greatly encumbered.

      I see a few things hammering away at the library trappings. Technology is an obvious one, with machines doing much of the work with greater speed and fidelity than human practitioners. Another is sociological. A greater number of men have been drawn to the profession over the past generation and are speaking out about the value and the impact of the work. Andy’s article is noteworthy, as is the sardonic humor in Josh Hanagarne’s How I Went From Managing 16 People to Supervising One Inanimate Cart Full of Damaged Books.

  9. curious says:

    Actually, I get it, the saturation of the market. If the BLIS if you will, was the standard, then competition would be even greater. Thousands of grads for hundreds of jobs, since no one seems to be retiring these days. (I have been hearing that one for 15 years.)

  10. Amalthia says:

    It seems obvious to me that an undergraduate degree in Library Science would fair poorly in this job market. There are librarians with MLIS degrees and years of experience who are unable to find jobs right now.

    Basically, this is a real tough time to find a job in a library if you don’t already have some experience and that is with a Masters.

  11. Nerdy Librarian says:

    I was halfway through my MLIS before I even realized I could have done a BLIS and since it just meant I would have to do a Master’s anyway, I wouldn’t have done it if I’d known. It seems awfully specialized for a Bachelor’s degree that is arts based. When I was doing my undergrad, as much as I knew I’d probably go on to do an MLIS, I knew I needed to keep doors open because the job market wasn’t great for much of anything.

    A more generic BA can be taken in more directions than a BLIS that basically says “next stop, Library School.”

  12. teetop says:

    I’m sorry that all of you rate your ability as graduate students so poorly. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t draw on my postgraduate education in my proffesional work. Could I have received vocational training on the job? Perhaps. But that’s not the standard, and while such an approach may work to some extent, I would be surprised if it would be as effective as graduate coursework.

    • spencer says:

      I don’t think I learned anything but terminology in grad school. The rest was already known or common sense. I also remember I couldn’t think of a handfull of fellow classmates that I would hire if put in a position of authority.

    • DeeDeeLemon says:

      Spencer has it right. Grad school was an utter waste of time and money. That’s not “rating my ability as a grad student” – it’s a comment on the poor instruction (I had a teacher who spent nearly the entire semester recounting his time as President of ALA; an Intro to Reference teacher who only taught print reference sources… in 2007; the list goes on and on) and the ridiculous curriculum (how about “Community Informatics” – a course in how communities need computers). Sure, I learned the library lingo needed; also learned all about the importance of blogging, wikis, and Facebook. I’m sure I couldn’t have figured those things out without my advanced degree. I also learned how to complete a group project when most of the group didn’t do their part or dropped out 1/2-way through the semester, or did a different assignment altogether. And my grad school WAS in the top 20 of programs. And don’t even get me started on my classmates – most of whom I wouldn’t hire on a bet. It would make more sense to require professional librarians to have a Bachelor’s degree and make the Master’s a requirement for Directors and original catalogers.

  13. teetop says:

    Again, sorry that you didn’t try harder.

    • spencer says:

      not a matter of trying harder. It’s a matter of the profession not really being very hard.

    • Steve says:

      I agree Spencer. The fundamentals could easily and well be learned in a bachelors degree program, but nobody who’s in the power seat within the profession wants to admit it, and thereby diminish their own degree. Somebody with courage and vision is going to have to bite the bullet and advocate for a normal educational structure within the profession – bachelor, masters, doctorate. Advancement is linked to education. Every other profession does it, so why not librarians?

  14. Techserving You says:

    Yeah, I was gonna say… you can “major” in library science? “Major” suggests an undergraduate degree. Prospects of MLS-holders are bad enough… why would you get an undergraduate degree in library science? I majored in something with no connection to library science and got a better paraprofessional position (prior to getting my MLIS) at Harvard than someone with some undergraduate degree in library science would likely get. (Quite frankly it was better than most people with the masters degree will find for quite some time.) I also got an excellent undergraduate education, rather than a vocational one.

    I know someone from a foreign (mideast) country who received an undergraduate degree in library science. Of course, she couldn’t get a professional job, so she went ahead and got the MLIS. Similar to someone with significant work experience in libraries prior to entering the masters program, she didn’t feel she learned anything new in the program. She’d already covered it all. Yet, she needed it. That points out two things… 1.) the MLIS is undergraduate-level work, and 2.) an undergraduate degree in library science is useless despite being essentially the same curriculum.

    • SK says:

      As a recent graduate with an MLIS, I understand what you are saying. However, not everyone person with the degree feels that they are better than paraprofessionals. I got a job at a library almost a year ago, and I have always told everyone who works here how much I respect their experience and their knowledge. It is unfortunate that people are pitting degreed vs. non-degreed people against each other, when really we have so much to learn from each other and so much we could do together.

      I agree that library school as a graduate degree is way overpriced and useless and I know the job situation is dire NOW. However, I did the research when I started college, and you have to remember how much things have changed. Granted, I started college almost 8 years ago, but at that time, librarianship was touted as one of the best professions to get into because of the benefits and because of the mass waves of retirement. Well, that all changed, and now pay has been lowered, budgets have been cut, and nobody is retiring. I did my undergraduate in history, so I guess that is useless, I get it. But really, unless you major in accounting, engineering, or computer science you are pretty much screwed.

      Not every library student is sheltered, egotistical, and stupid.

  15. Techserving You says:

    To add… I have had a series of excellent librarian positions after having a series of paraprofessional positions at prestigious universities. I got the MLIS because I needed it to advance, but I am convinced I had the good fortune to always find good jobs because of my pre-MLIS work. I always laughed and shook my head at my fellow MLIS grads who were graduating with no real experience, or nothing beyond a student position in grad school, who felt so superior to non-MLIS workers. Any seasoned paraprofessional knows more about librarianship than any new MLIS grad who doesn’t have much or any actual experience.

    To move to another related topic… the claim that someone doesn’t “deserve” to be in the position they’re in (having gotten an MLIS and not being able to find a job) doesn’t hold much water. DO YOUR HOMEWORK!!! This means LOOKING for job posts, researching the job market, etc., and not just listening to library school propaganda. People make their own decisions and need to take responsibility for those decisions. The girl in question in another comment sounds like an entitled child of a helicopter parent.

  16. Randal Powell says:

    Perhaps the MLIS exists primarily as a form of indoctrination and control. People who possess the MLIS are people willing to follow orders and do stupid things so that they can move on to the next level. The large student debt and fierce job competition — as well as the importance of “professional networking”, “professional participation”, “continuing education”, and “community connections” — creates a system where risk taking and nonconformity are heavily discouraged. People who “step out of line” can be filtered out of the system by gatekeepers at various checkpoints.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGN1MUTmuZ0&feature=related

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xq6lFOhLJ0c

    • So true, Randal – higher education is one mechanism of aculturation and indoctrination. Physicians, for example, are trained to be authoritative and authoritarian and they ‘graduate’ into a healthcare system that reifies these characteristics.

      Particularly in the last 10-20 years, fissures have emerged here with the rise of alternative therapies & health practices (acupuncture and yoga, for example) and additional highly trained health professionals such as nurse practitioners. These developments are the result (I think) of many persistent challenges coming together to form critical mass. People with excluded knowledge about health & wellness have insisted their systems are as good, or better, than western medicine. People who can add value but cannot (or will not) pursue an MD have been clamoring for admission into the system. The past generation has brought greater tranparency about poor outcomes such as the low success rate of back surgery, amputation of incorrect limbs, high infection transmission rates in hospitals, etc. And a consensus has developed that our healthcare system is too costly. Many of us now understand that the doctor doesn’t always know best. This acknowledgement (IMO) is accruing to a better healthcare ecosystem.

      I see numerous parallels wrt libraries, though wonder whether we’ll see the evolution of a better ecosystem. Whereas physicians are aculturated to excel, librarians (as you say) are aculturated to conform and avoid risks. People still went to physicians, clinics and hospitals for healthcare even as challenges to the healthcare ecosystem mounted. This isn’t true for libraries and librarians; most people go elsewhere to meet their information and cultural needs. Healthcare work is robust enough and compensated well enough to support multiple roles & occupations — and so lots of people have wanted “in” to the system. It’s been argued (here and elsewhere) that working in libraries can’t even support the practitioners the current systems produce, with MLS-holders often doing work that requires no specialized training. And finally, libraries have made the claim, but not the case, that they provide essential services. Whereas we don’t see many plans to close hospitals and clinics despite the consensus that they are too costly and often produce bad outcomes, this cannot be said for libraries.

      I argue that to remain viable, the library ecosystem must evolve into one that provides services more people find valuable and creates an array of work/compensation to draw in human resources that continually push it to excel. The system we have today just can’t do this.

  17. it’s always hilarious when someone criticizes our profession as being unnecessary and even obsolete because we have the internet; yet, no one ever says the same thing about accountants or other business math fields because we have calculators.

    • spencer says:

      NO, but… come tax time a lot of people are using turbo tax instead of their local tax accountants. I’m sure in the income tax accountants’ echo chamber we’d hear about that, no?

    • Techserving You says:

      No, the librarian profession is not obsolete or unnecessary, even with the internet. One thing underlying that claim is a lack of understanding of what many librarians do. But, if we’re being honest with ourselves, I think we can admit that even a kid (maybe especially a kid) can use Google to find the kind of ready reference information librarians used to find. It’s the more obscure information… the scholarly stuff not available for free online… for which librarians are needed. But let’s face it – patrons who need that sort of information are in the minority.

      The job of many librarians IS obsolete… the profession and people in it need to evolve, and I also truly believe that even as there are more new MLS grads, the NEED for librarians is shrinking. It’s like anything else… grocery stores need fewer cashiers because of self-checkout machines. Certainly, we need fewer MLS-level librarians.

      A library school classmate of mine (a bright-eyed idealist male with no prior experience working in libraries) made the utterly ridiculous claim, “trying to navigate a library without the help of a librarian is as foolish as trying to represent yourself in a trial rather than hiring a lawyer.” Um…. seriously? Nevermind the fact that the stakes are MUCH higher in a trial, than in, say, a term paper. Do we truly believe that we have the same body of knowledge and rigorous training lawyers do? And I’d say the disconnect between what the average person knows about information seeking, and what a librarian knows, is far less than the disconnect between what the average person knows about law, and what a lawyer knows.

      That comment has some similarities to the comment about accountants and calculators. The calculator is a tool, and people can perform “calculations,” but in many cases, without a skilled accountant, they won’t know WHAT to calculate. Someone may try to claim that the internet is a tool, but without a skilled librarian, most people won’t know what to search, but I really think that’s wrong, as much as librarians insist it’s right. Again, you can’t compare the body of knowledge of librarians to that of a professionally-trained accountant. The complexity of the knowledge of the accountant is much higher than the complexity of the knowledge of most librarians.

    • You’re kidding, right? I can think of plenty of occupations that have been dramatically contracted by technology: bank teller, secretary, switchboard operator, entry-level accountants, cashier, TV repairman …

    • TechServing – I think the phrase “the disconnect between what the average person knows about information seeking, and what a librarian knows” is a real pearl.

      I have a recent college degree and am an experienced tech professional. My current job involves working with leading companies that create knowledge, design search tools into their content and optimize both for discoverability through Google, FB, etc. Though the moniker “info expert” might reasonably be applied to me, I’m in awe of sharp people in their 20s-30s who seemlessly interact with information and the world.

      In my case, the divide has nothing to do with knowing the tools — I help build ‘em for heaven’s sake. It’s about thought patterns & expectations. Growing up in an era when information was organized hierarchically, in silos and behind gates has trained me to think in terms of ontoligical containers. It has also engendered an expectation that I must “go to” or “find” information. Adults 20-30 years youngers don’t seem to share this orientation. Theirs seems to be that information is an intimate part of their existence. They take it in as naturally as the air they breathe or get it as effortlessly as any object that has become commonly available, like water from a tap. Given these expectations and this facility, why would my way (which is a bit constrained and labored) be attractive to them?

      What distinguishes my output from the output of intelligent, savvy younger people is that I’m better at assessing the veracity of information to build knowledge or product. I (generally) am quicker to spot artifice or contaminants such as the influence of money, ideology or institutional culture. They simply haven’t lived long enough to see where the information they compile will take them and hone their authentication skills.

      Librarianship, I believe, is still hanging its hat on organizing and finding information. Perhaps a more durable value-add might lie in helping our society to maintain and assess the veracity of the information it produces.

  18. Kim says:

    @ 9:53 Have you heard of the law school scam blogs? There are a number of these blogs written by law grads who would laugh about what you are saying about law school. Accountants are being replaced by machines and cheap overseas work, as are lawyers. The technology shift is going on in virtually every field.

  19. Elena says:

    The MLIS is just about as useless as the MBA, MFA among others. We are in good company. :P

  20. Lib Lover says:

    I have been both a library paraprofessional, as well as an MLIS graduate librarian. Since I have been on both sides of the fence I can honestly say, based on my own experience, that I did not know what I did not know until I knew it. The MLIS put me on the path to knowing much more. There is a place for both in today’s library. However, the key to success in both positions is continual education and a willingness to work for the cause.

  21. NoahJon Marshall says:

    Most movers and shakers/visionaries/innovators/game-changers/”successful” people in their respective industries got there by going against the conventional grain or having really innovative thoughts that turned into actions, not for the sake of being different or difficult, but because they recognized things could work better and more could be accomplished by challenging the general order and boiler-plate logic. So, really, I see the current library landscape, curmudgeon-filled break rooms and tired conversations as a great thing, as it makes the opportunity to be part of that innovation that much easier because most of the industry is too far down in self-pity to be proactive, enlightened thinkers. It is like if your plane gets delayed; just think-if the plan took off on time, maybe you would have crashed! There’s always a silver lining and always opportunity; it is the perspective that matters. When colleagues and student peers bemoan everything libraries, I smile, stay quiet and check another person off the list of someone who I will be competing with for better employment.