A kind reader sent me this job ad with the following comment: “Two entry-level jobs in what they admit is a very small library out in the middle of rural Redneckville, applicants must take on all duties, work nights & weekends, PHD PREFERRED. What are they smoking???”
Unfortunately, the ad doesn’t use the all caps, which would have made it much funnier. It merely states that the “Minimum qualifications include a Masters of Library Science degree (although a Ph.D. is desirable) from an ALA accredited graduate program.”
I guess a PhD is always “desirable,” except maybe to those people who have spent years earning one so they can work as an assistant librarian at a tiny library.
The wording isn’t completely clear, since it implies that they want someone with a PhD from an ALA-accredited graduate program. If that’s really the case, they don’t get how LIS PhDs work. People go get PhDs in library science so they can escape working in libraries, not go back into them.
Probably, they mean a PhD in any subject, though, in which case they still don’t understand the usefulness of PhDs in libraries.
I understand why some academic libraries would want to hire PhDs. Big research libraries want specialists in various disciplines to build big research collections and provide specialized help to advanced students and faculty. If you have a big collection in Asian studies or Middle Eastern studies, then you pretty much need people who read the relevant languages and understand the fields to buy your books for you. In research libraries, PhDs are specialists.
But the University of South Carolina – Lancaster isn’t a research university. It’s not even really a university. Seriously, take a look at their degree programs. They offer four associates degrees, in such specializations as “arts,” “science,” “business,” and “criminal justice.” Okay, I guess those last two are sort of specialties, but not the sort people tend to get PhDs in.
They also offer some bachelor’s degrees, sort of, by using “two-way interactive video and other technology-assisted delivery to teach students at multiple sites simultaneously.” That is, students sit at USC-L and watch videos of people teaching on other campuses and earn degrees that way. The education of tomorrow…today!
With this advanced technology, they can offer specialized degrees like the “Bachelor of Liberal Studies.” which I’m assuming means you can earn a degree taking classes where you study liberals. I was surprised to see such a curriculum in South Carolina, where they still fly the Confederate Flag in front of the state capitol. Some of the representative course titles are “Why Liberals Hate Decent God Fearing People Like Us” and “How Liberals Kill Puppies with their Socialized Medicine.”
There’s also a “Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership,” whatever that is, and a BS in Nursing.
Basically, it’s your typical lower level community college offering business and nursing classes and a handful of vague associate’s degrees, useful for transfer to a university where they have specialized subjects. For most of the classes, even the faculty don’t need a PhD. Sure, they call themselves a “university,” but they don’t offer any graduate degrees, including in such non-academic fields as business, so their nomenclature is misleading, like all tiny branch campuses of real universities.
So what would a tiny library need with the specialized knowledge a PhD brings to a library? Are they looking for someone with a PhD in nursing or “liberal studies” to build their advanced collections? Hardly.
Due to our library’s small size, the successful applicants will perform duties in multiple library service areas, which may include broad participation in, or management of, circulation, electronic resources, government documents, acquisitions, physical processing, limited technical services, library instruction, collection development, ILL, student personnel supervision, and other duties as assigned.
I’m not sure it’s fair to call someone with a PhD and an MLS who ends up in this job a “successful” applicant, but that’s a post for another time. This person is going to need to be able to catalog, teach library instruction classes, physically process books and such, and pretty much every unpleasant job that comes along. You know why there are libraries where people can do all those things? It’s because none of those things are done at a specialized level.
A small library with few materials supporting primarily lower division introductory classes and they think a “PhD is desirable” for their librarians. Desirable for what? So their librarians can wonder why they spent years earning a PhD plus an MLS so they could end up copy cataloging, teaching BIs to bored students in 100-level classes, and checking out the books they had to physically process themselves in a community college library? This seems like a recipe for professional misery.
Then again, maybe they’re doing it because they think they can, or because they think the market is so tight that people with PhDs and MLSs will be dying to work at this tiny college. Or maybe they have a couple of candidates in mind, faculty spouses who have PhDs.
Or maybe – and here is the depressing part – librarian jobs in academic libraries will eventually start requiring more degrees than it takes to be a professor at the same institution, even when that degree would be utterly wasted and useless.
If so, I pity the future generations of librarians who have need a PhD plus an MLS to do low level library work, especially because I know it’ll really be PhDs who couldn’t get jobs so they got an MLS as well so they could at least make a living. It’s really not worth it. If it was, the salary wouldn’t say “not specified.”