The Chronicle of Higher Education had an article this week that made me think about library schools: Judge Rejects Another Lawsuit Over Law School’s Job-Placement Claims [the full article requires a subscription]. That’s right: another lawsuit.
The plaintiffs argued that their law school’s placement statistics were misleading, and it’s the law school’s fault that they can’t now find a job. The judge was having none of it.
“With red flags waving and cautionary bells ringing, an ordinary prudent person would not have relied on the statistics to decide to spend $100,000 or more,” the judge wrote.
“Sometimes hope and dreams triumph over experience and common sense,” he wrote. “Nevertheless, it would be unreasonable for plaintiffs to rely on two bare-bones statistics in deciding to attend a bottom-tier law school with the lowest admission standards in the country.”
In my imagined recreation, he then licked the tip of his finger and touched it to the plaintiffs’ foreheads while making a hissing noise.
Basically, the suit was rejected because the judge thought the plaintiffs were idiots. Maybe that’s why they couldn’t get into a good law school.
In an article about the other rejected lawsuit against the New York Law School (NYLS), the quotes from the judge indicate he wasn’t impressed by the argument that not getting a job is your school’s fault.
“Plaintiffs could not have reasonably relied on NYLS’s alleged misrepresentations … because they had ample information from additional sources and thus the opportunity to discover the then-existing employment prospects” at each stage of their legal education, he wrote.
“It is also difficult for the court to conceive that somehow lost on these plaintiffs is the fact that a goodly number of these law-school graduates toil (perhaps part time) in drudgery or have less than hugely successful careers,” he added. “NYLS applicants, as reasonable consumers of a legal education, would have to be wearing blinders not to be aware of these well-established facts of life in the world of legal employment.”
I imagine him then placing his hands over his eyes and muttering, “ohh, I’m going to law school….I’m going to be sooo rich and successful!”
Which brings us around to library schools and how they’re even more annoying than law schools. In both of the law school cases, the complaint was that the law schools misrepresented their job placement statistics. Gathering such statistics seems to be a function of the American Bar Association (law librarians feel free to correct me if I got that wrong), and the schools were accused of providing misleading stats to the ABA.
What’s even more annoying about library schools is that they don’t have to produce any job placement statistics. In a random survey of ALA-accredited library schools, I found none that provided job placement statistics. (If you find examples, tell us to set the record straight.)
I found several that had places where they told you were some of their graduates got jobs, but nothing that would count as evidence about job placements. The implication was that some of their students are getting jobs at decent places, so you should apply.
And, as far as I can tell, the ALA doesn’t gather any job placement statistics, which would explain why no one ever uses them as a reason to go to library school. ALA does collect biannual statistics from library schools, but not about job placement.
The current ALA President’s response to that Forbes Article on how the MLS is the worst master’s degree for jobs was weak because it couldn’t really refute the claim.
The profit-centered, corporation-based measures valued by Forbes suggest that pay rates and growth are the only valid reasons for selecting a career or seeking an advanced degree. While it is true that for some individuals these factors are the principal focus, for librarians the primary motivation is job satisfaction derived from the opportunity to make a significant difference in the lives of others.
The “primary motivation” for some people might be job satisfaction, but I doubt it. The primary motivation is getting a job; satisfaction comes second. You can’t be satisfied with a job you don’t have.
Had there been some job placement stats, the ALA would be able to argue that the MLS isn’t the worst master’s degree for jobs, unless the job placement stats support that analysis.
I really don’t know, and neither does anyone else. It’s all anecdotal. Librarians who get jobs they’re happy with say things are great. Librarians who can’t find work feel cheated. The reasons vary. Some suck. Some won’t leave a particular geographic area. But it’s still all anecdotal.
That doesn’t keep the ALA and library schools from talking up library degrees. That makes sense. It’s in the financial interest of both of them to have a lot of library school graduates.
But if they were honest and open, we’d be getting some numbers. So, come on, library schools. Give us some placement statistics. Prove that paying for library school is a good idea, even for those of us crass enough to care about things like getting a job that pays a living wage.