April 23, 2018

Can We Talk About the MLS? | Editorial

A profession based more on apprenticeship might work better

I have worked for more than 25 years as a reporter or an editor, and I have never once considered going to journalism school. Once I got my foot in the newsroom door, I realized quickly that journalism was a white-collar job with a blue-collar rhythm. All you needed was to serve your apprenticeship, learn from the more experienced members of the guild, and then work hard to master the craft. The rest fell into place.

Why is librarianship any different? I did go to library school. I got a master’s degree in library science. I now see it as nice to have, but I question its value. Maybe it is because I was an older student and had already learned much about organized information seeking as a journalist. But I learned almost nothing in library school that I did not already know or that I did not honestly feel I could have learned just as easily on the job or on my own. Coding? Ever hear of lynda.com or w3schools.com?

I learned a lot of theory, but I never learned about things that are arguably far more central and concrete to the trade. S.R. Ranganathan? OK. But how about OverDrive? How about fair use? How about ILSes even?

Most justifications for the MLS amount to generalities about cultivating principles and finding information and organizing materials. And, of course, you need the degree to get a job. The last justification, in particular, is quite unconvincing if the question is what skill set or ethos does the MLS confer that can only be gained through higher education, as opposed to an apprenticeship? Requiring an MLS to get a job is quite different from asking if one really needs an MLS to perform the job and value the profession. And as Wayne Bivens-Tatum has argued, is it even realistic to assume that a single skill set exists that can address all the variety of library jobs?

Browsing through job ads, I am sure, is a dispiriting exercise for many who aspire to work in libraries. Either the pay is ridiculously low, for pages and the like, or the requirements are absurdly high—an advanced degree as well as years of experience even for entry-level positions. And did I mention the pay is absurdly low?

Many face an unpalatable choice: start working in a library to get a foot in the door and gain experience only to confront an expensive and time-consuming certification blocking advancement, or spend the time and the money to obtain the credentials only to find it difficult to get in the door owing to a lack of experience or overqualification.

This is about greater inclusion. There is unlicensed talent up to the job. Some libraries, particularly in rural areas, rely on uncredentialed staff to operate them. It’s terrible that MLS staff are sometimes let go and replaced by uncredentialed employees in larger systems (like New York City’s), pitting staff member against staff member, but it does raise an awkward question about qualifications if service is not severely ­hampered.

Can we have a rational discussion about this? Why is this editorial wrongheaded? Why is the MLS indispensable? What does it confer that could not be accumulated incrementally on the job just as well? Most important, can’t we have a fraternal, respected, and smart profession without overreliance on an expensive and unnecessarily exclusionary credential?

Michael Kelley, Editor-in-Chief

LJ121002mikesig008 No Guns in the Library: Curbing the Second Amendment in the Stacks | Editorial

This article was published in Library Journal. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Michael Kelley About Michael Kelley

Michael Kelley (mkelley@mediasourceinc.com) is the former Editor-in-Chief, Library Journal.

The Latest Trends in Library Design
Hosted in partnership with Salt Lake County Library and The City Library—at SLCo’s Viridian Center—the newest installment of our library building and design event will let you dig deep with architects, librarians, and vendors to explore building, renovating, and retrofitting spaces to better engage your community.


  1. Assuredly Anonymous says:

    I think you have highlighted several interesting points. To begin with, you mention that you were an older MLS student. I have had the opposite experience, I was a very young MLS student just out of undergrad, with a job in an academic library expecting graduate school to be well exciting, challenging, etc. It wasn’t (at least not for the MLS) I learned very little in reality, annoying bits of what the time seemed to betime flimsy ‘information theory’ which was a bit like watered down psychology, philosophy, and a bit of IT thrown in for good measure. I did learn a lot though from working with other professionals, older than I who did have an MLS. In hindsight I’m happy I got the degree but as a learning experience it was wretched, it is truly just a foot in the door, the proverbial piece of paper. However an unexpected bonus of said piece of paper is that this degree tends to be transferable internationally and I think in an increasingly global world the ability to work in your chosen profession wherever you may be should not be dismissed. We do need qualified library staff but do we need a postgraduate degree? Probably not. I would add that some countries (such as the UK) take this qualification a bit further and add a chartership qualification after the postgraduate degree has been obtained as yet a further hurdle. Why? Elitism, exclusivity… etc. (just a guess). Perhaps, the profession could begin to value a combination of education and experience, maybe a bachelor’s and time in the library….although that pesky cataloging sure is tricky….

  2. Hi! Just a few notes.

    1) This is far from a new argument. I always think of the LJ piece by the late Samuel Rothstein, “Why People Really Hate Library Schools” (1 Apr 1985, p41-48). I miss his humor and insight. I used to have my students read his article to encourage a discussion. (I usually try to start most of my classes with a roundup of news from LJ, AL, PW, NYT, EFF… in order to help them plug into what is really happening.)

    2) Yes, many of the salaries are poor, but do you think they would increase or even stay the same if the MLS/MLIS requirement was dropped?

    3) I was in Japan during my sabbatical, where the professional degree is at the undergraduate minor / certificate level. Many positions there have something like 1,000 applicants since it is so much easier to meet the requirements. I should add that these librarians can almost never become a manager or director. This means that most library managers / directors do not have a professional degree. Many Japanese librarians and LIS educators are trying to raise the standard to what we have here. (I am not saying that we have the best system, but this might help you imagine some of the consequences if we remove the MLS requirement).

    4) Many of us educators realize that LIS education is expensive, however, this is the case for all levels of higher education. At our school we try to get scholarships for students and also lowered our degree requirement to 39 credits.

    As an aside, I always wonder which LIS school critics attended. I think we have to recognize that not every school is the same… and the quality of education also depends on how much time and effort a student can put into a degree. Students who do internships, get involved in associations, do well in courses… tend to become the kind of leaders the profession needs. That said all schools have some students who try to rush through a degree as quickly as possible by taking the absolute max. number of credits (perhaps even regardless of course), and don’t get involved in student chapters of professional associations or internships.

    You probably are not surprised that I teach in an LIS Program. Yes, I do teach a bit about Ranganathan, but I also talk about ILS and other applied topics. I don’t think you would want a degree that is all about applied aspects. There are many different systems and it would be absurd for a graduate professional degree (or any other level of university education) to require how to use one or all ILS systems. There is a line between what is professional education and on-the-job training. I think we can respect both needs.

    Basically, the challenge for LIS schools is to find a balance between theoretical and applied, and also allow students to prepare for emerging careers in the field, while also still respecting what is needed today. It is always a challenge for educators to balance the needs and skills of students who enter our programs.

    I think I read that you are an adjunct instructor at Pratt Institute, so I hope that you are writing some of these words in order to start a discussion. I am sure you will find it a lively discussion. Fine tuning professional education is a complex process involving many stakeholders. All schools routinely survey our students, alumni, and their employers. These always provide fascinating results. We usually find current students complain about some hard classes that seem either too demanding or too theoretical. Within something like five years later they often ask me why we didn’t require more of the same content they once complained about. As I said, it is a hard balance. Students, faculty, alumni, employers, and accrediting people need to keep many things in balance. I think most of us are doing our best, and am often pleased by what our students and alumni are able to do.

    Although I started somewhat defensively, I encourage you to keep questioning. Of course, that is the role of the LJ editor and a good 4th estate. I think you will be pleasantly surprised if you look at what LIS schools are doing rather than simply writing them off as irrelevant. Things have changed since you were a student (of course).

    (I should conclude my posting by clarifying that these are only my own late night thoughts rather than representative of my colleagues or the profession at large).

    • Student Loans says:

      Couldn’t you argue, though, that although the salaries might stay the same if the position didn’t require an MLS, they would be more attractive to people who weren’t working for a low salary AND trying to pay back their grad school debt? Tommy’s point below (“every time I see an interesting non-management position, the starting salary is $37K or $43K or something like that. That might be good for an entry level job requiring a four-year degree”) speaks to this, I think.

    • In my opinion, the problem with library salaries is that library schools are cranking out too many graduates. You’ve got some of these schools cranking out 500-600 new graduates each year. Why? Because the library science program can be a cash cow, especially when done online. Some of these online programs teach half their classes with adjuncts (usually other librarians who are as happy to get the line on their CV as they are with the pittance they get for teaching) and they can charge through the nose since in-person students can usually get in-state rates (SJSU charges 5x as much for non-local students as for local students and most of its online students are not local). Judging by LJ’s own research, barely 50% of graduates are able to find a permanent, professional library job within one year of graduation. To me that illustrates less of a problem with libraries and more of a problem with library schools.

    • Student Loans,

      given the seeming glut of people with an MLS on the job market desperate for a job, I don’t think we need to make the profession more attractive. It is already too attractive.

      Also, I think the need for the MLS depends on the type of librarian you want to be. As an Academic Librarian, I need a Masters to be a part of the faculty. Plus, I’m helping students to do research, some at a graduate level, so I need that kind of experience to be able to help them. A public librarian maybe doesn’t need it.

      However, I do value my MLIS. Probably partly because I did go to a good program. However, even in that there were some good classes, that taught me valuable things that I could not have learned as an apprentice. And some of the classes would have been fine as an apprentice in a library. Cataloging would have been one I could have taken from the cataloger at my library. But not every library as that luxury. What if the cataloger quits and you can’t hire one in time to train them. Then having cataloging classes allows one to be prepared to do that job. Although experience would be better.

      I think of the MLS experience as sort of an intense Library conference. Conferences are so valuable to be out sharing information about what we are doing. We don’t want our libraries to be completely isolated and doing the same thing that they have done for generations, so sharing is good. My MLIS was online and most of us were working full time in a library, so it was a great experience. We got theory in class and got to talk about how the theory related to the real world application in our libraries. Very valuable stuff!

      tjw, I think you probably have a good point

    • Having actually studied under Sam Rothstein in the simply excellent MLS program at the University of British Columbia, I have to say that the rigor of a school is probably the best measure of its value to your career. I already had two masters degrees when I went to UBC to do library science, and it was the most challenging experience of my life. The rigor was not merely intellectual but strongly grounded in practice. It formed a solid foundation for everything I’ve done since. My question: Why would you challenge librarians’ already low status (especially in academic institutions) by arguing that a masters degree in library and information science isn’t necessary?

    • As Director of the School of Library and Information Science at San Jose State University (SJSU), I want to correct the false information posted by “tjw” on April 29, 2013 at 3:13 pm. Our fees for non-local students are not 5 times higher and, in fact, are almost identical to the local student fees. In both cases, the cost for a MLIS degree at our School is approximately $20,000 total.

  3. PS I encourage you to attend the 2014 ALISE conference (21-24 January in Philadelphia just before Midwinter). The theme will be “Educational entrepreneurship” so you can see how some schools are experimenting with MOOCs and other developments.


  4. Tommy Johnson says:

    I finished my MLIS in a year doing mostly on-ground coursework at a bit over a full-time load, but if the idea of requiring our professional training take place at the graduate level is to ensure that librarians first obtain a well-rounded education in the humanities, etc., then wouldn’t the first three years of an undergrad degree be enough time to accomplish that? I scan job listings thoroughly and frequently and every time I see an interesting non-management position, the starting salary is $37K or $43K or something like that. That might be good for an entry level job requiring a four-year degree, but if you’ve been working in the field for a few years and have a graduate degree (or two!), that’s not nearly enought to make you want to relocate out of state. I firmly believe all of the library and non-library education that needs to take place to develop a functioning professional librarian can be accomplished in an undergrad program. Doing so would make the entire propostion a much more financially reasonable one for many people. In this paradigm, we could then re-tool the MLS into something more focused on areas of interest such as management, IT, or instruction and likely cause the advanced degree to work more like most advanced degrees in terms of skills and pay rates.

    • an_outsider says:

      I think Tommy has an excellent point.I have worked in libraries for over ten years as a web developer. I work on the ILS, the web site, interlibrary loan program , basically anything with a public interface. Yet, if I want to move up in the library, I need to get an MLS. I can take classes at my University for free, but we don’t offer an MLS, so I am forced to look elsewhere. Unfortunately, looking elsewhere means spending about $30,000. I only now make in the $40’s – so in essence I will most likely never recover the investment in the “piece of paper”.
      However, I do see many interesting certificate programs available online- if I could get in without the masters degree. The certificate programs are more focused and cheaper- perhaps I could even get these partially covered by my library?
      In addition, though our librarians have facult status, they dont teach anything! Why then do we need an MLS to move up within the library?

    • Lisa Jones says:

      This is the best suggestion on this topic that I have heard in quite some time.

  5. Cut Both Ways says:

    I think Andrew hits an important point that MLS accusers often do not mention: education is about what you *get to* and *can* learn in a reasonably controlled and supportive environment.

    My own two-year MLS experience was half required courses that felt rudimentary for anyone who willingly enters librarianship. The other half was meaningful, fulfilling, self-directed, and encouraged by the faculty. Without any initiative, I would have just skated through the MLS and regarded it as a piece of paper as Michael does. I am grateful to have recognized it as an opportunity while I was still in the moment to take advantage.

    • An LIS with No Name says:

      When I was in library school, I thought there were required courses that would bore me, but there were also awesome elective courses that would challenge me and prepare me to work. Almost every semester in library school I signed up for a class that excited me on paper — something that fit my interests and not just the requirements. Almost every semester that class turned out to be rudimentary and uninteresting. This could very well have been the caliber of my library school (which shall remain nameless until proven otherwise) or my inability to make quality academic decisions.

      The only meaningful, self-directed experiences I had in library school did not take place in the bounds of library school itself. It was all work, internships, and the coursework toward my other master’s degree. I worked hard during my time getting my MLS and have a job now to show for it. However, the only direct contribution from library school to this was that it helped me to network and gain library employment during this period. Saying that I was in library school was worth more than the classes themselves in most cases. Just as, for me, being able to say I have an MLS is worth more than the actual instruction that led to that piece of paper.

      I do agree that it can cut both ways and that life in library school is what you make of it. However, I do not believe that is the crux of the issue. Perhaps it was my particular school, but I do not believe library school itself afforded the learning opportunities nor guidance that I felt my other master’s degree offered. Most of the positive things I got out of my library school experience could have been accomplished just as easily through working in libraries, interning, and a more apprentice-like system of training.

  6. NotMyRealName says:

    Your assumption is that only people who have experience working libraries get MLS degrees. This is not the case, just as people who get MBAs don’t necessarily have business experience and people who get law degrees don’t tend to have experience working in a law office. The MLS is an advanced, professional degree, essentially a management degree, and would not be appropriate as an undergraduate major. True, a lot can be learned on the job, but isn’t that true of every field? In the state I live in, people can still study law on their own and become a licensed attorney if they pass the bar exam, without attending law school. But that doesn’t call into question the value of a law degree to those who get one or to those who need the services of an attorney. The point of graduate study is to learn specialized, focused skills and content. I find it hard to believe that you were so experienced in your field that graduate school offered you no opportunities to add depth to your knowledge base, explore new areas of knowledge or theory, or develop additional skills.

    Finally I disagree with you about inclusion. While undergraduate degrees are general, advanced degrees by their nature exclude due to specialization. Obtaining an advanced degree means an individual has been schooled in a particular field’s standards, theories, best practices, codes of ethics and conduct, and a depth of content knowledge that gives them specialized expertise. Such expertise provides unique opportunities and those who want those opportunities need to obtain that expertise.

    • Julie Elmore says:

      I respectfully must disagree with you about undergraduate degrees being general and advanced degrees are specialized. As someone with both an undergraduate and later this month a masters degree, both in Library Sciences I can attest that at least HALF of the classes I took for my masters were simply regurgitation of stuff I learned in my Bachelors. And I can honestly say, I had way more discussion and debate on ethics and conduct in my undergraduate courses as well. And after getting my job as a Director with only a Bachelor’s I many times find myself in my grad classes going “when do they think we will EVER use this!” and screaming at my computer “teach me something new!!!”

      So, I think that if the ALA would accredit undergrad programs we would find that many of the Bachelor’s programs are most certainly adequate for people who are drawing under 50k a year.

    • T. Ross says:

      I came to the degree without ever having worked in a library beforehand. I respectfully take issue with your characterization of the MLS as “essentially a management degree.” That might have been your experience, but the MLS I got from a program that is generally considered the best in 4-state area, was far from that. I would characterize it as a step up from high school — and certainly less demanding than my undergraduate degree.

      All my closest friends have Masters in a wide variety of fields (MBAs, JDs, MATs, MPAs, MPPs, etc.) and having observed their experience, I’ve always been very comfortable saying that the MLS is the easiest grad degree you can get.

  7. Christine says:

    I really cannot see why the MLS is a requirement. I question why I needed it every month as I pay my $540 student loan bill. There is nothing happening at the Master’s level that could not be accomplished through an undergraduate program. Increasingly, as a young librarian who entered the workforce in the past five years, I find it frustrating that so many positions in librarianship are not only low paying and require years of experience and the M.L.S, but many are also only part time. The other path I see being taken, particularly in public libraries, is that some libraries are not seeking candidates with an M.L.S, or any library experience at all, to staff those part time positions – and the part time position continues to increase in popularity in libraries where budgets have been greatly eroded and those making hiring decisions save a lot of money by not paying healthcare.

    • Student Loans says:


    • Thirded. For the bachelor-degree level associate-level jobs (part-time and full-time both), no library experience is needed. “Customer-service” experience is nice. Which would be all well & good if we did an adequate job of training. We don’t. And I work 50 miles from the only library school in the state, which shows no signs of reining in its advertising or its enrollment for the MLS program.

    • Absolutely–and not only is the pay low to begin with, there are no bonuses, no raises, and no way to ask for raises.

    • Again, for a public librarian, agreed. Not so for Academic.

    • T. Ross says:

      Sixthed — at least when it comes to public libraries. I am a manager/administrator in a large urban public library, and I’m seeing the MLS more as a hoop to jump through than anything that’s really preparing people to work in our place. Actually, let me walk that back a bit — our children’s librarians definitely have a whole set of knowledge and skills relating to early literacy and working with kids that the MLS seems vital for. But in general we need people with strong customer service, technology, and communication skills — we can train them on what public libraries are all about. In far too many cases, we have non-MLS associates who serve the public and perform far better than our MLS librarians.

      I do think when it comes to academic, legal, health, government, archives, museums, and other more specialized types of librarianship, certain tracks within MLS programs make the degree far more meaningful.

    • This month I’m getting my MLIS (with a BA in Anthropology) and while the program was focused on practical issues of librarianship and was an overall positive experience, I fought the whole time with just why a graduate degrees was necessary, for the reasons given above, etc. But I’ll go further and say it something that could be taught to 9-12 year olds. Consider the information management responsibilities the average 9 year old with an iPad has these days – managing media libraries, collection development and budgeting, weeding, archiving and storage strategies, fair use, intellectual freedom, privacy – even the wonders of metadata.

      Oh, and for what it’s worth, I’ve worked in a university financial aid office and for a student loan servicer for the past 6 years and have found that student loans are a huge problem regardless of your course of study.

  8. Charley Seavey says:

    Generally I think Andrew has pretty much summarized my thinking on the topic. In a nutshell, somebody I know said “LIS schools are in charge of education, libraries are in charge of training.” There is a vast difference between the two, and it is absolutely necessary that the distinction be understood. Teaching the software du jour is not critical, except as an example of what that kind of software can do. Who now, for instance, remembers Lotus123, or Archie? If you get the principles and theory right, the practice will follow along. There are probably a couple of hundred ILS systems about, but if you have at least passing familiarity with the MARC record, you can figure out any of them. Apprenticeship will produce people familiar with one library, one system, one set of users. They would be completely at sea in another context.


    • Excellent points well-made, Dr. Seavey.

    • an_outsider says:

      Not true, respectfully. Once you learn one ILS, you can pretty easily figure out what another would do, it will just take a little time to learn the commands.
      Also, are libraries really run that differently from one another? If so, having “experience” in a library would not be much of an asset to an employee, wherein in reality, this is not the case.

  9. I enjoyed getting my MA in Librarianship 30 years ago at a school that no longer exists. I was intellectually challenged. My professors and the other students were, as I find most librarians, smart, interesting and fun to hang out with.
    I don’t beleive that getting the degree was or is the best way to learn the job. I currently work in public service. I manage collections development, special collections, circulation, and the job I actually applied for, reference at a medium sized hybrid public and research library. The skills I learned reading management books are far more useful on a day to day basis than the skills I learned in a cataloging class. But I cannot deny that understanding why cataloging systems work or don’t work is also very important.
    Not everyone who works on a public service desk or doing copy cataloging needs the degree. They do need the willingness to learn enough of the jargon to get by, enough of the theory behind procedures to get the job done.
    The pay, with rare exceptions is lousy, especially in a rural state such as mine. If we are unable to pay a gradaute school starting salary we must be realistic and not expect an advanced degree. In the best cases librarains with experience and skills will continue to mentor most librarians and those of us with exceptional interst or ambition will spend the time and money to obtain the credentials needed for leadership.

    • My MLS is more than 30 years old. I entered Library School with some experience at public, academic, medical, legal, school, newspaper and petroleum engineering libraries. I do not remember learning a great deal that I did not already know about working in libraries from the library courses I took. The advanced degree, however, helped me to earn much more than I earned without it. My experience coupled with the degree made it easy to find work anywhere in the country. The salaries have never been outstanding, but they allowed me to live comfortably while doing work that I love. I have no regrets about obtaining the MLS.
      I currently work with a recent Library School graduate. She has been unable to find a professional position in the year since her graduation. When she began Library School, the economy was better and her future looked bright. Now, with college loan debt and no real hope of promotion or finding a professional position in the coming months, I am sure she regrets the decision to spend two years working on the advanced degree.
      With budget cuts, most libraries in our area are not replacing librarians who resign or retire. The public school system and special libraries are laying off librarians. It is a rather grim situation for new librarians.
      I know I would not choose librarianship as a career if I were just beginning my career today.

  10. Karin Wikoff says:

    I worked as a library assistant at a very small women’s college for 17 years. I did all the cataloging, including original, I managed the electronic resources, I did some bibliographic instruction and reference work, and helped out in the archives. As a student assistant before that, I had worked at circulation and in serials. With so many years experience, I didn’t think library school would have much to offer when I finally had the chance to get my MLS. I thought — I’ll jump their hoops and get my piece of paper.

    But I was wrong. I learned A LOT in library school. Maybe it was because I went to Syracuse, which is consistently ranked in the top 3 information schools in the country, and it was a really good program. I don’t have a basis for comparison.

    I would agree that there may have been more theoretical and philosophical learning going on than practical, and I believe we all need a balance of both, but you have to have the practical first, before you can understand the nuances of the theoretical.

    I had the chance to teach a couple courses at Syracuse, my alma mater, a few years ago. My focus was on the practical — managing e-resources in an academic library. The stuff people really need to know is the right now stuff — like which vendors are miserable to work with, or how to tweak this system to get it to do what you really want it to do. I put lots of that in my course, and the homework was designed to give as much real-world experience as possible to students, so that if they did everything in my class, they could handle a job as an e-resources librarian right out the gate.

    But I found that while the students were mastering the practical in their exercises, we were covering the theoretical in our class discussions. And what a wonderful wealth of learning went on — in both directions! — because the vast majority of students in library grad school are older folks who have been out working in the field for some years and are just coming back to get the degree.

    So, I took my lectures as a starting point, and published a textbook with Libraries Unlimited. They made me take out all the juicy, useful stuff I’d put in for my students — for fear of getting sued by those difficult vendors! ;-) (Shameless plug)

    Overall, though, my library school education has been very valuable. I keep the folders of my notes and papers handy and often consulted them in my early years out of school. My experience on the other side of the desk, teaching, gave me new appreciation for the value of that degree as well.

    Maybe it just depends where you go to school and what teachers you get.

  11. This is extremely frustrating.

    There is a specific reason why the MLIS is valuable and why it should be required for membership in the profession, and that is that the MLIS is the basis for the degree of professional status that librarianship can claim, as rickety as that claim may be. To the extent that MLIS-bearing librarians have any autonomy in their jobs, to the extent that they participate in the creation of professional standards that shape the way libraries are run, they have graduate education in librarianship to thank as the structure that they stand on.

    Meanwhile, as librarians retire and are not replaced due to tight budgets, librarians responsibilities are gradually shifted to library paraprofessionals, whose cross-training now includes skills formerly in the province of librarians. They are paid less and have less independence in the way that they work. They are given procedures and directions and not expected to make many decisions in the course of doing their work. If you think about it, that is the nature of librarianship with its professional status subtracted. Is that what you want your job to be like?

    • Tommy Johnson says:

      There are all kinds of kinds of professionals who terminate at the four-year level – accounting, engineering, teaching, nursing, etc. And notice something about these fields – they are legally required to be licensed to some extent to another, so I think your claim that the fact that the MLS is a graduate degree is responsible for the professional status of librarians is easily shown to be erroneous.

    • I fully agree with Tommy. I’ve long said professional status should be gained by how you comport yourself and the work you do, not degree letters behind your name. I know many librarians in small rural libraries who work without a degree and run professional circles around some mastered librarians. I chose earn my MLS degree to enhance what I was already doing and I’m glad for some of the knowledge base that came from that theory-based instruction but I feel that the experience and training on the job is by far more useful to my work overall. As an administrator, having business knowledge and a well-rounded undergrad is far more useful. Am I glad I got my MLS, you bet, but I think there are many arguments for undergrad or associate work over the MLS/MLIS

    • MLS_Librarian says:

      I disagree with Tommy. While it is true that engineers, teachers and nurses can be licensed after a four-year degree, most of them cannot easily get good jobs or advance in their jobs unless they pursue post-graduate degrees. I base my statement on my knowledge of the experiences of acquaintances in these four fields. These people live all across the US and have graduated from different institutions.

      The market for engineers with only a BS is abysmal. Teachers who want to advance in salary must acquire a masters degree. Newly minted RNs often end up taking nursing assistant positions in hospitals, just to get their foot in the door. Even accountants should consider a CPA or a CMA if they want to advance to management levels.

      I work with talented library staff who have bachelors in a variety of subjects. However, none of them are librarians or in management-level positions. They don’t have big picture skills, despite decades of working in libraries. They are task-based in their thinking.

      Library School gives you the theoretical foundation you need to grow with the profession and as a professional. Yes, a lot of “stuff” may not seem pertinent at the time. But when you start working in the “real world” and start applying the theory, it all makes sense and gives you more of a gloabal view. A professional view. Not a staff view.

    • T. Ross says:

      Frankly, as someone who is a manager/administrator in a large urban public library, my experience is that a lot of our non-MLS associates are far more professional, far better at serving the public, and far better performers, than many of our MLS-credentialed librarians. Many of those people are essentially forced to get the degree and rack up debt in order to then apply for jobs where they are doing largely the same work. Seems like a racket.

      Personally, I never worked in libraries prior to getting my MLS 6 years ago, and I’d be very hard pressed to point to anything from library school that I draw upon in any way in my work. In fact I’d say I’ve advanced as a library professional largely due to experience and training I got in other fields.

      I do think when it comes to academic, legal, health, government, archives, museums, and other more specialized types of librarianship, certain tracks within MLS programs make the degree far more meaningful and justifiable.

  12. Michael, how am I supposed to fix the MLS you already have? All I can do is fix, as best I can, the ones my students are currently earning.

  13. I finished my MLIS/MA program at Simmons College in 2011. I found the (Boston) market too saturated with Simmons grads and had significant difficulty finding any jobs above the unpaid or severely underpaid level. Luckily, I moved to NYC about 3 months after graduation and quickly found a job in a related field. Overall, I would say that the notes touched upon in the op-ed mirror my thinking exactly. This is especially true now that I’ve been working outside the traditional LIS field. While I would say that I will definitely be able to ROI on my studies at Simmons, I would not say that the education itself was particularly useful. Much of the classes seemed to function based upon vague ideas, convenient mixing and matching, as well as poorly implemented attempts at integrating past and future think. Is an MLIS necessary? Maybe, but based on my education, I don’t think so.

    • I completely agree. I don’t think Simmons has a very good program at all, and they let in FAR too many students and it is a very expensive program. Luckily I live in NH and commuted to school, while completing my internships and working part-time library jobs in NH. I graduated in 2009, and applied for at least 20 jobs (some of which I was not qualified for, but that was what was available). I received one call and one interview, and luckily I was hired and have been working at that library ever since. I consider myself extremely lucky.

      As someone who also has a large amount of undergraduate student loans (and I know that many of my fellow MLS students did/do as well), and who learned more on my many library and even non-library jobs than I did in my (admittedly not very good) MLS program, I also often question the value of the MLS. It’s great that there are good programs out there, but it’s very difficult to tell which ones are good, and more difficult to relocate for them when you already have student loans. I think certificate programs that are shorter, more affordable and focused on specific areas, in combination with apprenticeships, might be the way to go.

    • I’m not even sure if it’s the fault of having a program like an MLIS or that the faculty don’t seem to know HOW to adapt to the 21st century. After a year or so of being in the working world, I wrote a blog post criticizing the lack of a digitally oriented curriculum as well as digitally oriented faculty. The response was largely hostile from the faculty and largely supportive from the student body. At the end of the day it seems like so many of the LIS programs adequately understand that not all alumni will work in libraries or archives or that libraries and archives have moved (or should be moving) past using print-cetric cataloging system, organizational schemes,etc.

      AND they’re too expensive.

    • I did not go to Simmons but I find your comments interesting. From the LJ salary survey, Simmons appears to be one of the more successful MLIS programs with over 100 graduates, at least in terms of graduates finding jobs.

  14. I have considered this issue and have a few ideas. I agree that there is decreasing value in an all-encompassing MILS, and it truly is a foot in the door, piece of paper. However, I do believe there are some issues that go beyond a bachelor’s degree, and it does serve a useful purpose in declaring to an institution that the applicant is serious about the field.

    I know that I personally have been disappointed in my MILS due to the vast differences in students and the jobs they seek. Someone seeking to work in a private research library has little in common with someone wanting to work in a public children’s library, both philosophically and practically. I was often frustrated at how little my classmates seemed to care about information theory, IT, and management, and how they only seemed to care for “on the job” library skills training.

    I propose converting the “foot in the door piece of paper” into a smaller graduate certificate, perhaps 14-20 hours. This would strictly be for very basic librarianship skills and knowledge, and would qualify certificate holders to work in many library settings. They could even be setting-specific such as childrens librarianship, public librarianship, etc. The MILS would then be reserved for those seeking to work in research-based settings, administration, tenure-track settings, academia, and other more specific settings where additional knowledge is required.

    • Joey, as a reference librarian 20+ years in, those are exactly my thoughts. Post-baccalaureate certificate-track for foot-in-the-door basic-theory loads-of-applied-knowledge student. Full-metal information theory MLS for research, academic library & information science types. And as a librarian who has seen too much incredibly mediocre management, a post-bac or post-MLS certificate track for that too. Trust me, managers, if you think you don’t need it, you probably do.

    • an_outsider says:

      Not all academic libraries are created equal! I agree with your point above, but I think the MLS should only be required for “teaching” faculty. Librarians who dont teach should not be required to have an MLS.

  15. Michael, I remember you from my lit class and I *hope* you learned something about teen and tween lit that you didn’t know before :)

  16. Not an NYPL Librarian says:

    Can LJ please stop treating New York City’s libraries as though they are all one system? Your offices are in NYC, you should know better.

  17. As a library worker (both academic and public) for five years and current MLS graduate student, I couldn’t agree more.

  18. Mason VL says:

    THANK YOU. Finally, some reason. I wouldn’t mind the low pay if I didn’t also have thousands of dollars in student loan debt. The field is too varied for one comprehensive degree anyways, as you said.

  19. Jennifer Lau-Bond says:

    I think it’s very important to question things like why we require MLS’s–we should never resort to “because we’ve always done it this way” as a reason.

    It’s something I thought a lot about too, especially in the first few years after I graduated. I entered the field at a time when the tech advances were REALLY ramping up quickly. I admit when I first graduated I felt like my program failed me a bit. I didn’t feel like I had strong enough practical skills, which is of course what a lot of employers are interested in. Now 8 years out though, I can absolutely see the value of my degree. I learned a lot about the ethics of the profession, which I think is one of the defining characteristics of librarianship. I learned about the history of libraries and librarianship, and I’m a firm believer in learning from the past so you can do better in the future. I learned about how to *think* about library issues–how to consider the stakeholders (and who they might even be), how to communicate with them all, how to assess solutions, etc. Those are the kind of things you often learn best from school, not on the job training. Admittedly those things didn’t help me get my first job, which is why it seemed so futile at the time. My internships and the skills I developed through those helped get that first job, but I firmly believe some of the skills I learned in school helped me get later positions, including moving into management duties.

    Could someone develop library skills without an MLS? Of course–our knowledge isn’t sacred, and I think it’s a mistake to think that it is. Isn’t that true of pretty much any profession though? Given enough years and practice time, you could learn the mechanics of nearly any job, and a really dedicated and perceptive person could even come to understand the “bigger picture” of that profession. Is that optimal in most cases, however? It is useful for lots of professions to have a measure of preparedness such as a degree because it helps ground everyone in some fundamentals. (Whether all the students with that degree are getting the same quality preparation is another question, of course, and not unique to librarianship. The fact that there might be poor quality MLS programs doesn’t mean an MLS itself is worthless.)

    I think there’s a tension within library education in part because it’s a mix between practical and academic. Library education can’t be ALL theoretical, but neither can it be ALL practical. Focusing on one to the exclusion of the other leads to graduates that are either unable to put their theoretical learning into practice OR unable to connect what they do to what the rest of the profession does. Thinking of library school like a trade school, though, would be a bit short sighted. While academics do sometimes wrongly discount students’ practical concerns (we all have to live in the real world, not an ivory tower!), looking at an MLS as a job guarantee that you got in exchange for your tuition dollars misunderstands the goals and potential of LIS education.

    In my mind, the better question to ask isn’t whether the MLS is valuable but whether we can make room for another path. At this point, it’s really not possible in most libraries to get a real librarian position without an MLS. If someone does have the skills and has worked their way up to them without getting an MLS, should they be excluded from the profession? I know in most professions, markers such as degrees are a prerequisite, but couldn’t libraries be open to other possibilities? I genuinely don’t know the answer to that.

    • Your last paragraph sums it up for me. The MLIS isn’t going away any time soon, but we can make room for another path.

  20. Kenton Temple says:

    Dear Mr. Kelley,

    Respectfully, I do think your editorial in LJ 5/1/13 is wrongheaded and that incrementally accumulated work experience should not take the place of the MLS from a good graduate school.

    To my way of thinking, a good professional degree provides a broad view of the field, its history and its literature, For librarians that would include exposure to public, special, school and academic libraries of all sizes. In today’s world that would include exposure to all, most of, or as much as possible new technology, social media, computer types, metadata terms, and anything else digital that would impact the future of the profession of information science.

    Then when the master’s educated person goes to work in one narrow library he or she is aware of the wider world and how to access it. Graduate medical schools work this way. Law schools work this way. The medical professional degree provides exposure to pediatrics and geriatrics and all in between. The legal professional degree provides exposure to torts, criminal law, corporate law, and other specialized branches of law.

    After graduate school the librarian or doctor or lawyer picks or falls into one branch and becomes good at it or knows the variety out there and tries them out, either by choice or by necessity.

    Without the professional MLS degree one would only learn what is available in one library setting, rather like following a doctor around just delivering babies or watching a lawyer just try court cases. Much about medicine or law – and information science – is missed this way.

    None of us professionals can do a good job for our employers, or our employees, or our patients, or our public or our criminals without a complete education, not narrow work experience however well done.

    How can we provide information in a knowledgeable manner when we do not have sufficient information about all the facets of our own profession? That level of knowledge is gained from a good graduate education not by becoming a good, or even excellent library worker in one library or one type of library or even multi libraries in one geographic area.

    Certainly we can have smart library workers. However, without the MLS I do not think we can have librarians or information scientists who are respected as professionals and who are part of the fraternity of professionals.

    Thank you for your attention.

    Kenton Temple. B.A., M.S.L.S., M.A.
    Anna Porter Public Library since 1998

  21. Jay Stephens says:

    I have maintained for many years that a graduate degree is not needed, and should not be required, for an entry-level librarian position. One can become a registered nurse in two years with an associate degree. One can become a certified teacher in four years with an undergraduate degree. One can even become a trained and certified law enforcement officer with several weeks of training at a police academy. But I need 1-2 years of an expensive graduate school education to be able to stand behind a desk and tell someone “Your DVD is due back on May 1.” No way.

    Bring back the old B.L.S., Bachelor of Library Science, or offer library science as a major/concentration for a B.A. in education. The M.L.S. should only be required for those moving into upper-level management and administration positions, and even then I think an M.B.A. or an M.P.A. would probably serve the person better than an M.L.S.

    • Ray Harrison says:

      Yes, perhaps we need a paraprofessional degree that is universal and standardized. It would help employers identify qualified applicants, and employees could prove their dedication to the field– and, have a lower student debt burden.

    • G Ragovin says:

      Just because you can become a police officer with just a few weeks’ training doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea. Generally, I think it could be argued that law enforcement and the judicial system in the US aren’t as good at delivering justice as most libraries are at delivering information.

    • I agree in part, and I think this applies to advanced degrees in general. It’s ridiculous to require a Master for an entry-level position — that person would not have the scope to deliver his full value to the organization or to make the most of his skills and insight. A Master ought to be capable of devising and directing operations at the highest levels, and should be used there. There are darned few slots which truly require such. Whether one needs a Master’s degree or not depends on what type of work one intends to do in the organization.

      I’m not so sure about the MBA thing. The MBAs are valuable people, but they should be concentrated in parts of the organization that are essential to any organization rather than a particular *type* of organization. The MBAs should report to a Master of whatever field is the core competency of the organization. That person should have his head firmly in the business of the organization, not the organization of the business. If leaders are not primarily concerned with the deliverables of the organization then that organization will be…unsatisfactory. Leaders are supported by administrators, who keep the organization alive while the leaders make it effective. It’s a mistake to confuse staff and line skill sets.

      I reject the notion that things like professional ethics and sympathy with the mission of the field are topics which can be relegated to advanced degree programs. These should be taught starting with the earliest opportunities and woven into the whole curriculum. They are foundational topics, and all good practice flows from them and is nourished by them.

    • Cap Nemo says:

      You sir, have nailed it. How can you establish credentialism when you hire high school diploma’s for entry level work and the say you need a Master’s to get a job in a library. You can get be a Director of a small community library under a population of 10,000 with no degree start your education there, get state certification as you go to school to get certified for the Directors job and at least get some sort of a paycheck instead of taking out school loans twice the size of your salary. The Cat is out of the bag and just saying “well we had to do it so do you” doesn’t count anymore because it cost 4 times as much now to find out the same mistake some of you are saying. The ALA doesn’t even require Master’s degrees for all the positions in their Chicago Headquarters, yet they can play the money game and drag students deeper into debt without being forthright and principle minded in practicing credentialism not just trying to preach it.

  22. Mark Langenfeld says:

    Some of what you say bites a little close to home, as I am a recent MLS graduate looking for work. But overall, I still support the MLS. The MLS gives us librarians a credentialing system that is recognized as a standard throughout the world and the respect of being degreed professionals. With wages as low as they are and paraprofessionals being used in many positions, the goal of library schools should not be to compromise the MLIS and give librarians less respect, autonomy and control in their jobs than they already have by churning them out without qualifications, or with a lower standard. If anything we should raise the standard!

    Library school is largely what you make of it. Sure, I regret not taking more technical-skills related classes. I also regret not joining more professional organizations or going to conferences as a student. But as you noted, technical skills can be learned elsewhere- and there’s plenty of time for conferences and organizations. What’s more important- and what my library school classmates consistently undervalued- was a sense of the profession’s history and the history of literacy and literary culture. Without that broad sweep of where the profession’s been, we have no real sense of where it is now or where we want it to go, or what it should look like. In an era that increasingly slashes budgets and support for public institutions, do we really want to be ignorant of our own cultural legacy’s importance to the world? It troubles me that you would also undervalue this part of your library school experience- a man who presented to us in library school had a collection of amazing, priceless library history artifacts- yet they were kept in his basement because no one wanted them. That’s a symptom of a larger shift in the profession away from history that I can’t agree with.

  23. Jennifer Lau-Bond expressed very well something that has been stated a few times in the comments: when you’ve just gotten the degree and are struggling to either get your first job or learn your first job, the degree can seem pointless and an infuriating drain on your finances (especially if you have student loans, which most people will). 5+ years later, if you’ve had even a little success in your work (and in paying down your loans), you begin to value the professional grounding the degree gave you, and the weight it carries with stakeholders and decision-makers.

    I know: “It gets better” doesn’t help when you’re unemployed or underemployed in the hideous job market we’re facing across the country. And it’s true that both Library Schools and students themselves should be as realistic as they possibly can about the job market and the paths that this degree can (and cannot) open. And it’s also true that full-time entry-level jobs labelled “Librarian” remain excruciatingly rare–with more and more highly-qualified people applying for them, since so many experienced librarians have been laid off or seen their positions reduced to part-time in recent years. And it’s true that you can’t realistically be getting a MLIS for the money, since librarians don’t get paid highly until they reach management (which you need the degree to do). It’s also a point well taken that if the degree is just a hoop or a piece of paper for you, you’re less likely to derive lasting value from it.

    These are all things you could have seen before you enrolled in your degree by looking for and scanning the job boards, without anybody pointing them out. It’s the reality of the field for all of us.

    The good news is, as Buffy would say, when everything else is stripped away, you still have *you*. I recently read some good advice, attributed to Steve Martin: “be undeniably good.” This is good advice whether you have a job or not. Build up skills, build up connections, keep up with issues in the discipline, have a presence and a voice online in various fora (including this one). The human connections you can make while you’re a student may be the most valuable things you take from it in your first years post-graduation. Create projects for yourself that demonstrate your skills and talents (like helping a local service agency catalog their materials collection, or designing a kick-ass website for a student organization). While you’re still a student, get as much practical experience as you can with people who can support you and connect you with others. As you move past your degree, always be thinking about why librarianship is important, why libraries are important, and what you can bring to the endeavor. And also how your skills, insights and abilities apply in fields outside traditional librarianship, since more jobs are happening in that direction these days.

    To get a job, you have to be the person they want. If all you can do with your degree is tear out your hair over the (very real) reasons why it doesn’t seem to be helping you right now, it will be harder to be that person. I spent a year “between positions” in 2010-2011, so I know a little bit about this sometimes overwhelming dynamic.

    So, is an MLIS worthwhile? I think so, yes, and not just because I got my degree (2005) and my first job (2006) before the economy went bye-bye. One of the reasons it’s a secondary degree is that so many of us come to the realization that librarianship is the path for us *after* we’ve done other things. It’s also a degree that combines well with other credentials/experience for a meaningful career, like art librarianship, law librarianship, medical librarianship, and youth services.

    I get all the arguments against the MLIS, I really do. And it has to be agony for all the newly-minted MLIS-holders in the last few years, and it’s true that there are far more of those people than there are full-time jobs that include “librarian” in the title. But I’m still glad the MLIS exists as a second or third degree, and I’m so grateful to be a part of discussions like this.

    • Jay Stephens says:

      I see things the other way. New M.L.S. grads, for the most part, seem full of vigor, overflowing with all of that wonderful theory they learned in grad school and ready to change the world. Work in a public library for 10-plus years, where people steal toilet paper, argue over a .10 fine, and you are chronically short-staffed, then let’s see how you feel. Better yet, work in an administrative position where you have to deal with budgets, personnel issues, etc., and you can quickly lose all of that youthful energy you once had for the profession.

  24. Athina M says:

    I’m really glad to see this debated, even though I work in Australia, where an MLS is not required for librarian positions. Applicants must have either an undergraduate or postgraduate qualification in info management (recognized by the ALIA) to be eligible for professional positions.

    I was 26 when I realized that public libraries were what I wanted to devote my working life to. I had a B.A in Social Science, so I only needed a 1 year (2 years part time) postgrad diploma to be able to apply for librarian jobs. I worked full time as a library officer while studying via distance education for the diploma.

    I can say that I have questioned the value of that qualification ever since.

    From what other commenters have said, it’s clear that not all postgrad library qualifications are created equal. Based on my own experience however, the diploma imparted nothing at all about ‘how to be a librarian’. It was largely management/budget focused, and not reference/readers advisory/technology/collection development focused. I learned much more through my work, and through my fantastic mentor (who also happened to me my manager at the time).

    I also believe that (at least as far as the public libraries I’ve worked in are concerned) librarians with page/paraprofessional experience make better librarians. They understand circulation workflow and LMS processes, place higher importance on on all aspects of customer service (NOT just reference interviews) and form a deeper understanding of the organisation and their place within it.

    I have worked in public libraries for over 6 years now (2 as a page, 1 as a librarian, almost 3 as a Branch Manager). In that time, I have not found myself thinking “Jeez, good thing I studied for this”. Not even once. I believe my B.A gave me good underpinning principles for librarianship – other important skills were gained on-the-job. Contrary to my American colleagues though, I was able to find work almost immediately after graduation, and my student debt is manageable.

    At my library service we are in the very early stages of discussing the benefits of hiring staff in librarian positions who may not possess a formal librarian qualification. For example, someone with teaching/early childhood development qualifications as a Children’s Librarian. It’s still considered taboo to consider this, so I don’t expect that we will make the decision quickly, but it’s an option I think we should seriously consider. For years, almost every Australian librarian I spoke to acknowledged that the qualification was “just something you have to do to get a job”.

    So yes – bring on an undergrad course with an apprenticeship attached. It would do the profession (new librarians) a world of good.

  25. I work as a KM analyst with people who are not librarians. I didn’t realize how much I had learned in library school until I started working. Things that seemed intuitive to me are new concepts to my co-workers. When I took project management training, I realized that we had already covered this in library school. Metadata, taxonomies, knowledge sharing, interfaces, customer service, searching, etc. are all skills that I use daily and teach to other people, making me an unofficial information literacy specialist.

    I’m sorry that your program did not serve you well. Perhaps McGill is a superior program. Even though I don’t work in a library I consider my degree one of the best career decisions I’ve ever made.

    • Kate Kosturski says:

      As another librarian who works with many non-librarians (I work for a library resource provider), I see every day how much of my library school knowledge that I find commonplace is foreign to my colleagues.

  26. Frustrated Librarian says:

    I am so happy to see this debated. This editorial is not in any way wrongheaded, though I might suggest it is incomplete. Ever since I finished my MLS, I have been thinking that the profession would be better served by using apprenticeship as the entryway into a job, and then if one wants to progress to a managerial level, one needs an MLS. Look at all the job announcements that require experience and an MLS. How do you get experience if you can’t get a job? Volunteering and internships are not always feasible, as a lot of MLS students are also working full-time in professions they’re trying to transition out of (or, in my case, related fields – archives – that still don’t manage to meet the experience requirements). However, if there were apprenticeship programs, certified if need be to satisfy the “but we need a credentialing standard” crowd, aspiring librarians would be able to commit to one or two years of intensive training on actual practices which would prepare them for work in any library. Once they get a regular job afterwards and progress through their career, if they reach a point where they want to advance to a higher level, then they should earn an MLS to get the theoretical background behind why libraries work the way they work.

    I learned a lot in my MLS program, but in my actual job I don’t use more than one course’s worth of what I learned.

  27. Beth Posner says:

    A shared degree offers a shared understanding of our history and values. It also gives us time to consider a big picture view of libraries and what being a professional librarian should be about. There are a variety of tasks in libraries, not all of which require an advanced degree. But there would be more collegiality and less exclusivity if we all had a shared background and our job descriptions included both practical work and a chance to think, write and present to others about this bigger picture, as well as more theoretical issues, especially as we look to the future and the continual evolution of libraries and librarianship.

  28. Mary Cummings says:

    This question of whether a graduate degree is required for librarianship has to be predicated on how we envision ourselves and our work. Our vision determines what we (and society) expect as a basic level of knowledge and understanding among the practitioners of library science. If we see librarians as technicians and clerical employees whose work will always be determined/dictated by others, then, yes, the graduate degree is unnecessary (and our salaries will continue to be “ridiculously low” but commensurate with our vision of our work.) However, if we perceive librarians as professionals whose occupation will always involve OUR making the critical choices regarding the stewardship of resources, the management of people, and the administration of finances, the Master’s remains the appropriate entry-level degree. I graduated from library school in 1976 with the intent, after three years of classroom teaching, of being a school librarian for the rest of my career. To my surprise, however, I went from 10 years as a school librarian to two years in a public library to 25 years in a university library. My undergraduate minor in library science would not and could not have prepared me for the varied work that I have done in libraries over the past 37 years. My graduate library degree, however, gave me broad theoretical foundations in reference, cataloging, computer science, and administration that are still applicable today. I agree with Kenton Temple. If we perceive librarianship as professional practice and if we expect society to recognize librarians as professionals, we must adhere to the standard of the master’s degree for librarianship. Our profession is judged by the preparation we require for practitioners.

  29. Sounds to me like your LIS Program was deficient, not the MLS itself. My MLS degree was 48 credits of very intense work, both theory and practice, including administration, space planning, how to effectively create change. Sadly the program closed years back. (RIP Columbia SLA).

    Often I hear form a lot of MLS grads who, when describing their time at grad school, speak of it like it was some cheap correspondence course. They barely took any courses. I don’t care if you don’t want to catalog, you should at least know about organizational theory and history and how it’s used.

    And like many of the commenters here, I really saw the usefulness of my degree when I worked as a librarian in a non-library setting, such as corporations and not-for-profits. And that is something that is not pushed in library schools…how to use your degree outside of an academic of public setting.

    I think the MLS is very important, but the schooling needs a big overhaul.

    The MLS could be a stronger degree, but I do it’s purposes.

  30. Non-Library Degree says:

    As someone who has worked in public libraries for the past 7 years — without a library degree — I have to say that I don’t think a library degree is what is essential. Many of the skills needed in libraries today relate to business, psychology/social work, education, customer service etc. and these can be brought into the library from a variety of backgrounds. Most businesses today have certain skills for which they train their staff on the job — why should libraries be different? Many Master’s Degrees from other career areas would work just as well to providing the kind of service most public libraries need.

    In terms of salary . . . I am astonished at the lack of focus on fundraising/marketing in the library field. Other nonprofits — even social services with a primary government funding stream — have development people who raise money for them. When will the library field take on truly building relationships with donors? Fundraising skills are missing from most librarians’ training or comfort level, and yet it is through fundraising that one can elevate the possibilities of serving your community through high quality staff and programming. When will library schools take on training librarians to approach business and fundraising?

    • Jay Stephens says:

      I agree that many of the skills needed in libraries today do relate more to the areas you mentioned than to library science itself.

      As to your question about library fundraising and donors, I can only speak to the public library field. From time to time one does see where a public library received a large donation or gift, either from an individual or a company. Most of the time you see this in large, metropolitan area libraries. Public libraries in rural areas really don’t have a large enough donor base to make extensive fundraising worthwhile. The other problem public libraries have with outside fundriasing is that if you start taking in a lot of major gifts and donations, then your steady stream of revenue, the local government, may just wind up cutting your funding.

  31. Jeremy Andrykowski says:

    Why go to school at all?

    It can all be learned on the job. Accountant? Learn it on the job, you only need what you need. Business? Learn it on the job. There are even a few great examples of people without degrees that have great success that you can use as an example of how to make it without deeper education.

    And come to think of it, why do teachers needs so much education? All they do is guide someone through a book, right?

    Maybe any college degree shouldn’t be required at all, or high school. It’s all learnable on the job. That should help the profession and the pay.

    One can learn all they need to know on Lynda.com and Dummies books.

  32. Diane Bronson says:

    The first thing I thought as I read this editorial was “This was written by a man.” (I hadn’t noticed until then.) So am I perceptive or just bigoted? Read on.

    A bit of historical perspective. Librarianship was – and mostly, still is – a woman’s profession. As such it was from the get-go both underpaid and under-appreciated if not completely disrespected in the workforce. The MLS was an attempt to increase the profession’s credibility and status, and no doubt hopefully, get more money for those in it. However you want to judge the success of the strategy, the intent was to improve the profession and the working lives of librarians.

    As a librarian who worked for a state library for several years, I can tell you that every public library wants to cut staffing costs if they can. If our state had not required an MLS for every professional librarian position, all the libraries in the state would have been staffed by “librarians” who were clerks making minimum wage. And anyone who’s worked in a public library knows that to most of the public, anyone working there is a librarian.

    I’d be the last to say that library school curricula are relevent, cutting edge, mind-expanding, etc. But I stand by the need to have an established standard for this profession, and the MLS is part of that. It’s important to have people working in libraries who care about them, and will advocate for them, from the standpoint that says “this is my profession.” That’s something that getting an MLS does for you. It may be an expensive union card, but it’s also a demand for commitment that just “getting a job in a library” doesn’t convey.

    And if you think a $45K starting salary sucks, just take away the MLS and see what’s offered.

  33. Elizabeth Evans says:

    I really don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, but I have plenty to say. I was thrilled, excited and ambitious when I started my MLIS. A stay-at-home mom for almost 20 years, I was looking forward to a new career, meaning in my life, accomplishment. (You don’t get a lot of recognition for raising children). I felt vital and important in school, learned a lot, and left school with my newly-minted MLIS with rose-colored glasses intact. I just knew I was going to be a great librarian. Then, reality set in. I started applying to jobs. And kept applying. I was told I needed to be prepared to move to get a job. So I did. I moved halfway across the country, and kept applying. So here I am, THREE YEARS after receiving my degree and I have had Not. One. Single. Job offer. I conservatively estimate that I have sent out over 100 resumes, knocked on doors, offered to volunteer, you name it. I had two really good internships while I was in school, and learned a lot about technology and databases. I can’t tell you how defeated I feel now. The angry part of me wants to sue the university where I got my degree, because I feel that they sold me a bill of goods. They touted the “great” job market for librarians, showed me some great statistics. Made some great promises, trained me how to interview, how to write the perfect cover letter and resume. To say I’m frustrated is a massive understatement. I can still hear my advisor, “Oh, you don’t want to do the school media track” so I didn’t. Guess where I find most of the job openings? Yeah. I can sit here and imagine all kinds of reasons: my age (competing with young whipper-snappers) the long lag on resume spent raising five children, my lack of experience other than internships. But I can’t express the amount of bitterness and regret. The only shred of positivity that I can summon up is that working for and earning my Masters degree was a personal accomplishment. But as we all know, that hardly pays the bills (nor does my part-time job in retail). End of rant.

  34. Christine Zeitler says:

    I am sorry to those of you that think that your MLS was a waste of time. I work in a very rural environment and several of the libraries in the area are run by individuals without their MLS. If you ever want to know why you need an MLS to work in a library, especially public, ask an Non-MLS ‘Librarian’ about their Collection development policies, weeding procedures, or why the materials need to be correctly cataloged. Perhaps you will run into the 1 out of many that has bothered to look into these things, but I doubt it.

  35. I think the degree is still necessary. Graduate school is not necessarily all about picking up concrete day-to-day skills. There is a benefit in having to conduct research and write academic research papers about librarianship’s history, philosophy and trends. It helps you place the wide variety of libraries out there into a professional context. It also makes you a more well-rounded researcher and a better communicator and critical thinker. There’s a tendency these days to think of college as primarily a place that prepares one for a career. Being career-focused is not bad by any means, but I fear we are losing sight of the idea that college is a place where knowledge and thinking skills should be valued for their own sake. The roughly 4-500 pages of research papers, discussion posts, group-work correspondence and homework assignments that my MLIS degree required of me made me a much better thinker and writer than I’d been after getting my Bachelor’s.

    There’s also the matter of the degree serving as a bulwark of professionalism in the field, preventing the tendency of people who have little familiarity with librarianship to consider our roles those of mere clerks and book-shelvers. I don’t want to put the cart before the horse – we shouldn’t justify the MLIS simply because it makes us look better. But it is useful as a marker of reputation which we can show to outsiders.

    I think a better goal would be to focus on advocating for higher pay and better LIS programs.

    • Zach, I’m with you. When I completed my MLIS, it took 3 years to find a good-paying job in a rural area. What I found in my small town library were way too many dangerous, illegal and discriminatory activities. The administration and Board needed what I brought with me from library school. Our collection development policy was typed in 1969 and did not include media of any kind. Further, not one person here had ever heard of the Library Bill of Rights or the Freedom to Read Statement. I help to protect this library, its staff and patrons…. I believe the Board feels my education was worth the time, the cost and the paycheck I receive twice monthly.

    • Abbie Anderson says:

      Well said, Laura. This may be one of the best arguments in favor of the degree.

  36. BooleantotheBone says:

    I think it is good to constantly raise this topic as it will become increasingly important as the roles of all libraries change. What library school failed to address both when I was in it and now is the huge disparity in roles and responsibilities between the types of libraries. I would agree that public librarians questionably need a library specific degree, or a degree at a graduate level anyway, as evidenced by the wealth of paraprofessionals who often do at least as good a job in that setting, though for management I think you would want someone trained in public management with library experience. In an academic setting, there is a credibility issue that begs credentialling in the areas of research and education, and credentialling to a higher standard than is now present in library schools, hence the inadequacy of the degree university libraries particularly, or at least that degree alone. The degree needs to be reinvented and would best partner to at least confer joint degrees in librarianship and business, education, and other disciplines. Token courses in these areas really just don’t cut it. The MLIS has struggled to define an area of intellectual endeavour unto itself with credibility and will only continue to do so. The sooner we admit that the better.

  37. Andrea Berstler says:

    This discussion is way overdue (pardon the pun). Requiring one flat degree for all professional level positions in a library is neither efficient nor effective.

    As the President of the Association for Rural and Small Libraries, I can tell you that this topic is of great interest to those libraries in small, rural and undeserved areas who cannot afford to hire professional librarians, but whose staff excel in delivering quality library service. They are librarians, with or without a degree.

    Being a professional librarian (aka MLS/MLIS) does not make you a good librarian. It can make a good librarian an even better librarian. Having been a library director without an MLS, then with an MLS, I hope what I learned made be a better administrator. I can tell you I learned much more behind the circ desk than I did behind a classroom desk.

    ARSL would be very interested in participating in such a discussion for the betterment of all working in the library service field.

    • Jay Stephens says:


    • Julie Elmore says:

      I completely agree! I have a Bachelor’s in Library Science and quite honestly learned as much if not more with that degree than I did with my Master’s Degree. But, at the end of the day I still learned even more than that by simple on the job training and having some absolutely WONDERFUL mentors.

    • Cap Nemo says:


      As President of a Library Association as you are, it starts with you , recognize those with Bachelor Degrees and we will be friends of the ARSL for life. The ALA is not mentoring us anymore just drowning us in debt. Students need leadership more than theory at this juncture. The time is NOW !

    • I would love to be a part of this discussion with ARSL! I do not have an MLS. This fact has been brought to the forefront after winning the 2012 Best Small Library in America. Do I have the knowledge it takes to be in library administration? I have taken a number of classes, attended numerous seminars, workshops, and conferences. I can’t begin to count the number of webinars I have listened to and participated in, on a multitude of topics. My degrees are in computer science and accounting. Yet, with all of this I have been berated by librarians for not having my MLS.

      I am now paying for my daughter’s education, do I want to go further in debt to get another degree? I have read the threat now is that college debt is what may bring the next recession. I did not want my daughter to start her career with heavy school loan debt. I read that many students are ruining their credit because of this. What a terrible way to start off their adult life!

      One experience I had as a speaker at a leadership workshop in the Topeka Public Library was exceptionally humiliating. There is one librarian who interviewed us after we won our award, stating it was for her blog. It was not. She was very upset that a non-MLS librarian won the award and brought that to the attention of everyone at this conference. As I got up in front of the audience to explain why I did not have an MLS I realized that this was an issue that needed to be discussed, but not in this venue. Afterwards, another library director came up to me and said she too did not have her MLS. “Welcome to the white elephant in the room club!” Awkward to say the least. Does this experience make me want to get my MLS? No…Do I wish I had my degree? Yes…Just because then I could be a member of the “club” and not be singled out. Is there more I need to learn? Yes, but there are opportunities out there to learn everything I need, which I have been doing, continually! I would love to move on, to work at a library outside of Kansas, but they all require an MLS, so I guess I am out of luck…maybe it is on to the next phase in my life, without my first love…libraries.

  38. Great article!

    I too have an MLIS, but I often question the value of my degree. I met some amazing people, and felt like I learned the LIS lingo (so to speak), but I could have learned that just as well by working in the field. I didn’t learn anything about ILSes during my masters. In fact, I don’t even think there were any classes at UIUC offered about ILSes when I graduated from there last year. Now that I’m a librarian working with these systems day in and day out, I question whether it was worth it.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    • BooleantotheBone says:

      I totally agree that this has been a serious problem over the past 15-20yrs to now, however, as we’re all about to put our ILSs in the cloud, it will be a moot point in about 4-5 years.

    • Yes, but there still needs to be individuals (IT/librarians or otherwise) to manage the information even though it’s “in the cloud.” The cloud doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be no human interaction in that automation somehow. Perhaps this is what should really be discussed in “library” school. :)

  39. I could not be more happy to see this subject brought to the forefront. As someone with over 25 years in the field, 19 of those sans a library or any degree, this is a subject of discussion that is long overdue. (Library pun intended) I learned a great deal on the job, but that said I was missing the piece that would help me become a Librarian. I don’t mean this to sound as though I was just missing a piece of paper…at the time I thought that was all that was missing, but it wasn’t. The piece I was missing was how to develop workable ideas that were well researched and aligned with the basic tenants of Librarianship. The MLS was the piece that took me from a library worker to a Librarian, it changed my outlook and I developed the vision of a Librarian. That is the piece that was missing, the intellectual freedom, the professional research, the MLS fed my desire to move from a job to a career. Now while that might sound like a sales pitch for the MLS, it is certainly not. The unspoken facts are that what we gain from the MLS, for the most part, could easily be gained as a bachelor’s degree in the same field. The flip side of that is that we’ve spent so much effort ensuring that the MLS be the end all, that libraries are filling positions with any bachelor’s that seems to fit.(I’ve seen this in action and it leads to a business, not a library) The MLS is still needed, but it’s fitting in exactly where it should have all along. The MLS should build our leaders, Directors, and researchers…and it does. What it doesn’t do well is build the first line librarians. Instead we crank out well educated, starry eyed Librarians who will be payed barely enough to pay their student loans, if they can find a position at all. Not everyone is going to be the next mover and shaker in the library world and not everyone should be. When do we realize that in order to ensure our profession, we need to start creating Librarians at the bachelor’s level, where the pay can match the education and we can ensure that library values remain in our libraries. Do we wait till each library has one MLS librarian (much like we’ve seen happen in the K-12 environment) before we decide that we have to make a change and offer a library degree that fits the needs of our profession and the job market?

    • Heather Highfield says:

      You know, when I started my degree program, in a spirited speech by the director we were told that this program was for people who knew they wanted to LEAD the library field – that if we simply wanted to be cogs in a machine, well, we might be better suited to go elsewhere.

      I feel that the quality of education lived up to that grand rhetoric for sure. But it made me think on a larger scale: this is the same degree the other schools are offering. Why is it that to be a Leader in the Field, you should get an MLS, but to be a cog in the machine as it were — you still absolutely need to get the exact same MLS? From an ALA-approved school, nonetheless – which again, all these schools of varying mettle are? I really couldn’t agree with you more. And I think the library community at large is starting to get that message – already we can see the ALA offering more flexible options, such as Library Support Staff Certification. So maybe we are moving away from the all-or-nothing approach we seem to have painted ourselves into of late.

  40. I am a librarian and adult services supervisor. I have worked as a bookseller, a paraprofessional, and a librarian. While my background certainly gave me the fundamentals for working in a library, it was my MLIS that gave me the tools to do my job as a department head and supervisor. My BA in English Literature was useful for getting a foothold in the library system, but my master’s degree taught me the philosophy and values of librarianship. It also grounded me in supervisory skills, in library management, and collection development. It took me two years of working and going to school to earn the degree. It would have taken me much longer to accrue the knowledge and practice through work alone. I suppose if you look at it a different way, it would take degrees in business, management, economics, philosophy, psychology, computer science and public relations to do what I do as a librarian. That is what I learned by getting my MLIS. That is why it is still relevant.

  41. Uniformity. How many libraries have you worked in? How many catalog, acquire and circulate the same basic way? I do not shop at bookstores because I can never find anything. I can go to almost any public Library or academic Library in the world and find what I am looking for. I have worked in Elementary, Junior High, Community College, University and numerous public libraries and the work I do and that I teach my employees is uniformily the same making them transferable either as a technician or a Librarian. Pharmicists and PharmTechs, Physical Therapist, PTAs Occupational Therapists, OTAs Recreational Therapists, Doctors, Lawyers, Nurses, Real Estate agents, Plumbers, Engineers etc. etc. all require education and certifications to practice in their field. Why do Librarians get ridiculed for advanced education?

    How many libraries have you visited or worked in where there had been a gap in management? You will find alot of basic daily tasks, do not get done because the Technicians, tend to forget over time or feel it isn’t necessary to ____ fill in the blank. I have been hired into some positions that had no Librarian for some time. The back log of work was enormous–reports to governemt agencies that fund our services were not done, or if they has stats were skewed and not reflected accurately cost the Library hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Lost cards in a drawer, because no one thought the patrons needed to be notified, deposit money for a Test books, which had been kept, although charging a deposit was a violation of state law….”Well we had always done it that way. We didn’t know it was illegal…..”

    Evidently I havce chosen the wrong libraries to work in because I rely heavily on my education and my experience.

    • Why do conversations like these always turn paraprofessionals in to a lazy and uneducated caricature? So you’ve worked at someplace that were poorly run by paras. Could that have to do with hiring inexperienced workers to run a library? Something that could well happen had they hired an MLIS lacking in practical experience or motivation or knowledge of professional development avenues? Sometime people hire the wrong people for the job. That goes for MLIS as well as paras.

      Paraprofessional does not equal= inexperienced. I’ve worked in libraries for only 5 years, but i know exactly why intellectual freedom is important, and why cataloging principles are essential and why privacy is a cornerstone of our institution. And I cant think of a para I have worked with who doesn’t.

      Is it really your MLIS that makes you understand these things? That insinuates that no one outside librarians could possibly understand these values then that doesn’t bode well for you as a profession. If administrators, and Deans, and town managers can’t possibly understand librarianships core values because they don’t have an MLIS, well what incentive do they have to value it?

    • DeeLemon says:

      Sam is absolutely right. The gaps you experienced could be the result of numerous things – not necessarily the absence of MLIS grads.

    • I totally agree with Sam’s statements about paraprofessionals. I’ve been working in a community college library for over 20 years (public & technical services). Paraprofessionals here have been the ones leading the discussion on topics such as fair use, copyright, RDA, cataloging standards, FERPA, etc. There are several levels of paraprofessionals from pages/shelvers, circulation desk workers, catalogers (copy & original), acquisitions, IT Systems, ILL , etc. MLS Librarians are mostly reference & instruction positions, collection development and/or managers. Education is absolutely needed for some positions, but experience should be recognized as well. Our newly hired MLS people would be lost try to perform original cataloging, acquisitions/budget or ILL just as the paraprofessionals may lack the knowledge in instructional pedagogy, management/leadership, etc. Pay for paraprofessionals is just as miserable if not more so that MLS positions. Both need to be recognized for the technical and cognitive skills required.

    • Abbie Anderson says:

      The point about paraprofessionals is not that they’re stupid or can’t do the work that credentialed librarians do, but that they (intelligent, dedicated , and hard-working) haven’t always been oriented to principles of intellectual freedom or regulatory requirements, or the use of statistics. Training based primarily in getting the day-to-day work done (and there is a lot of it) tends not to raise the line of sight above keeping the library open and serving well the people in front of us.

      If a library is run with professional standards as part of the work culture for all staff, then horror stories like those told above won’t happen. But where do those professional standards come from? Normally from library administration built and reinforced by people who went to Library School. Not that you can’t have a commitment to those same principles without an MLIS, but that Library School is a reasonably reliable way to get that professional orientation.

      And that is the heart of the argument on this issue. No, you don’t need an advanced degree to do good work in a library (far from it). Yes, the content of a well-designed advanced degree has value in itself for the work that we do, for maintaining a professional community, for preparing leadership, and for providing a credential that legitimizes our place among stakeholders and decision-makers.

      The up-shot of most of these ongoing arguments is that we would like to see more f what some states already have, which is library certification that won’t bankrupt people and that will serve as a recognized standard for entry-level positions. Those seeking a leadership career could pursue an MLIS.

      I have degrees in Music and Folklore in addition to the MLS, and I don’t regret any of them. I was lucky to be able to pursue my MLS while working full-time for a university that paid my tuition one course at a time. I know I am extraordinarily privileged to have so much education. And I use all of it, every day.

    • 23 years, 6 libraries, no MLS says:

      I was very glad to see this comment thread emerge. I am beyond tired of the assumption that paraprofessionals do not, or cannot, engage in professional development activities, and that the only learning we do is of skills (rather than principles) and is only acquired on-the-job. Many of us engage in the following:
      – attending (and presenting at!) conferences
      – attending workshops and classes
      – participating in online professional forums (e.g. email lists)
      – self-directed independent study
      Does anyone seriously believe that the only way to acquire *knowledge* (vs skills) is in library school? How can you possibly defend that view in face of the facts?

    • Abbie I agree with much of what you said. However, I think a lot of us learn to care about professional standards just as much, if not more so, from other sources than we do from our own workplace. And yes some of those sources are from the writings and conference presentations of MLIS, but also we learn these things from other paras as well.

      Frequently “professional staff” feels as though these standards are unnecessary for paras in their own workplace. So it can actually be harder to learn these standards from your own organization. But no one can keep you off twitter, or out of conferences, or away from blogs, or academic journals.

      Like you, I’m not saying there is no place for an advanced degree in a library, but rather that many jobs that are requiring an MLIS as the minimum standard simply shouldn’t, as there are plenty of paras who could do them just as well. Want to find someone with professional level standards? Look for someone who addresses that in their resume and cover letter and then interview that person and ask them questions about intellectual freedom and open access and collection development ect.

      I disagree that the situation I originally responded doesn’t use a few specific encounters with paras and use that to portray all paras as lazy, uninformed, and disinterested. Many people on this thread have already admitted to getting little to nothing out of their library school courses. Are we to assume that they would automatically grasp professional standards and do a better job than the inexperienced paraprofessionals in question. I certainly wouldn’t.

  42. I have thought for a while that the MLIS programs need to be seriously overhauled. I have even wondered why we don’t have apprenticeships much like what has already been described. I’m about to complete my second year in my first job post-MLIS, and I often find myself thinking, “Why didn’t I learn this in school?” As someone above so wonderfully said, much of what I learned in my program that I use in my job can be traced back to one or two classes. Much of my practical learning during grad school came from my classmates that had worked in libraries for years and were just then getting the degree. They had a MUCH better context for what was going on than I did at 23 and straight out of my undergrad. And some of the most practical classes I had were taught by people that had spent significant time working in actual libraries. (Ummm…apprenticeships anyone?)

    Now, in fairness to my graduate program, I focused on archives when I was there. Now I have a job that is not what I planned on doing that includes cataloging, reference, and instruction in addition to archives. (Lucky for me, I love what I do and never want to do anything different.) So perhaps I missed out on something by taking intro to archives rather than cataloging. But there has been nothing I’ve done in my job that I wasn’t well-qualified to do that I haven’t been able to get some kind of training on–which has always been cheaper than taking a graduate course. One great thing my degree did give me is a wonderful appreciation for libraries, what their purpose is, what our role is in society. I can see the difference in what I think a library should be doing and what our library assistant thinks a library should be doing–very, very different ideas. But again, I don’t think a degree is the only way to get that knowledge.

    There have been some great points made in favor of the degree, specifically the point that an undergraduate degree or apprenticeship just won’t cut it in the academic libraries. But if we want to be taken seriously by the other professionals of the world, why is our degree so incredibly easy to get? I got my degree in 3 semesters with a course load above full time every semester. One of those I even took 15 hours. While working 2 part-time jobs. While planning my wedding. I left graduate school with a 4.0. I didn’t even do that with my undergraduate degree. I have always been great at school, but that is a little ridiculous! I don’t mean to bash my program, but I definitely didn’t feel consistently challenged.

    I appreciated the theory and history built into every course, but I would have appreciated more discussion on what is happening in libraries today. I heard very little about the issues with ebooks, publishers, and lending, for example. When I started my job, I felt like I was playing catch-up, even though I had been at the very least associated with the field for 2 years!

    I guess I don’t feel like I wasted my time and money exactly (because like I said, there were some things I got out of my program), but I definitely feel that everything grad school taught me I could have learned a different and possibly more efficient way. And through something like an apprenticeship model, I would have picked up on more of the practical stuff too.

    • Heather Highfield says:

      It may be we went to different schools, or it may be that we went to the exact same school and I have a far lower threshold for overwork, but I found my library program kept us plenty busy — and that’s with my scant 10-hr/wk part-time job, the long upstate NY winters inhospitable to anything but studying, and no wedding to plan. :) But yes, provided we did the work, we were all but guaranteed success – at no point did I feel I had tried my best but just couldn’t cut it. It was mostly project-based, which makes a lot of sense actually. But only competitive if you wanted it to be.

      A few people here have commented that academic libraries could be one area where an MLIS is necessary, but if we’re arguing that its necessity is questionable, you can apply that same logic consistently. Academic positions are often specialty positions, like chemistry, law or music librarianship. Those positions strongly recommend or even require an *additional* Master’s in the subject area, on top of the LIS degree. Feasibly, an argument could be made for starting at the subject Master’s with a strong interest in libraries, then learning the library aspects from there with one’s pre-existing dedication to scholarship and learning. It seems somehow more practical than starting with an MLIS and then deciding to get another degree just to work in a narrower subject area.

    • Now this is an idea I could get behind. Require the masters in a specialized field rather than the MLIS. That could definitely work in academia. And you can require directors and managers to have the MLIS, but not necessarily the librarians at the reference desk or running a department like circulation. Because lets be honest here, if reference or searching the catalog and/or databases are so advanced that we need an advanced degree to do it, we certainly shouldn’t expect to be able to teach the general public to do it. That, of course, is a ridiculous notion. When I provide instruction for our classes (I work at a community college), I teach the students how to do it themselves. Afterwards they know how to do it on their own and don’t need my help. If I can expect a freshman in college to know how a library works, why should we be getting expensive advanced degrees to learn it? There has to be a better way!

      I certainly don’t mean to sound like librarianship is the easiest thing ever, and any dummy off the street could walk in and be great at this profession. I just think it is easy for librarians to feel constantly attacked by being the first to have their budgets cut or repeatedly hearing we are no longer relevant. I can certainly see where our diplomas give us something to point at when so many say all we do is shelve books. But not having an advanced degree wouldn’t make us any less important or necessary. So while there is probably some truth to the argument that all of us not having advanced degrees (I do think managers and directors should have it) would probably devalue us in some respects to the people outside libraries, I don’t think we should be worried about our relevancy. There are enough students here that turn to me rather than Google when they don’t know how to do something with a computer, that I never get concerned that libraries will die or I won’t be needed.

      And honestly, basically everyone I know is shocked when they find out what my degree is in. Most people question why I need a masters. I’ve gotten the typical, “Why do you need a masters to shelve books?” (haven’t we all), but I’ve never really been able to say, “This is why I *need* a masters to do my job…” I don’t really think people outside the library field would notice all that much if their librarian (that doesn’t have a management position) didn’t have an advanced degree.

  43. I think the problem resides in the lack of differentiation between library positions. It’s perfectly reasonable to expect department heads, directors, and deans to have higher degrees; the theoretical and managerial aspects (the majority of my (well-regarded) degree program) make much more sense when the person is in a position of authority. But why do acquisitions, CD, or e-resources librarians need the degree? Those are practical jobs, that you do need practical experience for. These should still be four-year degree positions because there is absolutely a need for people in these jobs to go above their job descriptions; they need to stay up-to-date with trends and industry practices. My first job after my degree was as an e-resources librarian at an academic library. I had quite a bit of para-professional experience before I got my MLIS, and I would emphatically say that what helped me most in the job was my pre-degree experience, not my MLIS. I went in knowing how libraries work from my previous jobs, and I learned about proxy servers, link resolvers, and constructing openURLs on the job – an apprenticeship would have made that process quite a but easier!

    • Are there many libraries that have CD and ERM librarians that don’t do anything else that you’d consider in need of an MLIS? For example, at my library (a university), the librarians that do CD and ERM also do reference and instruction. It seems odd that you’d be hiring “librarians” to do those jobs if they’re not expected to do other “librarian” things.

  44. Joan Neslund says:

    I am a non-MLS head of Reference at a small public library. I have been here for 21 years and realized early on that if I went back for my MLS, I would have to relocated to get a job. My family was here and so I worked my way up and love what I do. That said, both of my sons now have jobs where all they had to do was demonstrate that they had the ability to learn and the training is “on the job”. They both make nearly triple what I do in a year and their employers expect a lot out of them and they learn as they go.

    Libraries change with the wind it seems. Having the ability to keep up, advocate for the community and pass on all that libraries do seems like enough for me.

    I am a professional; I know my stuff; I keep up with all technology; I am non-MLS

  45. Heather Highfield says:

    I see where the MLIS is useful and what it’s trying to do. (Mind, I got an M*S*LIS, which while affording me one more letter after my name, also means I am a Master of Science! A physics or chemistry scholar would cry to hear this.) What the program does is immerse students in an environment of academic thinking about libraries and their real/potential purpose, while simultaneously partnering those who have no library experience with library/career veterans who are coming into the degree later in their working life – to work on projects and practica that serve as stand-ins for “job experience” that students, ideally, can put on their resumes or use as a foot in the door. Essentially it is a launching point. I truly value and admire all my professors and loved many of my classes, and I believe I was launched will all the velocity one could hope for.

    However, I feel that many take an unnecessarily sentimental position on this – several commenters here have argued that the degree is necessary to instill a holistic sense of the history and philosophy of libraries. Yes and no. Any self-starter with a library job could easily supplement training and hands-on experience with reading books from leaders in the field on the subject, starting a blog, getting involved in conversations in the library community. It would take more initiative, sure, than enrolling in a class and plugging away toward the credentials, but it’s doable. And they could scale it to the needs of their own community or job, which we all agree are not homogeneous.

    At least one commenter pointed out that if there is a problem, library schools can be seen as part of it, churning out more graduates than there are jobs. It’s all natural and good for a school, or a program within a school, to take pride in itself and for administrators to tend towards ensuring its survival. But for colleges, this becomes a game of perpetual growth – to secure funding and improve programs, we need more students, more alumni to donate! Job markets shrink, shift and dry up all the time, but rarely does a degree program shrink proportionately, and often students end up on the other side of their 4-or-6-year stint in a vastly different market that maybe shouldn’t be so saturated. Of course it’s natural for information schools to want to grow, to market themselves, to promote their services as desirable or even necessary. But there does seem to be an undercurrent among MLIS grads that they don’t feel the job market was accurately depicted. And with a saturated field comes inflated job requirements – the degree and all the hardship that entails, plus often-unreasonable experience pre-reqs for even entry-level jobs, a lament we’ve all too often heard. It’s definitely an employer’s market. I do not blame library schools, or any schools, any more than I blame the very nature of humanity – it’s a juggernaut everyone feeds into.

    Behind the sentimentality, too, we can take a less romantic view of the credential in general. The MLIS, like any degree, is at the outset a tool to raise learners to a certain level of quality – a benchmark of knowledge or skill, of preparedness. But it’s also a shortcut for employers. The SATs/GREs haven’t always been required of students to get into college, and administrators got along all right. But those scores, the hard numbers on paper, made it so easy for admissions staff to do their jobs that they quickly became a “necessity.” Without a number, suddenly, no one knows how to evaluate. I feel that many degrees are going this way – employing institutions require them because otherwise, judging applicants takes a great deal of work, insight and resources. The piece of paper is an easy baseline. Don’t have it? Good – staff time doesn’t need to be spent on your resume. As natural as this progression is, it’s easy to feel bitter when you’re the one hopping through hoops.

    And how we all know the hoops cost money! I’m paying $700 a month toward my $100K of loans from 6 years of higher ed. By the time I pay it all back, I will have shelled out over $200K – a 6.8% interest rate in name, a 100% mark-up in practice. I signed that sweet, sweet promissory note willingly, in the hopes that it would give me a leg up and a library job – and it has. I lucked out, got a great job and I feel confident that if needed, I could apply my education in myriad different work settings. But saddled with that kind of debt, like a growing portion of people my age, I do not feel comfortable taking on additional debt to buy a home, getting married and unintentionally saddling a spouse with my debt, or taking on the additional financial risk of starting a family. It’s a constant weight. Job hunting, I didn’t feel like I had the freedom to try to stretch my creative wings or “make a difference” at a smaller, less well-paying organization. Part-time work with no benefits was not an option from the start – I would have drowned. And looking back, as much as I loved my program, part of me does wonder why I needed to make this kind of commitment – like why I needed to pay my school for the privilege of organizing my own internships to work at outside organizations for free, why these opportunities are only afforded “for college credit.” Why I couldn’t pick up a book here, attend a webinar there, and get the same place eventually through grit and dedication like the librarians just a generation before me.

  46. Jessie P says:

    The value I see in this piece goes beyond the same tired discussion over the value of an MLS. I came to librarianship (public libraries) from the hard sciences, and, while I have been fortunate to have obtained a full-time, professional job at a small library, I had almost no training when I started and feel like I’ve been learning to swim in choppy waters with a life vest and the theory of swimming. It’s a struggle to master the skills that aren’t taught in library science programs. Sure, I’m keeping my head afloat, but I often feel like I’m not reaching my potential and I know I would greatly benefit from a mentoring program or some sort of apprenticeship. Face it – those library school practicums don’t take you very far. It’s easy to jump into a professional job when you started as a page ten years ago and haven’t left libraries since, but it’s a tough climb for librarians new to the field with the bit of volunteer work they racked up in school.

  47. I feel like my MLS was not a good value. It hurts to say it. I loved doing the work, and I loved the people I met doing it (in fact, one of my classmates wrote a reply above). I loved the experience I had in New York doing the work. I loved every minute and wish to the Gods I was still doing it. But you can’t stay in school forever, and when I ended my program, my work place let me go because they had no room for someone who was not a student. I had no job, and I still don’t, nearly 3 years later.

    I grant, the year after I left I had to make a very difficult choice and leave to take care of my very sick family (first my last remaining grandparent who did pass on, and then my father, who thankfully is fine). But one year shouldn’t have lead me to simply not get call backs at all. I have 30-40 resumes out at any given time, and I don’t even get call backs.

    So many listings for “Director of” “Manager of” “Dean Of”. So many want additional degrees in fields like law and science that I can’t reasonably expect to earn this far in. Many others want years of experience. Where in the world am I supposed to break into this? And the rare possible job is inundated by thousands of applications and resumes. How in the world am I supposed to stand out when people with 30 years experience who were fired need a job to keep getting health care to pay for their heart pills?

    I am working retail at a job I had when I was 24 and felt embarrassed doing then, more so now. My loans, on income based deferment, are just racking up thousands in additional intrest. I don’t have a lot of hope. I don’t know how to break out of this.

    And worst of all, I did it to myself. I had the stupid idea that I could get a degree and people might look at me better. Now I just feel like a bigger fool, one who spent tens of thousands of dollars for 3 letters at the end of my name.

    I feel I was sold a bill of goods. I was told there were tons of retirees. That there were lots of open spots coming. That there were not just library and archival jobs, but tons of creative ways to use my skills. Bull. None of that was true.

    The MLS is a wonderful institution. It’s also been like alcohol poisoning. Getting it is fun – exciting even. The aftermath has been painful. I don’t know if I’ll ever recover from my mistakes of expecting something better.

    • DeeLemon says:

      I love the alcohol poisoning analogy. I did manage to get a library job following grad school, but only because of my many years of customer service and HR experience in other types of business. I’m sorry you’ve had no luck, and I know you’re right that thousands of other MLIS-holders have left the field. You weren’t a fool – you believed the ALA hype that there was a “graying” of the profession and that there were thousands of jobs about to open up. Any time now. But as we all know, that’s a bunch of hooey. Good luck

    • Heather Highfield says:

      And of course, the profession *is* graying, inasmuch as time marches inevitably on. But the thing no one was expecting is that those positions would be retired along with their last inhabitants. I’m not upset at positions that previously required the MLS being filled by paraprofessionals. I can even understand terminating the position – this is the act of a library driven to budget desperation. What steams me is positions being broken up into one or more part-time positions that don’t come with benefits or any room for advancement.

      I’ve had to pass by innumerable amazing-sounding jobs that, at the end, tack on “15-17 hr/wk. No benefits.” I swear, so many institutions must still hold the notion that their applicants are all housewives, riding on their husbands’ health insurance as it should be, and seeking a cute boutique job as a diversion now that the kids are in school. This just isn’t accurate. And even if it is, if she’s got an MLS she’s still up to her neck in debt.

  48. Just one additional thought: know who knows all this better then anyone? The other newer MLSes who have chosen to get non-Library field jobs. They’re not speaking up because they’ve quit reading LJ and other journals. They don’t get any value from it. Why would they? They’re gone.

  49. Suzanne Stauffer says:

    So many others have already so eloquently defended the degree, and I won’t repeat what they have said. I will, instead, make just three points : 1) It sounds, from this column, as if Mr. Kelley has never actually worked as a librarian. Am I the only one to find it ironic that a column promoting on-the-job training over education has been written by someone who has no experience on the job? 2) What other professional publication regularly publishes editorials which denigrate the entry-level professional degree and those who earn it? Make no mistake — this column is saying that those of us who spent the time and money to earn an ML(I)S wasted both. 3) If he were to bother to look, I believe that Mr. Kelley would find that, today, he would not be able to get a job in journalism without that degree in journalism. Why is he arguing for the deprofessionalization of librarianship in particular? Oh, and one last thing — I don’t know where he went to school, but I certainly did learn about Fair Use in school, and I most certainly teach my students about it. We didn’t learn about OverDrive — it didn’t exist then. We did learn how to connect an acoustic coupler, though.

    • Heather Highfield says:

      I actually admire LJ for publishing this. I can’t think of many publications that would put up material that directly challenges current established ideas in that field, but it’s not a direct threat to them – this is a venue for library matters, not MLS matters specifically. It’s a dissenting opinion, asking hard questions intended to open a discussion, and not necessarily put forward as the established view of the journal. It might fizzle out, it might change the conversation in ways we didn’t expect. But as a librarian I can really get behind the tacit assertion that alternative voices aren’t to be feared.

    • Cap Nemo says:

      Ms. Stauffer you can defend it because you have a job and no school loans, put yourself in the place of the person with 100 k in student loan debt, I believe him more.

  50. Elizabeth Thompson says:

    Kudos to you for addressing the MLS elephant in the room! As one of the ”uncredentialed staff”, I applaud your effort. You hit on a number of issues with clarity and fairness. I am a Library Director in a hamlet (pop 3,000) in NH. The likelihood of my ever advancing to a larger library is categorically denied by that degree requirement. It doesn’t matter what experience I bring. Paying for another degree (I have a B.A. and an M. Div.) is out of the question for me, and, certainly, out of the question for the trustees of the library I serve. So, theoretically, I cannot even make a lateral move within the profession.
    Librarians should be right in the midst of this discussion – not on the edges, hoping someone will bat for us. I hope that your article sparks a healthy, helpful dialogue, indeed. I know it has for me.

  51. C. Brooke Caldwell, MA, MSIS says:

    Librarians have never been paid much. It is a profession we go into because we are passionate about the field and our work, not to earn money (much like teachers). It’s not fair, but it is the world we live in. Information is valued, but not the people in-charge of teaching or managing it. This should change, but I am not sure how.

    As a profession, we once stood up and said, “Libraries are important. Librarians should be respected.” If we did so again, we might not lose the number of new graduates that we currently do.

    As for being replaced by non-accredited personnel, I am reminded of the difference between doctors and nurse practitioners. Many people would prefer to visit a doctor rather than a nurse practitioner. And there is a big difference between the education both receive (I have friends in both professions who agree with this.) However, when you get a bad case of the flu on Saturday night, a nurse practitioner at a walk-in clinic is the only person you can see on Sunday. Likewise, some rural libraries may not have a choice on who they can hire. They’d love an accredited Librarian, but cannot find one to hire for any price. Therefore, they hire the best person they can.

    Then again, those rural public libraries do not have the same information needs that other larger libraries, or academic institutions have. Jane Doe or John Smith may be perfectly able to handle picking out the best sellers and non-fiction materials to buy, or teaching patrons how to use Facebook or apply online for jobs. And we should totally support these Library Staff Members, because they are supporting the basic tenants of Libraries.

    We go to kindergarten, not to learn the alphabet but how to share with others. We go to high school to learn how to deal with others, not to learn algebra We attend Library programs to learn how to think about information and general management.

    As student, I worked in a medical library where I was able to put into practice what I was learning. I tailored my education accordingly, because I love this branch of the profession. I worked beside Librarians and paraprofessionals who knew their stuff and were more than willing to show me the ropes. I learned as much from them as I did in any class.

    After my degree, I worked as a rural public librarian until I could find a medical library position. I worked beside non-accredited librarians who had me wanting to tear my hair out for their lack of understanding of Libraries, Information, and were very non-professional towards our non-reading patrons. I know that there are better rural public libraries than this; there has to be. But for examples like these, I would say the education and degree make the difference.

    • C. Brooke, I adamantly disagree that “rural public libraries do not have the same information needs that other larger libraries, or academic institutions have.” I have worked, for over 25 years, in libraries both huge and small > and have found the smaller library to be the bigger challenge with regard to reference questions. Here is where the qualified professional is truly needed.

    • DeeLemon says:

      I have to also take issue with your statements about rural library staff. You worked at a bad one; that doesn’t mean that they are all like that. Laura is correct – being in a rural library is actually very challenging. There are far fewer resources for our patrons – so good luck directing them to the resources they need. Especially if your library is in an area like mine, which is economically depressed.

      I worked in larger city libraries before moving to the boonies, and have to say that my staff of mostly para-professionals knows more about librarianship than a lot of MLIS holders I have met. And that is true for most of the staff members at other rural libraries in our area. In fact, my two MLS-holding librarians are actually my biggest problems. One only has her job because she has a disability, so previous directors were afraid to fire her; the other is incapable of communicating with anyone professionally. I spend more time counseling them and dealing with the aftermath of their nonsense than I do with the rest of my staff combined. An MLIS is not a predictor of being a good librarian.

      The other big problem that I see is that my state, like some others, has requirements that certain positions be held by MLIS-holding librarians. That’s great for larger libraries with a budget – but it’s a huge burden for small and rural libraries. And it’s one of the reasons that salaries are so low – these libraries can’t afford to pay for an MLIS librarian, but they are forced to. So they offer appallingly low salaries, and often get the quality to match the salary. Regardless, the salary is not enough to pay for the advanced degree. I have $30,000 in loans – and it will take me 20 years to pay them off if I can’t find a better job.

      My degree, while a useful educational exercise, has virtually no use for me in my day-to-day job. Part of that is because it was a bad GLIS program, and part of it is because my actual day-to-day job would be better served by education in social work, public finance and administration, law, human resources, technology, plumbing/electricity/other maintenance, etc.

      I actually think for public librarians, an advanced degree that combines public administration and library science would make sense – but only for those who want to go into administration. Reference librarians in public libraries shouldn’t be required to have a Master’s. Children’s librarians – maybe, maybe not. Catalogers, maybe, maybe not. Academic librarians usually need a Master’s in a particular discipline – couldn’t the Library Science be more of a certification?

      The biggest issue is the compensation. Until the actual pay of librarians is enough to pay back the student loans, the requirement for the degree for nearly all “professional” librarian jobs is ridiculous. How many other fields that require a Master’s degree have starting wages in the $30K region? How many other fields that require a Master’s degree have an average wage in the mid-$50K range? That would be none.

    • Michele says:

      The public school teachers (including the school librarians) in my area have a starting salary that is about $10,000 higher than the starting salary of the public library system. Yet only the school and (some) public librarians are required to have a Masters before applying for their jobs.

  52. sad grad says:

    Just a quick comment on the timing of this editorial: I’m not sure whether it was intentional, but it coincides with the graduation of a whole new cohort of Master’s-level information professionals. I read it literally just a few hours after my last class. Doesn’t change the argument, and I’m not afraid to have the discussion – indeed, I’m grateful for the largely respectful discussion that’s unfolding in this comment thread – but it was a bummer to be reminded of the many questions surrounding my degree on the day I completed its requirements.

  53. Julie Elmore says:

    What confuses me is why so many who defend the MLS can’t see that those who think it is overrated do not want uneducated Librarians. Most of us simply feel that the final 2 years of an undergrad degree could easily cover what is covered on the 2 year Master’s track. Instead most Librarians get a Bachelor’s in something else and then transition having no education in Librarianship.

    I am not sure of many other degrees where you get a Bachelor’s in something and then transition to a specialty. For instance, a nurse gets a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing and then if they want to specialize and pursue further they get a Masters in Nursing so they can build on that education. Even those who go on to get an MBA often have some sort of business degree under them and are not coming in with a degree in History or something off the business wall. If we are training Librarians in 2 years at a Masters level then those 2 years could be taught at the Bachelors level and save THOUSANDS of dollars in student loan debt. After all, it isn’t like the Masters is building on degrees in Librarianship (more often than not at least because in my case I have both in Librarianship)

    • KHamdan says:

      This is assuming that you know you want to be a librarian when you are getting your Bachelors. A lot of librarians came to the field after getting their undergraduate degrees in or working in another field.
      A graduate degree to work in libraries seems a better option than having to get another Bachelors atthat point.

  54. Christina H. says:

    I have worked in a public library for a decade, first as a full-time information/internet desk assistant and now as head of the acquisitions/cataloging department. I have a BA; I do not have an MLS. I have been told by the library director that should I acquire an MLS (even an online one), my salary would increase several thousand; I would be doing the same work, and have the same responsibilities, and serve on the same decision-making committees I do now. I attend the same training, the same conferences, and read the same books and journals as MLS staff. But I cannot reach the top of my scale, no matter how well I perform; nor can I apply for the same position (or a lesser one) at other libraries if and when those positions become available. (At present, I am considering an MLS, though because of my situation, it would have to be online; I cannot quit my job and relocate to a campus.) In the meantime, MLS department heads who have been here for less time and have less experience make more than I do, for the simple reason that they have the degree. I appreciate the need for some sort of credential for library work; however, treating an MLS as an end-all/be-all is wrong, and I have seen, over my ten years, that an MLS is no guarantee of ability, initiative, or responsible behavior on the job. Unless one seeks to be a system director or professor, there should be other routes ( a sort of bar exam, for example?) for those who’ve put in enough years, gained the necessary skills and knowledge, and proven themselves.

  55. ALA and MLIS graduate schools needs to take responsibility for their part in the negative environment of our field. They are responsible for recruiting too many librarians, and the schools need to take responsibility for over saturation. If not, how are they any different than for-profit colleges or career colleges. Yes the quality of instruction is better, but are graduates in a better position? MLIS schools need to look in the mirror and cap and lower their tuitions and assess their placement rates. The debt load is no where near the entry level earnings or the career earnings.

  56. Leah Krotz says:

    “If we are unable to pay a gradaute school starting salary we must be realistic and not expect an advanced degree.” That’s it, in a nutshell. There is no good reason why a Bachelor’s Degree in Library Science should not be the entry-level requirement.

    I’ve been the director of a rural library for 22 years, and my library has three times been named a LIbrary Journal Star Library. I have a bachelor’s degree and MUCH excellent continuing education in library topics to go along with those years of experience. I see job listings all the time that I believe I could do, and do well, but of course I’m not eligible without the MLS. And why would I seek an MLS at great expense and inconvenience (I’m 3 hours away from a library school) when those jobs pay the same or less than I make now working 34 hours a week?

    • Cap Nemo says:

      Leah, You are qualified for those jobs, those who post the jobs say “Well I had to get a Masters so do they” that’s all it is.

    • Michele says:

      “I see job listings all the time that I believe I could do, and do well, but of course I’m not eligible without the MLS. And why would I seek an MLS at great expense and inconvenience (I’m 3 hours away from a library school) when those jobs pay the same or less than I make now working 34 hours a week?”

      This. Requiring a graduate degree should be matched by offering a commensurate salary.

    • Another person says:

      well put!

  57. I spent ten years working in a small public library system before I started my MLIS – and while I was doing that, I was learning about the practical side of librarianship. The last few years, once I had decided that I wanted to continue working in libraries instead of teaching, I was also researching MLIS programs. I think that the time I spent investigating the programs – talking to people who had gone through the programs, looking at the programs online, figuring out just what I wanted in a library school – was invaluable. I continued working full-time while I went to school, and took my classes online, finishing in two years.

    The blend of experience and degree have benefited my career. Have they benefited my paycheck? Only slightly, since my state is one that ranks pretty low when it comes to starting salaries for librarians. However, the things I learned in my classes were excellent. Some of them I pull out and use regularly, and some simply inform the way I carry myself as a professional. They’ve become a part of who I am as a librarian – I think that’s a mark of a good MLIS program.

  58. cranky says:

    Welcome to women’s work! Let’s deprofessionalize ourselves further and become indentured servants? This is the point that is not being discussed at all. This is a women’s profession. Women are not valued. Hence any professional education we may have is useless in the eyes of…. us. Ah, feminism we’ve come so far.

    I realized when I went to library school that it was merely a sham union card for a lowly paid job. I’m lucky I’ve been able to be employed as a full time librarian since graduating, but getting the two jobs I’ve gotten has been mostly luck and the fact that I have a personality. A family member about 25 years younger than I just finished her MLIS and got a job as well. Both of us had library assistant jobs while getting our MLIS and she worked in her undergrad college library. Again, I believe I am lucky. However, I hired a fresh library school finisher who had never worked in a library. She’s learned a lot from me that I learned as a high school volunteer and library assistant about the day-to-day functioning of the library.

    She also has learned about management stuff like budgets and strategic planning. Most of what I’ve taught her I learned, wait for it, in library school. Library school does need to emphasize more about management – not just one class. This is what will make us more useful. The best library directors are those who kept their libraries afloat during the economic downturn. This is because they have the fundamental ethics of a librarian coupled with mad management skills. This is what library education needs to look like in the future. This isn’t just in the public sector. Academic librarians have crazy politics to wade through as do school librarians. So I challenge the library educators and the ALA to change their competencies to reflect the actual on the ground reality of librarianship.

    That and teach us how to get vomit, poo & pee out of the carpet cuz the paraprofessionals will not do it. That’s for the professional librarians to do!

    • Again with the paraprofessional = lazy. This last line is just unnecessary. If you can’t defend your Masters degree without denigrating your coworkers, then you don’t have a very strong argument.

    • cranky says:

      Well that was my experience. They were not lazy. They worked very hard. They just expected the management to take care of the customer problems that were outside of their job description. I didn’t have a problem with that. That’s part of the job as a manager.

    • “If you can’t defend your Masters degree without denigrating your coworkers, then you don’t have a very strong argument.”

      That’s quiet a mental leap you’re taking there. Don’t get me wrong I’m not advocating denigrating your coworkers. But saying that doing so makes your point invalid is a bit ridiculous. In fact, pointing out knowledge and ability gaps in your non-MLS holding coworkers seems like a perfectly valid argument.

      “Welcome to women’s work! Let’s deprofessionalize ourselves further and become indentured servants? This is the point that is not being discussed at all. This is a women’s profession. Women are not valued. ”

      Well I’m a man and a librarian. I guess I missed this memo.

    • Michele says:

      I don’t think it’s about deprofessionalizing. I think it’s about this being a Masters-only game. A BA or BS degree is a professional degree. I think that the ALA should accept that a person with a BA or BS in Information Sciences (if those programs even still exist) is a “real” librarian. A teacher with a BA or BS is a “real” teacher, after all. Teaching is not unprofessional because it only requires a Bachelor’s before certification.

    • Michele says:

      Also, this para-professional youth services librarian has cleaned up PLENTY of bodily fluids (and various other messes) in her 20+ years of full-time service, trust me. And my colleagues respect me just as much as I respect them.

    • Me, you are correct. That was probably a bit of a false equivocation. I apologize. I don’t think you should denigrate your co workers in making your argument in favor of your masters degree. I should have stated it as such. Helpful feedback.

      “Well that was my experience. They were not lazy. They worked very hard. They just expected the management to take care of the customer problems that were outside of their job description. I didn’t have a problem with that. That’s part of the job as a manager.”

      Cranky, If this was included in your original post I would have had no problem with it. But by simple saying “cuz the paraprofessionals will not do it” implies, to me at least, that they are refusing to do something that they are supposed to do. If you meant paras aren’t paid like management and so we don’t expect them to deal with that, again we are in agreement on that.

  59. Valerie Gross says:

    What if we migrated from our current degree to a B.A. in Education (with a focus on libraries); an M.A. in Education (with a focus on a particular library type or area); and a Ph.D. in Education (with a narrow focus on a particular library type or area)?

    This would also serve to define who we are (educators) and what we do (education: through self-directed, research assistance & instruction, instructive & enlightening experiences).

    Just like all teachers, principals, and school superintendents are educators, so are librarians, branch managers, and library directors/presidents/CEOs. Library Journal could consider changing its annual recognition to “Educator of the Year,” heightening respect and perceived value of our profession–especially to those outside the library profession.

    If you are interested, these concepts are introduced in a recently published book, Transforming Our Image, Building Our Brand: The Education Advantage (excerpts posted at TransformingOurImage.com).

    • Education has little to do with a lot of library jobs. For example, what does education have to do with catalogers, systems librarians, administrators, archivists etc. Education with a library focus would only work with certain specialties (children’s librarian & reference/ info lit for example).

  60. dan cawley says:

    Stick a fork in the MLIS, it’s done. The degree should be BA all the way. I still respect and admire many of my former professors, however. Yes, this is a troll-ish post.

  61. teetop says:

    Whenever I see articles and comments such as these, all I can say is I’m sorry you all put so little into your education. I use the training I got in graduate school every day of my career.

  62. As a library para-professional in a public high school, I would like to see the role of on-the-job training taken more into consideration by administrators. In my district getting an MLS would not earn me a pay increase in my current position. I do cataloging (yes there are some messy MARC records I’ve authored), weeding and all the purchasing for the library over the past two school years. I put books in the hands of my students. I am a librarian.

    I am enrolling in an AA LS program locally because I’m acutely aware of how much I still need to learn to better serve the students and faculty I work with, but I don’t believe the lack of a degree of any kind has impaired services to my patrons (but certainly so on those poor MARC records). My biggest professional asset? I’m a regular library user and avid reader in my personal life.

    I would like to see the ALA do more to acknowledge the hard work support staff do without any of the recognition-in pay or respect- by either our employers or the greater professional community. I like the tiered approach to LS degrees based on career goals.

    I stay at my job because I love what I do and I make a positive impact in my students’ lives.

  63. Michele says:

    I have worked as a full-time para-professional (no MLS) in a public library for over 20 years. I do everything that my colleagues with MLS degrees in similar positions do. I considered getting my MLS several years ago, but I quickly realized, through my own research and through talking to and getting advice from colleagues, that the degree wasn’t worth the student loans, and that what I had learned, and continue to learn on the job and at conferences is much more valuable an asset to myself and to the library. My salary would not have changed drastically with the MLS, I would have had to leave the union to which non-management employees belong in our municipality, and the only promotions it *might* have afforded me were department head or director. My department head makes about the same salary that I do, for more work. And I have no desire to be a library director.

  64. Honestly, I privately refer to this as my fake master’s degree. I often wonder if I’d be half as miserable if I actually felt like I was going into debt for this degree and actually learning something. Indeed, I am back to wondering if I should get a second master’s so I can put off paying my student loans back. The system is broken. One of the first things I learned in library school was that the master’s program was developed to lend legitimacy to the work, which just cements (in my mind) that this whole things is a flipping farce. Meh. I’m tired. Library school, especially this term, is excessively dull and I don’t know anything from the master’s coursework that I didn’t learn in the paraprofessional program that I attended before I committed to the master’s. Yet if I ever want to even dream of making more than 50k a year (and what a pittance is that?!) this is the final hoop I’ve got to jump through.
    Will it be awful it at the end of this I don’t want to be a librarian any more? Because that’s kind of where I am right now. 3 years of library work experience, 3 years of library school (1 paraprofessional degree and most of an MLIS) and I’m mostly entirely seriously bummed out about the whole situation.

  65. William J. Goodrich says:

    I have been a school librarian (K-12) for 40 years using a Minor in Library Science. I have seen a growth in library technology that has been amazing. Having computerized the first library in South America (a Bolivian International School) in 1986, I have seen school libraries come a long way. I have no MLIS but my daughter has one. She is now in the Peace Corps in Ecuador teaching librarians how to do ‘story time’ etc. (in Spanish). The library skills I learned in the early 70’s have evolved considerably. I have only been able to keep up to date by continuous training through such companies as Follett and online information networks. The technology today makes my job so much easier and has allowed me to spend more time addressing the needs of my students.

  66. Evan M Anderson says:

    I found my MSI program at the University of Michigan to be very instrumental in my job search, and incredibly useful on the job. In addition to strong foundational work at the school, the classes and practicum required provided me with significant experience and understanding of a variety of aspects of librarianship – including hard skills in databases (both design and use), e-reference, management, traditional reference, and the soft skills necessary to work with all manner of patrons and coworkers.

    I use the skills I acquired at Michigan (both in the classroom and in student positions Michigan helped me obtain) every day.

    I will concede that I’ve met many colleagues in the years since I was graduated who went to more traditional ‘library schools’ who did not have the same experience and have struggled more professionally, but that has more to do with choice of program rather than requiring a professional degree.

    And, lastly, there is something to be said about instilling core values and principles (Ranganathan is still relevant). When you look around the library landscape and you see libraries participating in censorship, or devaluing service, or destroying their own collections, the actions are typically from staff who do not have the professional training.

  67. Anthony Kendrick says:

    I agree whole heartedly with the authors sentiments. I am struggling with the idea of getting my MLIS. I started college when I was 25 to become a teacher, only to find out that there were too many teachers vying for too few jobs in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic where I’m from. I was fortunate though that I lived in a rural area and after beating the pavement was able to get a job as a library aide in my local library. I spent six years there, with many unsuccessful attempts to find a teaching job on the east coast. In the mean time I I took a few courses in library sciences from an in state community college. I finally realized no schools viewed me as a teacher anymore, but I didn’t have an endorsement in library sciences. I tried to find another library position in the east that would pay better (I have a growing family), but all the better paying positions required an MLS. In order to get that MLS I had to be willing to go into more student debt, at least another 20,000 to 45,000, and then pray that someone would hire me. After BA in Education and 6 years in a public library I think that I know enough to work in many of the available positions. Fortunately, I was able to find a school district that thought my teaching degree and library experience was worth the risk and hired me as a middle school librarian, but I had to move from Pennsylvania to Washington State. Of course with school budget cuts a constant worry, I still face the dilemma of having to get more education, because if my position is ever cut I will need to find another job.

    I’m sure that those who have spent the time, energy, and money on an MLS or MLIS are proud of what they accomplished, and they should be, but I’m not really sure that these degrees are necessary.

  68. Mary Jo says:

    I have been ruminating over this post for a week and reading the comments and the frustrations contained therein. I would like to add these thoughts:

    • The “We” that require the MLS degrees are individual library directors all across the globe. They have individual reasons for their hiring decisions in line with their particular visions. They do what they think best serves the needs of their communities, the type of library they run, and their intentions with regard to managing the library and promoting the profession. There is no unified body to convince that the MLS is somehow superfluous to needs; you have to convince these individuals, 99% of whom have an MLS and probably can see the value in it.

    • Some people have complained they didn’t learn anything in their MLS program that helped them in the field. Others are grateful for the experience and the theory and “big picture” thinking that came with it. Just as directors are individuals, so is every degree obtained. It is a confluence of the degree program offered, the professors on staff, the particular classes the student chooses, how much effort the student puts in, and perhaps even how bright the student is to begin with. Your degree may have taught you little, but mine was a brilliant experience overall. Yours may have cost $30,000, but mine cost about half that.

    The fact is, the MLS degree exists and it’s probably not going to go away. Maybe you could convince more universities to offer an undergraduate degree in library science, and maybe some libraries would choose to hire those students instead of MLS grads (though they would likely do it as a cost-saving measure). But as long as individual directors see value in the MLS, the degree will be required for positions where those directors see a need. If you want to be hired by someone, you don’t get to tell her what she should value in the hiring process.

  69. Jennifer says:

    What I find sad about this is how many people seem to regret getting their MLS. Every day, I am grateful for my education. I was an older student looking to start a new career and graduated in 2011 from, what I considered, a very good program. The education I received was challenging, perhaps because I chose to take more difficult electives, but I wanted to be fully prepared for any opportunity. I worked as a para-pro in a public library while putting myself through school. I now work as a librarian in the same system and, as long as I stay in a public system and pay the minimum on my loans (which is income sensitive so I’m not paying much since my salary is admittedly low), the balance will be forgiven after ten years.
    I resent the idea that public librarians do not need a MLS as much as somebody in a different environment. The young, the less educated, the functional illiterate, the job-hunter, and every other person who finds they need/want to visit the public library have just as much right to seek assistance from somebody with an MLS as an Ivy League student. And because of my education, I am better prepared to identify and assist with the needs of my diverse patrons.

  70. I received my MLS as an adult and the training and cultural orientation I received made it possible for me to take my undergraduate degree in Management and my life’s experiences to another level. Not everyone who aspires to librarianship has worked in a library. My first experience was as a graduate assistant in the Ag library at the University of Kentucky. Yes I learned a lot of practical skills there, but the basics of philosophy, history and practice were as foreign to me as the rationale behind the different cataloging methods and the reference tools available. It was the depth of my education that enabled me to create a personal philosophy of library service to my community, and to bring that philosophy to inform my interactions with my colleagues. To move the library and the profession forward, a deeper understanding and education is necessary.

  71. Jesse Ephraim says:

    “But I learned almost nothing in library school that I did not already know or that I did not honestly feel I could have learned just as easily on the job or on my own.”

    That was my experience, as well. When I first became a librarian, I found that my past experience working in a bookstore was far more valuable to me than my MLS program.

    I think we need to return to the days of having the basic librarian degree be a BA or BS, and reserve the Masters level degree for specializations (management, tech, etc.). To be honest, though, just about any intelligent reader with the right attitude can easily learn the basics in a couple of days on the job.

  72. Deborah Smith-Cohen says:

    The MLS is clearly a mixed bag, depending on where you went, what you put into it, and where you are going with it. For many, it clearly does not provide necessary or useful theory and practice opportunities. FCPL is revising its library job classes and removing the requirement as I write. What I found most interesting about this editorial was the suggestion that an apprenticeship structure would be more relevant and create better outcomes for the profession, for the libraries being staffed, and for the professional staff themselves. Unlike one writer above, I do NOT think that anyone could learn enough to be effective in a couple of days on the job. But I would love to hear about apprenticeship models or degree programs (esp. BS) that emphasize practical externships. Many of us are approaching retirement age ( in less than 10 years). Why would any young person choose the profession — given the issues stated above — without a better model?

  73. Sean Taylor says:

    As a library employee who has a Master’s in another field (Theater) and though I can’t sit here and read all of these comments I have to weigh in. The long story of why/how I ended up with a terminal degree in Theater instead of Library Science notwithstanding I wouldn’t trade my experience in grad school for anything. It taught me the value of research, and HOW to do it. It taught me the importance of education, knowledge and did so in a way I truly would never have learned without those three years of immersion. Can we eliminate terminal degrees in many many professions without losing a lot in the areas of public consumption? Sure! But the ideas, the conversations, (in and out of school) that are inspired by the learning process are invaluable and irreplaceable without the degree. I’m a little long in the tooth to go back to school but I am seriously considering getting another Master’s and I will do it in LIS this time. So should we be exclusionary to people without advanced degrees? No, I’ve never stood with that notion, there are many many talented and intelligent people out there who could benefit the profession, if they can live on very little. But we need to be careful of backlash that excludes those who are willing to give a portion of their lives to earn the credential too.

  74. I do not have an MLS. This fact has been brought to the forefront after winning the 2012 Best Small Library in America. Do I have the knowledge it takes to be in library administration? I have taken a number of classes, attended numerous seminars, workshops, and conferences. I can’t begin to count the number of webinars I have listened to and participated in, on a multitude of topics. My degrees are in computer science and accounting. Yet, with all of this I have been berated by librarians for not having my MLS.

    I am now paying for my daughter’s education, do I want to go further in debt to get another degree? I have read the threat now is that college debt is what may bring the next recession. I did not want my daughter to start her career with heavy school loan debt. I read that many students are ruining their credit because of this. What a terrible way to start off their adult life!

    One experience I had as a speaker at a leadership workshop in the Topeka Public Library was exceptionally humiliating. There is one librarian who interviewed us after we won our award, stating it was for her blog. It was not. She was very upset that a non-MLS librarian won the award and brought that to the attention of everyone at this conference. As I got up in front of the audience to explain why I did not have an MLS I realized that this was an issue that needed to be discussed, but not in this venue. Afterwards, another library director came up to me and said she too did not have her MLS. “Welcome to the white elephant in the room club!” Awkward to say the least. Does this experience make me want to get my MLS? No…Do I wish I had my degree? Yes…Just because then I could be a member of the “club” and not be singled out. Is there more I need to learn? Yes, but there are opportunities out there to learn everything I need, which I have been doing, continually! I would love to move on, to work at a library outside of Kansas, but they all require an MLS, so I guess I am out of luck…maybe it is on to the next phase in my life, without my first love…libraries.

  75. If public libraries follow the way Fairfax County Public Library is heading, it is safe to say that everyone involved in public libraries are doomed.

  76. Drexelgrad says:

    I deeply regret attending library school;

    I tell everyone I can, do not do it;

    I have been working as a librarian, but soon realized the prospect of having a good life is not possible; low pay, and no prospect of a future…

    If you have any idea about going, and don’t mind 30K in debt, then…find a globe, spin it, and using your finger, find a geographic location…go ahead and do this multiple times, so you arrive at a livable place…whatever that place is, buy a backpack, hop on a plane and walk through that continent…write, take pictures, meet people…then come back, and find work..you might actually have spent less and have more to show for it. That’s what I wish I had done…

    Now, where is my hot tub time machine?

  77. I suspect there will come a day, and perhaps that has already happened, when many with a two-year community college degree or four-year LIS (or IT or whatever is good for library employment) BA will go on to get their MLS and find out they learned more than enough the first go-round. As of now, though, I don’t see these three degree programs strategically aligned, are a poor reflection on our profession’s ability to handle a landscape that has been changing in front of our eyes for many years, and “MLS or equivalent” remains the language of the day, while for years “or equivalent” has made any BA degree with library experience palatable to many public library employers.

    If the landscape has truly changed – the earnings power for most library positions mirrors that of a 4-year BA grad, we are looking for attributes that do not require an MLS, we do hire for librarian positions without an MLS, etc. – and those alternatives are available to those eager to enter or advance in the field, then let’s do students, employers, educational institutions and our patrons a big favor and strategically and publicly transition to the new standard. The two-year associates degree could then be a well-thought-out and economical way to determine one’s interest in a BA, and the MLS could have a role for highly advanced positions in this strategic transition.

  78. Cynthia Peterson says:

    I’ve been a librarian for 30 years, finishing my MLS in December of 1983 and accepting my first library position in July of that same year. By that time I had all but four of my courses completed and thoroughly enjoyed all of my courses, finding them a great mix of practical and theoretical. When I took cataloging I actually was given cataloging exercises. I have a friend who graduated from a now defunct library school who told me that they NEVER actually cataloged anything – they just sat and listened to theory. So right there I knew there were some very great differences in the library school curriculums. Thirty years later I’m looking at newly-minted graduates from the same library school I attended and I’m horrified at what they are NOT required to take, theoretically or practically. I think they have gone so far over to the information science extreme that they do not take into account that many librarians DO need to know how to catalog. If nothing else it gives you enough knowledge to know how an ILS works (what Marc tags are indexed in what fields is just one consideration that I’m sorry – I don’t want to leave to a support staff member who only does copy cataloging). So these days I don’t necessarily want someone who is a new librarian because I don’t consider “information of organization” enough knowledge for the organizational aspects of librarianship.

    For me, however, the ALA-accredited MLS is an absolute essential for a job in an academic library. I won’t consider anyone for a hire if they don’t have it. To me it means that there is at least some consistency between programs that I don’t find in regionally accredited programs which usually concentrate on training librarians for public schools or public libraries – although there is overlap our needs include more comprehensive courses in discipline-specific librarianship such as business, social sciences, humanities, etc. Also, since most academic librarians have faculty status we must have at least a master’s degree in order to qualify.

    As far as the low salaries – I think that there are a lot of factors for that and the fact that some consider the MLS a faux degree. Why is it that the MBA is not considered a faux degree – it’s professional and has a combination of theoretical and practical. But it’s valuable because why? Perhaps because those very holders don’t denigrate it. It’s not as simple as that, but I think that’s at least part of it.

    • Hi,
      I like your response; I think some programs, like the one I attended, relied a lot on theory, and that meant that my dream, of creating better technology, was not quite realized as I needed the practical skills at building technology; I’m learning that now, but I feel as though some of that should have been included in my grad program.

      A classmate of mine jumped ship and attended a business school in New York, and now works at Goldman Sachs…I stayed on board hoping to do meaningful work; that hasn’t quite happened yet, really because of the emphasis on theory..I think my classmate saw the writing on the wall and made a smart calculated move; I do not like to start something and leave it unfinished, because I trusted the curriculum…

      I think, too, that business schools are very conscious of the need to help their alumni find positions, and help them network…that was not my experience with my library school alma mater…they really don’t care…I kept the email I got from career services when I asked for help, just because it is so bizarre…worded like, we would like to help you, but we don’t really want to; business schools perhaps realize that successful alumni are their best marketing…and the opposite is true, unsuccessful alumni are the best way to destroy their value. This is especially true in the age of comments and user reviews; I would think, if someone reads through these posts, they would decided not to attend library school, or at least not attend ones attended by unhappy alumni…in fact, I really don’t mind mentioning my grad school by name in most cases; I think it’s only fair to give others warning; if a library school becomes defunct, as in the case you mentioned, they have only themselves to blame; I’ve often thought my college should be absorbed by the computer science department because they are in dire need of curriculum reform that they themselves seem unable to accomplish..if that was a proposal and the college asked me for money to support that effort, I’d be the first contributor.

    • So, I found my alma mater may be merging with the computer science department after all; I wonder if this will be a trend.

  79. As the head of an academic library where librarians are faculty, we need not only the MLS, but a subject masters degree, e.g. our biology librarian has an MSc in Biology, our Computer Science librarian has an MSc in Quantum Logic, etc. Our library faculty have been known to teach courses – English, Zoology, etc. and give guest lectures in Computer Science, the Center for Teaching, Anthropology, etc. Some have PhDs. We publish, do research, serve on curriculum committees and every other faculty body, etc. Sorry, but I disagree – for my library, you need an MLS, and more. As for being able to learn on the job, and the profession being too diverse for anyone to learn everything you need to know, well, the first is a problem – frankly, my faculty and staff do not have time, nor should they have the responsibility, of teaching a totally green person ‘everything you need to know about libraries, from RDA to LC to digitization to heaven knows what else”. They have a ton of their own work to do, and they’ll happily train people in specifics of a job or things unique to our system, but it’s not their job to build the bare foundations. As for the second point, about library school not teaching you everything you need to know – that’s a nonsense point. NO advanced degree will do that. I have a friend doing a doctorate in chemistry – will he know every possible kind of research being done? No. Library school gives you the same rough foundation – and you can specialize from there. Does everyone in a rural public library need an MLS? Probably not. But in a large academic system, it’s indispensable.

  80. I mentioned your article in my recent blog post: http://tiffanynewton.webs.com/apps/blog/show/39684191-what-do-librarians-do-

  81. Library Employee says:

    The MLS (Master of Library Science) degree was invented so that people with that ‘title’ could get benefits. It is a bogus degree — and the only two-year ‘Masters’ — for unless you’re doing cataloging or creating websites, it amounts to nothing more than the alphabet and the Dewey Decimal System. It’s simply clerical work, and is exactly like working retail: accessing a database to find what’s available (as with a library catalog), seeing if other stores have the same item ( as with inter-library loan), putting items on hold, etc.

    Of course saying this to anyone with said ‘degree’ immediately results in the ‘It is too a science!’ response, along with ‘It is not like retail!’ and other delusional claims. Many are inherently insecure about their degree, and have a smug, arrogant attitude as a defense mechanism. All the job entails is organizing the work(s) of others; a largely parasitical occupation that is becoming more and more obsolete as physical media (compact discs and DVDs) dwindle in popularity and so much information is available online.

    Libraries (being tied to county and/or local government) are always woefully behind the times, and must buy what’s popular — instead of what’s important — in order to receive viable budgets; everything centers around circulation numbers. They have people who may not know anything about the area or topic they are ‘selecting for’ in regard to collection development, so many times the best books are not purchased for the library collection; they simply reference the New York Times list of bestsellers to make their decisions. Much like the music industry, they will be a victim of their own shortsightedness and unwillingness to change, since they don’t welcome diverse perspectives and approaches. If properly trained — again, the alphabet, the Dewey Decimal System, and learning the applicable library catalog database — a high school student could do the same work for a fraction of the pay.

  82. After I worked my way through college at the university library, several members of the reference staff begged me to get my MLS. At that point, I couldn’t see any good reason to do so. I was already sufficiently filling in for reference staff on breaks or days off, and there was little I couldn’t readily find for a patron doing research at our library. I stayed on as a circulation supervisor for another year after college. Later, I worked in closed-stacks circulation at a public library. Again, the question concerning an MLS came up. Again, the increase in pay simply didn’t make up for the cost of schooling that I would incur. Throughout this time, there were other academic opportunities that came my way, all of which would have been more affordable and more profitable ultimately than library school. I loved my library work but didn’t see the point of getting more education in something I knew just as well as those who already had their degrees.

    A friend and coworker of mine did bite the bullet and drop about $30,000 on an MLS. He’s now getting by as the director of a tiny library in a low-income school district. I no longer work at the library, but I don’t have to worry about paying back school loans with the income I earn from writing web content. Yes, I miss the library a lot, but I don’t know if I can ever justify going back to school to learn about stuff I’ve already successfully done. The only thing that might change this is if MLS programs expand and develop to include extensive SEO training and web content development as well as content location.

    Marie Gail

  83. Michael Lambert says:

    Whenever I come across the MLS editorials, I always think about my own experiences at the University of South Carolina, now over a decade ago (class of 2000). The College of Library & Information Science provided me an enriching experience that still is paying dividends to this day. I had worked several years at the Richland County Public Library in a variety of paraprofessional capacities prior to earning my MLIS. My education provided me with the theoretical underpinnings of the profession, as well as the latest technology training, both valuable enhancements to the work experience I had already gained to that point. I took all of my courses in person, which I enjoyed immensely. I’ve dabbled in the new fangled technology more and more the past few years, earning the ALA-APA certification as a Public Library administrator (CPLA), largely online coursework. The reality is that all of this activity was of my own choosing and one extracts value of the experience through how much of their own personal investment they make. There are a number of MLS programs out there and they are not all created equal. I have seen the San Jose State University SLIS graduates doing some outstanding work over the past few years in Bay Area libraries. I can’t say if there are too many graduates; one could say the same thing about any number of professions in a flat world with increasing competition and more automation happening all the time. Whether one has an A.A., B.S., M.L.S. or P.H.D., in this day and age you must continue to seek professional development opportunities and continuing education, whether it’s on your employer’s dime, your own or some combination. We can lament the market forces but it still comes down to free will and one’s own choices. You can follow your passion, at potentially great cost, or you can choose another path. My eighth grade English teacher Mr. Greene used to tell us “Life is not fair”. I personally value the MLS and what it represents. MLS holders have demonstrated discipline in completing a program that provides them with a shared knowledge of core professional values. They also can establish a professional network to last a career. Go Gamecocks! As Mr. Greene also used to say: “any comments, questions, criticisms?”

  84. Elise Wong says:

    I think MLIS is an asset to working in libraries. What I can’t wrap around my brain is the division between the who-has and who-has-not. When can we break the barrier?
    I have written a blog post about it: