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Inside Annoyed Librarian

PhD: the New Job Requirement?

Before I begin, I want to make a comment about olives. Olives crave gin, because it’s only in a solution of gin, vermouth, and a bit of cold water from shaken ice that olives really come into their own. The secret to success in librarianship is a good martini, and perhaps some Billie Holiday. Now, back "on task."

Someone forwarded me parts of a listserv conversation last week about academic libraries beginning to require PhDs for all librarian jobs and not just directorships. Some already do for directorships, especially some of the smaller libraries, because if you’re going to run a library it’s absolutely crucial that you’ve spent a few years writing a tedious dissertation on Hitler’s haberdasher or the novels of Wordsworth.

Now, by PhDs, I think we’re talking about PhDs in real subjects. Unless one is the subject specialist for LIS in one’s library, a PhD in LIS is not the thing. This of course makes perfect sense for subject specialists. As someone in the discussion mentioned, if you’re hiring a specialist in Tibetan studies, then having someone with a PhD in Tibetan studies would make sense.

There are already some libraries that require PhDs for all the librarians. As with a lot of oddities in academia, the lower you go on the academic food chain, the more useless credentials the librarians have to have. If you’re at a major university with faculty status, you’ll be judged on the quality of your publications. If you’re at a minor university with faculty status, you’ll be judged on whether you have another master’s degree – any subject or school is fine, which is why these librarians can even get master’s degrees in education or something similar from their own small university and get tenure. If you’re near the bottom, you need to have a PhD. Doesn’t matter which subject. The point is having the letters after your name. It’s a crazy world, I know, but I didn’t make it, so don’t blame me.

Could this become the norm in all libraries, though? Someone else mentioned a recent New York Times article about jobless PhDs. As usual, the Times is on the cutting edge of higher education news, because there’s only been a trend of too many PhDs (at least in the humanities) since about 1980. Finally, the news is made official in the paper of record. We can all breathe easy. Will academic libraries start to hire these otherwise unhireable people instead of those with the prestigious ALA-accredited MLS?

My feeling is, eh, maybe, but I doubt it. It’s not that the people aren’t at least as bright and educated as the average librarian, which I realize isn’t saying much. It’s just that, well, they don’t know much about libraries. If they could break into that first job, they might be okay, but we all know how bad most entry level jobs are. People straight out of library school take these bottom feeder jobs because they’ve been trained to do them and they’ve already abandoned all hope of more challenging and lucrative work before ever entering library school. But people with PhDs who won’t deign to go back to library school are different. If they’re too proud to spend another year cranking through the easiest degree this side of the M.S.W. then that’s a big signal to hiring committees that these people are probably too snooty and arrogant to deal with the tedium of library work, not to mention the fact they know diddly about libraries.

Fortunately for those academic librarians out there without a PhD, these poor souls are so arrogant they’d rather would rather adjunct at three different universities teaching ten classes a year for $20,000 than work in a library. In adjunct hell, they get to be "professors." In the library, they’re mere "librarians." I discuss this topic with a friend of mine on occasion, and it cracks us both up. My friend – with another master’s degree but sans PhD – sometimes points out he makes more money, has more job security, and in general does more interesting work than some of his old friends with PhDs and multiple part-time adjunct positions. It’s probably the case. I see the same thing in some of the friends I finished school with. They teach 5-and-5 at WesternDungheap State University for a pittance. I have this beautiful corner office overlooking the park and my own bartender (Hi, Chip!). Nuff said.

So I doubt PhD-less academic librarians have much to fear from the academic losers out there who finish their degrees in English or history or whatever and can’t get jobs. They might be intelligent and well educated, but they obviously lack street smarts, or they wouldn’t finish PhDs in climates where they probably won’t get tenure track jobs. And if they are more lacking in street smarts than librarians, then God help them is all I can say.

It’s hard to come up with a defense against this. One person quoted ACRL about the MLS being the appropriate terminal professional degree for librarians, but then pointed out that doesn’t mean much. Too many qualifiers.

As usual, I’d like to know what you all think? Do you work in one of those libraries that require a PhD? Is anything useful gained by that? Do hiring committees at your library salivate over people with PhDs, no matter what the subject? If so, why? Personally, I just don’t get it, and I may or may not have a PhD.



  1. Reminds me of an old joke.

    I went to college and got my BS and we all know what BS stands for. I couldn’t get a job so I went and got my MS, which stands for more of the same. Still out of work, I went and earned my PhD.

    What does PhD stand for?

    Piled higher and deeper.

  2. Dr. Pepper says:

    My library doesn’t requires neither a PhD nor a second Masters degree, and I wish they would. The liberrians know nothing but the most *basic* of query answers. Only one person has a second masters but she doesn’t keep up with her knowledge of the subject area – her masters is gathering dust. This isn’t helpful for all those students who know enough to use a library but aren’t versed enough to be power users and thus need some help from a Subject mater expert. On a separate note, a comment about the ACRL observation. If the MLIS is the appropriate terminal degree, but at the same time it doesn’t mean much, what’s the point of getting one? As Lea pointed out in the previous blog post, if it costs $45k to get an MLIS, and as a liberrian you get paid $37k (which you are already making) why go become a liberrian when you KNOW that there aren’t jobs, and even if there were you would not make enough money to pay your student loans?

  3. Seriously says:

    Really? A PhD to work in a library? I am on the list that had this series of postings, and people were kind of freaking out. If my library (or any) actually required a second masters degree or a PhD I would laugh my way out of the place. Do you for one second believe that they would pay you what you are worth with 2 masters or a PhD? Never. I have been a librarian at 2 universities for over 10 years and make $57,000. I would need a significant raise to make the additional degree worth my time. And I can guarantee the university wouldn’t pony up the cash.

    We have had candidates with PhDs apply for librarian positions and most of us on the committee think the same thing–they couldn’t get a real job so now they are trying to fall back on a library job. Sometimes we consider them some times we don’t. It really depends on the applicable experience. Just holding a PhD doesn’t mean a person would be successful in public service or teaching or whatever.

  4. I think there are some schools in Pennsylvania that require a second master’s degree for tenure, and I saw at least one library job ad a few years ago that required a PhD, also at a Pennsylvania university. Shippensburg, I think.

  5. Maybe it’s a ploy by the library school folks to get more money from people after the MLIS. “Since you’ve got the MLIS, now look at our other wonderful programs”. Heck, on the other hand it might weed out people who think that the “MLIS was a quality program and was quite rigorous” – ROFLMAO

  6. AL, have you considered your library sounds like the workplace the characters on “Mad Men” work at? It sounds fun.

  7. It does sound like a fictional workplace.

  8. Wondering says:

    You know… (this is in response to Cynic, and in response to the comments that are always posted on here) while I highly doubt that ANY MLIS/MLS program is truly intellectually rigorous, there are many differences from one program to another. In the last few years, I graduated from a program that required 16 courses and took two full academic years to complete. It was at a top-ranked international research university. Sure, we had our share of busy work and group projects, but I also wrote several long papers that required a lot of research, planning, and thought. And I never once encountered one of those assignments I keep hearing about – ”

  9. Wondering says:

    “go to your local library and pretend to be a patron and evaluate the reference services” – or “have students read X and then survey them on it” or whatever.

    I’m not saying that the program didn’t have its drawbacks – I encountered unimaginative profs, some of whom seemed to have mentally checked out of the teaching aspect of their jobs, and encountered some silly assignments. And there were WAY more “I want to be a librarian because I like to read” former English lit majors than I cared to deal with. But this idea that, without exception, if you have half a brain you can sleep through library school is not always true.

    Do I think what I learned in the program really had much to do with what I do on the job? No. Everything I know about libraries comes from a decade of library experience. Do I think you need a masters to do the work librarians actually do? No, not usually. Was my program truly “graduate level”? No, I can’t say that it was. I went to a top program for undergrad, and nothing in this program was any harder than what I did in college, and much of it was easier.

    My point is just that people should at least acknowledge that the MLIS/MLS is not ALWAYS the easiest degree one can possibly earn. While I didn’t find it to be highly relevant to what I am doing now, or had perviously done, I still found much of it to be genuinely interested and I learned a fair amount. And no, I am not some sort of freak or loser or stupid person.

    Generally I agree with almost everything the AL says – it all rings true after years of experience in academic libraries. But I wanted to comment on this one point.

  10. TrailingSpouse says:

    This requirement may be designed to accommodate the “pair-o-docs” — couples who come out of Ph.D. programs, but only one gets a tenure-track position. You know, you can develop expertise in a subject area without an MA.

  11. Dan Kleinman of says:

    That first paragraph/interlude about the olives was really funny! No one else writes like you.

  12. forwardthinkinglibrarian says:

    You know, if the ‘powers-that-be’ in the accreditation office at ALA had any sense whatsoever, and I’ll happily argue that they do NOT, the simple solution to all of this would be the recasting of the MLS into a DLS, by adding a few more hours to the program, much like a doctorate in music at many locations. No dissertation, or at least nothing that would look like a dissertation in any normal Ph.D. program, but essentially a professional doctorate.
    It would take little to accomplish the changeover, would make a great deal more sense as a terminal degree, at least in the academic world where that is a vital thing, and would allow for a bit less complication within that world – the only library world that I know, so I will not pretend to speak to Public Libraries or others.
    Really, a few additional courses, et voila! It would undo the entirety of the problem, on a number of different levels, and would create an interesting secondary market for LIS schools, in that they’d get a number of people looking to ‘upgrade’ the letters after their names.
    Why not? What’s to lose?

  13. Vegans For Meat says:

    My stint in rehab was way more difficult than my stint in library school.

  14. cold beer says:

    I got a Ph.D. in a humanities subject area from an academically rigorous but “un-prestigious” program and university. I *was* one of the Ph.D.’s who *did* deign to go through library school afterwards. Having been through the ringer in my doctoral program I was very impatient with the vacuity of some library school classes, but I just avoided those when I could and concentrated on the few substantive classes my MLIS program had. (I know, I know, some people think no MLS/MLIS class anywhere at all is substantive, but we hashed that out on another AL posting&comments, so if you weren’t convinced then you won’t be now and therefore this comment isn’t addressed to you.) After getting the MLIS my whole academic job prospects changed. My field and pedigree were such that I would have been doomed to teaching 6 classes per semester as an adjunct, per the example AL cites. Instead I got a great tenure track job as an academic librarian – by great I mean lucrative, challenging and intellectually engaging. Also, I adjunct for department responsible for my doctoral field at my university, serve on dissertation committees in that field, do bibliographic instruction for an occasional graduate seminar in that field, etc. There are some glitches, but overall it has worked pretty well.
    The humanities Ph.D., whether English, History, Philosophy, Classical Studies, whatever who think they are too hot sh*t to go back to library school for that second Master’s don’t know what they’re missing. The only serious disagreement I have with AL’s post is about the olives and vermouth, etc. Sorry, but I’m a “just gimme a cold beer” kind of guy. To each their own, AL, enjoy your martini if you like but I’ve got some cataloging to do and then the game to watch.

  15. There are so many PhD’s who cannot find work, they think, “I will just do an MLS so I can still work with the materials and have a full-time job”. I guess they didn’t look up the statistics that there are few library jobs, especially Arts & Humanities. I have ditched working towards the PhD and now I work in Insurance (that was after 2 years of not finding a suitable academic library position). I had two years of experience, the MLS, had started the PhD, and I have an outgoing personality and interview very well.

  16. Auntie Nanuuq says:

    Most of the work I did for my MLIS came from actual library work experience. I still work as a “paraprofessional” (although I do as much collection development & reference as any of our librarians here) and my prospects for promotion seem dim…. I don’t really care, I make more than an entry level librarian here and as much as a Librarian in most other libraries across the state. But my experience here was valuable for working on my degree, I was able to base most of my papers on actual/live experiences and used the required reading for citations that would back up what I was writing about. As for a PhD, whatever for..I’m still paying off my student loan for the MLIS…I’m on the slow track to retirement…5 more years gets me 80% and 10 more years gets me 100%. I already have 100% of my retirement medical benefits covered. No martini’s here, just fancy margaritas, maybe I should change my name to Easy Street.

  17. forwardthinkinglibrarian – the problem that I see with your suggestion of changing the MLS into a DLS is that it’s NOT that simple. I sat on the curriculum committee at my library school during a time when they were attempting to change their ”

  18. ad hoc” PhD in LIS into a formal PhD program. The powers that be at the library school – a unit within a very large research institution – do not have the discretion to just create a program. The university itself has very stringest requirements for what constitutes a PhD program (or let’s say any doctorate program.) The university would have to be involved in the creation of any new program, and I think very few reputable schools would allow a “DLS” program as you describe. My university still hasn’t created a formal PhD program.

  19. Stringent, that is. Not stringest.

  20. Dr. Pepper says:

    Heck, if you can get rid off a Masters in Nursing and have a DNP in its place ( Doctor of Nursing Practice if I am not mistaken) then you can make an MLIS into a DLS. Will it be easy? Probably not, but then again the most trivial thing in academia becomes a senate hearing ;-)

  21. Yeah, Dr. Pepper, you’re probably right. Although I defend my MLIS program as not being anywhere near as stupid as some, it may have been the most stupid program at my university. In fact I’m sort of surprised that the university would even keep the program. They didn’t have nursing or anything like that – they generally did not have ”

  22. vocational programs (not that I am knocking nursing.) Perhaps the university, due to its generally serious nature, was stricter than many universities when it comes to this sort of thing. I could see many state schools or lesser universities creating something like a DLS. But you’re right, in academic they need committees to decide to form committees, and so on. Sigh.

    I think it’s the quote that cuts off the post.

  23. forwardthinkinglibrarian says:

    No… et al,
    I was trying to make a point quite like that. If it is not a Ph.D. but a non-research doctorate, again, like that in music and some of the other professional degrees (and, I suppose, the J.D. as well) it would be a pretty easy sell to administration of Universities that already have a master’s level program, as a sort of upgrade. On the other hand, this isn’t something that should come from the Universities, but something that should come from the accreditation wonks at ALA. Make it a relatively easy transition from the M.L.S. and equivalents to the DLS by adding a few more classes and renaming the thesis, and you’re already there.
    So, why NOT?

  24. anonymous says:

    If you think about it and the DLS is NOT a PhD, but something else, it would actually be a pretty easy sell.

  25. Simmons, which is actually a reasonably good LIS program (so they say) had something like a DLS. I believe they now have an actual PhD program, but I’m not sure. But in any case, there are several schools that have things like D.Eds. I’m fairly certain, though, that any kind of doctorate degree has to have a research component, though, at any legitimate institution, even if the degree is not actually called a PhD and is in practical field rather than in a more theoretical field. At the university where I got my MLIS, there was a university-wide requirement that all masters students take a so-called graduate-level research methods course. Of course the less stringent programs got around this by offering some kind of B.S. course. My program, for instance, offered a course that only covered concepts and taught us what statistical tests we would use for what, with NO math involved! I was seriously pissed because I had taken a serious stats class in undergrad, and yet because it was not graduate-level (though it was much more difficult than the technically-graduate level course I had to take) I could not get out of the MLIS course.

    Anyway, I guess given all the B.S. research in the LIS field, they could create a research component which is not too difficult. But I’m not sure that it would work to just add more classes and basically lengthen an MLS program into a DLS program.

  26. Or, in lieu of a research component, I think it would still need to have some component that involves significant original work. The J.D. is just a whole other animal. It’s technically a doctorate (given the D in the name) but it’s much like an MBA. At least in a J.D. program there is a significant body of knowledge which is imparted to the students. But really despite the name, I consider the J.D. program to be a professional masters degree.

  27. I smell a rat.

    Universities and colleges are seeing that people are not rushing out to sign up for useless PhDs like they used to and a cash cow is dying. You can see them stroking their beards saying, “hmmmmmm, where could we make it a requirement to have a useless PhD?”



    “Eureaka! We could make it a requirement for our librarians. I can’t think of a more useless group on campus who still feel that they are important.”

    ka ching

  28. Wondering says:

    I think someone else (AL or commenter, not sure) may have mentioned this. It seems to me that this PhD requirement for librarians will probably be put in place by lesser institutions, as a selling point for their libraries. Major research institutions like Harvard don’t even generally require a PhD, although they strongly prefer it (and sometimes require it) for various subject specialist types. Most of the bibliographers (who select library materials (though increasingly Harvard relies on approval plans and so the bibliographers spend time involved in creating the approval plan profiles, and then assigning funds….) have PhDs. But even then it’s not a strict requirement, as one of the newest bibliographers has only the MLS (and 25+ years of work experience at Harvard.)

    I think SOMETHING (but I’m not sure what and how much) can be said for a librarian truly understanding the research process by having conducted real, in-depth research themselves. But how often will a reference librarian who works with grad students really need to draw on such experience? Most questions are not that in-depth, and a librarian with a deep knowledge of the institution’s collections can help more than a newer librarian with a PhD can.

    Basically, almost everything in librarianship is learned on the job, plain and simple.

  29. AlwaysWanted2B says:

    PhD, DLS, etc. Are not we librarians pretentious enough already?

  30. WOW.

    A PhD to shelve books, or to say to someone “Let’s go check Google”, or to go to meetings or to endlessly swill martinis.

    No wonder higher education costs so much!

  31. SATXLibrarian says:

    AL, come to San Antonio! There are a couple librarians here who would love to have a martini with you! (Hendricks gin, please, and as many olives as can fit on a swizzle stick)

  32. Dr. Pepper, I’ll tell you why I have to get an MLIS — I can’t get an entry-level job in a library without one! I’m a former newspaper journalist with more than a decade of experience (who left the profession three years ago, before this closing newspapers nonsense started), a BA in English, and I have worked in a bookstore. No luck on getting a paraprofessional job when my county built two new libraries about two years ago. If I can’t get a paraprofessional job, I’m hoping that an MLIS combined with my journalism experience will bump me into a research position at a corporation somewhere. I know that there aren’t any library jobs out there, but I’m hoping that my unique combination of skills will help me at some point.

  33. I’m sorry AL, I have never really disagreed with you before, but while I will concede that gin is classic, vodka makes a far superior martini.

  34. No… said:My program, for instance, offered a course that only covered concepts and taught us what statistical tests we would use for what, with NO math involved! I was seriously pissed because I had taken a serious stats class in undergrad, and yet because it was not graduate-level (though it was much more difficult than the technically-graduate level course I had to take) I could not get out of the MLIS course.

    RIGHT ON, MAN!!!!!!

    I was pretty uproariously upset about that Requirement too!! Research Methods, one of four core required courses of the Masters of Library Science, and yet the course is a Freshman level course with a 500 level number before the title!!!

    If you don’t know how to do a research paper and you are in a master’s program, you are in the wrong place – and I don’t know HOW you got your BA/BS. That core requirement lowered my respect for my program and the library school department tied to it one whole grade level. And here’s why:

    I can understand library schools desiring their graduates having a firm understanding of statistical methods. If they took statistics when they did their BA/BS, then let them take a more substantiative course! If they did Not, then let them take Statistics from the math department, as the REMEDIAL STUDIES course that it is in this person’s career!!!

    Yes, My library school wasted a lot of my time…Yes, I’m keeping my degree, because they will not be giving me that time back ;)!!!

    Here’s another anecdote: it’s not just the humanities. I have a friend who has Ph.D in Chemistry – Serious Degree. Why did he get a PhD? Because when he graduated with his BS, the only option to GET a chemistry job was to get a Masters. So he did that. And then his options after that were very simple: get a Ph.D and teach University or get a PhD and work Industry – because his job options with a masters were STILL weak. The Chemistry masters is the MINIMUM requriement – the field is Saturated with PhDs! So he got the PhD.

    He was then trying to find a job to no avail. His wife suddenly gets a great job [RN at a Hostpital] and his future is cast in stone: he’s here and teaching high school chemistry! Yes, he could go be a university lab assitant or a number of other things, but these posiitons in this area are 20-35k a year jobs. Teaching suddenly becasme the only viable option. Good thing is, he’s pretty good at it.

    He’s not the first chemitrsy major I have met out of work. I met a bartender with a BS in Chemistry – he’s bartending because a BS in chemistry is nothing in the field – you need a masters at minimum and they really prefer a PhD.

    Don’t worry, the whole system will come crashing down soon enough…we hope. these student tuition bills are gettin gout of line…Ridiculously so!

    Piece of advice: you want a job? Go be a Caregiver. Seriously. You’ll be making more than a librarian in five years, if you’re good at it.

  35. Post Postmodern Librarian says:

    Alright I ll be the first to complain about pay and easy of SLIS’s but I am interested to hear what do you all really expect to get from your degrees? How much money is enough money, what is challenging work?

    When I look honestly at my situation sure I am well underpaid as a librarian. But 33K a year isnt that bad Do I need 36 to pay my bills sure, but I am almost there. Do I work super hard? Honestly no but the job really dosnt require me to. I have stopped feeling guilty about it. I might if they paid me the 43K I am worth now. At the same time credit cards are paid off, I have most of the stuff I want and have gone on a few good vacations, and done other things. Dont forget folks student loans can be deferred, reduced or even forgiven if you work in a poor neighborhood.

    So my solution has been simply to go back to school for a second masters and maybe a PHD. Get the job in an academic library or move into the other field if they will have me. I also volunteer for the Historical and Heritage societies. This together gets me experience and education. If it will get me into the 43K plus range I am sitting pretty and I might even get a challenging job.

    Do you know what you want? How much is truly enough, what is a challenge? You will only get what you want if you know what the answer is to these questions!

  36. SpellWell says:

    Lea, you’ve worked as a journalist so I’ll assume you can write. I do not lie – the last person we hired had the best resume and cover letter. No errors at all. I placed others in the “Why the heck should we bother with you?” pile. They were riddled with spelling, grammatical and punctuation errors, not to mention poor formatting that demonstrated a dearth of word processing program knowledge.

    Did we hire the best person? I cannot say, but we did hire the person who put the best face forward. There were a number of candidates from this area – cheap to interview but, due to reasons listed above, we didn’t bother with them. The person hired happily packed up and moved here.

  37. I expected to be paid $45K or so out of the MLIS program since I already had over 10 years of library experience by then. $45K for 10 years in the field plus a masters is not asking too much!!! I live in the very expensive northeast and that’s really only enough to just get by (considering the student loans I have.) I did get that much, and I am happy. My significant other makes twice what I do, and we have no kids, so we’re doing pretty well. But one shouldn’t need to be in a relationship in order to get by on their librarian income! It gets back to the old notion of librarians being housewives who just use the job to occupy themselves and make a little extra cash. But truthfully… although I am at times extremely busy, and I generally have a lot of responsibility, there are also times when I could probably sit on my butt all week doing nothing, and no one would know. It’s a pretty cushy job, with 4 weeks vacation and tons of sick and personal time. Sometimes I really feel like I can’t complain too much. Do I owe a ton for my degree (both degrees?) Yes. Do I generally think that I should be making more than entry-level because although I am a new MLIS I have tons of library experience? Yes… but then I feel sort of guilty about not working THAT hard, and even getting paid this much.

  38. Dr. Pepper says:

    @Po-Mo Librarian
    Well, the answers are simple. The cost should be the lowest possible cost. College education is insanely expensive, so the lower the better. What level of difficulty is appropriate? Well that depends on the student. A program and a class must have a baseline where everyone has to perform at that level to pass, however it’s up to faculty to challenge each and every student. I have know LIS students who wanted and asked for more challenging work (instead of the silly little busywork they got), but they were flat out told that they just had to do this because everyone did this. The people I knew that wanted to go into LIS were the types of people that would make change in the field, improve things, however they decided to say the-hell-with-this because it cost them money to learn things they already knew, instead of teaching them something that would really expand their knowledge. BA level education is mostly about transmission of knowledge – open you skull and I will pour important info in it- and not about knowledge creation. MA education is mostly about learning a whole lot more about the profession AND synthesizing new ideas. In an MLIS program you don’t do this, and the people I knew who eventually said the-hell-with-it were looking for a real masters level program.

  39. Spellwell, my Significant Other’s Job did a similar thing recently; they had a position where they hired the best person on paper. Three months later and this lady nearly ran the place into the ground. Perfect spelling and grammar is not necessarily a good reflection of cognitive ability nor even professional ability!!

    Meanwhile my SO is no where near this lady, on paper, and yet she is the lifeblood of the community. At month three they took her and put her above this other lady ont he company heirarchy. And they are paying her for it now.

  40. Man, stop sending in abstracts to your disertations.


  41. Annoyed Again & Again says:

    “”go to your local library and pretend to be a patron and evaluate the reference services” – or “have students read X and then survey them on it” or whatever.”
    I recall going to the reference desk of the PL in a town where I left a decade ago. Some students were there moaning that they had a paper due on the Great Depression and they couldn’t find any books on this. The woman behind the desk, who probably had either a high school diploma or an AB in English, was at a loss. I couldn’t help and burst into this and suggested they check bios of Hoover and FDR, if there was nothing specifically on the topic on the shelves. They did and that was that. Now for the irony, I had offered to do volunteer work at the same place, during the recession of the early 90’s, to get my hand back in. I was told they didn’t need me; “We have another volunteer from X Library School”, the state Univ.. My degree was accredite, but from outside the area. I was also turned down for a ref. slot, sans interview, at a Univ. lib., even though I had contributed to reference books, and even had an award winning book of non-fiction. Big deal with the field :-/.

  42. I was ready for law school and at the last moment backed out. Instead I took some time off and got a full-time job in a library. I enjoyed the people immensely, professionals and paraprofessionals. I decided I could work in libraries the rest of my life. I got the MLIS because it offered a substantial increase in pay. Some of the classes were deadly dull, some required a heck of a lot of work. Some of my fellow students were dumb as dirt, others brilliant. Like most professions, ours has a very uneven practitioner population. All doctors complete medical school and a residency program, and a lot of them are God-awful, mostly because they cannot relate to the people they are supposed to heal. Extra degrees aren’t going to help them. I’d say the same is true for our profession. A second master’s or doctorate doesn’t necessarily make one more qualified. If you work in an academic library as I do, I’d be willing to bet you know some tenured faculty who couldn’t find their way out of a paper sack. And that’s with instructions printed inside it. Degrees aren’t a particularly good measurement of smarts. They do measure one’s persistence and ability to play the academic game.

    An MLIS gets your foot in the door but you may find a paraprofessional in your institution who knows more than you ever will. You may find your fellow librarians dull and stupid. Unless you get a corporate gig, you’re never going to earn a huge living. But if you’re fortunate, you might find a job that pays the bills, feeds the soul and allows a body to have a life outside of work.

  43. Dr. Pepper says:

    I would disagree (to an extent) about the second MA not making you more qualified. If you are an art librarian, having a Masters in Art History is much more important than having an MLIS. If you happen to have an MLIS, and then go off to get a MA in art history, then you are ultimately more qualified to be an Art Librarian. There are things in the art world that if you don’t understand you can’t give good reference service. Subject specialists are better than generalists in academic institutions. Most librarians that I know are generalists and this is their achilles heel. The stuff THEY know how to answer is stuff that Paraprofessionals know how to answer, BUT no one knows how to answer specific questions other than giving the same directions over and over to everyone and hoping that something works out. Subject specialists are also important in cataloguing. When cataloguing non-print materials (like digital images), it’s important to have subject matter specialists to catalogue those things because retrievability is much more important. Out of millions of “sun setting” images, which one if the one you want?

  44. Techserving You says:

    Dr. Pepper – I definitely agree with what you say, but it’s just that the second masters is not relevant for many library positions. And then of course there are ways to develop deep knowledge of a subject without getting an academic degree in it. It would be nice if people and positions could be evaluated on a case by case basis, but that is often not possible, plus some people just see things in black and white.

  45. At my institution, a second master’s isn’t required for librarians unless we intend to seek promotion to full professor (we have faculty status), something I don’t think anyone here has ever done.

    I enjoy doing research and I’ve been encouraged to seek additional degrees, but since most of my interests aren’t especially marketable I’m not sure whether I’d do so for any reason other than personal fulfillment.

    I have found that taking courses in the subject areas I’m responsible for has helped a lot, though since our students are primarily undergraduates, undergraduate courses have been sufficient so far.

  46. The Great Pretender says:

    Where are these academic libraries that don’t require a second master’s?? I have NEVER seen a posting for a job in an academic library that didn’t require one. And believe me, I’ve looked.

  47. Dr. Pepper says:

    Techserving it’s very interesting that librarians agree that knowledge can be gained without getting an academic degree :-) The one thing in my environment (with the librarians that I’ve dealt with) is that they seem to think that I can’t be a librarian without an MLIS because I haven’t learned the things I need to learn, and those are only learned in an MLIS :-) Ah…the duality :-) (nothing against you personally – just an observation about my environment!)

  48. Techserving You says:

    I agree with you! I learned nothing in my MLIS program that I didn’t either already know from being on the job, or that couldn’t be learned on the job, or that would never be needed in a library job. And quite frankly, everything that was taught that was actually relevant to library work seemed to be imparted in an environment disturbingly devoid of context. Cataloging made sense to me when I learned it on the job. In cataloging class (which I still had to take) the topic seemed confusing even to me, and students who were new to the topic were terribly confused. It was a similar situation with other topics – collection development learned from a book? The book was okay for me, because I could picture actually doing all those things, and had used many of the tools that were mentioned. But no one else would really retain that knowledge. So basically, the MLIS is not needed, and the only people who can even really gain anything from it are people who ALREADY know much about the topics that are being taught, because their previous experiences give it context. So why not just get rid of it? It just seems to me so unfair that most places will never promote a paraprofessional who doesn’t have the degree but has years of experience, but they will hire a new MLIS with no relevant experience.

    By the way, I have worked in numerous academic libraries, an none of them required second masters degrees for most positions. And I would always apply even if an add claims that it requires a second degree. What they want and what they can get in terms of candidates is often different, although that might not be so true in this job market.

  49. Great Pretender – small universities don’t always require a second master’s. I work at a Catholic university, small but growing. (one needn’t be Catholic to work here) We don’t have faculty status and will never have it. Why? Prejudice tends to run deep at small institutions and many Faculty look down upon those with a mere master’s degree. These would be the folks who can’t figure their way out of paper sacks. The younger faculty tend to view the librarians differently – we know stuff, we know how to work with ever-changing databases, can locate material they cannot, etc. They think a few of us are the greatest.

    Dr. Pepper, I worked corporate for many years – I did the research for every topic the company had an interest in: emerging technologies, medical issues, current business practices, banking regulation, company tracking, history of all sorts, and art (we underwrote lots of cultural events). I don’t have a second master’s and never needed one. I can handle every question that comes across the desk – it boils down to intelligence, life-long curiosity, and a willingness to learn everything I possibly can to provide our students the assistance they need. Note the first paragraph – I work at a small university. I’d like to hope the top-tier state schools and Ivy League universities have a more sophisticated student body, but I have my doubts. I rather think brilliant students are a rare species in Dumbed Down America.

  50. By definition, half of all people in the United States are of below average intelligence – by definition.

  51. Techserving You says:

    Too true. And yet, everyone thinks that they are at least average. Actually, everyone seems to think that they are of above average intelligence.

  52. mediocrity is the new average

  53. Mediocrity has always Been the average; we didn’t know it so much in the old days because the barriers to publication kept many of the huddled idiots in silence where they couldn’t speak, and if they could, you never heard them becasue they were so far removed from the mainstream culture.

  54. Meaness is the new mode of average.

  55. AHA but again, no. Meanness has always BEEN the mode of average. Otherwise we never would have seen a civil rights movement. You know people are mean someplace when the other people not like those people have to demonstrate in large masses to be heard.

    We forgot about this because a couple smart Liberal people got together and took over the press and thus induced a Politically Correct mindset as being “normal” through the media and further denounced and demonized any expression of anger or rage in any format anywhere ever.

  56. Commonplaces says:

    Mr. Kat:

    No, by definition, half of the U.S. population is below median intelligence.

    I would, however, say that the *average* librarian does not need a research doctoral degree, unless they serve in a library where an advanced knowledge of that subject matter or of research methodologies is required, or unless they aspire to directorships of academic libraries.

  57. No, half the U.S. Population is below “Mean” intelligence, whereby Mean is the is the “Average.”

    There could indeed be one smart person and ten dim people and a couple dim people would have scores above the median value. But if they are analyzed by mean, then none of the dim people would be above the average, even though there are more of them.

    Which means there could even be more than 50% of the people below the average intelligence quocient just as we all know most librarians make less then the average Librarian salary reported by ALA.

    I wholy agree with the rest of your statement.

  58. Commonplaces, I agree that a PhD could help with directorships. I have seen some ads saying it (or even an EdD) is preferred.

  59. Techserving You says:

    Oh wait, Commonplaces is correct. By definition half the population has an IQ below the median IQ, not the mean IQ. I wasn’t even thinking. The mean can be skewed by a few outliers. Take 5 people, 4 of whom have an IQ of 150, one of whom has an IQ of 50. The average IQ is 130. It was dragged down by that one person. Half the people do not have an IQ below that, only one person does. But the median is 150 (as is the mode) which is also not really indicative of the intelligence of the group. One can assume that with a large enough ‘n’, there is random distribution of intelligence levels, and about half the people have IQs below the mean (average), though.

  60. Incognito says:

    A librarian position at Texas AM for Digital Initiatives which just closed required a Ph.D.

  61. The population Must be significantly large regardless of whether the value is median OR Mean – otherwise the whole system breaks down. Now in your case, the median is 150 – and only one person is below that number. Again, our statement fails.

    The reason the definition works is because we are dealing with the population of the US, which is about 300 million. The outliers on the low end are balanced out by the outliers on the high end. Hence we are dealing with a standard distribution about a bell curve.

    Now if you spend some time with this you will find that the Median for such a dataset very near equals the Mean – your middle value very near approximates the Average. But Our statement calls for the Average [By definition, half of the US population is below AVERAGE intelligence], so MEAN is the correct term.

  62. Techserving You says:

    I see what you mean, Mr. Kat, though I have to say that by DEFINITION, half the population is below the MEDIAN IQ, and half is above – by DEFINITION of median. In a sufficiently large population, as you point out, the same should hold true for the mean. But that is not by DEFINITION of mean, which is just something like ‘the sum of a group of values divided by the total number of values.’ ( defines arithmetic mean as ‘a value that is computed by dividing the sum of a set of terms by the number of terms’.) Although now I’m just arguing your wording and not whether the concept you’re putting forth is true!

  63. Technolib says:

    What happens if they grade the IQ test on a curve? Does that mess up the mean and median.

  64. Mr. Kat says:

    Techserving You, you;re right; we’re arguing definitions – I think we best let it go. But you nailed the meaning of “Average,” and in this case, it holds true – but only because the population is so large.

    Technolib, if they grade on a curve, the average is still ~70% but they are given handicap points; so when you grade on a curve, a whole lot more people think they’re smarter when in truth they’re still just as Dumb as the Average Brick or worse.

    Now if we have a populaiton of 250 million, then 125 million are between average and below average intelligence. Unemployment is high, but it is not 125 million, and given the number of people who have said Library school was hard and earnestly meant it, I would suggest these people are indeed gainfully employed everywhere but most particularly in Libraries. How else do we explain such low salaries and a reverancy for the job that suggests we would even PAY to work in this field since it is so good to us?

    This discussion has been too much fun…

  65. Mr. Kat says:


    I remembered a another Anecdote.

    Most of you may be familiar with grading on a curve that leads to grade inflation. How many of you have been in classes where the professor Lowers grades on a curve??!!

    I have been in such classes particularly in the engineering field. In otherwords, let us say there is an exam and the average score is a 91%. The professor then makes 91% a C and redetermines the rest of the grades to fit into a stanard bell curve distribution.

    So you look on your test and see “89.5%” and think “Well, good, I’m doing quite OK!”.

    But then you see the board and is says something like this:

    100-96 = A
    96-94 = B
    94-91 = C
    91-80 = D
    79-0 = E

    I hated being in those classes especailly discovering that half the class is using the exams from the past five years to prepare for the exam because the professor never makes new problems [do each problem enough times and you can do it from memory; program each problem into your calculator as text and you can take it straight off the calculator!] and because everybody [THE AVERAGE] does so well on the exams, the professor thinks his lectures are really really hot stuff and thinks even that the students are really understanding the material.

    And becasue this professor is adament abotu fighitng “grade inflation,” he is purposely holding the class to a standard preset idea that every class taught right fits a predefined bellcurve average.

    Meanwhile, none of these conclusions really addresses the case.

    It’s really quite frustrating!!!

  66. Agree with DrPepper. The Univ I work in doesn’t require a second MA and I wish it would.

  67. Dr Evil Librarian says:

    My experience on several librarian search committees at a large academic library has taught me that most of my colleagues are intimidated by applicants with PhDs and afraid to even consider hiring them. When discussing such applicants they typically end up accusing them in absentia of the mortal sin of credentialism. I find that very sad since librarians (especially academic ones) are supposed to be enthusiastic supporters of education and learning for its own sake. Seems to me, all other things being equal, a librarian with a PhD should be preferred to a librarian without one. Period.

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