Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

On Dumb Librarians

My goodness, last week’s post on the American Libraries propaganda article drew some sharp responses. Not that I play favorites among my readers, but some of my favorite responses were from a gushing, appalled library school student who hates this blog because it’s so "negative" and "smug."

Oh, and he thinks the AL is a "classist harpy." (Or perhaps he meant I’m a classical harpist, which is true.) I speculate that the student is a "he," by the way, from that particular phrase. After "harpy," perhaps he could call me a shrew or a bitch as well. These male library school students with apparently no library experience whatsoever go on aggressively about how everything’s hunky-dory in librarianship are just being assertive. The AL disagrees just as aggressively, she’s a "harpy." Nice.

The arguments last week seemed focused on an online/traditional MLS split, with the angry library student making an obvious mistake in reasoning. Because I claim that distance education is making it easier to get an MLS, I thus think all online MLS students are stupid. I’m going to address my issue with the online MLS later in the week, but this argument is simply flawed. Despite the earnest student’s claim to have read the blog, the reading was obviously superficial. My argument for years is that library school is too often an intellectual joke. Putting it online just makes the joke more available to more people.

Comparing online and traditional education is pointless, and we could rig the game either way. How many would argue that a traditional MLS program at Michigan or Chapel Hill wouldn’t be superior to the online programs at Clarion or North Carolina Central University? My point isn’t about specific programs or specific students, but the very fact that programs exist that will let almost everyone in, give them easy work to do, and allow them to graduate. This isn’t anything new.

Our Pollyanna library student says of me, "She honestly believes that there are dumb hicks in library school who don’t deserve to be there." (I think the "hicks" part is confusing the posts on distance education and the hillbilly burning Bibles, but we can leave it in.) Apparently, our library school student has no such belief. But I could turn the question around. Who could possibly believe that there aren’t dumb library school students working their way through easy programs? All library school students "smart"? All "deserving"? All programs challenging? Is this guy joking?

Anyone who believes that all library school students are smart and would be capable of passing through a rigorous graduate program is just naive. There are enough programs online and traditional with low enough standards that as long as a student can come up with the money, they can get in and through a program. Online education makes this even more likely, because the students don’t even have to relocate. All they need is the cash and a superhuman tolerance for boredom and an MLS is their oyster.

There are plenty of very smart, passionate, and dedicated librarians out there, but there are also plenty who aren’t at all bright or competent. Anyone who’s worked in a library knows this. This has always been the case, because the MLS has always been a relatively easy degree to get. Library students who haven’t worked in libraries haven’t looked around at their workplaces or conferences to spot the dull librarians. If they’re online students, they haven’t had the same opportunities of spending time around some of their peers to figure out who the dull ones are.

But they’re there, and they are the most likely ones to be wooed into expensive, easy degree programs thinking the MLS is a guaranteed ticket to a good job because of that terrible librarian job shortage that’s always just around the corner. Do I want dumb people in the profession? Nope. That’s not good for anyone. But I don’t want to see them exploited, either.



  1. The only people who think the MLS is a real graduate degree are people who have never been in a post-grad degree program other than the MLS. (And I’m a public librarian, btw, not an academic!) The admissions for library school are ridiculously easy compared to other programs.

    The problem always seems to be that the MLS is a split-personality degree; no one can decide if it’s a trade school or a graduate degree. Unfortunately, it sucks at both.

  2. This topic is very interesting to me. I’m an MLS student, but have never worked in a library. I came to the field from the publishing industry, looking for a more service-oriented information profession. I have to agree that it wasn’t very difficult to gain acceptance to an MLS program; I got into every school I applied to. I ultimately chose to attend the school I do because of financial reasons: I was offered an assistantship that would pay for my courses.

    I would have very much liked to work in a public library as I pursued my degree, but I live and go to school in the NYC metropolitan area, and there aren’t exactly openings in the public library systems here. I do have to pay rent, though, so I’ve done my best to try to work as close to the library-profession as possible. I work full-time at an LIS publisher, go to school part-time, and also work as a graduate assistant. While it’s true that library school isn’t exactly the most taxing of academic pursuits, it does take up a lot of my time and I do try to do my very best.

    It’s disheartening for me to be stuck in a place where I’d like to have hopeful expectations about my professional future, but am confronting the reality that it may be very difficult to find employment. I’m hoping to intern in my last semesters, so maybe that will help me gain some of the library experience that is so valuable, but also often difficult to obtain.

  3. Dances With Books says:

    Imagine that, that there may be a good number of dumb librarians in the “profession.” Clearly some people have their blinders on, along with a blindfold. All I have to do is look at my workplace, where I know a few people probably just barely got by when it comes to getting their MLS. I think Mr. Pollyanna needs a wake up call, like pronto. Or not.

  4. I have certainly had the pleasure of working with some really insane people with a MLIS. And some that are very socially awkward and angry. And I’ve seen some bright young people who ruined their careers by being difficult to work with because their arrogance didn’t allow them to take orders from anyone.

    On the other hand, I worked with some truly delightful, intelligent and hardworking young people who will go far. I guess I’m trying to point out that personality, interpersonal skills and attitude can play just as big a part in getting and holding a job than education and experience.

  5. I meant as education and experience, not than.

  6. There are not-so-brilliant people in any degree program. A case in point from my own MLIS program. First year, first semester Library Foundations class – a person was expelled from the program for plagiarizing their library ethics paper. Now tell me, how dumb is that?

  7. Dr. Pepper says:

    LOL @nolajazz – that story is priceless. I guess the motto should be “friends don’t let friend MLIS” ;-)

  8. QuestionableSanity says:


    In my first class of library school (in 2007) the instructor spent the period explaining different communication systems such as e-mail, IM, etc. The sad part was that this was even included in a graduate level course. The depressing part was that some of the class needed it.

    That said there are so many different aspects of LIS that it is hard to say what is appropriate for each area. I am not as worried about some of the not so bright MLIS holders going into say public librarianship as I would be if they went into academic/special librarianship. Each area needs different skills and knowledge levels.

  9. I went to library school after getting a Ph.D. in history. For my history doctorate I went to one of those programs that’s academically quite rigorous but not “presitigous” (in the history graduate school world, one can almost say “academically rigorous *because* not presitigous”!) When I went on to my MLIS I found a few classes intellectually demanding (e.g. a cataloging seminar in which we had to write real research papers.) A few classes were at the opposite end of the spectrum – vacuous. Most of the classes, however, did not tax one intellectually but still taught one things that a librarian needed to know, and that I sure didn’t learn in my history program – things like the technical aspects of digitization and archival management, a brief introduction to the business end of collection management, etc.) Now one could easily argue that says more about the ivory-towerness of arrogant historians more than the value of library school. Further, one could contend that library school isn’t the only place to learn those things, and cite such as evidence that library school is still a rip-off, a joke, etc. after all. On the other hand, for me library school happened to be the most convenient and cost-effective place to learn them. My program, however, was not online and the opportunities for face-to-face interaction and class practica on-site were invaluable. Further, I paid in-state tuition owing to a tuition-reciprocity agreement that various states have with each other regarding their public universities. I ended up getting a great academic library job that’s intellectually challenging, pays well, and lets me work with great people. Yes, there are some dolts out there in the library world and many vacuous classes in the less-than-rigorous library school programs. I agree with AL’s earlier contention that what we really need is to raise the standards in library school. Requiring a research requirement or making the Master’s exam process more challenging would be a good start.

    I also agree with AL’s use of sarcasm in the following part of her post to point out the sexist double-standard regarding legitimate criticism:

    “These male library school students with apparently no library experience whatsoever go on aggressively about how everything’s hunky-dory in librarianship are just being assertive. The AL disagrees just as aggressively, she’s a “harpy.” Nice.”

    That double standard needs to end. Librarianship has enough problems already. Addressing the sexism rampant in the field would be a great way to start making things better.

  10. Not A Librarian Anymore says:

    It’s a pleasure to see someone else who recognizes the sexism in librarianship, someone.

  11. As a man in this profession I would like to remind all that the sexism cuts both ways. This is still a female-dominated profession, and any men entering it should be aware of the dynamics at work when, say, you are the only man on a committee with a half-dozen or so other people. I have to say that I’ve experienced a “Girls Club” mentality frequently, and it ain’t pretty.

  12. Library student says:

    I am the library student in question and I am a woman. It’s interesting after reading how liberally you use words such as “hillbilly” you would be offended by “harpy.” And because you thought I was a man, the point of your next blog is “I’m just a girl who’s trying to make the world a better place, darn it.” I’ve read your past blogs, AL, and that is simply not the case. You do not just take issue with the ALA or diploma mills, but with the quality of the students themselves. Students who are taking advantage of every opportunity they have to better themselves and their communities. Do you honestly believe that huge portions of the unwashed masses are thinking that the easiest ticket out of the trailer park is an MLS? I can tell you that the online classes I have taken are exactly the same as the in-residence ones. And granted, neither are all that difficult, but that is not due to any fault (or lack of intelligence) of the students. I also work closely with members of my community on research projects and the like. One of your readers said yesterday that an online student had “mental problems” or some such nonsense. Really? In residence programs keep kids on their meds, do they? There are dumb, mentally unstable people in all walks of life. Look at me, for example, still reading this blog. There is a persistant theme here of “us” vs. “them.” That’s what I meant by “classist.” I can admit that if using the word “harpy” offended you I regret that, and apologize. As for smug, negative and classist, I’ll let those stand. And I’d also like to know specifically what you are doing to protect and improve this profession you so admire. Aside from this blog. Because saying this blog afects policy is like saying Glenn Beck is as important to the democratic process as Olympia Snowe. At least Glenn Beck uses his real name. And at least he’s entertaining.

  13. Not A Librarian Anymore says:

    Are you talking “Girls Club” as in perhaps excessive socializing and talking aout shoes, comparable to the work talk that drove women to take up golf in the 80s and 90s to have something to chat about with their male colleagues, or bullying, which I can say in my experience is directed at both men and women?

    The main galling form of sexist behavior to me is the enforcement of “Keep Sweet!” that defangs any discussion of issues facing the profession for fear of giving offense or hurting someone’s precious feelings. The gender stereotyping is also lousy for both sexes. However, considering that men rise higher in the ranks and make more, maybe you can take that as cold comfort in your next meeting with the girls.

  14. Not A Librarian Anymore says:

    “Students who are taking advantage of every opportunity they have to better themselves and their communities”

    How does getting a degree that doesn’t prepare you for the job, isn’t flexible enough to allow you to do something else, leaves you in debt, and puts you into a particular subset of the job market that isn’t robust or good at encouraging skills growth bettering oneself or one’s community?

    “Because saying this blog afects policy is like saying Glenn Beck is as important to the democratic process as Olympia Snowe.”

    No one has ever said this blog affects policy. That’s not the point of it. This blog offers a critique of the library profession and culture that voiced under a psuedonym and read widely because a lot of people in the profession think these things but can’t/won’t say them aloud for fear of losing their jobs or professional status. Considering ALA doesn’t even have teeth to enforce its “policy,” I don’t see how you think a blogger is going to change the profession or even should be expected to want to do so.

  15. “How does getting a degree that doesn’t prepare you for the job, isn’t flexible enough to allow you to do something else, leaves you in debt, and puts you into a particular subset of the job market that isn’t robust or good at encouraging skills growth [constitute] [sic?] bettering oneself or one’s community?”

    It doesn’t necessarily. But even the most idiotic of library school programs have at least a few classes that with one’s own effort one can make into springbroads for substantive, challenging work. It’s almost like rewriting the class yourself to make it challenging – and I know that’s not the way programs should be run, not good for the profession, etc. Yet some students do that. I bet there are at least some people who graduate from online programs that are of the more questionable quality and yet those people publish real articles in real journals, do innovative practical work, etc. In other words, sometimes the individual does exceed the program even though ironically it was the program that gave them the springboard.

    Much of the AL blog has to do with observations about “library-land” and therefore librarians in aggregate. Once we start getting into individual examples and experience in order to be credible you have to have substantiated details and knowledge of how representative that individual’s experience might be. And few are willing to break the famed anonymity of this blog in order to provide that. That’s fine with me, as the AL blog is really more for entertainment and blowing off steam so it seems. Sometimes it’s thought provoking, but when I get an idea really worth developing I’d rather do it in a more professional forum than this. To each their own though; as I said this forum is entertaining and has its role.

  16. To Library Student:

    “I also work closely with members of my community on research projects and the like. One of your readers said yesterday that an online student had “mental problems” or some such nonsense. Really? In residence programs keep kids on their meds, do they?”

    Not sure about meds and the other out of context comments you made, so I will clarify for you.

    That is not what I said at all, and anyone with reasonable reading and interpretive skills will understand the context of the post.

    I was referring to one student who went to a particular school in question (about standards and diploma milling) and how she was very intelligent and motivated, and how another graduate of the very same program was mentally incapable of comprehending or performing basic tasks. She could barely stack books or operate circulation programs to check in books. She did not have the mental capacity to engage in graduate study and it was sad; however, due to the fact that this school accepts anyone and passes them through, there she is with an MLS, no job and no skills.

    So, to spell it out simply for you, I was criticizing universities pumping out graduates without having reasonable admissions, coursework, or grading standards. It devalues the degree and profession for everyone, including me and you. Now, being a “library student” you might want to care about the state of the profession and hone in on some analytical skills.

  17. AlwaysWanted2B says:

    The constant harping on, and tearing down of Library degrees is tiresome. It is like a comedian who keeps telling the same punch line over and over and over. Get over it, move on.

  18. Wait! There’s NO serious shortage of librarians just around the corner???

    Harpy diem. (for the pseudo-classicists in the room)

  19. in general library programs are doing a disservice to the profession. basically it feels as if we’re being told that the profession and the schools that supposedly create the professionals don’t value what librarians and archivists do or who does it, that anybody can do it. if the world ran on rainbows, i’d be a paleontologist. but my love for dinosaurs and wish to be a scientist who plays by her own rules doesn’t mean i should get a ph.d. in something i clearly have no business doing.

    i am a recent grad. i very much believe in a lot of what we do. that’s why it’s important to have passionate, dedicated, competent people to do it and for me to work with.

  20. LibrarianToBe says:

    I’m an MLS student in Canada and I’ve read this blog a few times. I understand the angle of this blog, I understand that sometimes to make yourself heard you need to say things differently however I was really shaken up by the post on the MLS programs. I didn’t need to read it though, I’ve been feeling it lately.
    I have ten years of experience in completely non library related field and I decided to apply for a MLS because I wanted to be a public librarian.

    One year into the MLS I am terrified that I’ve wasted my time. Nothing so far has proven extraordinary. Just last week my class concluded that Reference is irrelevant, and I completely agree.
    Cataloguing is no longer that secret law that only librarians could understand, books come pre-catalogued anyway or you can simply copy catalog all your stuff.

    So what do librarians do actually? Why are we being forced into a two year master’s degree just for the right of calling ourselves a librarian? And wait a minute, don’t you dare to call yourself a Professional Librarian, no oh.. that’s reserved for librarians who pay their dues to their respective association.
    I do believe that many of us have fallen into the “marketing trap” of MLS programs.I’m not shy to say it. I also read the NY Times article. It just started to hit me: from the MLS we emerge as webmasters, customer service reps, avatars, boolean operators specialists, open access messiahs (knowing that once everything is open access nobody will need us for real), second-hand teachers, and the list goes on. From this program I will be the most competent customer service rep in the world, i’ll be able to sit at the reference desk and with a smile direct the millionth person to the restroom.
    Seriously, are public librarians still relevant? Do you really need an MLIS to be one? This is a practical question, not a rhetorical one, if any public librarians would care to share your point of view I’d be very grateful. Otherwise I think I’ll emerge from the program a depressed avatar.

  21. Somebody above mentioned “librarians and archivists.” What is the view of the MLIS in the world of archivists? Is it viewed as a joke degree to archivists, as well? Or as a necessary professional hoop one must jump through?

    To be a “certified archivist” I understand that you must hold a master’s degree (in any subject) and take a certification test. Few schools offer a degree specifically for archiving, so you’d most likely have to take the “archives track” within a library school program, emphasizing classes dealing with archiving rather than the “Libraries and You” kind of library-school classes. I can see how this would be helpful, but – are you better off just having a history MA and taking the SAA certification test with that? Is the MLS necessary?

    I have heard that archives classes are more demanding than public library related classes, and an archives emphasis with the MLS might actually be beneficial to an aspiring archivist. However, it also seems like that might serve to make a degree with few transferable skills and pigeonhole the holder even further…

  22. If you really want to be horrified, read the Placements & Salaries Survey in October 15th’s Library Journal (also online, I’m sure). The employment outlook itself isn’t the most horrifying part – it’s the transparently weak spin that LJ tries to put on state of the profession. The icing on the cake is the “Library Education Showcase,” which is basically ad space for library schools, and it’s easy to see how we’ve gotten into this mess of substandard library education and graduates. It doesn’t look like much will change any time soon. My advice to all library school students, prospective students and working professionals is to learn as many transferrable skills as possible. Be able to offer employers something your library school didn’t teach you, or something you went out of your way to learn, like web design or a relevant programming language. If library school programs are going to remain soft on content, it’s up to you to fill in the blanks.

    That, or find another profession.

  23. GoodPublicLibrarian says:

    In Response to LibrarianToBe “Seriously, are public librarians still relevant? Do you really need an MLIS to be one? This is a practical question, not a rhetorical one, if any public librarians would care to share your point of view I’d be very grateful.”

    IF MLS programs were challenging and selective-yeah, you WOULD need a Masters to be a public librarian—If you’ve ever seen a GOOD public librarian in action, you’ve seen them turn “whereza dictionary?” into a full fledged reference interview-getting the dictionary, an overview of the person’s project and and idea of their research and computer skills quickly–then the librarian will hook them up with what they need and encourage them to keep coming back. If you are a bad librarian (one with bad training, no analytical skills and no experience) you will hand them the dictionary and go back to screwing around on facebook…because you have no idea how to help. The combination of MLIS programs with NO standards + patrons mistakenly thinking they can find everything on their own = an appearance of irrelevance. Add a bunch of administrators who think reference librarians are just giving directions to the loo, and the reference librarians disappear. I fully intended to make you feel better when I started writing this-but I can’t, sorry!

  24. anonymous says:

    @Library student:
    AL is right in that a lot of students are admitted to MLIS programs who are not at a Master’s academic level, or who lack the intellectual capacity to deal with problems in a library. They may be able to do reference work, when not under any time constraints. They may be able to do their jobs when told exactly how to do them. But throw any kind of wrench in their day and they fall apart. Unfortunately, especially in public libraries, proverbial wrenches are everywhere.

    You want to know how to tell who will make good librarians and who won’t? Look around at your library school classmates. The ones who love it, who think it’s awesome, are the ones who are not going to fare well in the real world. The ones who can acknowledge that the program is just a hoop to clear in order to climb the professional ladder, THOSE are the students who belong in the profession. Realists. And as another poster commented, it is possible to take a mediocre program and make it better, learn from it, make it your own. Those students, the ones who try despite knowing full well that they don’t have to, those are the people who are going to be future leaders in the profession. Align yourself with those people. Realists who haven’t given up, just yet.

    But never, never delude yourself into thinking that everyone in MLIS programs is smart enough to be there.

    Honestly, the librarian I work with described her library school experience as “magical.” And she couldn’t figure out how to fix a broken mouse on a computer.

    I was one of those students who realized that the MLIS was just a hoop to clear, a necessary piece of paper to obtain if I wanted to ever rise through the ranks, and yet I still tried in most of my classes. My friends thought I was nuts. Why do more than was necessary? Didn’t I know that we’d all end up with the same degree in the end? Well, sure. I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I am fully aware that the dingus who failed 3 of his classes got his cushy gov’t job in Ottawa because he speaks French. The idiots that AL laments getting admittance do sometimes get jobs, it’s sad to say.

    The moral of the story is that life ain’t fair. And neither is library school. Admitting that doesn’t make AL negative or smug. It makes her honest.

  25. “At least Glenn Beck uses his real name. And at least he’s entertaining.”

    I think Glenn Beck is an idiot, but maybe I’m alone in that opinion.

    There are smart and dumb people in librarianship. “anonymous” is right. The people who think library school is challenging or “magical” should go into some other profession. The ones who realize it’s a sometimes useful but boring hoop may do the field good.

  26. “…books come pre-catalogued anyway or you can simply copy catalog all your stuff.”

    That’s probably true for a smaller or mid-sized public library, or at least for most of their circulating collection.

    Less true for academic libraries.

    Not true for special collections materials (especially manuscript material). And the latter is where the big mass of “hidden” materials are that need cataloging and need to be made accessible. You can digitize stuff, but the organization of it in a digital collection requires the same thought process that’s behind cataloging. I realize the person who made the above-quoted comment was talking about public libraries, but even they often have some special collections material that needs cataloging and by defintion can’t be just copy-cataloged. So it’s worth thinking about. If taught in a meaningful and useful way, cataloging is intellectually challenging and the resultant classes can be among the more substantive in library school.

  27. Mr. Tadakichi says:

    LibrarianToBe, GoodPublicLibrarian just pointed out what a good librarian does, and why libraries still (and will always)matter. Getting information to people who want it and need it, in order to help them and help society in general (well informed populace, and all that).
    In my case, I’m a “Library Associate, not a Librarian, so I do that every day (and better than some of my Librarian co-workers, I might add), for about $10/hr. less.
    So, if you believe in the library and want to work in a library, then work in a library. If you want to make the big bucks (comparatively speaking) to work in the library, then stick with the MLIS.

  28. online degrees are a joke says:

    i hate those diploma mills, especially in california the whole state seems to be taking classes through san jose state. and i love when i hear their students they are getting a top class education at a bargain price. a bargain yes, top class very doubtful. i have the unfortunate experience of having to work with these graduates. the amount of plagiarism that is allowed boggles the mind. i especially like when they mock my ucla degrees (yes i have to master’s degrees) because they sjsu will make more money. really? make more money for doing poor librarians work. much needs to be done in this field and it does not help when thousands of poorly educated librarians, all educated online, have to work with you. i get tired of their poor decisions that impact the whole library. this is happening all over the country. i like that ucla does not let eveyone in, sjsu lets everyone in and then graduates the dolt, but then again it seems all online degrees let everyone in, and as long as they pay and post a response or two per class are soon thereafter awarded an MLIS wow, it took a lot to earn that degree.

    if the library world in public and academic places keeps dumbming down, i may soon have to start changing careers i am tired of making little for something i do enjoy, but sadly the company is getting worse year after year.

    those doing online degrees keep telling yourselves you great, no one else is, that’s for sure. i am only sad that this field is becoming a bigger joke thanks to greedy schools looking to make a fast buck promising jobs that are not out there!

    ala is so incompetent that i won’t even bother what i know of how it too is selling out to the highest bidder!

  29. ChickenLittle says:

    Response to “LibrarianToBe”, I’m not sure what part of Canada you live in but I hear from Canadians that I’ve met at conferences in the past, that there are still some very good opportunities for library work in the smaller areas of Canada, like Manitoba, Saskatchewan or the Maritimes. If that is still the case after the “financial meltdown”, I’m not sure, I will let the Canadians on this blog answer that. That may be a possibility that you will want to check into if it is at all possible for you.

  30. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    Library student – this blog just tells it like it is. Perhaps you weren’t ready to have your eyes opened? There were amazingly stupid people in my program 30 years ago who “loved books” but couldn’t articulate a real reason for entering the profession. I’ve worked with amazingly stupid and socially inept people over the course of my career and wondered how they managed to stay employed.

    This year I’ve met with three students who, with no library experience at all, are applying to MLIS programs. One quit her teaching job to enter the program – I had advised her it was unwise because that teacher certification is one of the best ways these days to employment. Hmmm … pretty dumb! A second had no library experience at all, is 21, has no advanced degree and is applying to UNT’s program because she loves books and libraries! Employment prospects? dim. The third is nearly finished with her dissertation, has 16 years of university teaching experience and is willing to consider moving to a city with an in-residence degree program. She’ll actually be able to bring some great experience to an academic library. Heck, I’d love to have her work here.

  31. I mentioned archivists. There aren’t any grad programs only for archives–it’s a concentration within an MLS. Archival education is its own issue, let me tell you.

    You don’t have to be a certified archivist (CA, the test of which you speak) to get a job but you most often need an MLS. There’s a lot of hoo-hah among archivists as to whether it’s necessary/desirable. I came to library school to be a special collections librarian. Basically I don’t get a job without an MLS (in an academic setting anyway.) Other kinds of repositories (government, historical societies, corporate, whathaveyou) have different requirements, mostly in the way of experience and skills.

    Archivists tend to have a hissyfit at being confused with librarians (my observation from being on the Archives and Archivists listserv anyway. Not so much in real life. The overlap is obvious to me, anyway.) Archivists were historians by trade. That’s not so much the case now. I’m also someone who went to an academic graduate program prior to my MLS and just taking the CA exam doesn’t make an archivist of you. I learned about reference, searching, issues in the field, preservation, etc. that you don’t only get in on-the-job training. I had a graduate assistantship in spec. coll. prior to library school, and I think about what I did then, oi vey. But, it is also a matter of practice and experience, same with reference librarianship of any sort.

  32. Glenn Beck IS as important to democracy as Olympia Snowe. Now address the rampant left leaning of the profession too.

  33. Techserving You says:

    Just because I feel like annoying even myself today… I will return to the issue of whether an MLIS (from any type of program) is necessary in order to do a ‘professional job’ in a library. It seems to me that in many other more ‘rigorous’ fields, people manage to get white collar exempt positions with only a bachelors degree, and to do well in their jobs. But somehow a bachelors degree is not good enough for librarianship? (Yes, I understand that the credentialization movement has moved into most fields now, but in most cases, people can still either get professional positions, or advance into a professional position, with just a bachelors degree. No, that can’t happen in law and medicine, but let’s face it – librarianship is NOT law or medicine.) In business fields, an MBA can be advantageous, but it’s usually not a prerequisite for every exempt position. This idea that people can do the job but can’t do the job WELL, under deadlines, etc., without the MLIS, strikes me as ridiculous. It’s not a masters program that teaches one to do the job well, it’s experience in the field. I think that librarianship should be like other fields, and people should come into paraprofessional positions, and then be promoted as they get more experience.

    As I have said before, I have an MLIS. I got it after about a decade of library experience, so that I could get a professional job. I didn’t learn anything new in my MLIS program, other than specific skills like web design, which may or may not be useful in a given job, and which I could have learned elsewhere. In my latest librarian job, I’m doing stuff I didn’t do in the MLIS program, and which I also hadn’t done in previous library jobs. And somehow… gasp! … I am doing it well. It’s not rocket science. Take a smart person, put them in a position, they learn as they encounter new situations, and then they can advance. I think that libraries only require the MLIS to make the profession seem like more of a legitimate ‘profession,’… like ‘look, not everyone with a high school education can be a librarian. You need a MASTERS DEGREE.’ But you only need a masters degree because the ALA has decided this is needed, and libraries have followed suit. It’s not because you genuinely NEED one in order to do the work well. And really, the MLIS is only ‘graduate’ level in that it is education beyond the bachelors. It’s not a level ABOVE the bachelors. For the most part, it was below the work I did in college.

  34. Techserving You says:

    Oh, I want to address the issue of archivists and whether doing an archives track within an MLIS program pigeonholes you, etc.. First of all, most archivist positions (particularly in academic libraries, but also in other institutions), require or at least prefer a masters with a concentration in archives. Since there aren’t any (or many) masters degrees in archives that aren’t within library schools, this usually means an MLIS or the equivalent, with a concentration in archives. I went to a school that had a separate archives track. While it’s true that people with the archives concentration take mainly archives courses, there were also core courses that everyone had to take. And the degree was still the MLIS – depending on the job you were trying to get (archives vs. library, or whatever), you could list ‘concentration in archives’ or not – prospective employers didn’t need to know your area of specialization. I think that going into the archives area in an MLIS program actually broadens your marketability – you can try to get a job in a library OR archives, whereas someone with an MLIS and concentration in librarianship really can’t go into the archives field. But, it was true in my program that most people who went into archives were quite adamant about the difference between librarians and archivists, and didn’t WANT to work as librarians.

    I took a few archives classes before deciding to stick with what I had experience in, and I had several friends who did archives. I’m actually more inclined to say that some sort of special training is needed for archives than for certain other positions in libraries. It could be learned on the job, but it seems helpful to get all of the training in arrangement, preservation, etc.. At the very least I would equate it with technical services, in that something beyond commonsense is needed.

  35. Irrelevant Librarian says:

    LibrarianToBe “Just last week my class concluded that Reference is irrelevant, and I completely agree.”


    I must be in danger of losing my Job TOMORROW! I’m irrelevant.

    This is exactly the kind of near-sighted bullshit that people say when they don’t know what they are talking about. It’s the “Oh look! Computers are here! I guess we don’t need to read anymore!” argument. Cut the crap, ok? If you and your fellow library students actually spent more than 5 minutes at a library, you might realize the obvious.

    Sure, computers allow you access to information that before you would have to look up in a book. Say, a telephone book. Or an encyclopedia. Or an atlas. This great new technology, however, comes with a steep learning curve. If you want to retrieve any of this wonderful knowledge, you actually need to know how to use the requisite technology and software first. So while you, esteemed library student, probably already have a good understanding of how to use a computer and the World Wide Web, it doesn’t mean that the rest of the world knows what they are doing. I don’t think I need to go into detail here, suffice to say a good number of people still think “use the mouse to press the button” means pick up the mouse and hit the monitor with it.

    No, people are not more able to access information just because we changed the method of access. People had access to the same information 10, 20, 50 years ago via books and catalogs. That doesn’t mean they know how to use them. Plenty of teenagers are similarly lacking. They know how to use Facebook, but can’t even explain what a database is or what one would use it for. In fact, our only real advantage over the Romans 2000 years ago is that more of us know how to read, but if you worked in a library you would know how often people make use of that skill.

    What really pisses me off about your inane comment is that it is based on the assumption that librarians just answer trivia questions all day. If that’s what you are getting the degree for, you are right! You are wasting your time!
    Go back to whatever else you sucked at doing before you decided to become a crappy librarian!

  36. “Our Pollyanna library student says of me…”

    Really? REALLY?! I hope that’s her name.

  37. the.effing.librarian says:

    About the man-woman disparity; I’ve been the sole male in meetings when asked, “what’s it like to be alone in a room full of wo — hey! put those back on.”

    and apologies to whoever beat me to this joke, but, If you look around and can’t figure who is the dull librarian? guess what?

  38. Hippieman says:

    The public wants us big time. People always go crazy when there are threats of closure (see Philly). Apparently, we ARE relevant. If we weren’t, libraries would go the way of the dinosaur.

  39. “The public wants us big time. People always go crazy when there are threats of closure (see Philly). Apparently, we ARE relevant. If we weren’t, libraries would go the way of the dinosaur.”

    It’s true that the public want *libraries* and the example you cite from Philadelphia’s recent experiences does indeed substantiate that…but does what the public wants out of libraries require professional-level work on the part of *librarians*(assuming we can define that reasonably? That’s the real question worth debating.

    In other words, if the public wants libraries, do they want and need librarians – or do they need printer-jam-clearers, number-hander-outers, security guards, babysitters, etc. more than they want and need librarians with professional-level reference skills?

    That’s worth debating too, I think.

  40. ChickenLittle says:

    someone….you make some good points, I would also add to your comment that most of the public refers to the “printer-jam-clearers, number-hander-outers, security guards, babysitters” as “librarians” because they often do not differentiate between professional librarians and these tasks. To them the perception is that anyone working in the library is a “librarian”. Small wonder that the most common response by the public when explained the difference is “you need a MASTERS to do that??”

  41. “Glenn Beck IS as important to democracy as Olympia Snowe. Now address the rampant left leaning of the profession too.”

    If it makes you feel any less put upon, I think Michael Moore’s an idiot, too. The biggest idiots are the ones who agree with other idiots because they like their politics. And none of them are necessary for democracy, unless we define democracy as “the rule of idiots.” But that’s not definition of democracy, just a typical result.

  42. I agree the basic problem is that the entrance requirements for library school are nonexistent. I mean, think about it – waving the GRE for a 3.0 GPA or not having GRE minimums that are high enough to be meaningful. After working as ref lib for a couple of years in a public setting, I went to a full-time, mid-level MBA program and I gotta tell ya – there just is not comparison. I worked hard in lib school and got a 3.9 and I’m glad I did cuz I think I know my stuff pretty well. But, man, I almost died in business school. You know how people decide which B-schools are any good? Average GMAT scores.

    The other part of the problem, though, is that we’re not teaching the right stuff. The entry level degree ought to be a bachelor’s and the master’s should be for management. The bachelor’s could then be made field-specific via a major and the master’s could give some library managers who have some clue about how to make decisions and operate enterprises.

  43. No Future says:

    When I was at ALA this summer getting “professional” resume critiquing, some dingbat told me that if I there are more than two bullet points under each job heading, she will not read it! How are people supposed to summarize what they have done? Why should they leave something off the resume because she is too stupid and lazy to read it…and she is on the search committee?

  44. “The other part of the problem, though, is that we’re not teaching the right stuff. The entry level degree ought to be a bachelor’s and the master’s should be for management. The bachelor’s could then be made field-specific via a major and the master’s could give some library managers who have some clue about how to make decisions and operate enterprises.”

    While I would not just save the MLS for “management” I have considered that most of what is in the MLS could more appropriately covered in a BA program.
    I wonder how many of us agree with that and how little chance we have of changing the profession.

  45. mlis suckah says:

    I am a MLIS student who has been taking library school classes for a year and working in a public library. I must admit–I got into library school as a strategic move, thinking it would get me a good, secure job in my library system, which it did, for some time. However, in the course of the last year, my eyes have had a rude awakening to the realities of public librarianship.

    First of all, it is scary: public librarians deal with all the riff-raff that has nowhere else to go BUT the library. You have to LOVE getting treated like excrement by crazy people and feeling like your only purpose in the universe is to be walked all over like a welcome mat. You have to LOVE pandering to lazy people who just don’t want to do their own HW or look up their own things on the OPAC. You also have to pretend like everyone has real research needs, even the obvious drunk who keeps on reappearing daily at the same time to ask if you are single or not.

    Library school is also costly, as the AL has pointed out. And the hours of working in a PL suck. Either the hours are too short (in the case of people who get hired as temps or as part timers) or the hours are too long (nights, weekends, etc.) In the latter case, this job makes is very difficult to be a parent because a public library is almost always open on Saturdays and Sundays, when kids are naturally off from school.

    Working for the government is a major perk in most cases. Many of my coworkers, who are now in their last 50s or 60s, have it easy because they will now reap the fruits of gov’t-job-retirement. I suspect those fruits won’t be ripe for picking *ever* when I am that age, though.

    Maybe I am the only one who feels this way. But for someone like me who likes to feel respected, appreciated, and who DOESN’T like to be a servant to rude, crazy people, working in a public library has just made me jaded and cynical.

    I will finish my degree, because I have so little left of it anyway. But I am fully aware that once I finish with the MLIS, I will probably not be looking for another public library job or even wanting to work in one. I will finish because, hey, if anything, it’s a master’s degree. But after this, I plan on getting yet another degree. This time in something that commands more respect and that PAYS better. Either nursing or accounting.

    AL, thanks as always for your painting reality as it is and not trying to candy coat anything that has to do with librarianship.

  46. Librarian Larry says:

    Oddly enough, I find Olympia Snowe quite attractive. She’s a cougar…….. grrrr.

  47. LibrarianToBe says:

    Irrelevant Librarian: I think there’s too little credit given to teenagers and children. Look at how things are moving. There are less and less people who don’t know how to use a computer (it’s called aging of the population) and there are more and more tools that allow you to access information so easily you don’t even need a mouse. Put two and two together and then tell if Reference has a future. Or better yet, tell me what is the future of Reference. I’ve asked ONE reference question since I’m in the program. It was an endNote question which, if I had had the patience to fool around with my citation guides and the software I would’ve skipped the librarian altogether. The databaes and the rest of reference sources are not such a big mystery, there is just laziness or lack of time. Give some credit to the generations that are coming after you. You are making the same assumption, you think that teenagers only fool around with facebook and can’t spell but they have more technological skills than you and I put together.

  48. SuziLibrarian says:

    The student loan fiasco is not limited to library school students, but the low wages make it worse for us than for others. I would advise against higher education for almost anyone who has to go into severe debt to graduate. I just hope I can keep my job with all the budget cuts we’re facing from our county government.
    That said, I do enjoy my job, while I can maintain a simple (frugal) lifestyle.

  49. Halloween Jack says:

    I’d describe the problem as being more “people who are unsuited for library work, for one reason or another” rather than “dumb librarians”, although I have to admit that AL’s formulation rolls more easily off the tongue. I’d generally agree with n7bbb’s comment: “I have certainly had the pleasure of working with some really insane people with a MLIS. And some that are very socially awkward and angry. And I’ve seen some bright young people who ruined their careers by being difficult to work with because their arrogance didn’t allow them to take orders from anyone.” Honestly, those people exist in every profession and every graduate program; there’s only so much that you can reasonably screen for in the graduate school application process, and even if you include a requirement for an MMPI, some people will learn how to game it.

    One of the problems with library school, however, is that we get a lot of people who wash out of other graduate programs, and while some of them do so because they decided late in the game that they just didn’t want to pursue that particular field of study any more, you also have some people that have the problems listed above, and can’t or won’t deal with them before moving on. I graduated from library school at a time when about the only people in the country that were hiring in any numbers were the three New York City public library systems, but they were hiring a lot of people, and a number of my class decided that they’d accept the relatively low pay because a) it was a foot in the door and b) freakin’ NYC, man! (I was one of them, and man, such times we had…) But there were also several people who refused to consider even the possibility of working for a public library, even the vaunted NYPL, because the only job that they would settle for was one as an academic librarian in the field that they’d previously failed in. And that was when the job market wasn’t nearly as depressing as it is now.

  50. Sonny Hill says:

    All I know is, my family expected me to get a Master’s in SOMEthing, and I’ll be darned if I’m living with that guilt and disappointment for the next 25 years on a Library Associate’s pay. (It’s funny because it’s true!)

  51. Auntie Nanuuq says:

    If your so worn out by the MLIS degree and it’s simplicity, I suggest you study brain surgery or rocket science. That might be just the challenge you need.

    As for distance programs…yawn, yes I worked on my degree online. I also worked in the library full-time at the same time. I had no one to support me, so I was unable to quit my job and go to school full-time. But I did work online 7 days a week, every night after work (sometimes until 1:00 am) and on my days off. Oh that was sooooooooooooo easy! Ayup!

    What made the degree easy for me was my infinite actual full-time library employment experience.

    My pay is pretty damn good as are my benefits….I may not be getting a raise for the next two years, but I am getting the cost increase of my health care insurance picked up.

    So Al is a “Harpy”? So what??? I had a patron tell one of my staff members that I’m a BITCH (I wouldn’t cancel his & his wifes fines)!!! 1: being a Crabby Bitch is just part of my charm. 2. Babe In Total Control (of) Herself! You betcha!

  52. It’s nice to see someone say what a lot of others won’t say. I was prepared for graduate school to be more difficult than undergraduate. Ha! I was shocked to get into a top-tier MLIS program and immediately find that not only were most of my classes easy and practically pointless, but many of the other students found these courses too difficult and complained about the amount of work that was required of them. There are quite a few other students in my cohonrt who are in no way qualified for graduate level work of any kind, yet they are passing their classes with good grades, talking teachers into reducing the amount of readings, etc. I’ve had a couple of very good professors, but for the most part I’m counting on my own independent work, internships, and networking to get me a job, not what I’ve learned in classes. How could I, when a class of a hundred people all get the same grade on their final papers?

  53. I’ve worked for years as a paraprofessional and am about to receive my MILS. For me the degree was a matter of hoop jumping. While some of the classes I took were worthwhile most were pretty ridiculous and a total waste of time. Yes, many of the students I attended school were dumb and it was utterly depressing. Some had never worked in a library before – a detail I found mind boggling. Bottom line – Librarianship is like any other profession or job- no matter where you get your degree there will always be someone who is incompetent. Bad Physicians and lawyers are a testament to this theory and they liable to do much more harm then dumb librarians.

  54. Anonymous Librarian says:

    One problem that hasn’t been mentioned is the way many librarians WANT the MLS to be a requirement to have a library job. I know an awful lot of librarians who are quite offended when someone without an MLS is referred to as a librarian.

    At the last library I worked, the public service desks were staffed nearly exclusively with non-degreed “reference assistants.” Well, since those are the people patrons see, they think they are the librarians. The administration and a few of the MLS-holders were so upset they were debating having the “real” librarians wear a special vest or smock (imagine Wal-Mart) to denote them as actual librarians. Thankfully, that idea was never put into practice.

    And I see lots of librarians who sign their e-mails “Jane Doe, MLIS”. Really?? Is that necessary?

    Frankly, the public we serve could care less if we spent $20,000 on a degree (or more). They want to know if we can give them the information/item they want or need. That’s it. For those who don’t work directly with the public; their work supports those who do. And there are some positions that do require an advanced degree. But for the majority of library work – no MLS is required. You just gotta help people find what they need.

    After one semester in library school, I realized how much I was being cheated. But I wanted a library job, so what choice did I have? Now I have my degree and my cushy library job, but I’m out a whole lot of money.

    And to those who try to argue library school is hard; I worked a full-time and a part-time job and finished my degree in 2 years. Without breaking a sweat. Sure, occasionally I had a challenging assignment. But mostly it was just a big huge waste of time. Very little of what I worked on in library school is useful to me in my library job.

    A large number of librarians just need to get over themselves. No other profession (and I’ve been in plenty of other professions) spends as much time and energy telling themselves how smart and useful they are.

  55. Not so fast says:

    “No other profession (and I’ve been in plenty of other professions) spends as much time and energy telling themselves how smart and useful they are.”

    As a law librarian, I can attest that my position puts me quite at the nexus of two separate professions which do that equally well.

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