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Inside Annoyed Librarian

The Problem with Online MLS Programs

I was reading through some of the comments last week on library education – too many library school students, too few library jobs, and other fun topics – when I was struck by one suggesting that I, and many of my commenters, don’t think much of online MLS programs. So I wanted to set the record straight on that one.

I don’t like online MLS programs.

It’s not that the programs are too easy. Library school is easy. It’s the way of things and always has been. Online degrees just make the easy easier to get to.

It’s also not that the programs don’t allow the same kind of relationship to a library as in-person programs. A lot of people earning online degrees are already working in libraries similar to the ones they want to work in. If someone wants to be a public or school librarian, they’re just as well off working in a public or school library as working in or near a large academic library. And people who haven’t worked in any libraries have no business going to library school at all.

It’s not that the programs don’t allow the same sort of camaraderie as their traditional counterparts. My favorite part of library school was happy hour on Friday, and then there are the parties that students throw for each other, but while happy hours and parties perhaps help acculturate us to the collection of misfits and introverts and altruists who tend to become librarians, they serve no necessary educational value.

It’s not that online programs don’t allow the same sorts of relationships with faculty. I understand some programs are completely asynchronous, and the contact is minimal. If the MLS were an actual academic program, this would be a problem. Professors in academic programs are training their students to do what they do, to be scholars in a particular field. That’s not what goes on in the MLS. For the MLS, who really needs faculty contact? Unless the faculty are librarians teaching as adjuncts, they’re not training people to do what they do. They’re not librarians, they’re LIS professors, so who needs ’em.

It’s not even that online programs seem to focus on professional degrees, thus lowering their status. There are lots of education, library science, and business degrees offered online, but it’s pretty hard to get degrees in history, economics, or physics. That might change in the future, but I doubt it. Serious academic degrees – especially PhDs – are best earned in a community of scholars. Online education might be growing, but it’s growing among people interested in vocational training, not academic education. Regardless, the MLS doesn’t have any prestige now, so I don’t see how taking it online can make it any less prestigious.

The reason I don’t like library school is that it’s too easy on the students. I don’t mean the academic work. I mean all the rest.

Library school is boring. In traditional programs students have to sit through three-hour classes on tedious topics like reference or cataloging or social media or videogameing. Though a couple of these are important topics, they’re all boring, and the classes demand a huge tolerance for boredom. In person, though, you can’t show the boredom or the appropriate response to silliness. You can’t groan out loud, roll your eyes, whisper "idiot" under your breath when one of your classmates speaks, or slap your forehead in shock at the stupidity. I mean, I guess you could do all these, but they wouldn’t make you very popular. Online, you can do them all.

The difference here is that traditional students have had to suffer in ways that online students never do. And suffering builds character! Thus, traditional students have a more developed character than online students, because they’ve had to earn their degrees the hard way by sitting through dull and seemingly interminable courses in person.

Not only that, this particular suffering is excellent preparation for much actual library work. Sitting in excruciatingly dull classes while unable to groan, roll your eyes, or call people idiots is good training for sitting through library departmental and committee meetings. While the online students can sit at their computers eating chocolate and groaning at the monitor in disbelief, traditional students are learning to accommodate a culture of boredom endemic to librarianship.

Thus, I dislike online MLS degrees because they help alleviate the character-building suffering of traditional library school classes. Traditional students have a bond created by their shared traumatic experience that online students can never have. We know what it’s like to suffer, and we resent it that online students don’t have to.




  1. lovethelib says:

    Truer words have rarely been spoken. The suffering is a preparation for future tedious meetings. You can learn a lot about looking attentive while daydreaming from a MLS class.

  2. a-nonny-mouse says:

    Thank you, thank you. I finally have an understanding of a group of my colleagues who roll their eyes and groan and heavily sigh during every meeting they attend, while attached to their laptops. These overly bored colleagues took at least half of their courses online and/or actually teach as adjuncts online. They email, view Youtube, and play online games during meetings and presentations of perspective colleagues. Now I understand. They think this is normal and polite behavior, calling it multi-tasking, because they just don’t know any better. And they are rude. Not young. Just rude.

  3. Liberrian says:

    After making us wait, this post was pretty boring. *rolls eyes*

    … idiot…

  4. EyeRoller says:

    I dunno, quite a number of us rolled our eyes, gave exasperated sighs and exchanged quite meaningful looks with the rest of our classmates over the actions and responses of a few choice candidates in our on-site library classes.

    I think if the comments and actions are idiotic enough, people just can’t help it!

  5. luckypants says:

    So, you’re just jelus! It is delightful to sit back and laugh at the person with no reading comprehension who posts the same question ten different ways about some point of an assignment. When, finally, the professor figuratively throws hands in the air it is pure comedy gold. The fact that I can quickly tab over to the day’s webcomics in my news reader to continue my fun is just icing, my dear. And I do it all in my pajamas. ahahaha!!!

  6. libraryschoolstudent says:

    I’ve been following this debate and your comments about the pointlessness of an online MLS (or really any library degree) closely over the past weeks. I agree with you for the most part. Professors are mostly teaching us about research in LIS, not practical stuff we need once we get in the field. The only way I’ve been able to really get some knowledge about what being a librarian actually entails is through my part-time job in an on-campus library and my internship. I also agree that class is boring. But the same can be said for any graduate class. I have friends in a variety of programs all over the country and we sit in class and chat online because we are all bored. That’s just a fact of graduate school life. The only thing I disagree with you on is the value of the MLS. You don’t like it; don’t think it’s worth it. But the problem remains that without the degree, without that piece of paper, I can’t get a job. I’m graduating in December and every job I’ve seen requires an degree from an ALA-accredited program. So unless I’m going to spend my days working as a paraprofessional (not that there is anything wrong with that, it’s just not what I want), and if I want any chance of a promotion or tenure, I have to have my MLS. So that’s where we disagree. But as for the rest of it…I agree with you.

  7. anonymous says:

    Very interesting commentary…you’re right – the online programs do not have the traditional grad student suffering/prep experience. That is because they are not preparing students for a Ph.D and post-doc academic experience. The traditional suffering grad student experience isn’t necessary for librarians because, as you have pointed out before, they are not “real” faculty. They certainly don’t do real, rigorous peer-reviewed research* like real academic faculty do. And public, teacher, special librarians, etc., even less so. That is why on-line programs will continue to grow for certain fields, such as librarianship, and why those terminal master’s degrees do not prepare people for rigorous academic life — nor were they meant to.

    *Yeah, I know some librarians conduct peer-reviewed research, but only about half of academic librarians are faculty and many of those are not tenured.

  8. I am in an online MLIS program through a west coast university and have a friend who is working on her MLS online through a major east coast university. Both schools are ranked as top schools in the field.

    There are huge differences in the programs: My program puts a strong emphasis on forming networking relationships with other students, and almost all classes I’ve taken thus far require real-time group projects. I now have several friends in the program around the country- and we skype regularly. My professors are usually actual librarians, and the classes themselves are intense enough to require up to 20 hours per week to keep up with the work.

    There is a strong emphasis on digital and high-tech work in my program, but this is not the case in my friend’s program. She also doesn’t have nearly as much group work required.
    The point being: I suspect that, like any other program, there is a great deal of variation between distance learning programs, and they can range from being challenging and “the next best thing to being there” to being degree mills. As in all things, Caveat Emptor.

    As for the criticism of Online studies in general: I work full time to support a family, and have since I was 23 years old. Life threw some curves after I graduated from college, and my own dreams had to go on hold for awhile. Things happen. Library school is a lifelong dream for me but I was not afforded the opportunity for graduate school when I finished my BS. I have always had passion for the field, I have worked in minimum wage jobs in libraries in the past, and pursued my MLIS with the encouragement of both my family and my former boss, the director of our local public library.

    Distance learning affords me the opportunity to pursue my studies at the school that specializes in the fields in which I’m most interested, without making my family suffer economic deprivation while I pursue my dream. Without distance learning programs available, there are many older students for whom library school would not be an option. I agree that much of the work is grunt work, but not all of it is. Like anything else, if you are passionate about the field, (and I am), you put that extra effort into research papers, website design, retrieval system design, etc., that less passionate student, whether in class or on line, wouldn’t bother to do.

    Of course there are slackers in distance programs, just as there are in any other classroom. But we do interact with them enough to figure out who they are pretty quickly, and we do talk to each other, just like in “real” classrooms.

    So please lighten up on the distance students. Many of us are passionate enough about the field to be changing careers, despite the depressing economy. We are taking cutting-edge, highly technical classes as well as the rote and boring stuff. And without the opportunity for distance learning, for many of us, librarianship would be nothing more than an unrealized dream.

    Most schools have their share of students who got through because they had a heartbeat and a checkbook. There’s a famous graduate of an Ivy League school in Connecticut who comes to mind… although being raised by upper crust Americans, he became famous partly for his “skill” and talent for making up words as he goes along when delivering speeches…and for dumbing down the country. Just because you have to show up in a classroom is no guarantee that you’re smarter than someone who’s juggling a family, a full time professional position, and carrying a 4.0 GPA in library school. Oh, and all I needed to be admitted to my program was an application and an 3.0 undergraduate GPA.

    Most of my classmates thus far have been older, and have similar situations to my own. It’s no picnic to be changing professions mid-life, and trying to juggle it all, either. We do our share of suffering through school, too. It’s just a different kind of suffering.

  9. There are disadvantages to online classes as well. I just finished an (offline) MLS program and at some point in nearly every course class discussion would eventually lead to “real world examples” which turned into war stories and then devolved into a contest to see who had the worst problem patron. The instructor was usually involved as well. I just don’t see that being as much of a problem online as it is for a group of exhausted practicing librarians who have just driven straight from work to class.

    This does however underscore your point that practical library experience is more useful than MLS classes. How could an MLS program be made more useful though? It’s impractical to require classes in hand-holding, anger management, copier repair, server maintenance, and an infinite array of other subjects.

  10. Of course I meant “advantages” instead of “disadvantages” in the first sentence. Got distracted by practical experience.

  11. QuestionableSanity says:


    Perhaps that is a sign that the people running the meeting need to shut up and let everyone out? Meetings are to make decisions or rapidly bring a group up to speed on a topic. If someone is bored in a meeting it is because they a) should not have been invited or b) the meeting is being poorly run. Don’t blame people for being bored when the people running the meeting are incompetent.

  12. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    ooooo … group projects! Yet another way to cheat students, online or otherwise. Group work at the graduate level is ridiculous – makes the MLIS all the more laughable. Friends who received post-BA degrees in other fields (law, medicine, nursing, English, history) didn’t do group work. Reference work isn’t done as a team/group, nor are individual research consutations, classroom instruction, cataloging, etc.

    As for the rude employees texting, surfing etc. in meetings – that’s the direct result of one of the biggest problems in LiberryLand. Bad “management.”
    It’s rampant – the few great managers I’ve known in 30 years are dear to my heart. And I can count them on one, maybe both hands if I’m being generous.

    AL – did we attend the same library school? Friday night Happy Hour and the parties were far better than the classes. :)

  13. Group work is for teachers who want less to grade. Useless!

  14. Techserving You says:

    Ugh, group work, the very very worst part of library school. OCCASIONALLY in “library land” one is required to work collaboratively on a study or a report, or whatever…. some people at my library work together to develop instruction curriculum. But that is NOT done the way that the group work in library school is conducted. And, the idea that at age 22 (more realistically, age 30-something, or higher) someone would not yet know how to work collaboratively is completely ridiculous. People do group work all throughout their schooling (particularly in labs, or extracurricular activities) and if they don’t know by graduate school how to work with others well, they will never learn. I wholeheartedly second the idea that the group work in library school is assigned so that the professors (such that they are) can grade less.

  15. @onliner
    Kudos to you. Keep up the good work and do not let anyone tell you that you are not deserving of respect in the field because of your distance education.

  16. Libraries or Death! says:

    I seem to have sated my need for snarky commentary today, so I will actually endeavor to respond with a serious answer.

    I don’t blame the students for a crappy education; I blame the schools, traditional or online. This list isn’t restricted to some low-achievement, back-hills colleges, but to any LIS graduate degree program. I am afraid to report that there are many dumb Ivy League students. The difference between them and the “hillbillies” is that dumb Ivy Leaguers tend to be rich. To say that these colleges are too easy and lets these students through is to point the finger, rudely at the students. I know that’s not what the AL intended, but that’s how it comes across.

    The failure is the academic community that is supposed to support the profession. Put plainly, most academic professors (and academic librarians for that matter) in LIS are a waste of money. They tend to avoid researching anything of actual value to the profession and the research that they do publish is repetitive and trite. How many times can you publish a paper on automated online college literacy classes? Or for that matter, how about a paper concerning the complexities of Dublin Core as it pertains to cataloging images? You know why library students don’t take their profession seriously? Because it obviously isn’t being taken seriously as an academic subject by the professors it attracts.

    Who can blame them? Being the LIS professor at a faculty luncheon probably doesn’t garner you much fame. I imagine most people they pass in the hall don’t know their name, except for those pesky grad students who are desperately trying to decipher the instructions for that 20-page paper on collection development. The times that I actually have looked into academic research for LIS, I am constantly rebuffed by the fact that little to no research has been published on the types of things that would be useful for my job as a public librarian. How about a paper on whether hands-on computer learning is better than lecture-based computer learning? Or papers dealing with how to build successful public library and school library relationships so that we are not constantly fighting one another for the same people? Where is the research that addresses the types of things that I work hard at every day?

    I am beginning to think that the academic field of librarianship does this on purpose. One of my library school teachers was reprimanded after failing most of my fellow classmates because they did not know how to write a quality academic paper. He insisted that if the students could not write a simple explanatory essay, then they shouldn’t be in the program. It was his fellow professors who told him to shut up and keep quiet – and this WAS at one of the “best” schools for LIS. What do you expect when the academic arena purposely shoots itself in the foot?

    The publications and professional journals aren’t much help either because they themselves don’t take us seriously. They treat us like fools and write as though we don’t know what we are doing. The highlight of our journals is an ongoing debate whether or not paraprofessionals get the respect that they deserve when, in point of fact, NO ONE CARES. At the end of the day, the journals and other publications print fluff articles that serious librarians have learned to ignore while browsing the reviews for new book titles.

    So, we have a joke for support from our academic professors, our own professional publications are ad-filled fluff pieces that just want us to buy books from their advertisers, and we have no respect from any other profession. And you ask why are library schools producing crappy library students? Because most are just as confused about what a librarian does after they graduate as before they fill out the application and until they actually step foot in the profession, they have no support to even educate themselves about what will be expected of them.

    Oh, and as far as dumb librarians who do nothing but yawn, I am still actively working on getting rid of the old dumb librarians who do nothing but complain that we are getting rid of all the books and mope about having to use email.

  17. Dances With Books says:

    Truer words indeed. I had to sit through one of those tedious, boring meetings. To make it worse, first we had to watch a condescending seminar on something about the future of academic libraries, then followed by the meeting. It was all I could do not to call a few of my colleagues in the room who spoke afterwards “idiots.” Thanks to my training for the MLS, I was able to keep my thoughts (and desire to strangle one or two of them) to myself. Thanks library school.

  18. Techserving You says:

    I don’t know about library school teaching us to keep our mouths shut, and not roll our eyes, etc.. My classes were full of rolled eyes, meaningful glances, under-the-breath muttering, or outright full-volume comments to anyone around who would listen. (In that case, I think the commenter actually had a mental problem, though… it was like a tick.) The only classes in which such things did not occur were the somewhat interesting ones, or classes taught by favorite professors who commanded the students’ respect. I don’t want to reveal my library school, but it was in another country and at one of the most (otherwise) esteemed universities in the country. A lot of the library students had gone to undergrad there, too, which meant they’d actually gone through a rigorous admissions process earlier on, and made it through a fairly rigorous undergraduate program. I think this resulted in an unusually-high percentage of intelligent people in the program, which, of course, led to complete dissatisfaction with most aspects of the program, and the students weren’t shy about expressing their dissatisfaction. (And yet from what I can tell, we had fewer stupid classes than a lot of programs do.)

  19. Dr. Pepper says:

    LOL @ 4.0 GPA…

    Now don’t get me wrong, it’s great that students are “straight A students”, however for me it would be much more of a wow-factor if the 4.0 GPA were in something a little more hard than LIS.

  20. Dr. Pepper says:

    @LibrariesOrDeath said “How about a paper on whether hands-on computer learning is better than lecture-based computer learning? Or papers dealing with how to build successful public library and school library relationships so that we are not constantly fighting one another for the same people? ”

    Hmmm…. you need a Master’s degree for that? In Library science? Where is the science in that? I would say what you are looking for is an MEd in education or something because that field seems more appropriate. When I hear “library science”, if I put aside my disbelief of the library world, I think of information organization, preservation, and retrieval of that information. I don’t think of how to train people on computer use.

    I would say that the MLS is not required for librarianship – if librarianship is what you describe – period.

  21. interesting thought: The ones publishing articles on the greatness of online learning are the professors working for LS programs pushing the multi-national online diploma mill operations.

  22. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    Libraries or Death! – let’s not get started with the “old” and “stupid” namecalling. Some of you young farts are mighty irritating, too. And it’s not like all of YOU can make optimal use of available technology. Plus, you and your generation are closer to kindergarten than I am but I guess the “plays well with others” isn’t taught anymore? Our older employees don’t spend their time in the few meetings we have texting furtively or, more embarrassing, falling asleep with their mouth open.

  23. I just have to say that I did once get caught by a library prof rolling my eyes at one of those annoying students who always has some long-winded story to share with the class. Got quite a lecture about how unprofessional I was.

    Also, I just wanted to say that though I did my degree at a physical campus, the most interesting and challenging course I ever took was an online course from UNC Chapel Hill called Evidence-Based Medicine for Medical Librarians. The profs were recognized experts in this area, they were good teachers, the course was very well-planned, they provided great feedback on assignments, and there was great infrastructure for collaboration between students – a well-organized chat room where we could post questions and debate issues. The level of discourse was actually a lot higher than I experienced in the “community of scholars” of my MLIS program. I also know a couple of librarians who’ve done Syracuse’s online program, and their coursework seemed much more challenging than mine. So I think online courses may in some cases actually be raising the bar for library schools.

  24. Blah blah blah says:

    I agree. I tried two online courses and bailed out to get my 100% tuition refund. Online is a horrible way to go. You are at the mercy of technology, there is almost no interaction with students (unless it’s by “chatrooms”), you cannot ask questions without getting direct answers, and it is harder to learn the material. I think library schools are only doing this just because it involves technology. I will never take an online class and I would advise anyone to avoid this route anytime.

  25. Libraries Or Death! says:

    Dr. Pepper commented: “I would say that the MLS is not required for librarianship – if librarianship is what you describe – period.”

    Why? Education or Communications graduate students are supported by robust academic literature. In fact, I know quite a few library students that cited out-of-LIS subject material when writing their papers because THERE WAS NOTHING TO BE FOUND IN LIS RESEARCH. It’s sad when you have to scrounge other disciplines for research information that your own (Library and Information Science no less) fails to accommodate. Pick up a trade journal for engineering or dentistry and then compare it to what we have.

    NotMarianTheLibrarian commented: “let’s not get started with the “old” and “stupid” namecalling. Some of you young farts are mighty irritating, too. And it’s not like all of YOU can make optimal use of available technology. Plus, you and your generation are closer to kindergarten than I am but I guess the “plays well with others” isn’t taught anymore? Our older employees don’t spend their time in the few meetings we have texting furtively or, more embarrassing, falling asleep with their mouth open.”

    Apparently, you didn’t read the rest of the comments. My point was to illustrate that there are plenty of “dumb” people young or old, from all walks of life. Also, my commented was a reflection of the fact that a good number of older librarians are still on the assumption that the ideal library doesn’t involve patrons. The books should just sit there, perfectly arranged and aligned to the edge of the shelf. When you ask these people to change or adapt, it’s like their whole lives fall apart.

    No, us young people don’t have a cornered market on “dumb”.

  26. Library_Goon says:

    Your argument makes no sense. First, I sat through many a boring lecture in library school – the only difference is that mine was via podcast. It was an ACTUAL class – not sure if you realize that. Second, I have good character and didn’t need to sit through in-person classes in order to obtain it. Third, aren’t you the one that complains about the cost of library school tuition? Why should I spend more money moving and living there? Oh, right – to build character. Lastly, I still keep in contact with many of the people that were in my cohort – and I’ll be sending them this article. Be prepared for more responses blasting this ridiculous article.

  27. LISstudent says:

    1. People in every profession sit through boring meetings. It’s just part of being a grown-up and having a job.

    2. You can’t both dismissive of an MLIS, implying it doesn’t teach you things you can’t learn in the library in which you actually work, and that it’s “too professional,” focusing on job skills rather than academic research. What do you want? Theory or practice?

    3. Grad school is about getting from the program what you put into it. You’re not an undergrad anymore, and you’re probably paying a lot more. The deal is, you’re paying for the opportunity to learn, and you won’t get your money’s worth–in an online or brick-and-mortar university–if you think the professor is just going to wave a Magic Wand of Understanding at you.

    4. Perhaps the goal of group work is to try to reduce some of this petty fractiousness? Maybe in “library land” people would be willing to work together if they saw themselves working toward a common goal and purpose, rather than seeing themselves as one person against the system.

    5. Citing research outside the field of LIS is a testament to the diverse applications and foundational disciplines of our field, not a commentary on the paucity of academic substance.

    Frankly, it doesn’t seem like online study is really the issue here.

  28. Just started reading your blog as an on-line library student and am enjoying the perspective. Simply stated, I found this entries argument underwhelming.

  29. Sonny Hill says:

    Uh oh, here comes the Onliners Brigade, out to defend the important work they are doing via podcasts and chat threads! :P

    While I can appreciate some of the merits of online coursework as a complement to on-site study (which is actually vitally necessary for certain hands-on topics such as preservation), there is simply no defense for graduate-level groupwork.

    And online groupwork?? You can take that one right back to the fiery depths where it came from. Assigned groupwork is more likely to engender “petty fractiousness” than any sort of “common goal and purpose”.

  30. Library_Goon says:

    “You can’t both dismissive of an MLIS, implying it doesn’t teach you things you can’t learn in the library in which you actually work, and that it’s “too professional,” focusing on job skills rather than academic research. What do you want? Theory or practice?” Good point, LISstudent! I forgot to include that in my response. Thanks!

  31. Auntie Nanuuq says:

    “The difference here is that traditional students have had to suffer in ways that online students never do. And suffering builds character! Thus, traditional students have a more developed character than online students, because they’ve had to earn their degrees the hard way by sitting through dull and seemingly interminable courses in person.”

    Dayum…that’s funny.

    I enjoyed online work and as stated in my last post, worked on my degree 7 days/nights a week.

    I also had to go to class on Saturdays & Sundays for several of the classes, at least 1 weekend per month.

    Sure, I got to meet & greet the professor & classmates. We didn’t party…just lunched together…..

    Most of what I learned, I learned from on-the-job experience and from there use that experience to write my papers 7 projects.

    I’m glad I got my degree…..for me it’s just an accomplished goal I had set for myself that had been set aside until I had the $$$$ to go to school.

  32. @Library_Goon:

    It appears you are missing the satire of this post. While appearing to be a tongue-in-cheek attack the online MLS, it is really attacking the intellectual shallowness of all library school programs, as well as the tediousness of actual library employment.

    I don’t think anybody can really argue with those points, can they?

  33. Techserving You says:

    Yup, some people are definitely missing the point of this post… please go back and reread.

  34. Good Interaction with Profs says:

    The problem with online education is the lack of interaction with brilliant people. Mighty Ed Mignon! Superb Terrance Brooks! And some complete clowns as well, no doubt, and that included the students also. I learned a lot just hearing the profs talk about whatever. I left the GSLIS at the U of W in 1996 very prepared to walk right in and ROCK(and I did, and so did my future wife). But, almost nothing beyond the ideals and basics I learned applies today. I used to work with a gal who went to Univ of Ariz online, a 1 year program. She was completely clueless and knew almost nothing about anything related to librianship. Go in person if possible!

  35. whoosh. big time.

    @T-neck and @Techserving You: I’m not sure re-reading would help at this point.

  36. Library_Goon says:

    @ T-Neck. The satire of the piece was not lost on me, but it was a poor example of the style.

  37. Unemployed Liberrian says:

    @Sonny Hill wrote “And online groupwork?? You can take that one right back to the fiery depths where it came from. Assigned groupwork is more likely to engender “petty fractiousness” than any sort of “common goal and purpose”.”

    Bingo! A time saver for instructors though.

  38. group thinker says:

    Much as I hated group work I found it one of the most useful aspects of library school. I work in an academic library and committee work is required. I participate in regional and national library orgs, online group work is required. Yes, it’s a frakking pain in the lib school, but useful, especially for helping you identify slackers and the incompetents in real world committee situations. And in my experience I’d add that a fair number of employees in libraries and other professions do not know how to work with others and could use some group work instruction.

  39. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    Considering the amount of group work undergrads are subjected to, they don’t need to reinforce those skills in graduate school. My MLIS was more expensive than my BA and thanks, but I wanted to do my own work. There were too many starry-eyed dummies (SEDs) in my program who thought working with books was going to be so wonderful … the one group project I can remember was painful. It was a three-person assignment, two of us were working in libraries and had been for years, and the third was an SED. It makes me grit my teeth 25+ years later.

    The MLIS is a union card, pure and simple. It makes you eligible to apply for positions requiring it. The degree is most useful to people who are working or have worked in libraries, have lots of experience and want to move beyond para work. And one more time: it’s helpful to people who are willing to move. All the folks who insist on staying in my city, pursuing their degrees online and thinking they’ll get a job at a library here? You’ve wasted your time and your money because there aren’t that many librarian positions available here for all of you.

  40. @QuestionableSanity

    I think you misread me. I was talking about fellow students rolling their eyes at their classmates who are wasting the class’s time or just saying really incredibly stupid things.

    Not meetings.

  41. @NotMarian

    “Reference work isn’t done as a team/group, nor are individual research consutations, classroom instruction, cataloging, etc.”

    Well, I’ve seen some quite successful group instruction and research consultations in situations where the subject matter was inherently interdisciplinary.

    Though I will agree it’s not the norm

  42. Unemployed Liberrian says:

    Off topic, but I thought AL would enjoy this job ad. It made my head explode a little bit:

    The Office of the Director is seeking an Informational Researcher to aide in library and scientific journal research, performing data analysis and interpreting results from national databases. This is an excellent opportunity for current engineering and mathematics undergraduate students to gain experience working in an internationally recognized Research Center.

    High School diploma and a solid understanding of Microsoft Excel are required. Current math and engineering undergraduate students are highly encouraged to apply. Excellent math skill and experience with data analysis are highly preferred.

  43. Unemployed Liberrian says:

    ^That’s from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

  44. RecentGrad says:

    As someone who dropped everything, moved 800 miles, and accrued tens of thousands of dollars of debt to attend library school, I knew I was in trouble on day one when I walked into a packed classroom of 30+ students. (“In GRAD school? Really?”) You can imagine my further dismay when it was (proudly) announced that the class was actually a “cutting-edge, hybrid” class comprised of an additional 20ish online students. Over 50 students per class total, and this turned out to be true of a good 90% of the classes in my “top ranked” LIS program.

    I know that not everyone can say “screw it,” quit their jobs, and move, but hybrid classes are the real downfall of LIS programs. Of course profs assign groupwork – who wants to grade 70 assignments when you can grade 15? I decided to actually GO to grad school for the interaction with my professors and peers, and found nearly all classroom discussion relegated to online boards. Assignments were done online. Groupwork consisting of on-site and online students were a nightmare – why should I have to email/call/smoke signal/carrier pigeon people who take 48 to respond when I have 30 peers I can talk to over coffee and get the same thing done in 10 minutes? Ridiculous.

    So yeah, I did basically get the same quality of education as my online classmates because my school turned my education into an online program. I don’t begrudge people the opportunity to go back to school, but don’t sacrifice the quality of MY education to do it.

    My university, which is extremely prestigious in most of its other programs, admits 99% of its online LIS applicants. That being said, I did’t feel as if these people are my competition for the few jobs out there. I got a full-time academic reference librarian job prior to graduation, and they’re still sitting on the couch in their pajamas (just like in grad school). The good and the bad get weeded out eventually.

  45. Bored Librarian says:

    Bravo! AL you speak the truth.

  46. I’m sorry for all of you who had boring, easy times completing your degrees. Me and my classmates worked our behinds off (we worked just as hard as the medical and law students) on things that were interesting and challenging, taught by people who all had been librarians and were now incredible teachers of what they’d learned. My only boring classes were the one taught by a real librarian and the online classes. Maybe I’m weird, or maybe Canadian library schools really are better. Oh, and the competition to get in was incredible, and only those of us who really wanted to be there got in and stayed in.
    I’m now employed, and everyone at my (US) library seems to think I’m some kind of miracle: unlike all the other recent-graduate staff, I don’t need babying. I’m not trying to be boastful, I’m just kind of sad for all of you who didn’t have terrific, insanely difficult MLS programs. I didn’t realize the divide was so great, although I knew Canadian degrees are preferred in some libraries, and I guess I now know why.

  47. RecentGrad, Did you go to a certain school located in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s second most populous city? If so, my experience was very much the same – except I lived 30 minutes away.

  48. “The point being: I suspect that, like any other program, there is a great deal of variation between distance learning programs, and they can range from being challenging and “the next best thing to being there” to being degree mills. As in all things, Caveat Emptor.”

    Exactly…if you look hard enough you’ll find some decent, rigorous online classes in a few programs, just like you will in face-to-face programs. Sure, they’re the exception rather than the norm but they’re out there.

  49. My experience of the online degree was not that different from face-to-face education–I had a few truly excellent teachers who profoundly influenced my thinking to this day, a few truly inept teachers who wasted my time and money, and others who were just so-so. I think the real risk of online learning is the ease with which the mediocre and the bad can be multiplied. Need another section? Just use Dr. X’s course materials from last year and give it to a Ph.D. student! (Nothing against those folks; sometimes I thought the grad students were more helpful than the phantom “instructor”, and some of them were quite well qualified to teach the subject.) But it seemed that this never happened with the really great courses.

  50. NewLibrarian says:

    Thanks, AL. You are so right. I did the online MLS, and I was so unprepared for the…senseless…drivel in daily meetings.

  51. TheIlliterateLibrarian says:

    @a-nonny-mouse –I have received my MLIS online, and I also teach online in addition to librarying it up in the day job. I still find those to be extremely rude behaviors. My husband asked me WHY I ask him questions when he’s listening to his iPod last night. I was like… because I need to ask you questions!? The world doesn’t stop because you’re listening to music! I actually hate it when he listens to his music in public because he’s not aware of people/situations/conversations going on around him and I think that is both rude and dangerous.

    Anti-social people only need an excuse to be anti-social, and they’ll take ANYTHING as reinforcement that their behavior is OK or acceptable. Tell them its not!

  52. buildingvirtualcharacter says:

    As a current online MLIS student I have to disagree with AL about online students being spared the long, boring student experience. I am writing this post having just sat through 3 hours of student bibliographic instruction presentations, informative… but boring. Earlier this week I sat through a two hour lecture on developing LCC call numbers and their corresponding MARC entries and a three hour reference service lecture; both of which were informative, but I was not able to give my full attention without a large amount of self discipline.

    My online school experience has been a mixture of good, bad and mediocre instruction. Much of what I am learning seems unrelated to what I am learning working in a library. My online MLIS experience has been a huge exercise in self discipline. The character online MLIS students are building may be different from our predecessors, but I can definitely feel the painful building of character with every hour I spend reading, in online class meetings, and trying to navigate the online learning environment.

  53. Spain_librarians says:

    Hi, we’re three librarian students from Spain and we have read this post with interest and amusement, because there is something similar to an online degree for our studies here at Spain, but is conceived like a second degree which can be accessed only by people whom already have their first degree, so the idea of an online degree puzzled us.
    We have discussed it and we strongly agree with the point that library school is boring. We also agree at the point that a school degree is better than an online degree, because they prepare us better, at least here in Spain, and give us the opportunity to practice in a real library, either for a private company or for the Government. It’s also better because we can get to understand the essence of this job, which is basically make boring things until you get used to them and help people with anything related with books or searching.
    If online degrees also have a less prestige than academic ones, it makes us wonder why seems to be so many people interested in them ¿is it just to apply for the job, in the end? Because here in Spain the librarian students want to end their degrees to work in public libraries, which is very difficult because the Government has a high-level test to pass, and it’s complicated to get into a private company. So, having a low-considered degree can’t be a good help in a job search, can it?
    We really have enjoyed reading your post, and if you could take a moment of your time in answering our comment, we would appreciate it very much. Thank you!

  54. I’m relocating to Pennsylvania next month with my family after receiving my BA at the end of this semester. I’ve had several years of part-time library experience as an undergrad. I am considering the offline iSchool at Drexel vs. the online program at Clarion for my MLIS. Obviously, there is a significant tuition difference. I am wondering if anyone could tell me how choosing one over the other will impact me in the following areas:

    Income potential
    Advancement opportunities

    Would these differences hold true for comparisons between any online and offline programs?

    Thanks in advance for any thoughts on this.

  55. If you are determined to do this, Ben, choose the cheaper of the two programs, unless one program offers more of the type of classes you want or teachers you want to work with than the other. No one cares where you went to school; employers only care about what you can do for them right now. Further, most “offline” programs now have a number of online classes because they are cheaper to administer. Also, try to find a way for someone other than you to pay for the degree through assistantships or scholarships, or by becoming employed full time with an employer who will pay for the degree. Then continue to add to your experience through avenues such as volunteering at a small library, which will allow you to do more because they are desperate for the help. Finally, find a way to gain specialized skills such as another language or tech skills. Yes, networking can be important, although no one I knew (including me) found our jobs through networking. Finally, if you are not able or willing to move once you graduate, please consider doing something other than an MLIS.

  56. Post postmodern Librarian says:

    I think Kim hits the general issues pretty well. Though I will have to say Drexel would be my first choice now days. Its focus on information science vs. library science makes you eligible for other fields besides libraries. However its expensive, and heavily focused on computers. If your interest dont lean this way or cant afford it dont do it.

  57. WestCoastGrad says:

    I am currently completing an Art History MA on campus. I am also enrolled in an online graduate certificate program. I feel that, at least at the cal state level, both my online and in person courses have been of equal value. I think that the quality of an online course is determined by the institution offering it, not by the medium of online learning itself.

  58. Poor Schlub says:

    “I think that the quality of an online course is determined by the institution offering it, not by the medium of online learning itself.”

    That is if you can afford the computer and the internets connection to begin with. Some spoiled rich punks have all teh luck.

  59. sebastin says:

    Achieve your goal

    It is not only convenient to get anything from a math degree to a psychology degree online, but it can also be less costly than traditional college or universities, too. Often, since online schools do not have a physical campus, they do not need to charge as much for attendance. Things like housing, campus building upkeep and cafeteria facilities are not typically offered, and so the cost of attendance is just tuition and books. In addition, most online education programs offer some form of financial aid. And the cost of online degrees earned from an accredited institution can often be offset with federal financial aid as well…………..”>universities online programs

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