Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

LIS "Competition"

John Berry addressed a recent debate on whether competition will improve LIS programs, a debate prompted by the break between the California Library Association and the library school at San Jose State University. The director of the online SJSU LIS program didn’t like it that the CLA partnered with the Drexel’s online LIS program, thinking California was his "turf." He also didn’t like it that SJSU kept encouraging students to join the CLA who didn’t seem to be getting benefits. I thought everyone knew the major benefit to joining professional associations was for the associations, not the persons joining.

Berry raises the issue of evaluating whether online and in-person LIS education are of  comparable quality, among other things, but notes that many LIS faculty in a listserv "say the ‘competition’ strengthens all LIS programs." I was too weary to plod through a listserv discussion, because in my opinion listservs should go the way of card catalogs and buggy whips. Nevertheless, let’s accept that some faculty said that.

That just shows you the quality of thinking going on in library schools. Competition has never strengthened all of anything. Period. For many goods and services, competition tends to make the better product more available, more developed, and cheaper. It does this by forcing strong producers to innovate and eliminating weaker producers.

What is the basis of competition? Berry rightly notes some very strong programs (Chicago, Columbia, etc.) didn’t survive. Plenty of good (or what passes for good in LIS education) programs could easily be eliminated in a competition by weaker programs. That’s because quality of LIS education isn’t the most important factor for most LIS students. The most important factor is availability of the education and the least disruption in their lives. This explains the popularity of online programs far more than their supposed quality.

Online students and graduates can protest all they like, but the interaction in online classes cannot be a replacement for the community of an in-person program for any serious education. This is why online programs are so popular in vocational programs that mainly exist to provide a credential rather than an education. As long as you have that MLS, you are a credentialed librarian, regardless of your education. If that’s all you care about, then an online program is great.

That’s very different than spending a year or two in the company of people who are learning what you’re learning, often working in the university library with them as graduate assistants. Library students doing this aren’t just cramming classes where they can into their regular lives. They’re making that learning their life for a while. They’re immersing themselves in a profession and a trade. Their education isn’t limited to showing up to class and doing the assignments. In fact, that can be the least interesting and rewarding part of an LIS education.

The value of that community is that the learning is always happening, and in unpredictable and useful ways. Students hang out in the hallway chatting about a reading, or they sit around over beers talking through their experiences in the library, or they bump into that professor who’s actually pretty good and strike up a friendship that matters long after library school is over. They develop relationships through this intense immersion that are more meaningful than being your Facebook friend. I thought most of the classes in library school were ridiculously easy, but I met many bright, warm, challenging, giving, and sometimes annoying people in library school who are still among my closest friends and professional allies. There are bonds that cannot be forged through emails and tweets and online discussions. They have to be lived in person.

Competition from online LIS programs won’t increase the quality of anything, because the quality and depth of the education isn’t the goal. The goal is pragmatic. Get a degree without having to travel. I would assume some online education is ridiculously easy and pointless, and some is worthwhile, just like in person. But the in person creates an atmosphere and community that online education will never achieve, and this atmosphere and community are unquantifiable, but undeniable, educational values.

An aggressive competition between LIS programs (which in effect means between online LIS programs) probably won’t strengthen anything, though it might eliminate a lot of in-person programs. This in itself isn’t a bad thing, if the goal of LIS programs is to supply librarians for the market. There’s an oversupply right now, but closing in-person programs won’t solve that problem, because the students will just get online degrees. We’ll still have the oversupply, but what we won’t have are better programs. We’ll just have more widely available programs.

We’ll also see in library schools what I suspect we’ll see in much of the so-called higher education – a complete commodification of education and the disappearance of communities of scholars. People who have never enjoyed the benefits of such a community won’t miss them. We can all pose as the rugged individualists Americans supposedly are, ruggedly ignorant and arrogantly individualist. What’s good for online LIS education might be good for Drexel, but it’s not necessarily good for libraries.



  1. Jodi Schneider says:

    “the interaction in online classes cannot be a replacement for the community of an in-person program for any serious education”

    Online communities are real, and one major advantage to online programs is increased opportunity for work and internships–in one’s local community.

    Not everyone experiences community in an online setting, but I certainly have.

    It would be more helpful (though perhaps I’m asking too much, ‘Annoyed’) if you would point out the particular aspects of community that you want all LIS students to experience, and show why, in your opinion, online students can’t/don’t have those experiences.

  2. Jeez, Jodi, for an “information maven” you seem to have an overactive filter. What did AL just say?…I think it was: “The value of that community is that the learning is always happening, and in unpredictable and useful ways. Students hang out in the hallway chatting about a reading…” etc.

    She’s more than covered why online MLIS programs are more accurately understood as a license to practice than an actual graduate level education with a community of scholars.

  3. I just graduated from an on-campus MLIS program and I have to disagree with you about the community aspect. Library school, like anything, is what you make it. There are plenty of people in my program who treat the program the same way you claim online students treat theirs. They are not “making that learning their life for a while”, nor are they “immersing themselves in a profession and a trade”. They come in 5 minutes before class and leave as soon as they are done. There is no hanging out in the commons or talking with professors; they have lives, families, and full time jobs to get back to. Not everyone is like this, of course(I wasn’t), but a good number of my classmates were. I helped out with an online class this past semester and the community that I saw there was the same way. Some students sought out companions and friends within the program in the classroom, on the discussion board, and through facebook, but others had limited interaction with their peers. Again, it’s what you make it. I don’t think that you can say that on-campus students are a community anymore than online students aren’t. It’s all about how much you seek out others and forming a community yourself.

  4. There’s absolutely nothing that I learned or experienced in the classes I took at a top 10 library school that I couldn’t have learned and experienced online. Sitting in class with boring profs, lame ideas, and dowdy library students was torture. Live with it: librarianship is a trade profession, not a true academic or scholarly discipline. The more online programs, the better.

  5. And the reason students aren’t hanging around is because they have a job and family to get back to.

  6. Decima Dewey says:

    I went to Drexel from 1979 to 1982 or 1983 as a part-time student. I didn’t get much of the experience AL speaks of: between working full-time in suburban Wilmington, DE and the commute between Wilmington and Philadelphia, it was difficult to get to campus more often than to take classes or do coursework. This experience or lack of same is not limited to online students.

  7. Sensiblyshod librarian says:

    AL, I enjoy your blog and agree with many of your opinions,but you can’t have it both ways! You disparage online programs for their lack of rigor, yet you admit that your own classes in library school were “ridiculously easy.”

    Before transferring to an online program, I took several classes at a local university in their MIS program. No one was hanging out in the halls chatting about books and other intellectual matters, ever. Most people ran in from work at 6 p.m., and departed immediately at 9 p.m. In the online program, students chatted at all hours, and when we got together on campus every semester, we hung out, studied, and worked together. I agree with Elizabeth that it’s what you put into the program that makes it, whether online or in-person.

    Most people don’t have the luxury of quitting their jobs and immersing themselves in graduate school full-time.

  8. And no one wants to state the painful obvious: Librarianship is no longer a scholarly profession, if it ever was one. The average, day-to-day tasks performed in a library do not require a master’s degree.

    Yes, there are good library scholars, and research has a place in librarianship, but requiring a master’s degree and thousands of dollars in debt to show public users how to access Hulu is outright wasteful.

    The only people benefiting from the overabundance of MLS/MLIS degrees are library “schools,” and they should be ashamed of themselves.

  9. jabesthelibrarian says:

    Library school is a union card. Pure and simple. It is in the real world of librarianship where the REAL education takes place. And not just a few hours spent in an academic library setting manning the front desk and giving directions, even though I did learn the most from my assistanship in regards to databases, research, and article publications.

    But for me, I could care less if someone gets their union card from an online program or a library school program. As long as the student is actively involved with “real” librarianship during the process, they will be more then prepared, if not more so then the average library student.

  10. cheery unc grad says:

    I’m with you 100% on this. My two years full-time at the library school at UNC-Chapel Hill were an essential part of my development as a librarian. I worked in the university library with incredibly talented people; I participated in groups and organizations outside of class; and I developed my most important professional relationships, both with my co-workers in the library and with my classmates. I’m actually still in touch with a few of the faculty as well.

    Facebook and Twitter are great–as a way to stay in touch with these folks now that we’ve moved on. But there’s no way I would have developed such strong relationships online.

  11. SALibrarian says:

    Jodi, I live in San Antonio, TX and I cannot tell you how many people in this city are getting their “degrees” from UNT. I haven’t met one yet who has ventured out of SA to Austin to see what UT’s MLIS graduates get to work with. Unlike the universities here in SA, UT Austin has a fantastic library system (the General Libraries) and many of the people I went to school with worked for the General Libraries in one capacity or another. That work within an excellent library system makes for better librarians. Sorry, that’s the way it is. All these folks getting the MLIS here in SA? Most will never find a job because there aren’t that many available and most require that little annoyance called “experience.”

  12. I often (but not always) agree with the AL, and I certainly do in this case. As a full-time library employee and a part-time library student in a “mixed” online and face-to-face program, I have experienced exactly the kind of interactive learning the AL is talking about in face-to-face coursework (again, often in the hallways before or after class, or meeting somewhere for coffee), and also the lack thereof in purely online courses.
    However, my question is, why the considered and well-written essay this time, oh mighty AL? For what reason have you abandoned your usual irritable tone and hastily-written prose? I repeat to you what my undergrad profs often told me: you can really write, when you want to… ;)

  13. SALibrarian, I live in Anchorage, Alaska and there are no accredited MLIS programs this far north. The only way for some people to get this degree is through online classes. People have families, jobs, and children and can’t afford to move to a city to attend graduate school, especially not for a degree that pays as low as being a Librarian.

    Most of the people I know in the UNT program don’t live anywhere near the cities that offer an accredited degree so UNT is pretty much it.

    The problem is you can’t get a job in a library without this degree. Though, after looking at one job description after another, I’m not sure why it’s required. However, it’s the only chance of getting your foot in the door.

    I personally think the degree is just another way to weed out the applicant pool. But technically anyone that’s halfway organized can be a librarian.

  14. ElderLibrarian says:

    About online and face-to-face, both are tools and help us grow in our profession. Don’t forget before mass transportation scholars might not see each other for years, and wrote letters back and forth.
    As for the Master’s degree- do I remember correctly that there was a time that librarians got a b.a. with a few extra courses, much as teachers do today. Or further back they were educated people who took on the job of librarianship. Might we go forward by going back?

  15. Dr. Brooks says:

    I am wondering exactly how many students that have an MLS from an Online University are working as a Librarian? I would not hire someone with an online degree, and that’s a fact. A good Librarian has a solid education, a good sense of humor, is out-going and loves life in general. I don’t think being just half-way organized is going to cut it.

  16. Drexel'sGirl says:

    What kind of Hollywood movie graduate school did you go to? My fiance graduated from a LIS program shortly before I did. He went on campus in the state we live in. I earned my degree through Drexel’s online program.

    He, and others I know that went through the same program as him, had none of those experiences you described! Whereas I participated in discussions weekly pertaining to both the material and outside life with my classmates.

    I also had better professors, more relevant readings, and assignments that actually pertain to real life. Not only that, but I also got to work full time at the same time as earning my degree. In other words, my degree totally PWNS!

  17. @Dr. Brooks: I’ve meet many online UNT graduates who work as Librarians in libraries. My friend is a Branch Manager and she got her MLIS from the UNT online program.

    I know other people who currently work in a library who are also in the UNT online program and they need the degree in order to get a pay increase or promotion.

    I think experience and what people bring to the table goes a long ways towards helping graduates get hired regardless of where and how they got their degree.

    Based on the job descriptions I’ve read it doesn’t look like Librarians do anything particularly special that someone else can’t do if they are hard working and know how to use a computer and search for information. At least not public library librarians. Most of the skills needed look like something people can learn on the job. In the past, librarians did not need a Masters and they did fine. I’m not sure what changed beyond the introduction of computers and online databases that would require the need for one now.

  18. Dr. Brooks: Are you saying that a person taking courses on line doesn’t have a solid education, a good sense of humor, is out-going and loves life in general. Pretentious. Many good people already working in libraries get degrees online because they cannot afford to quit their jobs and move to a city where they have a program. They are educated (already possess a B.A.) possess good humor, work well with other and are very (not halfway) organized. And, by the way, my degree was not online. Wish it was available back then. It would have saved me 2 hour trips into Chicago twice a week for years.

  19. @ Dr. Brooks:

    “I would not hire someone with an online degree, and that’s a fact. A good Librarian has a solid education, a good sense of humor, is out-going and loves life in general.”

    Totally serious questions:

    1. Are you sure that an online student cannot meet your criteria for cheeriness?

    2. Are you sure that your personality criteria are legal? What if an applicant discloses that they deal with major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, Asperger syndrome, or any number of other developmental disorders or chronic mental illnesses that prevent them from being quite as chipper and sociable as you’d like? If they can demonstrate that they’re qualified and are capable of meeting or exceeding the requirements of the position in question, but they’re not happy little social butterflies, are they disqualified, and are you sure you could defend your decision if your decision was questioned?

    3. Are you certain that refusing to hire someone because they obtained their degree online is legal? If the degree comes from an accredited program, do you have a leg to stand on if your decision is questioned? If you had two applicants, one with an online degree and one with an offline degree, and the online student was better qualified, would you go with the offline student anyway? Could you defend that?

    For that matter, how can you even determine with certainty that an applicant attended school online if the applicant doesn’t say? I can see how it would be easy if their degree was from an online-only school, but from a mixed program…?

    Just call me the devil’s advocate. :-)

  20. I say you get out of school what you put in it no matter if you parked your butt in a classroom after driving for an hour in rush hour traffic or you were up at midnight talking about literature with someone from Pittsburgh. My online degree offered access to all the students I wanted to talk to and none of the ones I didn’t. I took 11 online classes and 1 in person, and the 1 in person is what made me decide to go online. From the stuffiness of the professor to having to listen to inane prattling from boring classmates to the rush hour drive the whole class was a nightmare. It was certainly easier to get together for group projects online than trying to work around 5 people and their work and family obligations. Anyway, the people who think online is stupid will always think it is stupid, no matter what we say.

  21. AlwaysWanted2B says:

    Haven’t we had this conversation in this forum about the value of Library Schools ad nauseum? You need new material AL

    As to whether or not competition will actually improve an educational program is debatable, but competition does indeed improve commercial product. I think AL is totally wrong about the latter.

  22. @texasmls:

    The only real challenge I’ve had with group projects online is the time difference. in my current group from this semester there were three of us. I’m from Alaska, one group member lived in Texas, and the other lived in Pennsylvania. The four hour time difference did present a unique challenge because I had to rush home and get online asap before my east coast group member got too tired from being up so late.

    However, we rose to the occasion on our group project and completed it. I got to know my group members rather well from working together with them all semester. True, talking in person may have been quicker but when you communicate through IM chat programs you have to be aware of exactly what you say so there is no misunderstanding. I think people underestimate what goes into communiciating in writing verse verbal communication.

    There are librarians who communicate with patrons over the internet and through IM. I’ve seen libraries with online help support where you ask Librarian’s questions through chat and they help you out.

  23. Look at what we are all doing right now. I have found AL’s blog to be a tremendous learning experience. I won’t venture to say I have learned more here than in Library School (which I attended in person), but the issues are the sort that never came up in my classes. If not a substitute for Library School, how about a useful tool for Professional Development?
    One thing I do not like about online communication, however, is the lack of tact. Because we are not face to face people assume that they can be uncharitable, rude, even vulgar, because their identity is hidden behind a pseudonym.
    But anonymity can be a benefit, too. Could AL teach a class in library school on this topic and say the things there that are said here without certain persons in positions of power and/or influence busting it up?
    What an irony; online communication being a boon to learning, freedom of speech, but also a venue for people to be rude, and a substitute for face to face interaction which might leave some people socially handicapped.

  24. My wife and I have been known to text/email each other when studying in our respective home offices that are 10 feet apart. Almost all of the collaboration assignments for our face to face courses are conducted online, even though everyone is a resident. The university we attend is 20 miles away from our home and parking is impossible. No one would go there save to attend a face to face class, and then they would leave at the earliest possible moment. On a 100 acre campus with 50,000 undergrads, there is no bumping up against people “in the hall” and the library is swarming with undergrad gaming rats and trench-coated perverts. I assure you that the best contacts we have (including current local faculty) are carefully groomed and maintained through online and computer-mediated social networking sites, as most of them do not live close to where we live, and no one wants to spend a minute more than necessary on campus.

    AL it’s clear your degree was from a very different time and place. You should retire with the rest of them so we digeratis can get on with moving librarianship out of the information dark ages.

  25. Dr. Brooks says:

    Relax. I am not hiring any Librarians. Keep dumbing down the Library profession and most jobs in libraries will go to volunteers. We do not have an organization like the powerful AFT to help us out. Here is a little secret that most of the public do not know, most grade school teachers make more money than we do AND they whine they are UNDERPAID. You know what? This tactic WORKS.

  26. It’s less about medium than it is about content: if the content is not rigorous, you won’t generate communities of scholars, or at least serious thinkers. Is there anything to hang out and talk about? Are the professors interested in you? Why should they be if they’re not asking you to do anything you need them for? If you see this degree as your union card and all the entitlement that comes along with said card, then why would you put forth extra effort? Are you going to develop research interests when you don’t have to (in the short term, and then be surprised in the long term :’D)?

  27. It'saPeopleProfession says:

    UT had 45,000 students when I attended and I had no problems meeting people at the BA or MLIS level. Oh wait … that was back in the days with no cell phones permanently attached to one’s head. People actually had to interact with one another in social settings (and happy hours were a great way to learn BTW – online communities can’t participate in those types of learning activities)

    So many of our students at this university complain about being isolated and feeling separated from the life of this university. It isn’t digitalized, Facebooked, or texted – it’s made of real people. Learning to live and work with people in real situations seems a far better alternative than the “digerati” one you propose, anonymous. When students ask me what they should do, I advise putting their phones away and turn to the person next to them in class, the hall, the cafeteria and strike up a conversation.

  28. Almalthia – you are right about being able to commmunicate in a digital environment. I am a sarcastic person with a strange sense of humor so I had to be careful how that came across in online discussions. It’s amazing how little it takes to offend someone just by putting a comma in the wrong place. But that knowledge has come in useful in my professional life. There is a person that I have to communicate with mostly by email and she is determined to ‘misunderstand’ every thing I say no matter how carefully I spell things out. Of course, I think this is deliberate, but that is another story.

  29. Lyle Blake Smythers says:

    I don’t know whether to call this a request or a reminder, but here goes: When you use an acronym or initialism for the first time in a discussion, without explaining what it means, readers are left in the dark, forced to guess what you are talking about. This thread has half a dozen references to something called UNT, with no clarification of what these letters stand for. I can only take a wild guess that it could mean University of North Texas or University of Northern Texas, if such an institution exists (if so, I’ve never heard of it).

    I’m not trying to be snippy, just trying to follow the discussion without having to play guessing games.

  30. Lyle Blake Smythers says:

    I don’t know whether to call this a request or a reminder, but here goes: When you use an acronym or initialism for the first time in a discussion, without explaining what it means, readers are left in the dark, forced to guess what you are talking about. This thread has half a dozen references to something called UNT, with no clarification of what these letters stand for. I can only take a wild guess that it could mean University of North Texas or University of Northern Texas, if such an institution exists (if so, I’ve never heard of it).

    I’m not trying to be snippy, just trying to follow the discussion without having to play guessing games.

  31. UNT does refer to University of North Texas. TWU refers to Texas Woman’s University. Both schools are located in Denton, Texas about 25 miles north of Dallas. Both schools offer ALA acredited MLS degrees. And yes, I agree, you should spell out what you mean then use the initials.

  32. TheIlliterateLibrarian says:

    @Dr. Brooks While I agree, face-to-face education generates more potential for networking and discussing of materials with professors and students… I did get my MLIS mostly online.

    I happened to work for the university in question, and they kept intentionally scheduling my shifts for when I had class (lovely, wonderful people, them). I think I’m pretty cheerful and social. I have been called “awesome” by a writer whose work I admire, so that’s seal of approval for me and my social abilities.

    I actually have a librarian job (and no, I did not have a library job prior to obtaining my MLIS–I got my MLIS because I’m a nerd for information organization and retrieval). I make a good wage for a librarian. I contribute to publications and I have spoken both at library conferences and at conventions in other areas of my interest and I have work in a book published later this year.

    Sure, there are things to overcome with online education, socialization being one of them, but I am a hard worker who is interested in academia and is ambitious enough to actually move up in this field. I think the people who have been in the same position for 30 years are the ones who WANT to be. Maybe they’re comfortable with the pay and benefits, maybe they don’t want to move, or change libraries, but I’m in my third job in my second library in two and a half years (and second city), because I want to excell. That’s fine for them.

    Honestly–in an uncertain world, if one can find a job with decent people, decent pay and decent benefits, there’s a lot to recommend keeping that job over uprooting the family for the sake of climbing the ladder. At this time I don’t have such hinderances, so I’m learning as much as I can, as quickly as I can, and we’ll see where I end up some day.

  33. I know more of my students from online discussion than I knew of my classmates when I went to library school. Sorry but I commuted, stayed on campus only long enough to go to class and then left. Other than the woman I worked with and drove to school with, I couldn’t tell you a single person I went to library school with.

  34. DrBrooks is blowing smoke, re: online degrees; and is dead wrong about AFT-re: “We do not have an organization like the powerful AFT to help us out.” I’m one of thousands of professional academic librarians with an online MLIS and membership in AFT. Put that in your pipe, Dr. Brooks, and smoke it before you post another erroneous statement.

  35. Just a couple of thoughts based on what I’ve been reading here.

    You really don’t need a library degree to land a job as a librarian. I believe the medium sized public library where I worked in Virginia still runs adds asking for an ‘MLS or equilivant.’ I’d love to see an ad asking for an MD or equilevant. Are we surprised when more and more of us are being replaced by techs or clerks. How many librarians does it take to police a bunch of internet terminals?

    I didn’t learn anything in library school I couldn’t have learned on the job, and, in fact, almost nothing I learned in library school had any relationship to work I’ve done in public, academic, or special libraries.

    I have to agree librarianship is more a trade than a profession. I’ve half seriously told my wife that I could train her to do my ‘professional’ job in a matter of weeks.

    Somebody made the comment that school teachers earn more than most of us which is true, and they get to work a nine month year!

    There is so little respect for this ‘profession’ that it amazes me that you still have a fairly large number of folk still seeking entry into it.

  36. I think the general point here is that library education, as others have said, is a joke. If you can do it (be a professional librarian) without needing the MLIS – what does that say? This isn’t really about online versus in-person, it’s just another rehash of how bad the MLIS is. I don’t have one, and I don’t plan on getting one – unless someone else ponies up for the cash required to go to a libschool without expecting payback.

  37. I am simply astonished at the utter disrespect and contempt shown on these comments towards librarianship. Does this blog attract the self-loathing?

    And to those who continually repeat how unacademic information studies is – do you not READ? I won’t bother to list information science journals and literature because that would simply be embarrassing. But look at some of the research being done in the field before you say it’s for brainless idiots.

    And SHADDAP already with the broad and sweeping generalizations, especially regarding the “value” of LIS degrees. I guess the degree didn’t work for you, as typically higher education helps you in avoiding such generalizations and teaches you to qualify your statements. Speak about your personal experience rather than apply it to the thousands of people with whom you are not acquainted.

    P.S. I think the real reason why this attitude (contempt for librarianship, and sweeping generalizations) thrives on this board is the AL too often touts it to be provocative. But don’t be convinced – information studies is a scholarly field.

  38. Library Guy says:

    Torino – really, you’re astonished? You must not have ever read this blog; it’s all about self-loathing, complaining, insults, contempt AND disrespect. I read it to cheer myself up, because as bad as my life might be, it isn’t nearly as bad as the ones you find here.

  39. I’m guessing after directing people to the bathroom for the thousandth time people just stop feeling like information professionals.

    Most of the complaints I’ve read have a lot to do with working in public libraries and the patrons visiting who talk on their cell phones, let their kids run around disturbing everyone, and homeless people using the sinks to bath themselves.

    I’m not sure if things were different 30 years ago but the public library in many places has come to be the place where parents dump their kids for a few hours of free babysitting and where homeless people hang out during the winter and hot summers.

    Also, the people puking on the floors in the bathroom not helping…It sounds like the libraries need a building manager to take care of issues like this not Librarians.

    Most of what I read is at an Livejournal community for people who work at libraries and librarians. After reading the posts for a month I now know I should probably not work in a public library.

    I have a lot more respect for what Librarians have to deal with though.

  40. Torino, I come on this blog every week or so in hope of reaching students, and for the similar reason that Library Guy posted. Reading through all this negative stuff, though I do agree with some of it, makes me realize how fortunate I am. That said, I want library students to know that the schools are lying about the job market so that these schools can recruit and maintain their cash cows.

    In the back of my mind, however, is the hope that people like you will take the needed measures so as to not become an unemployed new librarian (riddled with debt) statistic. Personally, I think most people here just want to blow off steam, and that AL is a created character that is like what once might have been called Jerry Springer in the library world — there to provoke controversy. My mom told me about him. Is he still around? I don’t know if AL is one academic librarian or a composite of several.

    I much like what I do. It was hard to get that first job, but I’m glad I went to FSU, which I thought was a good school, to go this route. The majority of the people, who comment on this blog, do not represent the opinions of all librarians out there.

  41. Sorry, I was just looking back on the posts and caught the complaint about the initials of schools. That’s the problem with reading more infrequently. FSU is Florida State University, which I thought was a fine school, at least it was for me. Listing the full school name is not necessarily relevant to what I had to say, but I understand that posters would like to have the initials spelled out.

  42. 1. I think this blog should be required reading for anyone getting an MLIS or contemplating the degree. Finding a job is difficult, the profession is held in low regard (i.e.,how nice to sit and read all day; managing street people; etc.) and unless you get a corporate job you’ll probably earn a pittance. That said, I really enjoy the work and plan to do so for another 15-20 years.

    2. By and large, employers seem to prefer in-residence degrees here in the lower 48. We don’t tell people why they weren’t hired BTW. It should be pretty obvious when you don’t get a job – you didn’t have the requisite experience (if you’re fresh out of LIS, don’t bother applying for dept. head positions at large universities – we aren’t going to consider you), they didn’t like you (yep, that happens!), someone knew a librarian at your previous workplace and got the skinny on you, or you simply aren’t a “good fit.” That last is very important where I work and those that don’t mesh well with the culture either don’t stay long or get forced out.

  43. NotMariantheLibrarian says:

    And UT would be the University of Texas at Austin. I’ve wondered for 30 years why some people got the degree. Many of the people in my class thought a library would be a “nice place” to work. Public libraries aren’t all that nice – I was thrilled to leave one. I got tired of the homeless, the mentally ill and kids dropped off so we could babysit.

    Academic libraries have fewer drawbacks so far as the clientele, particularly if the institution is private. When visitors become problematic we stop admitting them and get campus police involved. When students become difficult, we contact the Dean of Students. When it comes to hiring, we are particular. Most of the online degree holders never even get a telephone interview. We are looking for experience. There are paras here working on online degrees from UNT. They may have experience but promotions from within don’t really improve a library system. When we have an opening we’re looking for someone from another library who can bring fresh ideas and a new perspective.

  44. GoodPublicLibrarian says:

    Just curious-How do you know an MLS holder’s degree is online? There’s no need to write “online” or “mostly online” next to the credential. I would assume that most people just keep it under their hat.

  45. NotMariantheLibrarian says:

    Uh … you ask in an interview? Particularly if they identify the school as UNT or TWU here in Texas? Plus, most job apps ask how long you’ve been in the area, at the same address etc. If you’ve got a new degree and there isn’t an LIS in town, it’s probably online.

  46. @NotMariantheLibrarian

    But with UNT they also offer in person classes, so if the person only says they went to UNT it’s not immediately obvious if a person got an online degree or in person degree. Even if they do live in another state because people move quite often.

  47. I moved to the Bay Area to attend SJSU when they were still a hybrid program. I definitely made more contacts through my face-to-face courses than I did through my online courses. It certainly wasn’t for lack of trying. Maybe I’m just more of a physical person. I interact better from visual cues with my professors and fellow students. I articulate questions (or a series of them) better in person without the email lag time that is inevitable with busy professors. I never experienced a discussion board as lively as a class conversation and I am grateful that I was able to squeeze in face-to-face courses before they were eliminated. I often attended events arranged by local chapters and there were always other students there hungry for in person interaction. Why would these events be so large if online conversation is so wonderful? Nothing can replace the visual cues that people give during lectures or conversations. Online communication is more restrained and thought out in contrast to free movement of speech that happens in person. This is a fact and anyone with a linguistics background will confirm that. The people who talk about how wonderful online programs are drinking Haycock’s kool-aid and I don’t blame them. It is in their best interest to defend the degree. What really needs to happen is that the MLIS standards need to be more rigorous and ALA needs to enforce those standards.

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