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Inside Annoyed Librarian

The MLS for Nonprofessional Jobs: Pros and Cons

Sorry I can’t let this go, but the job ad with the recent MLS preference has been bugging me. I can’t quite figure out why the preference.

Thus, I’m going to try to figure out the best arguments Pro and Con requiring a recent MLS.

The Pro

The best I can come up with is the belief that certain kinds of skills, in this case tech skills, will be fresher for people who have recently graduated from library school.

This makes some sense. Some courses in library schools are related to technology in an advanced way. I’m leaving out any course where the students write blogs or play Guitar Hero. I mean the programming and web development ones.

If a librarian gained some of those skills in library school, but has been working in a position for a few years that doesn’t require updating them, then it’s likely that the recent MLS will have an advantage technologically.

Okay, that’s about the best I can do.

The Con

One of the perennial complaints of libraries is that library schools are supposedly not preparing new graduates adequately for employment.

Library school is a professional school, they might say, and thus it should train graduates to work in libraries from Day 1.

However, the whole idea of a school being professional is that it’s supposed to be educating people to look at the big picture.

Regardless of the wrong-headedness of this thinking, it’s true that new librarians, especially those with little prior library experience, aren’t ready to step into a professional position and immediately begin performing at a high level. It takes time to learn how to be a librarian.

The training to be a librarian comes with the first job, or with previous library experience. That’s why so many jobs require “two year’s professional experience” or some variation of it.

That’s a tacit acknowledgement that some jobs out there are for beginners who will move on to other places requiring more experience from their librarians, whether it’s a higher level position, a larger library system, or whatever.

I seem to have meandered back into the Pro category. Preferring a recent MLS could also be a signal that at job isn’t going to pay well and has little long term future. It’s a step towards a better job in 2-3 years.

However, in the example from the ad last week, it’s not a step, because it’s not a professional job. Non-professional jobs preferring these qualifications aren’t even providing the professional benefits of the unpleasant first library jobs so many people have to take.

Just the opposite, they would be removing librarians from professional advancement, possibly forever. The longer someone is out of school without a professional job, the harder it gets to find one.

Non-professional jobs preferring professional degrees do, or librarians with MLSs taking nonprofessional jobs, have their pros and cons. Unfortunately, the Pros are confined to the employer, and the Cons all to the employee.



  1. I agree with you completely

  2. This is a job market that favors the employer. The economy is sluggish, libraries have been cut, and the laptop library schools are churning out MLS grads in droves. Pretty soon you’ll need an MLS to shelve books.

    • Except higher education requirement will kick up the pay, and libraries certainly don’t want that. We have too many professional jobs here which DON”T require the degree, so that they can get librarians cheaper. The HR question is, “does the job REALLY require the MLS, or can the duties be done by someone without one”. Either way, cons to the employee.

    • Your friendly neighborhood LA says:

      ” Pretty soon you’ll need an MLS to shelve books.” – You mean the ALA hasn’t already mandated that already?

  3. This is a tech position. I think they are looking for someone who understands where libraries are headed NOW with regard to technology (it’s changing fast) and who understands the big picture of how libraries operate in order to apply it to technology in the library. We had a tech person who did not understand libraries, and it was a struggle. He could not see how the things he did affected the end user (whether community member or staff person). He could not translate what we were trying to accomplish into technology that worked the way we hoped it would. His priorities were not our priorities no matter how many times we tried to explain our priorities.

    This library wants a tech person who understands how library works, how users work, and where libraries are going. While they will accept a person with an MLS, they also understand that a person with an MLS may be hoping to be on a librarian “track” with room for advancement into management or room for growth into different departments, and they are letting the applicant know up front that this is not that job. This is a tech job for people who are interested in and understand libraries.

    Maybe the ad could be clearer, but in the end, it is asking for what they need. Ads are always about the employer. And it does not indicate pay scale – this could well pay more than a librarian position.

  4. I have been in a position of posting for and hiring librarians, where I had a stated preference for recent MLS graduates with 3-years or less experience. At that time, my organization’s upper management thought it wise to have 40% of an organization’s staff be “new career” (less than 3 years post-degree work), 30% “early career” (3-5 years post-degree work) and 30% “experienced” (greater than 5-years post-degree work). Though driven by upper management, this percentage breakdown isn’t that all a bad an idea – it formalizes bringing folks in that have fresh ideas and new eyes and actually supports a diverse team; this without having been corrupted by prior assignments or without the baggage that can come with someone with much experience, but very set in their ways. The downside of the “new career” folks though, in all honesty, is the lack of experience. We are a science and engineering based company that can be extremely hard on “newbies” to a special library environment that requires initiative and independence, in addition to other traits, to be successful. No hand-holding here.

  5. BIG PICTURE. You’re more likely to get this with the MLS combined with that first job and it doesn’t ever go away. Take ebooks. The new LITTLE picture people love ebooks even with all the limitations that the all ignored, but the BIG picture people said all along, “Hey, these are some serious limitations! Maybe we need to find a better way to do this.”
    So now everyone agrees that ebooks FROM THE BIG 6 PUBLISHERS suck and libraries should find their own way to ebooks that don’t have us paying for air.
    BIG picture views are necessary to make the library function successfully.
    But getting back to the conversation, no, for a tech position like the one in the ad, I don’t think our library would require an MLS, either.

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