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Friday, May 3, 2013

Who Needs A MSLS anyway? Professional Librarians, That's Who

Michael Kelley, editor of Library Journal posed a very interesting question in his editorial (published May 1, 2013) about the education of a librarian. In particular, is a Master's Degree really necessary for the profession. Should we do away with the requirements? Is it time we had the discussion about why the degree is no longer needed. Gee, Mr. Kelley from your own arguments in the editorial it would seem apparent why the degree is needed The fact that your own experience in acquiring the degree was less then stellar or helpful does not negate the need for the Master's Degree. Quite the opposite, it may be that some MSLS programs are not quite as good as others. Perhaps what is needed is a review over which schools should get a more rigorous review in their accreditation process. For the sake of being open minded, let's review the reason's why Mr. Kelley feels the degree has out lived it's purpose. The profession would be better served if there were an apprenticeship process instead of going to a university to receive the degree. Well, sure on the job training is always a good thing but would people be comfortable going to a doctor whose background in surgery was only based on an apprenticeship? Would they wonder if the doctor he apprenticed with was one of the best or a quack? Before arguing that librarians are not doctors and this isn't a fair example. Consider this: as a society we are constantly looking for checks and balances to validate a person's expertise. If there is a job that does not require an specific degree, the assumption is that anyone can fill that job. The example of a doctor not obtaining a medical degree is a valid one. Not everyone can be a doctor. Which is why the medical profession requires that one not only complete a medical courses to earn a degree but also complete an internship, which is similar to an apprenticeship. Has Mr. kelley considered that maybe a library program should require an internship program to complete the requirements of librarianship education? For the record, there are accredited Library Science programs that make it a requirement for their students. The editorial blatantly looked past that consideration. Secondly, the excuse that currently, the profession's wages do not match the level of education, is poor. Across the board, many professions are feeling the effects of a lagging economy. Salaries and benefits were not what they once were ten years ago or twenty years for that matter. If that is the case, then perhaps a four year college education is not worth the time or money to invest. Perhaps, technical schools or community colleges would serve the purpose just as well, if not better. As a matter of fact, In a recent survey conducted by Gerogetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce, nearly 30% of Americans with associate's degrees now earn more than those with bachelor's degrees. Should the conversation about the value of any advance degree be up for discussion? Mr. Kelley is quite right that many libraries are now hiring non-degreed librarians to run the library as in the rural areas and in bigger cities they are hiring non-degreed personal to cut costs in the budgets. Stating that the profession should not require a MSLS is conceding that it is not necessary to hire a professional librarian. Thus delivering a close to knock out blow of the value of the profession. If the degree were no longer a requirement what would be the consequences on librarians' salaries as a whole? An honest and educated guess would be that salaries would continue to decline. Finally, we are in the most exciting times of our profession. Librarians have opportunities that can extend outside of the boundaries of the traditional library. The digital era has brought about new ways of communicating, sharing and finding information. This isn't your grandmother's library. Far from it. If anything, the MSLS can help new librarians explore all the options of this brave new digital world. Yet, the editor of the trusted journal of the profession muses about how the value of MSLS. Pardon being so blunt, but this is not only damaging to the image of the librarian but also disheartening. If there are many others who believe as Mr. Kelley does, then there is little hope for the profession to survive. It will be a slow slide into mediocrity. Which eventually leads to the demise of the profession. That would be a very sad thing to have happen.
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