Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Why buy an MLS?

I'll save you the trouble of reading the rest of this post: if you want to be a librarian, get the MLS. If you don't get the degree, then don't bitch when you don't get the job.

And if you're an administrator, hire people with an MLS to fill those few librarian jobs. Having the degree won't guarantee you get the best candidates, but if you don't support the degree, you can almost guarantee that many of your future librarian candidates will have no library training at all.

Now, to the post:

I haven't done any professional reading since I got a professional library gig. And by professional reading, I mean reading several articles, distilling the main points form the bullshit, then combining that with my thoughts and experiences to create solutions or methods for, umm, stuff. See, it's been so long, I don't even remember why I would do it.

The point is that I'm working. I solve my local library problems with local remedies. I clean the potato chips out of the keyboards. I kick the copier in the right spot. I do the stuff my library gives me. I don't have the luxury of time to question or survey and then to propose theories that may or may not work. Because I'm at work now. So I use my accumulated knowledge and experience and do what needs to be done.

Library school was the time for all that reading. There were lots of rhetoricals:
  • What if you had $25,000 to spend anyway you wanted, but it had to increase library use by albinos?
  • What if all Js disappeared from all the library books?
  • What if the library were replaced with a 5,000 pound ham?
And we read library books and library essays and had deep library thoughts.

The only reading I do now is for me to blog some dick and fart jokes.

Library school made me think about the profession, about the history of libraries and about the possible futures. If I didn't go to library school and just started as a shelver or a page or clerk, then I might know that job, but what else would I know?

Let's say I worked my way up from a clerk to a lead worker to a manager. That's great, but I still would be limited to what I learned at my library about those jobs. And if I moved from one library to another, I might know a few more ways to do things that could help to expand my knowledge of the career. If I had an apprenticeship at one or two libraries, I would still only know what their librarians knew enough about to teach me.

And I think my knowledge of library work would be less if I hadn't gone to library school. Having those discussions about how to create a library in a zero-g environment, or how to print books with only coconuts for paper and ink: these questions expand your understanding of the library as method and as a form, as an abstract and as a concrete thing. Library school exercises your imagination about what libraries are or could be. I don't think any work experience creates an equal environment.

I also think there would be no profession without the professional degree. I think it would become like any other job. There would be people who love it just as there are those who love folding sweaters at JCP. But love does not mean that person has the required skills to make the business succeed. And if JCP closes, then that person would go and fold sweaters at Target.

But there is no business equal to a public or academic library (to a special library, maybe, there seem to be endless models) for you to transfer to when your library bites it. What about the privately run public library? Yeah, what about it? Fuck them. They should get cancer.

What about Certification, you ask? What about it? What if librarianship went the way of Computer or Automobile Mechanics? Do you know what those certifications cost? No? Neither do I. But you should have some idea because you work in a library and you buy or don't buy those books. A+ Certification books and ASE Certification materials? I wonder if you added all those things up whether they would be cheaper than a Master's degree. So, is continual certification training and testing cheaper then the MLS, dunno, but it might be. There's got to be a calculator around here...

I also think that getting the degree is like everything else you do or don't do: you can't know. If you practice your viola, will you make it to Carnegie Hall? If you use heroin will you become a junkie? You can't know these things. Some of the best violists were junkies. Okay, I think I made that up.

So I'm not the expert on this. I can't be. Because it's your life. I can just tell you that I think the degree has value. But what do I know? I'm just a working librarian.

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