You know what’s cool? Starting to feel like you are part of a career/profession. I am nearing the end of my degree program, and I am starting to reach out to the profession and have been really excited and impressed by the responses I have gotten from established librarians/bloggers. Especially through my “What I Learned in Library School…” series, I am excited to enter the field with such interesting and qualified peers as I have had the pleasure of featuring.
Seeing the profession a little closer has also raised some questions about the value of my degree. Uh oh. The “What the hell am I going to do after I graduate” question. Well, not exactly. In my Foundations of Information Professions course the other day, taught by the amazing Dr. Christie Koontz, a point was raised that caught me off guard. She noted to us that we are on track to receive a Masters of Library and Information Studies, NOT a Masters in Library Science. Hmmm… no big deal, right? I don’t know. I have been going back through all the people I respect and read regularly and have been noticing that there is a pretty even spread between the MLS and the MLIS.
After some further research I learned that the discrepancy that I have so recently noticed is not at all a new trait in the profession. Almost since the advent of library schools has the issue of theory vs. practice been at stake. Is this the core issue between the MLS and the MLIS? Does the Information part make that much of a difference, or is it the “science” vs. “studies” part? Is Library School supposed to be specialized professional training in the work of Librarianship, or are there larger considerations that must be accounted for in the preparation of the new “Information Professional“? Does it really have to be that complicated?
Here’s what I think: it doesn’t really matter either way. The value of the degree comes from the effort put into it by the student. I plan to get out of my MLIS what I came into it for, a thorough understanding of the current information climate so that I can be prepared to address whatever may come my way as a professional. I may work in a library, I may not. What is important to me, and perhaps to many of my peers, is the fact that we believe in the mission of cultural institutions to preserve and share Knowledge and that access to Information of all types is crucial to the continuation of an engaged society. (OMG. Did I just write a personal mission statement?!)
One thing I am sure of is that things won’t be the same. I really believe that the future of the field will consist of a variety of cultural institutions (and corporations) plucking their employees from a extremely qualified, interested and hard working pool of Information Professionals with broad interests and broader skill sets. Professionals already working in the field, what do you think? Does the degree matter that much? Are the variety of skills necessary for your institutions being addressed in library school? When hiring a fresh-faced library student what are the top 2 things you must see on their resume? ALA membership and an accredited degree? What about great references and good ideas?
This post was inspired in part by Kim Leeder’s article on the “real work” of librarianship and Bobbi Newman’s amazing list of links for a potential/job seeking library school student.