Librarians are the Future – MLS or Otherwise

My comment on this recent Library Journal article reacting to The Future of Librarianship debate.

I’d like to thank LJ and Mr. Hadro for stepping in and commenting on this topic. As a recent MLIS graduate, I’ve been torn between the many positions I’ve seen stated surrounding The Future of Librarianship as it echoed around the web these past weeks. I was one of those who weighed in on the side of LIS educational reform, and started the GDoc linked above to create conversation. 

Over at the group blog that I co-edit, HackLibSchool.com, we have had numerous discussions about the value of the Masters degree in library science, including the distance between theory and practice, and have yet to find a productive solution to present. Personally, I believe that the underlying theme of talks like Mr. Trzeciak’s and Dr. Stephens’, that LIS education (generally) as it currently exists is not accurately preparing students with the skills and knowledge necessary to fill the information needs of the digital citizen. That said, I truly believe there is a vast divide in what those needs are in the university community as opposed to the general public. The academic librarian, as I survey the current job market, needs a deep knowledge of digital, technical and pedagogical competencies that are simply not part of the MLIS. The CLIR post-doc program, and the Fellows I know of who are working and active right now, are coming to the job market with those competencies and so, for the good of the university community, I am fully in support of their filling positions in the library regardless of holding the union card, despite the fact that may disqualify me for many of those jobs. 

Its a sticky situation no matter which way it is sliced, and we are sure to continue to hear more on it as the profession adapts to a digital future. My advice to LIS students? Get digital skills, whether you want to or not. To those who want to work in academic libraries? Get deep knowledge of digital trends, including CompSci, Data science, information architecture, digital humanities, digital archiving practices, CMS’s and yes even programming. And you’ll probably have to do most of this outside the MLIS degree on your own. To current academic librarians, maybe its time to use some of your free continuing education credits and update your skill set to remain in the know. 

I’ve proposed this topic as a session at the upcoming THATCamp – you can read my proposal here.

To sum it up, I believe that the interdisciplinary scholar-technologist is the future of the academic library – MLS, PhD or otherwise. 

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