Magazine article Information Outlook

Career College Librarians Introduce Themselves: Fringe Librarianship

Magazine article Information Outlook

Career College Librarians Introduce Themselves: Fringe Librarianship

Article excerpt

Career colleges have gone by many names: for-profit schools, nonpublic trade schools, proprietary schools, "those schools with the late-night TV ads." In turn, librarians at some of these schools don't know quite how to categorize themselves. Academic? Corporate? Special? Peerless? It's understandable that this sector of the library world is virtually invisible in professional groups and academic literature. Maybe the career-college librarian is fated to eternally forge her own path, justifying her worth at every turn, sneered at by corporate administration, faculty members, and even her fellow "legitimate" librarians.

We hope not. As three of the founding members of the Minnesota Career College Association Libraries (MCCAL), we see great promise in our peers and our ability to collaborate and influence this growing area of American higher education. We are the front-row witnesses to the corporate transformation of our nation's colleges and serve on the front lines of the effort for information literacy. Compared with the rest of the library world, career-college librarians face a unique set of challenges. Pleased to meet you, library world. This is our story.

What Is a Career College?

The continuing increase in the number of for-profit schools will mean more opportunities in the coming years for librarians who want to work in this expanding and challenging area of the library profession. Currently, the four largest campuses in the United States are for-profit schools (

A career college is a for-profit postsecondary institution that provides professional, career-specific educational programs leading to diplomas, certificates, associate degrees, bachelor's degrees, master's degrees, and doctorates. There are 4,536 career colleges; they make up approximately 46 percent of all postsecondary institutions in the United States, according to Nicholas Glakas, president of the Career College Association.


Career colleges offer a wide variety of environments. They can be large multi-state, multi-program schools or quite small, with only one campus that specializes in a particular area. They can be online, residential, or both. Most schools are accredited by one or more state or national bodies, including the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) or the Higher Learning Commission for the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA).

The life cycles of the schools also vary. Some career colleges have been around since the 19th century and have changed owners many times. For example, the Minnesota School of Business was established in 1877 and has gone through numerous owners. It offers many different programs and degrees ranging from a diploma to an MBA; it has six campuses and online classes. On the other hand, the Institute of Production and Recording, the new Minneapolis career school on the block, was established in 2002 to provide an education in the music industry.

A unique characteristic of a career college is that the curriculum usually hinges on current market trends for employment. Current hot areas include massage therapy, nursing, veterinary technology, paralegal studies, and business. When the market turns, programs are usually discontinued as quickly as they were created.

What Is a Career College Librarian?

Career-college librarians come from all over the library world. Some are right out of library and information science graduate schools. Others have worked in public libraries, corporate libraries, and academic libraries before landing in the career-college environment. Most have an MLIS or MLS, and many have other degrees as well. Many accrediting bodies, such as the ACICS, require that career-college librarians have an MLS from an institution accredited by the American Library Association (ALA).

The library is a highly visible center of the school, and librarians can be a voice for students. …

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