Magazine article American Libraries
Squeezing out Specialists: Questioning the Need for a Second Graduate Degree
Following my college graduation, I could not decide whether I desired to travel the road of librarianship or psychology. However, with joy I discovered that avoidance of this fork was possible by becoming a psychology subject specialist at a university library! Thus, I applied to and was accepted at St. John's University's MLIS program, where I learned a stark truth: An MLIS is generally not the only prerequisite needed to work as a research librarian. Typically, employers expect potential hires to hold both an MLIS and an additional subject-specific master's or PhD.
Upon learning this daunting fact, two pressing questions immediately formed in my mind: How can people on a librarian's salary afford to earn multiple graduate degrees, and why disregard strong undergraduate credentials or field experience? In order for the former to occur, several scenarios are possible: Independent wealth is one (albeit a route inapplicable to most). Another possibility is a non--subject specific library position at a university that offers free classes to its employees. This latter case can be problematic, as people should work in generalized library positions because of their interest in the job itself, not because of the allure of free classes; otherwise the library risks both high turnover and a lackluster attitude toward the job.
In order to resolve these serious problems, practical and sustainable solutions must be generated and applied. In order to keep people from taking generalist university library jobs in order to receive a free education, universities offering library graduate programs should create joint degrees. While some schools have already taken this progressive step--such as Pratt, with its MLIS/JD--widespread collaboration and implementation is definitely not the norm. This union would greatly aid persons wishing to become subject-specialist librarians, as it would permit them to receive two master's degrees for the price of one. Another option would be to create more work-study trades like the graduate assistantships offered at my own generous university, St. …