Magazine article Library Administrator's Digest

Is the M.L.S. Always Necessary?

Magazine article Library Administrator's Digest

Is the M.L.S. Always Necessary?

Article excerpt

Joey Rodger, president of the Urban Libraries Council, writes convincingly (see news section) that the M.L.S. degree is not always necessary to provide vital community library services. I couldn't agree-more, especially since I have a certain amount of experience with so-called "paraprofessionals" in all phases of library service.

I've sometimes referred to the M.L.S. as a "union card," just as it seems that a Ph.D. is a "union card" for academics (hey, a Ph.D. is practically a necessary card for academic librarians now, especially directors). And right now, it is becoming more and more difficult to hire competent people with an M.L.S., especially those who want to work in a public library. Even the private sector is eating up the graduates from ever-fewer library schools. My daughter is a prime example: she uses her M.L.S. in working for a company which provides automated systems for libraries. Many would certainly agree that she is working within her profession.

A shortage of librarians is not new. When I entered the profession, I believe that there were only 14 schools with graduate programs, and I think that there are more than that now. While there has been growth in libraries, especially suburban ones, there has been a comparable decline in staffing at many urban systems.

The Maryland program to which Joey refers is certainly not new - it goes back to the sixties, when some libraries tried to solve their staff shortages by hiring promising high school graduates and putting them through a six-month work-study training program. My reasoning at the time was I thought that about 80 percent of the library service in the country was given across the information desk or in the children's department by completely untrained people. Small libraries, and many mediumsized ones (the backbone of American library service) were lucky to have an M. …

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