Thursday, June 16, 2011

PL 20/11: A growing gap

Filed under: 1bib, debate, education — plinius @ 9:01 am

Interesting US debate on the mismatch between library schools and the market.

Or theory and practice, if you want. Some quotes:

  • There is a growing divide between theoreticians and practitioners.
  • If we are to grow as a profession the graduate library schools need to function as our think tanks.  Without them librarianship becomes just another job.
  • Overwhelmingly public libraries are dealing with an increase in two major areas: children’s services and the provision of very basic computer services for adults.

  • Why have graduate library schools not forged closer ties with working libraries and focused their research on projects that can actually have practical value for libraries?
  • Are graduate library schools distancing themselves from the public library market by becoming too ivory towered in their approach to training future practitioners?



The comments are frank:

We need well educated librarians – cultural literates with certain technical skills.

I found my own grad experience to be barely tangential to my actual experience as a librarian. So for me, it was merely the act of jumping through the hoops to get my union card. I believe that if grad schools become more selective, work with real libraries, and require actual working experience (as in internships), then the degree may actually become meaningful.


I’m 45, have 20 years and counting in the public library field and am currently six classes shy of an MLIS via Drexel’s iSchool.

I don’t of course know from first hand experience what the experience was like in taking classes for an MLS in the pre-internet era but I have seen that what Will says about public library service is dead on accurate – at public libraries other than general customer service across the board (in every dept.) the two most popular areas are in children’s services and jack of all trades, i.e. computer, tablet, internet, ebook, MP3 player etc., tech assistance offered to patrons by staff and boy, oh boy, do the MLIS classes I’ve taken so far, predominantly, have absolutely nothing to do with any of that!


Universities are suggesting [library schools] be severely cut back, downgraded, or simply closed down.

The UW iSchool [site] is a perfect example. It was once a typical staid old-school system that was very near closing when a new director revitalized it, expanded it dramatically, etc. They ‘partnered’ with Microsoft and fed librarians into the Gates Foundation [which is located in Seattle], added new degrees …, increased students, and became very ‘elite’ in many ways.

Now they face a reduction in status by being absorbed into A&S with severe reductions in staff & programs.

… You are under pressure to ‘pay for yourself,’ and one way to do that is push through more students, to become ‘more like a business’ and become a profit center. … to save their own skin and their own jobs library schools … are flooding the market with graduates, which has the effect of driving down prices because of an over supply.


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