Monday, March 05, 2007

Deprofessionalization exposed

CCL's been trying to bring attention to this issue for the past two
years. It appears that it's finally being debated.

The Embattled MLS
by John Berry

"My initial, knee-jerk reaction was to be alarmed at the growing number of reports of both academic and public libraries assigning duties once performed by credentialed librarians (MLS holders) to support staff. I would also cringe when I heard about reference and circulation desks being combined, materials selection being centralized or worse, outsourced to a vendor. I would cry out when a division of the American Library Association, which accredits LIS programs leading to that MLS, would initiate a certification program to certify folks who don’t have an MLS as public library administrators. I’m still deeply concerned, for even if these are rational changes in the nature our our profession, they should not be adopted without debate and discussion among all of us. The erosion of the power or our basic credential, or entry-level degree, and the replacement in jobs once held by those with that credential by Ph.Ds in other fields, paraprofessionals and support staff, or simply by vendors is not a local matter. It is a profession-wide concern, if we are to be able to call ourselves a “profession.”

While I no longer have that knee-jerk reaction, I still feel it is urgent for us to address these changes as a profession, and to ensure that our practice is carried on with the rigor and standards of quality that have endowed it with reservoirs of public support, and support by other experts and professionals in other fields and disciplines.

I asked a public library director what jobs he would fill only with candidates who held the MLS. It wasn’t cataloging, or reference, or acquisitions he listed. Only childrens services and high level administration required a graduate librarian. A research library director recently told me he no longer hires “librarians,” preferring the subject expertise of those with advance degress in other disciplines, or the expertise of those educated in the technical or administrative skills and talents of other professions.

I will devote much of my work now to these concerns, and to the building of a healthy debate over the direction in which library administrators and governing boards seem to be taking our field. Are these changes simply cost-cutting, budgeting measures, or is there a substantive set of reasons to eliminate the reference desk, the crculation librarian, the credentialled library director? Are these changes eroding the core values of what we once called librarianship, or has a new value system come to us on the wings of a user friendly information and entertainment world where everyone and anyone can be his or her own librarian?"

Source: Blatant Berry Blog, Library Journal


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