Monthly Archives: December 2011

Why Not a Bachelor’s in Library Science?

Why isn’t that a good idea? Seems as though it is a very good idea in some librarians’ minds – at least those in Connecticut, Kentucky and Maine.

ALA has a webpage promoted by the Council On Library/Media Technicians (COLT) which lists institutions, by state, that offer training and education programs for ‘librarians’. I found three with BS programs, and contacted each.

One program director deferred to the ALA formal position regarding educational programs by writing back;

The American Library Association accredited only the Master of Library and Information Studies level programs. The MLS/MLIS is for the entry level professional librarian and information specialist qualification in the US. Please check the American Library Association’s website, under education and training, or under ALA accreditation.

The B.S. ILS program is for the paraprofessional, such as library technical assistant position in libraries. There is also a minor requirement. You could find more information about the undergraduate programs from our Southern Connecticut State University.

The second response was much more informative, and described the necessity for a BS program in library informatics.

Why create an undergraduate program in Library Science?
1. In Kentucky there is a gap in education for library staff and future MLS librarians. A state law requires all public library employees to be certified. … There was a gap in education between the Associate degree and the Master of Library Science offered at the University of Kentucky.

2. We believe that librarians, especially public librarians, are called upon to do much more than their earlier counterparts. Skills in technology, management, marketing, and finance are needed for the 21st Century Librarian. Can all this be learned in the 36 credit hours of most Master’s programs? The Library Informatics program compliments graduate level studies in Library Science and provides a pathway for library science students.

3. Rural librarianship! In Kentucky, almost one-third of our rural library directors do not have an undergraduate degree. Salaries are low and it is almost impossible to recruit a MLS librarian to these areas. Fortunately, the Institute for Museum and Library Services has agreed with us and funded two major grant proposals. The first project was Bridging the Gap: Supplying the Next Generation of Librarians to the Underserved Counties of Rural Kentucky. With a budget of over $1.3 million, we have given out over 50 scholarships, technology stipends, and provided mentors for students.

These are very good reasons for instituting a BS program to meet the needs of the profession in that state. I’m certain many more states have similar circumstances that warrant similar programs.

I recently spoke with the third respondent Dr. Jodi Williams, Information and Library Service Program Director, University of Maine at Augusta. She runs the Bachelor of Science in Information and Library Service program, and has since 2004 when she joined UMA coming from a faculty position at an institution that offered an undergraduate program in LIS, as well as a MLIS program. UMA offers a certificate, associate and bachelor’s degrees in Information and Library Service, and has since the 1990s. As she said; “Our program found a niche.”

Maine’s library community is like many other states in that it is appreciably rural and geographically dispersed. Many states can identify with that, as well as the pressing need to offer training and education in the librarianship profession. Decades ago the Maine State Librarian went to UMA (which is not a graduate-degree granting institution), and asked about offering librarianship programs for their diverse library community, partly because UMA was exploring distance education. The rest of the evolutionary and revolutionary story is history.

Years ago the program was about 70% Maine residents, but today the LIS program has 250 students, with about 30% Maine residents. The other 70% are from other states and foreign countries. Dr. Williams has traveled to the Pacific Islands to discuss articulation agreements, and plans to work with Salt Lake Community College, UT, next year about a similar associate degree articulation agreement. She also mentioned that she and the UMA BILS program have name recognition in Colorado – a noteworthy achievement by any standard.

One of the most striking features of the BS program is the requirement for each student to complete a practicum, supervised by an MLS “Librarian”. Not only is it an AH-HA experience for the students, even for those who have worked in the library for years and are reticent to do a practicum, but more importantly for the MLS librarians who supervise the BILS students. During our conversation, Dr. Williams told me that she is a change agent by “emissaries”, not activism, and has found repeatedly that this practicum experience for the seasoned MLS librarians has changed their opinion of the value of a BS degree to the individual, their library organization, and the profession.

Dr. Williams has noted an evolving recognition of a “career ladder” within the segments of the librarian profession with which she deals that supports a BS as entry level and MILS for advancement. The BS program is very much oriented toward the practical application of librarianship, compared to the theoretical perspective of an MLS program. It sounds to me like graduates leave the UMA BILS program actually knowing how to do things in their first librarian job, as opposed to MLS graduates who leave that program maybe understanding what needs to be done. How refreshing!

She said her students graduate with a confidence in their ability to be immediately effective in their first library position, which to me seems much more worthwhile than an MLS graduate who has never worked in a library and complains about “What they don’t teach you in library school.” That also sounds to me like the BILS librarian can DO the job, whereas the MLS librarian can TALK about the job! Why isn’t that a good thing for the graduate and the library?

Two examples of UMA BILS students making a difference are below (one a practicum, the other a student being active in the Occupy movement) located at these websites; Revitalization of Maine Media’s Library, and Occupy Movement and the Library.

Again, my question is – “Why not a bachelor in library science?” Can any program that achieves the following goals be a bad thing – for individuals, the library organization, or the profession? UMA’s ILS program website contains the following.

Trained library personnel must respond to the rapid national surge in information technology, and the Information and Library Services program provides relevant courses to assist students in acquiring this evolving knowledge and the skills necessary to become effective and well-informed members of a library team. Associate of Science and Bachelor of Science degrees in Information and Library Services are available at UMA.

This program prepares individuals for immediate entry into positions which support library and information service professionals; to upgrade skills of staff who are presently working in school, public, academic, and special libraries and in other information intensive positions and organizations. The program will prepare students for a career as a library and information services assistant. Students will examine policies and issues related to libraries, library careers, and the library profession.

Dr. Williams clarified the advantages of the UMA BILS program even further by stating in an email that;

Our degree very much promotes that there is a place for everyone at the table, but that we need a stronger understanding of those places and how people can move through the channels with both experience and different levels of education. This is about learning across a spectrum and understanding that some want the Masters while other students who come through our program are happily situated in their current jobs and glad to have the practical skills to better serve their patrons.

Based on that astute summary of a BS in ILS program, what can be so wrong with a profession that has the normal hierarchy of educational requirements for advancement – associate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate? Nothing! That old argument about library technicians do a more technical and specific job, while “Librarians” (meaning MLS degreed) are generalists and management candidates that can do everything DOES NOT HOLD WATER! It’s simply RHETORIC to justify the arbitrary distinctions between “professional” and “para-professional”! We all know that there are virtually no authorities (i.e., governments, librarian unions, etc.) that dictate who can and cannot do certain librarianship tasks within a library organization.

“OK, since you don’t have an MLS, you can only do these limited tasks within the library organization, and since you do have an MLS, you can do all the rest of the tasks that “Librarians” do.” IT DOESN’T HAPPEN! All “librarians” do everything!

Most states don’t even require school librarians to have an MLS, just a library media specialist certificate, and these people are actually in a position that really teaches their customers. Most have degrees in education! Public libraries don’t really have a mission to educate – inform – not educate – big difference. So, is the current system claiming that a master’s degree is more important for public librarians than for public school librarians? If that’s the case, maybe all any public “Librarian” needs is just a bachelor degree with a library media specialist certificate.

There is something drastically wrong with this picture! Why is the MLS entry level for this profession? Just read the over 40 comments to Annoyed Librarian at, and you’ll see – IT SHOULD NOT BE!

All three of the states cited above recognized a need within their states for bachelor’s degree in library science programs. The program found a demand, which is always the first indicator of a need for more wide scale change.

I would sincerely like for any one to give me good reasons for this situation, if there is more to it than just a holdover from 19th Century elitist thinking.


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Why Don’t Librarians Collaborate More?

After reading a lot of literature on libraries in this 21st Century, it finally struck me that one area in which I have read virtually nothing is collaboration among librarians. Having consulted with numerous libraries, I find more that do not share ideas and information than do. Naturally, that lead me to investigate, and guess what I found – virtually nothing.

There is the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC) made up of 13 universities partnering with Google to digitize up to 10 million volumes from their collections. The CIC’s collaborative efforts span the academic enterprise of its members, including:
• cooperative purchasing
• course sharing
professional development programs
• library resources
• information technology
• faculty and staff networking

• study abroad
• diversity initiatives for students and faculty

There is also the Young Librarian Association in India “To promote and foster cooperation and communication among the members of YLA, the Library community, other library organizations, and other associations.”

OCLC says, “[A]lmost a decade into the 21st century, we can see that increasing technological and social changes impact how all individuals and groups cooperate. Coming from a long tradition of sharing, libraries may be better-suited than other industries to benefit from increased cooperative opportunities.”

ALA tried to create a Interdivisional Committee on School/Public Library Cooperation (AASL/ALSC/YALSA), but it was organized by YALSA, and had so many restrictions, who knows if it even got off the ground. Another example of bureaucracy at work.

Almost every state has some form of regional cooperative, such as Upper Peninsula Region of Library Cooperation (UPROC) for Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan, the New Jersey Library Cooperative, and Florida’s Panhandle Public Library Cooperative System, and many more. These include all types of libraries.

Of course, every state has a State Library Association comprised of dues-paying members, some of whom actually attend the annual conference. Many more don’t. Which is another reason to ask – Why don’t librarians collaborate more? In this new frontier of librarianship, doesn’t it seem important for librarians to collaborate and share their experiences? Most organizations call it sharing their “lessons learned.”

There are many librarians who are creating success stories in their local library, and how many share those with their colleagues?

How many colleagues call up or visit their neighbor to see what challenges they are facing and successes they have achieved?

How many organizations have a means to routinely share their success stories?

What obstacles exist that prevent librarians from sharing their achievements – problems – issues – challenges?

Doesn’t sharing experiences with colleagues equate to professional development? Who doesn’t need professional development?

My suggestion – If you want to be a successful 21st Century Librarian, COLLABORATE MORE WITH YOUR PEERS!


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Value Added – A New 21st Century Library Skill

George Lucas is a very smart talented guy who has earned every bit of fame and fortune he enjoys. He did it by creating something that people all over the world enjoyed, and still enjoy. His award winning Star Wars industry has spawned billions of products and billions of customers. So? Well, just when we thought Star Wars was a part of history – Lucas goes and reinvents it – all over again (as Yogi Berra would say).

Next February, Episode I will be re-released in theaters in 3D. Think about it – from low tech Episode IV in theaters in 1977 (a movie he wasn’t sure would even sell), to Episodes V and VI that made George Lucas, Luke, Leia, Han, R2-D2, C-3PO and the rest household names, to finally Episodes I, II and III that completed the series from 1999 through 2005 (although not as popular but much more high tech – including the THX sound he invented – epic films) with overall box office revenue estimated at approximately $4.4 Billion for the four decade span of film making. Star Wars has become a piece of Americana – R2-D2 and C-3PO are in the Smithsonian!

Point being – Lucas created something that people enjoyed and eventually demanded, and was able to keep re-inventing by adding value to the product. Episodes I, II and III had value added to the series. The DVDs in digital 16:9 wide-screen were value added over the analog 4:3 VHS tapes. Blu-Ray was value added over the DVD version. NOW, Lucas has finally created another value added version of his Star Wars product in 3D which he will release over the next few years, and earn another truckload of money. Lucas and his organization know how to add value.

The 21st Century library must become the value added provider of information services for the community. It must find the products and services that no other organization within the community can provide, and add value to them in relationship to 21st Century customer information wants and needs. This obviously means finding out what those information products and services are, and how to add value to them. Get outside your comfort zone and just DO IT.


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21st Century Librarianship Is Outside Your Comfort Zone

I’ve written about 21st Century librarians needing to think outside the box, which is not easy for most librarians. I think that is because of the professional indoctrination of SLIS and other CE and professional conferences that tend to simply provide more of the same conversations about the same issues and safe solutions. What being a 21st Century Librarian requires is getting well outside your comfort zone – both personally and professionally.

According to our good friends at Wikipedia;

The comfort zone is a behavioral state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk (White 2009).[1] … Highly successful persons may routinely step outside their comfort zones, to accomplish what they wish. A comfort zone is a type of mental conditioning that causes a person to create and operate mental boundaries. Such boundaries create an unfounded sense of security. Like inertia, a person who has established a comfort zone in a particular axis of his or her life, will tend to stay within that zone without stepping outside of it. To step outside a person’s comfort zone, they must experiment with new and different behaviors, and then experience the new and different responses that then occur within their environment.

And, that describes so many librarians (yes, and lots of other professionals also), so it doesn’t really need to be embellished.

The point is, that in order to become a 21st Century Librarian, one CAN NOT;
• remain in an anxiety-neutral condition and expect to accomplish NEW goals,
• stay inside self-imposed mental boundaries and realize a NEW vision of a 21st Century Library,
• overcome the inertia of status quo without experimenting with NEW behaviors to address NEW library customer and community needs, and
• become a 21st Century Librarian by continuing to do the same job you did last year and every year before that.

What you CAN DO by staying inside your comfort zone is maintain your current library for as long as others will allow it to survive. No one will blame you when your library closes because that’s just the way the economy and governing bodies are these days. No one will blame you because you stayed within the professionally accepted norms and did everything you could within those norms. No one will blame you for your library’s failure to meet the needs of your community and remain relevant, because the future is so unpredictable and changes so quickly. How could you know what to do?

The 21st Century requires new thinking and new approaches to solving problems. Librarians MUST respond to new challenges by stepping outside their comfort zone to experience new behaviors and create new mental boundaries that expand their options for new solutions to new issues.

21st Century librarianship is WAY OUTSIDE your comfort zone!


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Library Science Ranks #4 in Highest Unemployment

According to the Wall Street Journal post From College Major to Career, “Choosing the right college major can make a big difference in students’ career prospects, in terms of employment and pay. Here’s a look at how various college majors fare in the job market, based on 2010 Census data.” WSJ gleaned the study data from a report by Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Click here for the full report.

When you select Unemployment Percentage – from highest to lowest – the Library Science major ranks #4 at 15%.

While 15% unemployment doesn’t sound all that bad for those entering a new career right out of college, especially in the current economy, but remember that 15% is the projected fourth highest unemployment rate for all 40 college majors studied.

Couple that with the earnings of $23,000 as the second LOWEST on the entire list, just $3,000 ahead of Performing Arts. What does this say about our profession? If it was a business, the prevailing wisdom is that a business that is shrinking is dying. Is librarianship dying?

AND, in response to commentors who are upset that the Post title is misleading, I agree that every Post needs to be truthful and undistorted, and I make every attempt to do so. However, my mistake was not emphasizing that the main point of this Post should be the fact that this Georgetown University report emphasizes that LIS undergraduate degrees are essentially denounced by ALA and these obviously talented people are discriminated against by the profession in which they want to participate. It is ALA’s fault that unemployment is so high among LIS BS degree holders – for whatever reasons ALA may have that appear to be simply elitist. The spotlight needs to be directed on the validity of a BS in LIS and its place within the profession, and within the library organization. NO OTHER profession requires a masters degree to qualify for an entry level position. It’s not only unfair, it’s detrimental to the profession.


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