More Evidence FOR a Bachelor’s Degree in LIS


Last December I wrote the Post 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.

Some readers took exception to the data because it represented only bachelor’s level degree information relating to librarianship employment. As we all know, those entry level jobs are few and far between. But it all seems irrelevant in light of the latest information published by CNBC – 1 in 2 new graduates are jobless or underemployed.

Young adults with bachelor’s degrees are increasingly scraping by in lower-wage jobs — waiter or waitress, bartender, retail clerk or receptionist, for example — and that’s confounding their hopes a degree would pay off despite higher tuition and mounting student loans.

An analysis of government data conducted for The Associated Press lays bare the highly uneven prospects for holders of bachelor’s degrees.

Or does it? While it seems like the current unemployment/underemployment climate makes my advocacy for a bachelor’s degree in librarianship and information science even less appealing, actually it makes it even more appealing. Seriously? Absolutely! Read on.

While there’s strong demand in science, education and health fields, arts and humanities flounder. Median wages for those with bachelor’s degrees are down from 2000, hit by technological changes that are eliminating midlevel jobs such as bank tellers. Most future job openings are projected to be in lower-skilled positions such as home health aides, who can provide personalized attention as the U.S. population ages.

Taking underemployment into consideration, the job prospects for bachelor’s degree holders fell last year to the lowest level in more than a decade.

There is “strong demand in science, education and health fields” – not arts and humanities. Librarianship is a science field. We have need of entry level bachelor’s degree educated individuals who are multi-talented, technology literate, information literate, (dare I say) transliterate, young imaginative, innovative, in-touch librarians who can help change the profession to meet 21st Century challenges.

Be honest, when faced with a choice of science, education or health fields, which would you choose – SCIENCE!!

SLIS are missing the boat by not recruiting these young people into the librarianship profession. Now is the time – well actually, 10 years ago was really the time – to heavily recruit for a bachelor’s degree as an entry level position into the profession. Other disciplines and professions will be doing it. If we don’t get moving, we’ll be left behind – again.

“You can make more money on average if you go to college, but it’s not true for everybody,” says Harvard economist Richard Freeman, noting the growing risk of a debt bubble with total U.S. student loan debt surpassing $1 trillion. “If you’re not sure what you’re going to be doing, it probably bodes well to take some job, if you can get one, and get a sense first of what you want from college.”

Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University who analyzed the numbers, said many people with a bachelor’s degree face a double whammy of rising tuition and poor job outcomes. “Simply put, we’re failing kids coming out of college,” he said, emphasizing that when it comes to jobs, a college major can make all the difference. “We’re going to need a lot better job growth and connections to the labor market, otherwise college debt will grow.” [Emphasis added.]

How can any SLIS faculty or administrator read this and not see the opportunity here? We have a MAJOR pool of undergraduate candidates who have been working in the profession and currently are in local libraries EVERYWHERE. They know what they want to do, but the profession is stifling them! Most don’t have a bachelor’s degree, and the prospect of getting a master’s to become a “librarian” is beyond their grasp right now.

If there were abundant bachelor’s degree programs in LIS, these young library workers would have a stepping stone for career progression. This is not rocket science. All it takes is a few “establishment” librarians to think outside the box for just a minute to see the potential. Why isn’t somebody willing to step into the 21st Century?

This Post is not addressed to those SLIS with existing bachelor’s degree programs. Kentucky, Maine, and others are making an effort to address the shortfall, but are getting no support from the “establishment”.

7 Comments

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7 responses to “More Evidence FOR a Bachelor’s Degree in LIS

  1. I have a Bachelors of Arts degree and a Postgraduate Diploma in Library and Information Science and have battled to get my colleagues to employ a student assistant with an entry level Diploma to assist me. We cannot just stick people in that position as i need someone with a passion for developing the Library as I have. I do think a Bachelors in LIS would be great – we have that here in South Africa and it is a good qualification to have as a starting point.

  2. Aimee

    “…who can provide personalized attention as the U.S. population ages.”

    Am I the only one who read this line and immediately thought, “Professional genealogist!”?

  3. While library science CAN be a science, most professional librarians don’t practice it that way. Comparing it to fields like engineering and genetics is just wrong.

    And even if there were more undergraduate LIS programs, the candidates you mention would still have to make the decision to go back to school. If they know what they want to do, they need to start taking the steps to do that, regardless of what those steps are.

    • Thank you for your perspective.
      I agree that most librarians don’t practice library “science”, but librarianship has been a “science” in academic parlance for as long as it’s been a recognized university degree. So, I’ll accept that label, and anybody can compare it to any other science in any way they prefer. I also agree that our readymade pool of college undergrads in library science should start taking whatever steps they need to in order to get their degree.

      My assertion is that the bachelor’s degree is the more appropriate entry level degree for the profession because “We have a MAJOR pool of undergraduate candidates who have been working in the profession and currently are in local libraries EVERYWHERE. They know what they want to do, but the profession is stifling them! Most don’t have a bachelor’s degree, and the prospect of getting a master’s to become a “librarian” is beyond their grasp right now.” Getting entry into “professional librarian” career progression would be MUCH easier if they could begin with the bachelor’s degree they have to have anyway.

      As the system exists – first they have to get a bachelor’s than they have to work toward the master’s. The profession is stifling them!

      Please let me know if you can think of one good reason why librarianship formal education begins with a master’s degree.

  4. I am a rare case of a librarian with a BS in library science and a Master of Library and Information Studies. I was the last person to graduate in my undergraduate degree program, as the trend was going to a Masters degree for entry into the library field. The course work I took included many of the same courses that I took (again) at the Masters’ level: cataloging and classification, reference, childrens’ literature, young adult literature, etc. I was very prepared to be an entry level librarian and worked in both a public school setting and in a public library reference position. I will say the Masters course work was more in-depth, particularly in the areas of research and in being technologically literate. Speaking from personal experience, a person with a BS in library science could handle most entry level school or public library positions. However, it would be to their benefit to complete the Masters in order to move on to positions with more authority.

    • Thank you.
      These are exactly the points I have been trying to make. “I was very prepared to be an entry level librarian and worked in both a public school setting and in a public library reference position.” A BS is perfectly suited for entry level librarianship.
      I will say the Masters course work was more in-depth, particularly in the areas of research and in being technologically literate.” Master’s degree programs are supposed to be more in-depth and theoretical, and prepare ones for progression in their profession. “…it would be to their benefit to complete the Masters in order to move on to positions with more authority.

      Thank you!

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