Monthly Archives: November 2012

Why Not a Bachelor in Library Science? – Still Asking


Even though I haven’t written about this topic since April, thoughts on it are never too far from my mind, especially when I have comments on the post from readers who just discovered it. That’s what has happened recently, so I wanted to add some more discussion on this topic – Why not a bachelor’s degree in library science?

To date, no one has offered any good educational, managerial, career or workforce related reason why it is not a good idea.

My arguments have included my post from last December – Library Science Ranks #4 in Highest Unemployment, and the job market – as well as the economy – show no signs of improvement any time soon.

The 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!” No one with only an MLS degree and no library experience is a qualified manager. Someone who has earned a BS in librarianship, worked in a library and then earned an MLIS has the prerequisite skills and experience to be a capable manager. That’s the way careers are built!

Everyone knows that there is virtually no authority (i.e., government, librarian union, etc.) that dictates who can and cannot do certain librarianship tasks within a library organization. THIS APPROACH – “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.” – DOES NOT HAPPEN! All “librarians” do everything!

Why is the MLS entry level for this profession when recent college graduates can’t find jobs because they don’t have experience? Just read the over 40 comments to Annoyed Librarian at LibraryJournal.com, and you’ll see this current career system is broken!

History reveals what happened in the librarian profession as it transitioned through academy training to university certification to bachelor’s degree and then master’s, but the WHY is still elusive. Some speculate that it was an ALA effort to legitimize librarian as a true profession in the 1960s. However, as far back as 1923, a bachelor’s degree was still not the standard within the US. The Williamson Report, officially titled “Training for Library Service” A Report Prepared for The Carnegie Corporation of New York by Dr. Charles C. Williamson, (1923) contains disturbing similarity to today’s SLIS situation, as well as endorsement for the bachelor’s degree in library science as the standard.

THE LIBRARY SCHOOL CURRICULUM [Page 23]

Obviously there is no agreement among the schools as to the relative importance of the different subjects in the curriculum. The amount of time given to a subject seems to depend on the personal opinion or desires of the instructor or the principal. While considerable interest has been manifested in discussions as to what should constitute the minimum essential instruction in cataloguing, apparently no effort has been made by the Association of American Library Schools to arrive at minimum standards for the course in cataloguing. Complaint is common that the curriculum is overcrowded, while important new subjects are clamoring for admission. The school that succeeds in giving its students the essentials of cataloguing in thirty-five hours, while others require two or three times that length of time, can take up other subjects that may be more important for the general professional course.

There are many more similarities in the Williamson Report to conditions within the librarian profession in 1923 that have not noticeably changed by 2012, but those are resources for other discussions. On the matter of library science degrees, Williamson reported the following.

CHAPTER VIII – JOINT COURSES, ACADEMIC CREDIT, DEGREES, AND ACADEMIC STATUS.
….
[Page 69] A considerable proportion of the fifty per cent of library school graduates who have the college degree did not take a four-year college course and then the library school course, but took both in four years, receiving college credit for the library courses. …
Graduates of any accredited library school may be permitted, in individual cases, to offer certain library courses for the bachelor’s degree; but college faculties are not always willing to give full academic credit, particularly for technical courses.

[Page 70] One of the fundamental viewpoints of this report is that professional library work requires a college education or its full equivalent. Three years of college study, however, are better than two, and two are better than none. … The joint course plan as described above, in which three years of college work are followed by one year devoted exclusively to library school study, is to be preferred to the Simmons College plan, in which the library courses are spread throughout the four years.

A committee of the Association of American Library Schools has recently considered the subject of professional degrees for library courses. In its report it is recommended that the B.L.S. degree be recognized as the professional degree to be conferred on the completion of a course of two years of professional and technical study, for admission to which a four-year college course is required.

Even though Williamson’s report indicates that the MLS was emerging as a status degree for the profession at the time, the BLS was considered the necessary “standard” for the profession.

According to John Richardson, Jr. of UCLA, History of American Library Science: Its Origins and Early Development Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, Ed. Mary N. Maack and Marcia Bates. Francis and Taylor, 2010., the MLS as the professional standard was adopted in 1951.

1930s
• 1930: First PhD in library science: Eleanor Upton at University of Chicago.

1940s
• 1949: Twenty-seven of the thirty-two accredited schools adopt the new MLS degree (or in process of doing so); ….

1950s
• 1951, July: ALA adopts new Standards of Accreditation making MLS entry level degree. ….

1960s
• 1966: ALA establishes Office for Library Education; …
1968: ALA’s COA establishes subcommittees on undergraduate and graduate standards for accreditation. ….

Which begs the question – If the MLS was the accredited “entry level degree” in 1951, why in 1968 was ALA still reviewing undergraduate standards for education? My speculation was that many library schools were still offering the undergraduate degree, and ALA felt the need to regulate those out of existence. Which also begs the question – Why?

Today BS programs ALREADY EXIST in Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine and North Carolina. Remember Maine’s Information and Library Service Program operating since 2004? 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. Maine has experienced an evolving recognition of a “career ladder” within the segments of their librarian profession that supports a BS as entry level and MILS for advancement, because students graduate with a confidence in their ability to be immediately effective in their first library position. The University of Maine, Augusta BS program is very much oriented toward the practical application of librarianship, compared to the theoretical perspective of an MLS program.

Also, the State of Kentucky has put forth excellent justification FOR a bachelor degree in librarianship.

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?

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.

Also, the prestigious University of North Carolina Chapel Hill SLIS Dual Bachelor’s – Master’s Program could be a model for every SLIS.

The BSIS and Master’s programs prepare students for careers in public, private, and governmental institutions of all kinds as information system analysts, designers and developers, data managers, web designers, librarians, archivists, and similar areas. The SILS curricula offer students a sound foundation of coursework, augmented by projects, internships (field experience), and research opportunities that contribute to making SILS graduates highly sought after by employers.

With this kind of horsepower behind a BS in library science, maybe we’ll see some movement in this direction – eventually.

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“Team Work Makes Dreams Work”



… according to Usher when he accepted his Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist award at Sunday night’s AMA Awards Ceremony. Referring to his entire team of collaborators, musicians, supporters, etc. he made a fairly profound statement (even though he flubbed the line initially) by recognizing that no individual achieves “success” alone. And, as artists are prone to do, he did it poetically – “Team Work Makes Dreams Work.” The same truism applies to your library’s dreams. Your library team will make your library’s dreams a reality.


We mainly watched the AMA Awards show to see the tribute to entertainment legend Dick Clark who passed away this year (and my wife likes The Biebs). But, it is also interesting to keep an eye on young musical talent, and trends. In my day “teen idol” meant that a singer/performer was an idol to the teens, because the majority of them were no longer teens themselves by the time they achieved that status. Today it looks like it means the teen performers are idols – of other teens – of all ages.

This explosion of youth talent struck me as unique to this 21st Century. I can’t recall anything equal to it in the late 1900s. Even athletics and other areas of endeavor seem to be dominated by the teens. Granted, other more mature individuals are still highly competitive like our recent Olympians at the London Summer Games. But, most of them began in their teens. Even Misty May-Treanor was born in the first year of the Millennials – 1977. Michael Phelps was even younger than May-Treanor this past summer – born in 1985 – and he won his first Olympic gold medal at the age of 19.

My Point! Again! Engage Your Millennials! Incorporate them into your library team. Be open to their perspective, and use their enthusiasm.

I recently participated in a webinar by Jason Ryan Dorsey – The Gen Y Guy. His comments included ideas about who the Gen Y employee is and how they fit in organizations. Gen Y employees are:

    • Delaying Adulthood: When asked when adulthood begins most Gen Y-ers respond age 30. They want to hold on to the best parts of their youth while enjoying legal adult pleasures,
    • Technology Dependent: Not necessarily tech savvy, just dependent on technology as part of their daily life. It is how they communicate, and trying to deny them technology access for communications in the workplace doesn’t end well for employer or employee. Be open to social networking possibilities of Gen Y, and
    • Outcome Driven: They are not “instant anything” but certainly want to ‘cut to the chase’ and figure out what the end looks like as a way of understanding how to get there. The most valuable characteristic is that they are NOT linear thinkers. They have adopted the random access of the Internet and other technology and don’t think or learn in a linear manner. For bringing “thinking outside the box” to an organization, this is a good thing.

In order to increase their performance, Dorsey says:

    • Provide specific examples – by using illustrations, not words,
    • Recognize their most important holiday – their birthday, and
    • Make their first day “unforgettable.” If it’s too late for their first day of work in your library, make sure they understand the social significance of who you are and how you benefit society.

I received a copy of Dorsey’s book – Y-Size Your Business: How Gen Y Employees Can Save You Money and Grow Your Business – for participating in the webinar, and it’s full of great ideas.

There may be more posts to follow on ideas to embrace your Millennials.

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“Librarian” or “Book-Lover”


It recently struck me that librarianship, like so many professions, is a continuum from basic fundamental skills and enthusiasm, to highly developed skills/knowledge and service/dedication. I have never known nor heard of anyone entering the librarian profession who was not first a lover of books. Isn’t that where it all begins? Have you ever known anyone who said; “I think I’ll become a librarian because I want to serve the public, regardless in what capacity.” or “I think I’ll become a librarian because it pays so well, and has such incredible prestige.” If you have, let me know.

A continuum begins with the very basics of the concept, or profession in this case and builds toward the very best ideals and practice of the profession. As one begins their career, they begin with basic skills and knowledge and acquire more skills and knowledge, as well as the dedication and professionalism that come with maturation within the profession. That’s just the way life works, assuming that the person has the capacity, desire and opportunity to progress along that continuum.

Unfortunately, in the librarian profession we have some who have been in the profession for many years, but have stagnated at the “book-lover” level. That’s all they’ve ever wanted to be, and they are perfectly happy to be just that and let their career progression end there. They are more interested in books than serving the public. They are more interested in their self-perception as a librarian, than in any recognition from their peers or profession as a “librarian,” or any professional standards. They simply want to be among their beloved books and be allowed to enjoy their surroundings.

At the opposite end of the continuum is the professional librarian. Interested in learning all there is to know about the profession. Dedicated to making the profession all it can be, as well as ensuring that it survives in the 21st Century environment of drastic change. They are those who lead the profession into that uncertain future. The professional librarian helps the profession grow and remain relevant.

I firmly believe that the professional librarian striving to achieve the pinnacle of the profession will become knowledgeable in these following areas, and numerous others that they don’t teach in library school.
• Business Acumen
• Cloud Computing
• Crowdsourcing
• Customer Targeting
• Digital Discovery
• Discontinuous Thinking
• Gaming
• Likenomics
• Open Innovation
• Planned Abandonment
• Social Networking
• Subject Matter Expert in Community

Only when a person arrives at this skill and knowledge level along with the service and professionalism can they consider that they have reached the high end of the continuum as a “librarian.” That is where the 21st Century librarian is found.>/b>

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On this Veterans Day, my deeply heartfelt THANK YOU to all the men and women serving in our military forces, and to all those who have served our nation in uniform ever, as well as their families who support their service. THANK YOU ALL!


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