I think this will be my last post on this issue, unless I see someone else's comments who get me all fired up again (which isn't hard). I e-mailed my favorite library school professor who did work as a non-MLS reference librarian in a country that didn't have an MLS program before coming to the U.S. to get his MLS, and kept going through a Ph.D. I know better than to write a long e-mail to him if I have any hopes of him responding any time in the next six months, so all I said was I seem to be the only librarian that even partially disagrees with the Liminal Librarian. His response was:
There is no doubt that experience gained on the job cannot be compared with what you learn through an MLS degree, but vice versa is true as well. I think the easiest way to make an argument against these people is to compare yourself and your skills and knowledge with those people "who do librarians' work" but do not have an MLS degree. Do they know more than you do about reference, cataloging, web design, and so on? An MLS degree is not just about courses; it is an entire two years of work: courses, interacting with faculty and students, working in groups, working in libraries and gaining a variety of experiences, management, frustration, fun, politics, networking, and so on. I can go on and on talking about the benefits of an MLS degree.
I will whole-heartedly agree with this. Okay, if all I did was go to classes, I could agree with the Annoyed Librarian that library school is a complete joke. But I worked as a virtual reference assistsant nearly 30 hours per week, more in the summer, did an internship, went for long walks with one of my professors, did some work for the same professor, co-authored an article (which I still don't like), and spent a lot of time with friends who were doing similar things. It's the whole package. I had amazing mentors in my professor, my work supervisor, and my internship supervisor. These are people who love the profession dearly, in very different ways. They did their best to make sure I had the experience needed to be a successful librarian when I got out of school, and it paid off in the interview process.
So getting your MLS coupled with great experience, or landing in the profession and getting great experience are two different ways... but I'm not sure if they lead to the same thing. Not all MLS programs are equal, not all people are equal.
I guess it doesn't matter. I got my degree, will be paying for it for years to come, but I've also two excellent years of "paraprofessional" experience and two excellent years of professional experience. And most importantly, I'm happy where I'm at, which I wouldn't have gotten to any other way.