Monday, July 14, 2008

Why the same old thing?

Why do people such as Christopher Kiess think we should get rid of an MLS instead of revamping it? The notion that an MBA is a better degree seems absurd, though he does say that for public libraries rather than academic ones. I don't know much about public libraries. For running an academic library, I do not see how an MBA instead of an MLS would be useful unless you are strictly a business librarian. An MBA is not a research degree.

Furthermore, many good librarians probably ended up in librarianship because they were not business-minded. At least that's how I ended up here. My worst grades in undergrad were in my two business classes (solid B's, but still my worst). I feel I could learn the business skills needed to manage a library if I were to ever move into management, but don't think a business background could have prepared me for librarianship.

That said, I wish I had learned more about the business part of librarianship in grad school, particularly budgets. There were many practical things I wish I learned in grad school, though at least I learned a lot of them during my job while in school, and at my internship. I wish knowing basic HTML and navigating gov docs was a requirement for every new MLS, as well as a sense of the profession and the theory behind it.

Many things about an MLS are laughable. But we should try to get it improved, not get rid of the degree.

1 comment:

Chris Kiess said...

This comment slightly misrepresents my rhetoric in the original piece. And, the original piece could be inaccurate as well due to editing, space requirements, etc. The point was not to get rid of the MLS, but to revamp it. You are correct. The question I had concerned the education of librarians and what those core values are in relation to what librarians really do. In fact, the entire discussion was meant as an inquiry to where the profession is moving and where it is currently. Do those two points coincide with our education standards and core foundations? I don't think they do and my point was we should either change our strategy (our navigation) or change our destination.

The MBA comment might be slightly out of context. This was a short comment in a long thread concerning public libraries and what their core attributes were. In the original conversation I had compared their services to those at your local Borders and asked what the difference was. I followed that up with a discussion of the MBA posing the question of whether it would serve the public libraries better.

Of course, the short space of this blog or even the original piece I wrote does not do justice to such complex subject matter. And, I would add that while this might seem to be the same old thing, new statistics and indications in the industry suggest perhaps we might want to discuss that tired old subject of the profession changing. After all, twenty years ago a student had to come to your library to get information. The seekers no longer have to travel and many academic libraries are struggling to embrace their new role.

Last, I am going to let you in on a little secret: Your library is a business no matter where you are. Everybody is selling something and everyone has to show a value. The bean counters are watching those organizations that do not turn profits and if you sit in "the red" to long, you might not be a library always. Could we see a future where IT staffs run the e-services? God forbid!