The future of libraries - No MLS Needed?

Christopher Kiess takes a look at the future of libraries in this original essay.

The future of libraries – it’s a topic at many conferences and one that always seems to generate conversation and debate. It’s not a new topic. But given the changing nature of information, it is worthy of exploration. Recently, I entertained a discussion amongst librarians on the Web4Lib listserv. And as usual, there were the familiar cries of dissent from both the proponents and opponents of change. However, most of the arguments did little to address the primary question I posed – can we save ourselves?

I can hear the rumbling in the crowd already and am sure to have my head on a pike by noon at the hands of a mob of librarians. But, I think we are obligated to closely examine our profession as it is defined and consider how we might meet the demands of the future through changing our skill set. Rather than simply defending what we do or what we claim to do, why not examine our educational programs as well as the major trends in our field?

Note: I m careful to delineate between the library as a physical place and the librarian. We often do not make that distinction in this argument. The library is becoming less and less of an entity requiring an MLS degreed person to manage it. As cataloging becomes outsourced, clerks become prevalent and we see a variety of other disciplines working in a library, the MLS becomes devalued. I had a respected colleague suggest to me not too long ago that a public library requires an MBA more than an MLS. I would agree.

What is at issue here is the skill set of the librarian and that is a central factor in whether we can save our profession. For example, a large percentage of circulation in a public library is popular fiction and Digital Video Disks. Bookstores and video stores provide a similar function and do not require their clerks to have an MLS. The only difference is in one scenario you pay outright for using the materials.

In order for any profession to remain a profession there must be at the very least a perception that
the profession possesses a skill set that cannot be duplicated (at a cheaper rate), replaced or outsourced. For librarians, this skill set is the organization, representation and retrieval of knowledge and information.
Knowledge and information are always changing, but probably have not changed as much as they have in recent years since the invention of the book or possibly the printing press. Our skills have moved from
information retrieval in a physical space to information retrieval in a virtual space. To adapt those skills further would require us to begin organizing and representing information in an electronic environment in the same manner as we do in a physical space – a virtual library, if you will. There are those who will cry out, “isn’t this being done?” Yes and those who participate in the effort do not largely refer to themselves as librarians. They call themselves information professionals, information architects, knowledge specialists, etc.

Will there still be librarians in the future? Probably, but they may not need an MLS. There will always
be a need for people to find information and for someone to aid them in doing that. But this will take place in electronic environments. We are aiding in that effort now. But, we only aid in a portion of the effort. In most instances we do not organize or manage that same information. Those jobs were list to those with greater technical skills or the willingness to adapt.

Information was always our tool – like a brush to a painter. The tool has changed and we must adapt to that change if we are to survive. And, adapting means making ourselves once again indispensable purveyors of information, not reshelving books or handing out DVDs.

Christopher Kiess can be reached at clkiess at the gmail.com domain.

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Amen!

I wrote a similar blog post a while back but never published it since I don't want my head on a spike ;-)

No, I don't have an MLS, but I do have an MBA, and an MEd, and I have worked in libraries for the last five years. I disagree with the tag line that 'professional' jobs in a library require an MLS. In the interest of cross-training though, I do think that a professional certification should be in place for non-MLS professionals to teach them (if they wish to be certified librarians) topics such as reference, cataloging & classification, and collection management/development.

There is a certification

There is a certification, it is called an MLS. High school was harder than library school, my cat could get an MLS.

If you want to be 'certified' as a librarian get an MLS.

I have 3 Masters Degrees as well, but I was not a librarian until I got the last one, my MLS.

uh huh...

Certification means something. If you cat can get an MLS, then it's worthless.
An MLS is not certification, it's a 'union card' as is described by many librarians. There is nothing worse than an ALA accredited diploma mill ;-)

they took our toys away

librarians used to control access to information by hiding it behind locked doors or disguising it in plain view with an arcane numbering system, but now the Internet has stolen our secrets and made them available to everyone... but that online information is obscured just as well behind bullshit and advertising. librarians should be around for a long time if we can just let everyone know how much smarter we are and that it's our job to tell people how to find stuff (or to flat-out find it for them). smart people may need us less, but general stupidity will keep my paychecks from drying up.

Agreed

You speak truth to power in this. As both Piers Anthony and David Weber noted to me, the role librarians play will not be going away even though the title and post might.
________________________
Stephen Michael Kellat, Host, LISTen

Google confuses people

Librarians will never go away. Google outsmarts people. I've seen people at the library type questions into it, not searches just questions such as When Will I get My tax Refund (random capitalization is required). They think it is some sort of Oracle or magic 8 ball.

A good librarian is an invaluable resource. There are not many good librarians, lots of mediocre librarians, some burned out librarians, and a good number of clueless librarians, but if you find a good one try to not abuse them, and keep it to yourself so the great unwashed do not make the good librarian's life a living hell.

MLS/MLIS/MBA/PDQ/WTF?

While I agree that a MLS might not be a requirement for library professionals of the future I stress that whatever acronym we decide upon will be and should be a scholarly requirement. An MBA is also a poor substitute for professional library training, and equally easy to obtain. Going to business school doesn't automatically make someone Donald Trump. It only means that that particular person jumped through that particular hoop. Regarding public librarianship, if anything, a psychology degree would be more apropos.

What really needs to be done is a complete overhaul of the requirements for a MLS/MLIS not the eradication of the degrees. The coursework should stress more technology (databases) and trends ("social"), as well as information seeking behavior, and human-computer interaction. It should also include more intensive business and management skills, and should move beyond basic psychology (including the reference interview). Of course, at the very least basic knowledge of cataloging and classification is a must for navigational purposes.

Lastly, theory is what sets us apart from plumbers, and the tradespeople and we should continue to be exposed to the rich history of libraries, and librarians, and the principles that we try to uphold: freedom to provide access to all kinds of information representing divergent ideas, and respect for the privacy of our users throughout their quest for knowledge. Therefore, civics classes that focuses on these bedrock principles of librarianship are also essential in order to reinforce that these values are not optional, and are indeed what set us apart.

Bad attitude...

I think your attitude toward tradespeople comes off as a bit elitist. I've supervised work by tradespeople and even though they may not know the exact names and theories for chemistry or physics that supports their work, they are particularly crafty and skilled. In my years of working in libraries and interacting with librarians I have very rarely heard much in the way of theory from librarians *especially* from newer librarians (in their late 20s-early 30s).

As an MBA grad, I can say that my training was quite rigorous. Does that make me a donald trump? no. Does that make me the ideal person to run a library right out of grad school? again no. Then again I am not going to be running a company just out of school either. Managers need to know two things: management, and the business they are in (in this case libraries).

From my survey of MLIS programs (I was thinking of getting one, but decided not to due to cost, and the fact that I know most things taught in library school), I can tell you that library schools need MAJOR reorganization in their curriculum. I also think that the "ALA accredited blah blah blah" needs to be dropped in favor of a fairer system of certification that TESTS all grads (MLIS, MBA, MEd, MS, MA, whatever), and if they pass, they can be practicing librarians. Why a certification you ask? Because I've seen non-MLIS people that are BRILLIANT and they should not be devalued by being called a 'paraprofessional', and MLIS people that should be fired and never be allowed in a library, ever again ;-)

Reality

My entire family is comprised of tradespeople so no elitism was intended in my post. My point is that librarians should have an almost religious reverence for information, equitable access to information, and for the privacy of library users. Although many blue collar workers take pride in their work, they don't revere their nuts, or their screws. Librarians should revere their tools, and also take very seriously their place in society as champions of freedom and privacy. Therefore, it is essential that these values and philosophy are imbued academically in those studying librarianship. This is of paramount importance (especially in today's political climate) above all else (although organization is a very close second), and is the major difference between a trade apprenticeship and an professional academic degree and the theory and the philosophy that go along with it.

I've seen MBAs try to run libraries and it often isn't pretty because they have little understanding of the philosophy by which we are supposed to operate. Simply put, they don't know the business. A solid foundation in psychology would, however, be the more beneficial regarding the day-to-day duties public librarians undertake, not a MBA. Many of our patrons need a call number, a diagnosis, and a prescription to go along with it. Sadly, many of our users also need people to mediate conflicts, and their drug abuse problems. An MBA isn't going to help with these ubiquitous issues facing public libraries today, Rigorous as MBA training might be for some it would need to be applied in a unique context that doesn't usually jibe with business school in many ways.

Anyway as others have pointed out... "Librarian" is the lowest paying professional position that exists. Why would anyone want to spend the money on a MBA, JD, or a second Masters to get paid 40k? The flood of graduates now coming out of MBA programs and even law schools usually have $$ in mind, not non-profit/public service work...

I have to agree one does not

I have to agree one does not need an MLS MLIS or whatever to work in a library.

The trend I see in Illinois, are para professionals, part-time librarians and hiring people with a "tech" background. I think a certifcate, 2 year degree or a four year degree in Information Technology or computer science would be more appropriate and related than the MBA. There is more focus on titles such as Systems Coordinator, Digital Initatives, Automative Technology which these positions support the electronic catalog, databases and the Library's web site. The more traditional positions, programming, Bib Instruction, cataloging and reference have been slowly disappearing because of out sourcing, students are working from home, and the public is using the library more for programs and the internet surfing. I don't see any librarians in circulation. They are all support positions.

I do see the MLS being "undermined" more and more. For example, the Public University requires a 2nd Master's degree. The reasoning behind this is supposedly being a bibliographer.

Another example the MLS is being undermined is the State of Illinois Library put together The "Illinois Statewide Cataloging Standards." Librarians are required even with an MLS to take a barcoding test, copy cataloging and original cataloging. I don't think the library schools are even aware of this is going on.

Another example, is now to be a media specialist you have to have a teaching certificate in a subject area. The MLS will not cut it.

I do agree that the curriculm is not up to date in the library schools. They are still teaching reference, cataloging etc. They are not preparing the students to be web programmers, systems coordinators, digital initative etc.

Lastly, the pay is still too low for 2 Master's degrees. You are lucky to get something in the 40's for that education.

I have to say if I had to do it over I would have spent my time and money on getting a Information Systems degree and include web programming.

re: low pay

I whole heartedly agree with you about the pay.
I have both an MBA and MS in Information Technology, however the IT/IS degree is not from an ALA accredited school, so still no go for most 'librarian' positions. As someone with two Masters I think that mid to high 40's is quite low. At that point it's a decision about whether to take a pay-cut to work in a place you love (the library) or to go somewhere else with the skills you have an have a higher income.

which proves what?

Have you ever noticed that people who brag that they went to a shitty library school that their cat could have graduated from think that proves that the MLS is worthless and NOT that they're a dullard who went to a clown college for their professional degree?

Why is that?

I am a dullard who went to a clown college for a degree

I never said it was worthless. The degree itself helped me get my current position because they used a text analytic tool on the CV's to search for those that had MLS or other graduate library education.

An MLS program can be rigorous, challenging and provide useful skills. I think there are six of them. That leaves the other 43 that provide a few courses that provide the basics of reference, technical services, and the concepts of information management. Something that could well be covered in a good junior college.

I went to library school because I thought it would be interesting and I like going to school. I had not planned on a career in librarianship, and although I did a brief stint at a public library I found that many librarians were indeed dullards who went to clown colleges - although they were not cognizent of this fact.
(See http://www.apa.org/journals/features/psp7761121.pdf , "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self Assessments" )

I did not choose the best library school. I chose a convenient and inexpensive library school. I did look at several programs and I did not choose my local library school because I found the program lacking.

Oh, and I have a very bright cat.

Would you mind telling us

Would you mind telling us the names of the 6 programs that you consider rigorous and challenging? I need to know
if I made the list or if I made a mistake. I may have overestimated by competence and my interest in cataloging and classification. I should also admit that my cat has helped me from time to time with my papers.

THANK YOU, CHUCK

Finally, someone with sense!

The future of libraries - what would Schumpeter think

The relevance and importance of librarianship in the information age is an interesting and important discussion we need to have. As an Australian Librarian, the foundation elements of information organisation and retrieval that I learnt as part of my post-graduate diploma in librarianship in the early 1990s is still relevant, but we have moved on so far and so fast, that most of what I studied is no longer applicable.

I love my profession, and I despair at the number of good libraries that have closed, or that are starved of funds over the last 10 to 15 years. If this is the information age, and we are information professionals, why aren’t we playing a greater role? Why does our profession seem to play second fiddle to 23 year uni graduates living on a diet of coke and pizzas? Think Facebook: Mark Zuckerberg (born May 14, 1984) and Dustin Moskovitz (born May 22, 1984), and a whole list of other Web 2.0 start-ups. What are they doing that we are not? Why do they grab the opportunities when we do not? Can you image a group of librarians coming up with a simple Google type search interface before Google - Nup, I didn't think so.

Personally, I think we need to move on from just thinking about MBAs and MLAs and get to the crux of the issue – what is our role in the new information age? I am not saying we need to be software developers and get into the business of web start ups, but we do need to think about our role.

Ross Dawson, is an Australian business consultant who tracks different customs, devices, and institutions and has developed what he calls an "Extinction Timeline". In it he predicts that libraries will disappear in 2019. For details see http://www.rossdawsonblog.com/weblog/archives/2007/10/extinction_time.html

Is he right?

• In the digital age what is the function of the library as a civic monument and public space?
• Will there be a role in the future for libraries as a public repository for books?
• What happens to our need for human interaction as distinct from online communication?
• What skills do we need to remain relevant in this environment?

So what are we going to do as we move forward? To think about this in a more theoretical way, consider Schumpeterian theory, and it idea that new technology creates waves of disruption that overturn entrenched monopolies and creates new economies and new businesses. When this happens (according to Schumpeter) it is entrepreneurs who seize the advantage. Think - IBM monopoly (upset by disruptive wave of personal computing) leads to Microsoft (upset by disruptive wave of the internet) leads to Google. Have you ever read Sir Peter Hall's great (but dense) book "Cities in Civilization"? Hall touches on all of this from the view of cities and societies. See http://www.librarything.com/work/13273/book/22635170 or
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schumpeter

The key thing (in my view) is that as a profession we need to make sure we keep up with new skills, but we also need to be much more entrepreneurial. There has been a lot of research into the attributes of successful entrepreneurs, and to put it briefly they are: big picture people, quick thinkers, doers, risk takes, client focused, who do not like "meetings, plans and models". Librarians (and I know I am talking stereotypes here) do not tend to be fast moving risk takers, we tend to be considered and thoughtful. There is nothing wrong with that, but I suspect that as a profession, we are far too risk adverse, timid, slow moving, and bureaucratic, to survive in the increasingly fast moving and changing world of Web 2.0.

There are of course librarians who are entrepreneurial, and they tend to be the leaders in their sectors. In Australia, I would consider people such as Christine McKenzie at Yarra Plenty Public, Gary Hardy and Derek Whitehead at Swinburne, Cheryl Brickell at the Australian Government Solicitors, or Mal Booth at the Australian War Memorial as thoughtful and considered librarians who can also be very entrepreneurial. These people are of course not the only people in this category, but I wonder if as a profession we have enough of these sort of people.

What Kind of "Business" is a Library?

You've hit many nails on the head with this particular essay, Christopher.

A closely related question has to do with what kind of business are we in? For a "profession" that supposedly prides itself on customer service, it's pretty remarkable how few in the profession will admit that libraries are nowadays primarily a service industry!

If you look at most service industries, the number of people in minimum-wage, "grunt-work" jobs far outnumbers the number of people in "professional" jobs - and almost all of those professional jobs are management of some sort.

Unless librarians can make a compelling case that organizing and retrieving information requires individuals with special education and skills - a case that has certainly not been made as far as the general public is concerned, based on various widely-reported surveys I've seen - then I think it is inevitable that there will be fewer and fewer MLS degreed librarians hired, and more and more para-professionals.

Annoyed Librarian and Unemployed Librarians

Click the link at the right side Library Jobs and Library jobs that suck. The discussion is very simiar and related. It takes it a step further there are no jobs out there or should I say real librarian jobs.

http://annoyedlibrarian.blogspot.com/search/label/library%20jobs

http://unemployedlibrarians.blogspot.com/

What is a librarian?

In my view, we do not have *a* library profession ... we have several.

Unfortunately, ALA accredited programs do not train (I can't honestly write "educate") for all of them.

Reference is not cataloging is not youth services is not selection is not database management, etc.

I've been out of library school for 33 years. It focused on cataloging if it had any focus at all, with cataloging being the original impetus for the MLS degree. In Dewey's time -- so many books, so many independent libraries -- this made some immediate sense, but that resulted in a training that came to define what librarianship was about.

It is so much more. We are the human interfaces to information, to entertainment, to education.

If the MLS is to survive it must be divided into useful specialties that have rigorous requirements.

Do you even need ALA accreditation?

Can someone tell me what the point of ALA accreditation would be in a program that goes beyond 'traditional' librarian training (cataloging & reference)? The ALA is not the authority on management, systems, web-design, database management, IS management (and so on) - fields that are permeating today's libraries.

Need for accreditation

I wouldn't much care if ALA did the accreditation or not ... it had the opportunity many years go to effectively add "information technologies" to its portfolio (but chose books instead). Databases and search engines *are* library technologies.

Instead, the IT schools developed their own criteria and values.

I wouldn't, myself, consider reference something that librarians are trained in. Reference tools (digital or otherwise), yes, but good reference requires an understanding of the question before conducting the search.

Easy in the 1880s. Not so easy today, eh?

It's all local

One thing I've learned since I've graduated from library school in May of 2000 is that the really good public libraries pay attention to their local community's needs. Everyone chiming in here is grappling with this larger philosophical question about librarians and information specialists role in the "information age" and what value the MLS holds, but the more important issue is how we take the facilities, staff (MLS and non-MLS), equipment and other resources we are entrusted with to meet our local community's need for library service. Reference services and other traditional bread and butter library functions are still valued however it is imperative that we stay in tune with what is going on in our countys, citys, towns, neighborhoods. Only then we'll we build relationships with our customers, forge partnerships, tailor our services accordingly and make ourselves indispensable. Lament your low pay and the sky will continue to fall or exhibit some leadership whatever your level in your organization and be part of the solution to generating more support for your library.

And to all the folks without the degree I've worked exactly 7.5 years in public libraries without an MLS and the past 8 with the degree. Believe it or not it was well worth the investment in time and money. I value the theoretical underpinnings of our profession that I gained in library school, the relationships I made with the faculty and my fellow students. I even learned a thing or two about technology, grant-writing, communications and management. Other degrees and skill-sets are wonderful assets to our field and diversity is wonderful. At the end of the day, if you want to be a librarian in a library - make the sacrifice other librarians have made. After all you will ultimately garner more respect (and compensation) in the long run.

'pick up a book and read' - the devil's advocate

I am glad you got a lot out of your MLS.
Here's some food for thought. If you've worked 7.5 years as a non-MLS person in libraries, and another 8 as an MLS holding employee, and you did get a lot out of your MLS, couldn't you have just picked up a number of books to teach yourself cataloging, classification, reference, and so on? How much gap was there in your knowledge that you needed a full MLS that you couldn't just do it on your own?

Library School

In response to your question - "couldn't you have just picked up a number of books to teach yourself cataloging, classification, reference, and so on?" - I will admit that a couple of the Reference courses I took were obsolete right out of the gate ex. Humanities Reference as many of the print resources we covered I never used again in my career. The cataloging course was more useful in framing my approach for thinking about subject headings for reference queries, less actual cataloging. One of my professors taught us ODAPCOSRIU (origin, dissemination, acquisition, properties, classification, organization, storage, retrieval, interpretation and use) for answering the question about what it is we actually do as librarians which is a clever way to remember but this has certainly evolved in the 8 years since I graduated. I could have read many of the texts, articles, etc. and attempted to self-teach myself to be a librarian but I feel that would have left an important gap in my education - the conversations, the lectures, the discourse about what we were learning. In hindsight with the current model for public libraries as the 3rd place, a destination place, the library as commons, etc. - more training and attention should be focused on event planning, networking, advocacy to augment the technology training, management, etc. that has been traditionally taught. Programming for users of all ages is increasingly important in reaching our customers. I did not get a whole lot of training in library school for this function. I certainly would not protest consideration of non-MLS folks with significant library experience for "professional" positions but all things being equal - the MLS holder should be given greater consideration. my two cents

Should MLS degrees be required? No? Why go to school at all?

Earning a degree is useless for anyone who simply wants to learn; if you want to learn, just do it. Schools grant diplomas, degrees, certificates, etc. to verify that students have studied a stated curriculum. Maybe some of the MLS programs out there need to be updated to include newer areas of study, but all disciplines evolve as time passes, and so MLS/MLIS programs won't become obsolete, unless they stagnate.

What about just passing at test to become a librarian? Won't that suffice? I don't think so. Earning a contemporary MLS/MLIS degree verifies that you have studied the material relevant to working as a librarian, AND it demonstrates that you are committed to working in a library; passing some sort of a library skills test will demonstrate an understanding of library technical knowledge, but it will fail to demonstrate that someone is committed to library work.

Some people will always be unhappy with having to demonstrate their commitment to actually doing the work they are technically capable of. If earning a degree is too much trouble for you, then you're probably not committed to that line of work and you probably aren't going to be committed to the job either. So, if nothing else, I think that requiring a degree for some professions is a good way to weed out the corner-cutters and the lazy, dishonest people.

No MLS required; and neither $40 K a year

Our library system is removing the MLS requirement; oh, it is "desired" but no longer required. Neither is a bachelor's degree required.

All such "degrees" can be replaced with year-by-year experience.
Several of the clerical workers already introduce themselves in town as "librarians." Some of those have no degree or perhaps have a 2-year associate's degree.

I think the broad ranges of view here are all valid. The important thing to me is
1) If it no longer requires the willingness to pursue the challenges of a 4-year degree and an advanced degree, then neither should it be called a profession.
2) If it is true that we do not need a background in principles, ethics, philosophy, (appreciation and respect for freedom of speech, understanding of censorship in a free society) collection development for a broad and balanced collection, principles of management, public relations, community demographics mapping and needs, an understanding of the publishing industry, etc etc
then we are simply an inexpensive book/video/CD/DVD store, and customer service is all that is needed.
3) If this is the case, I believe minimum wage for most of the staff is justified; and $10-15 per hour for management.

4) This is just exactly what our County Administrative Officer needs to know to reduce our "position title specifications" followed by our conversion from salaries to hourly wages.

They have been moving in that direction for years; and I believe that is where we are headed. Our budget is tightening and we will have severe problems in 2010-11. I expect to see these changes during 2011 or 2012.

If we do not see any value in the profession, that is the choice of the people, and I don't see any way to change that. Unfortunately, a lot can happen as our Bill of Rights continue to erode. That's a shame, but I don't see any "public" line of protection since the media is commercialized, and libraries are becoming retail media centers, staffed by clerks.

If I had to take my degree over I would definitely work for a private company where research skills are respected and pay is worthy of your knowledge and skills -- and INDISPENSABLE to your employer.

I confess

...that I went to a low-ranked library school. People like to dis my school because it wasn't in the top 5. While my program was far from perfect, they did have a great professor who had worked as a corporate librarian, and I took as many classes from her as I could. Because of that experience, I was able to get a job in a corporation making more money than the people in town who went to the top-ranked schools.

Before me, my company hadn't had an MLS'd librarian since 1945. Everyone here is telling me that they can definitely tell the difference now that there is a degreed person in this position. I'm not saying my predecessors were incompetent, because there were a couple who were really good. But they didn't have a lot of experience managing massive amounts of data. So, when everything went computerized from print-only (architectural firm), they were overwhelmed, and my division was still clinging to the old ways when I took over as Director. Someone without an MLS, or a degree in Archives or Records Management would have had a very bad time in this job.

Anyway, if you're going into Special Libraries, I can assure you that most corporations do not care where your degree is from.

Having been in the library profession for over 30 years

I have seen this "Do librarians need an MLS degree" farce, over and over again.

I do not know a system that has tried to eliminate the MLS requirement that has not eventually ended up reinstating it after several years of finding out how useless the "smart BA or BS or MA or MS" graduate is.

I have even seen lawyers hired part time to work in libraries so someone could answer legal questions who were completely useless when it came to actual library work.

The private sector got hip to the value of MLS librarians in the last decade. They used to hire (subject specialists) at three times what they would have to pay degreed librarians and got better performance out of the librarians, because the librarians are simply seeking information under direction, and have no preconceptions that someone who has a degree in any particular field might have.

Most fields have variations of opinions on many issues, and as a consequence a subject specialist may take one side or another on those issues, and so filter his research based on that personal slant, while the librarian, with no such prejudice will simply go for the information, bases on the search terms they are given, provide all the information, and then let the person they are doing the search for do their own filtering.

This is the greatest argument AGAINST the subject specialist and FOR the generalist that the MLS education is designed to create.

I have seen this occur in law libraries, in medical libraries, in engineering libraries. The trained MLS is simply trained in accessing information and in general will not differntiate between different theories or opinions on a medical, legal, engineering or in fact most other questions. A doctor might be familiar with one or another theory about a particular disease,syndrome or condition, may prefer one to the other, but the librarian will have no such preference.

The last city I lived in (I didnt work in that particular library) started a program of attempting to hire "smart BA and BS" degree graduates to work reference, and of course offered a much lower salary than they were paying MLS librarians, but several problems developed.

First it is not possible to teach reference procedure in a short period. At least not enough to allow a "specialist" to be able to be very good at answering questions outside of their area of expertise.

Next, since MLS librarians are paid so lowly compares to other professions, the lower salaries offered "smart BA & BS" graduates did not attract anyone but the most inept, and those who showed potential left within months, as soon as work in their own field became available.

The program of hiring these non MLS graduates was phased out within five years simply because it didnt work. It was invariably the idea of some NON Librarian on a city or county commission to begin with, who had absolutely no idea what was involved with the work, but who held on to the program for years because they would not admit that their idea was a failure. But eventually, it went out the window as the public started complaining that the service had suffered greatly as a result.

Also another experience I have had is having to correct the massive errors made by non MLS librarians who beleive that they can actually perform as well as MLS certified librarians...

It was not a pretty experience.

The arguments for or against the MLS

seem to be growing in the direction of for.

The list of states requiring that the librarian have "state certification" to work in public or university libraries seems to be growing rather than shrinking.

While state certification rarely requires more than applying for the certification and sending in a check, you are also more often than not also required to send in a copy of documentation showing that you actually possess the MLS. Right now a bit more than half of the states require some certification. While these certifications vary from Virginia which required the certification to be a "practicing librarian" to Oklahoma where it is required for "skills enhancement", the direction seems towards requiring the MLS.

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