Thursday, June 29, 2006

The MLS as Union Card?

I recently came across Phillip Jones and Jamie Stiver’s Good Fences Make Bad Libraries: Rethinking Binary Constructions of Employment in Academic Libraries in Portal, a wonderful Open Access journal. The article is illuminating in that it adds another layer to the professional vs. paraprofessional discourse in the world of librarianship. The article disputes some of the arguments made by previous scholars. Jones and Stivers make some fine arguments which, in my opinion, should be required discussion for every intake of LIS students.

(1) Is the “bifurcate model” which pits the professional librarian with the paraprofessional member(s) of the library still sustainable? The authors argue that in our post-industrial world, defining librarianship by minimalizing paraprofessionals is “tragicomic.” Instead of pettily bickering over the exact duties of job positions, we should focus on teamwork for the information environment to function properly. What is the point of arguing if you can't even get the job done?

(2) Librarians are not doctors. Arguments have been made that librarianship is a profession very much like law or medicine or accounting. But no, the authors take this grand argument back to reality, and argues that it is unfair to put librarianship in the same rank with doctors. We are professionals, but let’s leave it at that.

(3) The “Fence” has to be put down. There seem to be unwritten rules all around us which rebuffs paraprofessionals from entering the “librarian” world. One example is fees for participating in professional associations. While LIS students can pay lower fees, non-library professionals and students are either refused entry or forced to pay higher remittances. This is clear discrimination.

(6) Unfortunately, Stivers and Jones does not add to the fray with any fresh solutions or alternatives. Rather, they admit that they prefer to remain “on the fence,” arguing that librarianship is one of “responsibilities” versus “tasks.” Although librarians perform many of the same routines as their library assistants and staff do (e.g. taking out the garbage or answering the phone), at the end of the day, the librarian is ultimately charged with the responsibility of managing the library.

Although an MLS does not a good librarian make, it is unfortunately the only credential which is currently available which sets apart the professional and paraprofessional. To use a crude analogy, many pursue an MBA not because they are more diligent than their peers, but because they are ambitious and enjoy future challenges. In order to do so, they need the proper “networking” and training to do so. Whether they really become competent managers is really determined on the job.

The question is thus, is the MLS an MBA? Yes and No. Once on the job, let the curriculum's training of the so-called "professional" do the real talking.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

ho it is very interesting to know about MBA