On Academic Librarians and the MLIS

During my year and five classes in library school, I have learned some crucial things, one of them being the importance of the MLIS to the profession.  From my readings, particularly “Academic/Research Librarians with Subject Doctorates:  Data and Trends 1965-2006” by Thea Lindquist and Todd Gilman and “Just Another Field?” by B. Crowley, I can appreciate what an affront some librarians take the lack of an MLIS as.  Master’s degrees are not interchangeable, after all, and having subject knowledge in a field does not ensure that one can be an effective librarian in that field. 

[A digression:  consider, though, how many university faculty who divide their time between teaching and research have been trained as teachers.  Whether true or not, the assumption seems to be that strong enough subject knowledge will make up for any shortcomings or lack of training as a teacher.  I wonder if the same assumption gets transferred to librarianship–that is, if a person has spent enough time in a library, he or she should know how to be a librarian, because subject knowledge is the most important thing.]

As I stated in an early post, I am a “begin at the beginning” type of person, so even though I might have been able to finagle an academic library job without the MLIS, I am content to work my way steadily through the classes and bide my time.  Not only for the knowledge I am gaining along the way, but also for the slow process of transformation that is occurring.  I am coming to know what a librarian knows as well as to think as a librarian thinks.   And, importantly, to think of myself as a librarian. 

I attended last year’s orientation with a sense of panic.  I’m sure Dr. A. saw it in my eyes.  What am I doing, I thought.  I am making such a mistake.  Me, a librarian?  On paper, it sounded like a great idea, and I must have been convincing to be accepted into the program, but I was having the most difficulty convincing myself.  My memories of Tuscaloosa are of long, sweltering days and the sense that I didn’t belong there. 

This process of identification with the field, and learning to view myself as a librarian, has been gradual and is ongoing.  More and more, I feel at home in my classes, particularly in this class.  I understand more of what librarians are concerned with, what they value, what they strive to do. 

Issues of identity tend to be difficult.  Learning to feel like a librarian is not the only thing I’ve gotten out of the MLIS program, but it’s certainly one of the most crucial parts for me.  I would much rather learn it here rather than hastily try to put it together on the job.

Published in: on October 2, 2008 at 8:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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