Recently, Mary Ellen Bates posted a blog article titled: Is an MLS still relevant? In addition, I have come across other blogs questioning the MLS/MSLIS. It’s a question often defended with answers by the American Library Association, countless graduate school programs, and other library associations. I imagine that the question will continue to be tackled given the economy. Librarians/Libraries do not live in a bubble. We aren’t the only profession feeling the pinch. As a parallel, law school students and even the experienced are looking for work, internships, summer associate programs, etc. and I am sure they find themselves facing the same existential questions we do. Today, many of us are questioning our decisions, education, practical experience, career goals, etc.
So is there value to the degree? The short answer is yes. The long answer involves a relative situation. The MLS isn’t for everyone. Just like a JD or Masters in Music isn’t for everyone. Moreover, it’s what you do with it that makes it of value. With today’s job market, experience and education aren’t the only things for which an employer may wish. Some consider outside involvement, volunteering, and a real passion for the work. A recent law school grad may hold a degree from a top school and perform a summer associate program at a top firm, but did they volunteer their time and skills to the community? Have they become a valuable member of their associations/bar (more so than just paying dues)? Have they published works and/or managed to get their name into the network of lawyers? Being successful (at least to me) is more than just going to school and working a job.
The library school degree isn’t a means to an end. It’s a stepping stone towards more education, experience, and wisdom. I value my library school degree highly. It’s helped shape my background and given me a structure that has helped me function in public, private, and academic libraries. I can’t speak for other programs but Syracuse University’s information school prepares students for success. It makes apparent the responsibility to apply learned skills and develop them. SU taught us how to stay apprised of technology and library field changes, because as soon as we learn something it could easily be outdated. The SU ischool students I speak with are consistently impressed by the level of professionalism, education, and direction they are afforded.
The best I can do in defense of the MSLIS is speak to my personal experiences and continual growth. Generalizing and comparing the library school degree only gets us so far. Perhaps the best we can do in service of prospective students, current students, and the future of the degree is speak honestly about our personal tales with the degree. How has it worked for you or how didn’t it work for you? Has it proven valuable in your success or been a hinderance, why?