Tuesday, June 5, 2012

It's just an MLIS, really...

A couple of weeks ago, my family went out to dinner to celebrate my graduating from Library School.  Yeah, it's a couple months late, but I was more nonchalant about it, much like the whole grad school thing, because it's just an MLIS.  To be honest, I almost felt guilty for celebrating such a non-event.

Last week at work I came across The Grad Cafe website for grad students and they had a forum for prospective MLIS students.  I know that I have a completely different outlook on librarianship and MLIS's, but is it normal for people to apply to more than one library grad school program??  I know that's the thing to do for undergrad programs but for library science graduate programs!??!  What a waste of money on application fees.

Not only do people apply to more than one school, but they also apply to schools across the country.  The school I went to is nearby.  If by some reason I wasn't accepted, I would have gladly taken an online only degree program.  No sense in moving somewhere, anywhere, for an MLIS.  Here's how it will probably go down, genius applies to a handful of schools, genius moves across the country to attend a "top rated MLIS school," genius gets degree, genius cannot find any local jobs, genius applies to library jobs all over the country, genius ends up moving somewhere else to take a library job that pays incredibly low wages.

EVERYONE gets accepted into an MLIS program.  There are only a couple of reasons why a college wouldn't accept someone's money, sorry - I mean application.  I guess if someone has a horrible undergrad GPA and even worse GRE scores, maybe, just maybe a school would say no.  I read that some schools only accept a certain number each semester.  Why -- I don't know, colleges love easy money and it doesn't get any easier than the MLIS department.  Seriously, you don't need anything special to give an MLIS lecture.  In reference to the BCG Matrix, they are the cash cows of the universities.  So as you can see, EVERYONE get accepted into an MLIS program.

Not only does everyone get accepted but everyone also gets the degree. 
 All you have to do is pay the price tag.  Now, I know that just because I don't know of anyone who has dropped or failed out of library school does not necessarily mean that it hasn't happened.  But c'mon now, who knows someone who has?  And if anyone has failed out of library school, there probably is some special program, much like a witness-protection, that will relocate said failure and give them a new identity for fear of a life of mock and ridicule.

Getting an MLIS has to be the easiest graduate degree to obtain.  It's like getting an Xbox Achievement for inserting the game disc and starting the game.
MLIS schools pump out degrees like an automated assembly line.  To keep the cash flow coming in, they have to keep them moving.  Why would a college care if there already is a flood of MLIS holders out there and not enough jobs?  They already have your money, they don't owe you anything more than that piece of paper that says you're some certified info-hustler.

Anyone who claims that they went to a "Top Ranked MLIS School" should be forced to read every single romance novel written.  Their argument has no solid ground, the difference between one MLIS school from another is minimal if even measurable.  They all use the same textbooks, they all offer the same courses, they all tell you to read the same horrible "library research," and they will all tell you the same ALA spiel.  Do you really think that just because you went to the "#1 Rated MLIS School" you can copy-catalog better than another?  Or that it'll put you in top consideration for a position?  Sucker....

To those that want to argue that there is some prestige in an MLIS degree, I must say that you are highly delusional.  There is no "prestige" or "honor" with the degree.  Hey, don't be mad at me, I'm just as disappointed.  These library schools have no standards.  If they did, they would not allow every single applicant into the program.  If they did, not everyone would pass every class.  If they did, not everyone would walk away with a degree.  Of course, if a library school were to have any standards and reject people, those rejects would just go to another school and pay for the degree.  So no library school will up their standards because doing so would negatively affect their cash flow. 

Just because someone pays for the courses, does that mean they deserve ("earn") the degree?


  1. This. All of this. Yes.

    As someone who has taken academics seriously my whole life, and who really feels most at home in academia, I've been really disappointed with my program. I've gotten to the point where I'm literally just doing the minimum, caring less, and just trying to get through. I NEVER would have said that in undergrad (and I don't expect to if/when I end up in another (non-lib) graduate program).

    I think the point is, it's a vocational degree. I mean, maybe for people who actually want to DO said "horrible library research" it's actually worth something. But damn. Two more years of this for me. Just give me that piece of paper already.

    1. Hey MISS KEEGAN,

      Guess it’s just you and me who feel shorted by our MLIS programs. It really is hard to care about it when your professors care more about their research than lectures and teaching. I’m sure if TA’s were allowed, they would have been put in charge of every lecture. You know, one of the best professors I had was actually an adjunct. She had a well-paying job so I felt like it wasn’t for the extra money. Hell, she drove over 2 and half hours each way for lecture. But she is an alum and I felt like this was her giving back to the school. I will always remember her passion for librarianship, something which is sorely lacking.

      I wouldn’t call an MLIS a vocational degree only because of the breadth of specialized professions an MLIS covers: archivists, catalogers, school media specialists. I, personally, don’t consider them to be of the same ilk, they share the same roots but other than that it’s completely different.

      I have no doubt that you will produce some grade A library research. It was embarrassing researching articles for papers. I kept double-checking to see if the “scholastic” and “peer-reviewed” boxes were checked off. Seriously, as a profession that tells others to make sure that their sources are solid and well-written, I find it hypocritical when our own research is subpar.

  2. I'm gonna be honest - I only got through about half of this post because I found it so irritating. If you're so serious an academic, why did you work on the MLIS? I'm gonna go with this - you're not a serious academic, you're lazy. The serious academics, ahem - they kind of, you know, go into serious academics.

    I like being a librarian. I thought the degree was pretty easy. And yes, on some level, it is definitely vocational training. The thing is, unless you plan to get your PhD - pretty much EVERYTHING at the undergrad and Master's levels these days *is* vocational training, and that, my friends, would be because colleges are saturated with a lot spoiled young people who probably shouldn't even be there. However, we unfortunately live in a culture of "college = money", not "college = education" so there they go, off to college. Many probably should, ironically enough - go to vocational school...instead, they're taking up space in colleges, watering down the general educational population, thinking they deserve all the high-paying gigs when they graduate because they (W-O-W) finished that four-year degree...but then, wait! - that 50K starter-handout job doesn't pan out right at graduation...so they go to grad school, because more college=more money, right? And then they get out and they still can't find a job that suits them - because, like you, they don't get the point.

    What's the point?

    The point is, college does not guarantee a) education or b) a high-paying job. The point is, you learn some shit, you pay your dues working at WHATEVER job you get after you get out and as you do, you learn more...and as you learn more, you get better jobs and you earn more. If you do go to grad school and get a degree like an MLIS, which still, at this point, pretty much guarantees you some kind of work (although if people like you continue to extol it's relative lack of value, I wouldn't bank on that), you should consider yourself VERY lucky.

    Let's just say, for argument's sake, that the MLIS *is* the very definition of the dread vocational training, folks (oh, the humanity!). If you don't like it, go clean toilets or shovel shit, wait tables, be a bank teller or a retail clerk - and then you'll actually have something to complain about. Don't complain about what may be, honestly, one of the best and EASIEST jobs on the planet, for the money it pays. And certainly don't pretend to rest of us that you didn't CHOOSE said job because of that.

    1. ANON, thanks for the comment, even if we do not see eye-to-eye on the situation. This profession needs more open dialog and debate instead of just going with whatever. I’ll admit, my thoughts and opinions on the profession are not accepted by the majority, but hey, everyone is entitled to their own which is great.

      How did you end up assuming that I am not a serious academic from this post? Why would I not take academics seriously? You think I’m just throwing my money away to get a single piece of paper? In your comment, you make it sound like you feel like an MLIS is not a “serious academic” choice. Do we agree on that, but my issue with it is, “Why is it not more serious?” Why can’t one with an MLIS be taken seriously and not responded to with, “You need a Masters for that?” Why does getting an MLIS have to be for the “lazy” and unserious?

      I LOVE LIBRARIES AND BEING A LIBRARIAN. I’m just frustrated seeing where libraries are heading. I would not consider an MLIS as vocational training. One can actually use these skills outside of the library realm.

      I do not agree that getting an MLIS “pretty much guarantees you some kind of work.” The way libraries are now hiring paraprofessionals instead of librarians; it does not look promising at all. So does everyone who gets accepted into an MLIS program deserve a degree after they “learn some ish?”

      Just because I do not like the degree mills that pump out MLIS’s does not mean that I do not like being a librarian. The two are completely separate subjects. Do you know what’s sad? People with MLIS’s cannot find library jobs, so they do have to clean toilets and wait-tables.
      So we should just sit there and not complain when library budgets continue to be cut, we shouldn’t complain when libraries are closed, we aren’t allowed to complain about librarians being replaced with paraprofessionals? If you honestly believe that in this day and age that being a librarian does not give you any reason to complain about the situation, then I’d like to know where and how much you bought those special rose-colored glasses.

  3. I have to agree with Anonymous on their reply to your post. As a librarian and MLIS degree holder, I'm not only proud of the work I do but the education required to earn said job. Let's be honest, by the time we matriculate to grad school we choose programs that not only interest us but in which we excel. The relative ease of the program in which you participated could have more to do with your skill set rather than all MLIS programs being easy.

    Where I live, the MLIS is valued and that is reflected in the quality of pay given to actual librarians. For those who have the freedom to attend a library school across the country from where they live and then move somewhere completely different after graduating... awesome! I would have loved a change of scenery. And truth be told, if you went to library school to become wealthy then that's your mistake. It isn't a secret that most public libraries pay shit in salary.

    I hope as you build your career you find a deeper sense of pride in the honor of earning your degree (not something just anyone can do which you will find the more you work with the public) and the profession of librarianship. Best of luck.


      Thanks for the comment, I am proud of my work but I wish I could say the same about the degree. There is a stark contrast between the work and the degree. I’m flattered about inference of the ease of the program and my skillset, and I would chalk it up to my uber-awesome biblio-skills, but alas, this was always a topic of discussion amongst my fellow grad school peers and coworkers (at least in my case).

      I could only wish that your situation was more reflective across the nation, but there is a lot of discrepancy. I know that librarianship is not for those looking to make bank. I think that when you stack it all up, all library schools are created equal and I do not believe that people should further bury themselves in debt just because "so and so" schools it "Top Ranked."

      For whatever lack of pride I have in the degree, it is definitely made up for in my work. Thanks for the encouragement and the best to you as well!

  4. Hard to know how I feel about this article. I did an MIM (similar to the MLIS) in Australia. If the ranking are to be believed 33rd in the world for this type of qualification.

    I did notice the US universities did not rate well at all on global averages. If you try VUW in Wellington New Zealand I can assure you they DO NOT accept just anyone and its VERY easy to fail. I have a reasonable undergrad degree and I did not feel I could get in. They rate 14th in the world.

    Monash in Melbourne are one of Australia's top universities and there MBIS is VERY easy to fail.

    So I think the value and employ ability to be derived from any qualification has a LOT to do with who you get it from. Rubbish in rubbish out so to speak. I had a good job offer before I had even completed my qualification. Mind you I worked my ass of and got a 3.8 GPA (in your lingo).

    1. Hey RESEARCHER,

      I can't see how global library school rankings could be quantified and compared subjectively, but it wouldn't surprise me if the US was dead last. Which is why people the States boasting of about their MLIS school rankings is all moot.