Sunday, November 30, 2014

Should you get an MLIS degree.

tl;dr NO

Wow, it's been a really long time since I have posted something.  Since my last post my jadedness and disenchantment with the public library and librarianship peaked.  Budget cut after budget cut, with no hope in sight.  Maybe I should have kept up my online ranting sessions for my own sanity.  Either way, here I am typing away.

Every week or so, there's a post on /r/Libraries asking if the OP should get an MLIS degree.  The characteristics of most thread starters are unshockingly similar:

- young
- about to graduate from college/just graduated
- has no idea what to do
- degree in History/English
- has never worked in a library before
- loves to read books
- library-delusional: thinks it would be cool to be paid to read all day
- already made up their mind about getting an MLIS, but just wanted affirmation from online strangers

9 times out of 10, I do not think that they should waste their time on an MLIS.  Let me count the ways:

- "The greying of the profession" is complete crap
- if the library actually chooses to fill any open full-time positions there are two things that usually happen now: turns into 1, maybe 2, part time positions and/or make the positions paraprofessional so ultimately getting an MLIS is moot
- if your only experience in the library world is as a patron, you have no idea what it's like behind the reference desk
- the majority of library jobs lies in the public library field, and they are struggling to stay afloat

I will upvote every person who cautions the OP to reconsider and downvote those that openly and enthusiastically encourage people to obtain an MLIS.  I find it completely reckless and moronic to do the latter.  Usually the encouragers give the following reasons:

- they had a full-time library job lined up before they graduated
- they weren't regionally restricted, so they took a job across the country
- they love books too!
- they used their network connections they made by being members to every god-forsaken library-related association out there
-you can totally use your MLIS degree in other places outside of a library

These people are the 1%, the exceptions to the rule.  For every one of these boasters, there are hundreds of those who are quietly disgruntled and underemployed.  Sure, take a job in the middle of no where, with such an overabundance of MLIS job-seekers, there's a reason why those library positions are open.  Honestly, I've always thought the idea of working in a library just because someone loves books as utterly ridiculous --- you do know that you'll have to weed the collection right?  I hate when people say that joining ALA/SLA/PLA/your state library association is the key to finding that dream job.  If the return on investment for this was truly as good as these people make it out to be, EVERYONE would be a member of these groups and employed.  Again, this is the vocal 1%. 

Do you know why so many people with MLIS don't work in a library setting --- BECAUSE THEY COULDN'T FIND A LIBRARY JOB.  People that say that their MLIS is helpful and worth it in non-library settings is in the biggest state of denial ever.  As it currently stands, and maybe always has in the library world, you cannot take someone with just an MLIS and no library experience and throw them behind the reference desk and think they'll do just fine.  What makes you think an MLIS can better prepare you for a non-library job if it can't even properly prepare you for a library one??

The only rare times I would say investing in an MLIS is worth it, is if your employee is paying for it and/or you already are in the library and you're in a position for a promotional opportunity for getting the degree.  Other than that, save your money and go for a paraprofessional positions, it's the exact same work minus the crippling tuition debt!

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