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Does MLS = Librarian?

Jul - 28 - 2006
Nicole C. Engard

You don’t have to have an MLS to be a librarian. The MLS doesn’t teach passion, empathy, user focused skills, or provide experience. Some library science schools don’t even teach you how to perform research well.

That from Library Stuff. It’s nice to read.

You all know I’m going for my MLS, but I’ve been working in the library for 5 years now. Mind you I haven’t been doing research – but all librarians are not research/reference librarians. I’ve looked through the courses I’m required to take and the courses I have the option of taking – and there are very few that will not be covering something I already know – and there are even fewer that I think will make a difference in the way I do my job. So, why get the MLS? Lifelong learning!!! And the hope that I’m wrong – and that the teachers will be molding their classes around their students (at least a bit) like Robin Neidorf (author of Teach Beyond Your Reach recommends).

8 Responses so far.

  1. Pat Orr says:

    You most certainly do have to earn an MLS degree to be a librarian. The distinction is, that to be a good librarian you must possess the empathy and user focused skills which are cultivated through the course of a career. If a library / information science school cannot teach you how to perform research well, find a mentor who will do so. I am flattered by the number of well-intentioned individuals who want to call themselves librarians before they have done the hard work and earned their credentials. It isn’t rocket science, but it is library science.

  2. Nicole says:

    I’m not calling myself a librarian – others have called me one. See not everyone agrees with the fact that the degree makes the librarian. When I made the announcement that I was going to library school I got several responses from people that it’s great that I’m going to school, but I’m already a librarian in their eyes.

    I’ve done plenty of hard work over the last 5 years – more than I’ll ever have to do over the next year while I’m in school. It’s those 3 little letters though (MLS) that mean I’m a “real” librarian. Silliness if you ask me – but that’s not stopping me from going ahead and getting the degree because – like I said – never stop learning – there has to be something I’ll learn next year (well starting next month) that will make me better at my job.

  3. Jonathan says:

    Way back when I went got my MLS, I learned a great deal of theory and scholarly things, but not so much on the practical side of things. While I got a lot out of my coursework, I didn’t feel like a real librarian until I had a few years of on the job experience.

    I think you’ll be able to understand and work through the theoritical stuff much better, having spent five years working in a library. I have no doubt that it will make you a better librarian when you’re done.

  4. Thanks for the kind words.

    You need an MLS for “lifelong learning” in librarianship? I don’t agree. Look at the conferences, blogs, wikis, etc. No MLS required to do (or attend) those things. Just a coke and a smile.

  5. Nicole says:

    Oh no – that’s not what I meant – what I meant was that I was going for my MLS because I wanted to – as part of my lifelong learning goals. It’s not necesssary – there are so many other ways to learn – I agree 100%!! It’s just one way in which I’m going to be bettering myself as a library professional.

  6. Nicole says:

    More on the subject at Library Stuff – for those of you who are interested in keeping up with the thread.

  7. Isaak’s Thoughts » Isaak’s Links - Are You A “Real” Librarian? and Others - 31 July 2006 says:

    [...] Are You a “Real” Librarian?Steven Cohen started this series of posts by various librarians on what constitutes a librarian. And does someone not having a MLS (or MSc in the local context) excludes the person from being a good librarian. Personally, I don’t have a MLS and I don’t feel that I’m any worse off than someone who had done theirs. I do have plans to earn my MLS degree in the not-too-distant future as I do see the value in having some education on library skills. But having a MLS doesn’t guarantee that you are passionate about helping readers with their quest for knowledge and empathise with them. These values, plus being customer-centric, are not something that can be taught in library school. I invite you to weigh in with your comments on this topic.(via Library Stuff) [...]


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