There is a discussion going on on Web4Lib right now (that I lost track of) regarding the future of libraries. Blake posts and interesting argument by Christopher Kiess over at LISNews that had some points that I completely agree with – and want to share.
Chris talks about the difference between the library and the librarian – something that we librarians sometimes forget to do. In his response he talks about the future of librarians as information professionals
In order for any profession to remain a profession there must be at the very least a perception that the profession possesses a skill set that cannot be duplicated (at a cheaper rate), replaced or outsourced. For librarians, this skill set is the organization, representation and retrieval of knowledge and information.
Knowledge and information are always changing, but probably have not changed as much as they have in recent years since the invention of the book or possibly the printing press. Our skills have moved from
information retrieval in a physical space to information retrieval in a virtual space. To adapt those skills further would require us to begin organizing and representing information in an electronic environment in the same manner as we do in a physical space – a virtual library, if you will. There are those who will cry out, “isn’t this being done?” Yes and those who participate in the effort do not largely refer to themselves as librarians. They call themselves information professionals, information architects, knowledge specialists, etc.
Will there still be librarians in the future? Probably, but they may not need an MLS. There will always
be a need for people to find information and for someone to aid them in doing that. But this will take place in electronic environments. We are aiding in that effort now. But, we only aid in a portion of the effort. In most instances we do not organize or manage that same information. Those jobs were list to those with greater technical skills or the willingness to adapt.
This makes me sad … but I do agree. Sad because my student loans have become due and are draining my bank account almost as quickly as I fill it, but it’s true! The nature of the librarian is changing – I’ve been saying this since before I got my MLIS – and so the nature of our studies have to change as well. This may mean a different list of core classes for the MLS/MLIS or a completely new degree.
Chris mentions that one librarian said that it almost makes more sense for librarians to have MBAs than MLSs … I don’t know if I agree with that for a public or academic librarian, but I certainly agree for a special librarian.
No one knows for sure where we’re going, but it looks like I may be giving my life savings to Drexel for little reason other than 4 new letters after my name.