MLIS Programs Need To Be Revamped
I’m a big fan of education, really. I wouldn’t have acquired a BA in not one but two majors, not to mention carried a minor, if I wasn’t. I’m also pursuing my Masters and am a big advocate of the need for public libraries so the populace can educate themselves. However, I have to say, the graduate programs in this nation have some serious issues. Of course, the education in general in this nation have some serious issues, but that doesn’t excuse the graduate programs.
Even though I was irritated by the irrelevance of some assignments/requirements of my BA programs, this was definitely the case for only a minority of my requirements. I’d say it probably around 20% of the overall requirements had zero benefit to me. That is so insanely not the case in my graduate program.
My graduate program is a Masters of Library and Information Science. This is a profession requiring certain skills different from say a Masters in History with an eye toward a PhD. This is more like, although not nearly as difficult as, med school. We need to acquire knowledge that can then be utilized on the field, so to say. The thing is though, unlike med students who spend a year or so hitting the books then hit the field, most MLIS students have already or are currently working in a library. Thus, by the time we get to a reference class, for example, many of us have already logged hundreds of hours on the reference desk. You really don’t need to explain to us how to conduct a reference interview. It would have been nice if that had been explained to us prior to being thrown behind a reference desk, yes. That’s just not the case though. We learned on-the-fly how to conduct a reference interview and wasting three hours of our precious little free time being told how to do it is just incentive to bang our heads on said desk.
Of course there is value to graduate school. My job never took the time to help me take apart a computer and put it back together again like my technology class did, for example. This, however, is the vast minority of graduate school. Most of it winds up being busy work, because we already learned it on the job. Yet we can’t claim to know it officially because we don’t have the little piece of MLIS paper.
I place value in the MLIS. It’s supposed to be there to show that we have the special skill set we need to be the best librarians we can be. Yet, in most graduate programs, that isn’t the case. They waste time explaining the reference interview to us instead of helping us understand how to create studies and get published in scholarly journals; something that is necessary for many librarians to advance in their fields. Instead of discussing innovations, we waste time going over old, out-dated management strategies. It’s mind-bogglingly frustrating to a young librarian, and worse it’s stagnating the profession.
I repeatedly see students who have near to zero understanding of technology, Web 2.0, or even just of where their patrons will be coming from breezing through courses that should be difficult. These graduate programs are granting the MLIS to people who, frankly, are not qualified to be a great librarian in the coming decades. Sure, they’re qualified to be average, but shouldn’t our graduate programs be assisting us in becoming great? I don’t want to hold a degree that denotes averageness. I want my degree to be proof that I am a great librarian. I want my graduate program to challenge me. I want to come away feeling that I learned something valuable that I can then take to my library and utilize to improve it. I don’t want to come away from my program feeling that it’s just me wasting my time demonstrating that my job already taught me how to do these things.
Graduate programs are valuable, but they need to understand where students are coming from. Most MLIS students have some to a lot of experience in a library. The coursework should address the things we won’t learn on the job, as well as future innovations and skill sets we will need to advance in the field. They shouldn’t consist of busywork. Yet, I’m practical to the core. I know I need my MLIS to advance in the field, so I will continue to complete my busywork and attempt not to bang my head on my desk too often….or at least pad it with bubble-wrap first.