Saturday, August 25, 2007


Our Density

(From the to be posted but never finished files -- now that I have my desk back, I'm starting the process of clearing out everything else!)

There's been another little flurry of posts and articles about "The Future Of Libraries." Here, a choice few:

If Libraries had shareholders
If Public Libraries Didn't Exist, Could you Start One Today?
Future of Librarians Interviews (Degreetutor)
The Ultimate Debate: Do Libraries Innovate?

I think many of us are frantic, not necessarily about the future of libraries -- many of which are doing quite well, thank you -- but of the future of librarians and librarianship, at least as we have traditionally conceived of the profession.

Library Web Chic points to Ross Singer's Union Card post about an MLS requirement for a technology position, and lists a number of factors going into her institution's decision to require an MLS for a web services coordinator position -- one of which involves the ability to do a national search for a position classified as "librarian" rather than "staff." Commenting on a question raised in her post, Blake notes: "Q: why would I want my web developers to have MLSs? A: Your librarians won’t respect them if they don’t."

Both of these points speak more to the way we have defined "librarian" and "staff" than to any actual abilities on the part of these potential hires. Given the changes in our profession and the emergence of jobs that didn't even exist 15, 20 years ago, is the MLS actually still necessary for all of these positions? More than one commentator has pointed out the lack of rigor and currency inherent in some MLS programs and the need for changes in curricula and standards. All right, but we're using that MLS as the union card now, despite the huge variation in what grads have learned and experienced. Why are we so scared to admit that not every "librarian-level" position in libraries requires an MLS?

On a related note, I'm looking forward to the imminent publication of Information Tomorrow, a collection of "reflections on technology and the future of public and academic libraries" that I edited. (I'm waiting on PDFs from ITI, and will post here when my own page, with sample content, is up.) Reading contributors' varied perspectives was fascinating, and hopefully it will attract readership and spark conversation among folks who don't necessarily frequent the biblioblogosphere.

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