Changing Roles: Degreed Prototypes
07/14/2011 6 Comments
Writing my last post, on changing roles of reference librarians, it occurred to me that I was topically in the same room as degree relevance and deprofessionalization. And while I generally try to stay away from that room, I felt compelled to acknowledge the presence of those looming subjects and apply them to changing and developing librarian roles.
In that last post, a commenter expressed a preference (in all caps) that altered reference positions be filled by librarians, as opposed to non-librarians. Well done. After all, libraries have a responsibility to information literacy, and we can only reasonably expect that responsibility to be fulfilled by librarians. Yet, while this may seem like a no-brainer to you and me, our libraries and our profession are constantly threatened by deprofessionalization, privatization, and a seeming litany of other problematic zations.
In discourse regarding evolving LIS roles, these topics surface almost invariably, and with good reason, particularly in the public sector where funds allocation is ruled by so many circumstances. And if Jeff Trzeciak’s recent presentation at McMaster University is indicative of anything, it’s that professional librarianship faces pressure and scrutiny not only from the outside. Whether the CS degree might obviate the MLIS, the paraprofessional might replace the librarian, or any number of anxieties related to the forced obsolescence of the degreed librarian, there are always concerns when we talk about librarian evolution.
While academic libraries are at the center of the McMaster brush fire, we’re all part of the same profession. As such, we continue to discuss and to adapt and create. The more I see of prototypical librarian roles, the more encouraged I am that public libraries have the right people in place to affect change. In my odd little world, professional librarian roles aren’t outsourced or pushed to non-LIS people. That’s to say nothing of veteran library staff without a library degree or self-avowed shambrarians. There are plenty of non-degreed people who’ve held down reference desks or whole libraries for 10 or 20 years without the “librarian” title. I’m concerned here with job descriptions–altered professional functions and developing positions.
And while the profession is flavored with people who question the necessity of a master’s program in library science, I find their arguments largely counterintuitive. New professional librarian roles should be performed by people who function with the unique perspective and particular knowledge base of the degreed librarian. Again, no matter the myriad services our institutions offer, at the end of the day, we’ve got to be sure we’re serving information literacy.
As expectations of libraries change, it’s natural that the expertise and functions of the degreed librarian will change synchronously. The MLIS is the minimal requirement and should be regarded as such. Its sustained relevance and its value to developing librarian positions is the onus of library school administrators. They’re smart people. I trust them.