Anatomy of a Trick
05/04/2011 3 Comments
If you haven’t seen it yet, have a look at the “Anatomy of a Librarian” graphic from master-degree-online.com.
Insomuch as it’s a representation of what librarians are all about, this graphic is not necessarily worth getting all bent out of shape about. Yet it is cause for some concern regarding the bigger picture. Many LIS people, including PC Sweeney and Stephen Abram, are poking at the thing with sticks to see what it is and whether it’s alive. And with good reason.
My concern with this graphic is not one of misrepresentation. I’m sure some research (possibly unscientific) was done to corroborate the list of librarians’ interests. And while many librarians’ salaries haven’t yet approached the halfway mark, the average here surely includes salaries of library staff in large metropolitan areas where costs of living are reflected and where funding has long been relatively safeguarded. In the City of Chicago, it doesn’t take a public librarian a decade to reach $60K. Notable is the fine print beneath the salary stat. The disclaimer states that the average salary is specific to librarians with ALA-accredited degrees, while I suspect many of the online library programs supported here don’t enjoy ALA accreditation.
For the most part, I’m fine with the infographic’s content. It’s rather benign in and of itself. My primary concern regarding this graphic and any graphic of this kind is with its intent and its potential effects. This graphic wasn’t created by a library entity. It’s a corporate graphic created for master-degree-online.com, a website paid to sell online degree programs. While some universities associated with the site are fully accredited ones like Northwestern and USC, most are for-profit schools. I’ll assume the general differences among for-profit schools, nonprofit private schools and public universities are common knowledge and leave dishonest recruiting practices and accreditation shortcomings for another post.
Purely as a persuasive advertisement for online degree programs, this stylized graphic supports for-profit LIS degree programs using misleading information to market potentially empty degrees to an already-flooded market. And that’s a problem. Clever word choice also skirts the issue of the greying profession. The ad states that “a large number of librarians are likely to retire in the coming decade.” The operative word here is decade. Ten years is a long time. Historically, it also takes a nation a long time to recover from prolonged recessions. So unless our government gets us out of the financial sewer we’re currently in, that large number of librarians may not be enjoying retirement until the second half of that decade.
My advice is to the target demographic–the potential students who may be swayed by this kind of ad: be vigilant. For-profit schools serve a niche market. For various reasons, many people don’t make the cut at public and private universities or can’t procure tuition funds. For-profit schools get you the money and put you in a seat. Do your homework about for-profit degrees, online schools, accreditation, and employment markets. It’s awfully difficult to pay back an expensive student loan when you’re at the bottom of the heap in a frozen market.