Monday, March 12, 2012

Guilty as Charged, or Yet Another MLIS Post

The Library Loon has glibly captured the sentiments, if not the actual words, of the Beerbrarian within the first sentence of her most recent post on rigor in Masters of Library and Information Science programs. The Loon's chief complaint with the Beerbrarian's suggestion on improving library schools is that doing so would make them more like regular graduate schools. On this point, the Beerbrarian is guilty as charged, hence, his apologies to those who've already seen this deceased horse, the title of this post.

The Beerbrarian has worked in many libraries, all of them academic in nature. The Beerbrarian is also a product of a liberal arts education and a Master's program in addition to his MLIS. The Beerbrarian has cognitive biases. He sees academic, regular graduate school nails with his cognitive hammer. That should not have happened, and will not henceforth. The Beerbrarian is most grateful to commenter Eric on this point, and to the Library Loon for hammering it home, if you will, the next day.

And yet, the "soulless bankrupt moribund enterprise" that is regular graduate school prepared the Beerbrarian well for an MLIS. Perhaps too well. The MLIS was, with a few notable exceptions, much easier than regular graduate school for the Beerbrarian. He maintains that the student population he encountered in regular graduate school seemed, on balance, more intelligent than his MLIS cohort. Just as troubling, the MLIS program was nowhere near as stimulating for the Beerbrarian, though he admits your mileage may vary, and it is damning with faint praise that each of these Masters programs seemed equally divorced from reality in his eyes.

The Beerbrarian also pleads guilty to "the union card" critique. The Beerbrarian, prior to entering a library and information science program, had already worked in circulation; preservation, including digitization; and cataloging at a variety of academic institutions, large and small. He also arrived with five years of teaching experience at an R1, albeit the majority of those as a teaching assistant. He knew to advance he needed an MLIS. The Beerbrarian did not arrive at an MLIS program with a chip on his shoulder, but did arrive with an ego, perhaps justifiably so when compared to many of his 22-year old colleagues, so many of who seemed unsure of the real world, united only by their love of reading. Could the Beerbrarian have learned more with a more open mind? No doubt. Did the Beerbrarian work as hard as he could have? No. Disdainful and entitled? To a degree. Lazy? At times. On these last two matters, the Beerbrarian guesses he was not above average in either of these conceits among his cohort. Did the Beerbrarian take only the easiest classes and skate by? Absolutely not. He took courses on what interested him and on what skills he did not already have or wanted to improve, such as copyright, adult reference services (the former), digitization, information literacy, and research methodologies (the latter). He sought out people who would put in their fair share on group projects and assignments, and is pleased that he is still friends with and collaborates with many of these colleagues.

The Beerbrarian is also pleased that this discussion is taking place, for it is one worth having. He asks you to please read commenter Eric's and The Library Loon's suggestions for improving the Masters experience in library school, such as portfolios, capstone experiences, and assignments with grounding in the real world of librarianship, among others. For academic librarians, and possibly others, the Beerbrarian maintains that some trappings of regular graduate school are necessary, and that some combination of theory and praxis is ideal for all. He knows that on this, the Loon agrees. He also knows that the ALA is made up of librarian members, all of whom have a vested interest in the profession of librarianship, in the many forms that may take. He encourages each and every one of us to do what we can to improve MLIS programs, be it at the national level, or a local one, such as teaching at a library school or mentoring new and prospective library(-ish) professionals.

In light of the above, the Beerbrarian is thrilled to learn that the ALA is considering some changes to its accreditation regime, and hopes that these are both procedural and substantive in nature. He also hopes that instructors like the Loon share what works in terms of MLIS instruction. The Beerbrarian guesses that within hide-bound MLIS programs, there are quite a few innovative instructors, assignments, and teaching methods to be publicized and celebrated.

1 comment:

  1. For what it is worth, in the Loon's mind "union carding" is not at all the same thing as having extensive library experience on matriculation. The Loon's school actually selects for the latter, and the Loon is fully in charity with that admission criterion.

    A true union carder is convinced from the outset that library school has nothing whatever to teach; s/he confirms that view by intentionally selecting the classes that will least challenge, and doing the least work possible to get by in them (often to the irritation of classmates doing group work, and greatly to the irritation of the Loon).

    The Loon understands how union carders get to be the way they are. Some elements of the current librarianate are profoundly uninspiring, she has no choice but to admit; while some of that may be owed to uninspiring library schools, the Loon is unwilling to accept blame for all of it.

    You, having sought out the good and taken it with the bad, are entirely entitled to critique your library-school experience; the Loon did not mean to imply otherwise, and is sorry if she did.