Last month Chris Bourg, started a brief discussion on Twitter about the importance of the MLS to the Library profession. The tweet that started it was:
Submitted for debate: MLS is neither a necessary nor sufficient indicator of "librarian-ness".Though the discussion didn't last very long and didn't go as far I would have liked it did raise familiar feelings, thoughts and questions I have any time the issue or the importance of the MLS comes up in conversation. It brought on Confusion & Conflict - for me it raises plenty of questions. And never provides very many clearly defined answers.
— Chris Bourg (@mchris4duke) March 26, 2014
I cannot decide whether the MLS and its importance to the Library Profession is a good thing.
Or is it a bad thing?
Or is it both?
Is it a necessary thing for you to be a librarian?
Is having it sufficient for you to be a librarian?
Does it damage our profession?
Or without it would our profession be damaged?
I ask myself and cannot definitively answer - do you really need a library qualification 'to be' a librarian?
And why do we put so much store in this qualification if it, as Bourg bluntly states, is neither a necessity or sufficient indicator of 'librarian-ness'?
Or is Chris Bourg wrong?
Is MLS indeed a necessary and sufficient indicator of "librarian-ness"?
I also ask myself am I actually a better librarian for having my library qualification?
Are my hard working colleagues who do not have a qualification, some who have years of experience over me, any less a 'librarian' than me?
Why should they, as is the practice in many if not all libraries, be disqualified from applying for 'professional' posts when they arise?
Or should anybody be able to apply for professional library posts?
Should a person with years of managerial experience, but no library experience, be able to apply for a professional library post safe in the knowledge that they have a chance of being hired?
Does the MLS create and perpetuate a glass ceiling? A financial glass ceiling. Is it a creator of an Us and a Them?
Does it create a glass ceiling based on money and not on merit? [If such a glass ceiling can exist? Or are we in oxymoron territory?]
Objectively, does a piece of paper I gained after three years of distance learning elevate me above people who don't have this piece of paper?
Does this piece of paper confer librarian-ness on you?
Are librarians who qualified, say 25 or 30 years ago, necessarily better qualified to run a library of today: a library most likely very different to that in which they qualified all those years ago?
Does somebody who has just completed their MLS but never worked in a library have the indicators of 'librarian-ness'?
Would somebody who doesn't have an MLS and hasn't worked in a library before be able to manage a library team and run a library well?
If yes, what does this say about our profession?
What are those necessary indicators of 'librarian-ness' that Chris mentions?
Do we all know in the abstract what they are?
And do library schools teach these?
And can they be taught?
Those of you recently qualified - were you thought these traits?
Or did you have them in you before you did your course?
In the eyes of many the MLS does matter - very much. I saw this at a discussion after this paper by Elaine Bean at the 2011 INULS conference. I found it interesting to see so many 'professional' qualified librarians get very uncomfortable listening to the paper and the comments and questions and discussion after it.
Why should we get so uncomfortable?
And with that I should perhaps stop asking questions but before then I ask just a few more: