Does a Degree a Librarian Make?

The debate has been going on for years, and has recently flared up again on PUBLIB : Does a person need the MLIS degree to do the work of a librarian?

LISNews has decided to take a poll (and encourage discussion)….

Comment : I have been thinking about this issue, and related questions, for many years.  Because of budgetary pressure, support staff have been taking on duties that in the past were considered the role of librarians.  Depending on the library (size, budget, structure, role) there are different answers as to what should and should not be done by various people.

I maintain that training is the key.  The better everyone knows everyone else’s job, the more efficient the library will be.  This means that there should be very few “walls” between job duties.  Personnel issues (hiring, firing, etc.) and certain confidential issues (financial accounts, security) should be kept within a walled garden (but never with only one person!).  Otherwise, everyone should know at lease something about all other duties performed in the library.

This leads to another point : training and knowledge need to be respected at all levels.  Understand and respect that which the MLIS librarian knows and applies to his or her job.  There are years of training behind that degree, and those of us who learn on the job (and on our own) would do well to keep that in mind.  Conversely, librarians should keep in mind that support staff bring a great deal to the table, and it is impossible to know just what we have to offer until you open yourselves to our input.

I worked as a technician in a pharmacy for eight years, and was mistaken for a pharmacist more times than I can recall. Each time was a sobering reminder to never allow my actions or speech to exceed my knowledge, because it carried far more weight than my simple certification could bear.

In libraries, we all need to heed that advice.  Understand what you know; more importantly, understand what you don’t know.  Being a librarian doesn’t mean that you know more about someone’s job simply because that job is support staff.  It doesn’t even mean that you know more about esoteric “library stuff” than someone without the degree.

The same goes, as you can guess, in the reverse.  The key is respect.  Respect each other.  Respect the job.  Respect the degree.  Respect the person’s training and knowledge.  Respect everyone, and expect the same in return.

Make that your mantra : Respect and Expect.

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