To MLS or Not to MLS
I’ve been working in public libraries for two years now, and I’ve noticed this discussion arise with great regularity both online and IRL. When I worked in school libraries, it was never a discussion. In the state where I worked an MLS was a requirement to be hired as a school library media specialist. We all had the degree, most of us from the same three (then 4) schools that were available in the state. And I will (braggingly) say that we all had fairly positive experiences with our degrees, as far as I know. I never heard anyone say that they felt their degree program was a waste of time, or that they could be doing their job without it. Maybe it was just a perception on my part, or maybe it was just peer pressure? Or maybe it’s the fact that there’s no one there to train you – you have to hit the ground running.
And just to reveal my prejudice in the debate even more, I didn’t work in libraries before I got my degree. When I went to library school, I wasn’t entirely sure what type of library I wanted to work in – all possibilities were open to me. What I learned in library school has served me really well over the years, and I sincerely enjoyed the experience. In fact, library school was the first time in my academic career where I felt what I was learning was a perfect marriage of theory and practice that prepared me well for the profession.
Since I’ve been in the public library arena, however, I’ve heard a number of people disparage the degree as unnecessary. And perhaps it is for them? Maybe their library system did such an amazing job of training them that it completely obviated the need for a masters degree? Or maybe that, combined with say 10 years of on the job experience? I just don’t know.
And I wonder if this is a common discussion in other professions where you might need a specific degree to ‘get ahead.’ Does the business community, for instance, have similar discussions surrounding the value of the MBA degree?
Well, dear readers, what do you think? Did you get good value from your MLS, or was it a waste of time? Or do you have mixed feelings? Let me know in the comments.
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About Robin Willis
After working in middle school libraries for over 20 years, Robin Willis now works in a public library system in Maryland.
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