Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Librarians are the secret masters of the universe.

It finally happened. In the past few weeks, I’ve been asked TWICE if I think libraries are still important. If I think having an MLIS is both necessary and/or important to having a Librarian job, that “anyone” can work at the library. And more so, technology is just going to take over anyway, so what’s the point of continuing to fund libraries? I honestly thought I’d be more prepared for this question. After all, I grew up in the library, I am a Librarian, and I paid good money for my degree. But both times when asked, I came up blank. How do I answer such questions?

1) In recent weeks/months, I’ve had several people ask me if I’ve seen that my alma matter, Simmons College (now Simmons University) has moved its Library and Information School into being a “department”. Clearly, this means, they are angling to close the program all together? Yes, Simmons combined with the Computer Science programs, and is moving their programs more towards Information Science. Do I think this means they are closing the program? No. I think it simply means Simmons is moving towards the trend of being a traditional “i-school”. Quite honestly, I think more schools should. The library profession is changing, is becoming more tech-heavy. Browse library jobs, and many now ask require their staff to know systems and technology requirements. Knowing SQL or certain computer languages is no longer an uncommon thing in libraries. Our roles, and the degrees we need, are changing to adapt to the world libraries now live, this does not mean library schools are disappearing.

2) Anyone can be a librarian, right??? I think this is a common misconception. There are certain jobs in the library, which do not require a MLIS. I do not think this means those people cannot use “Librarian” in their title, especially if the title itself has the word “Librarian” in it. But I also believe there are certain positions and jobs which do and should require an MLIS. Since graduating with my MLIS, I’ve argued the degree, at its core, is a research degree. And there are still places where having that degree, and having that research core is still important. Working outside the traditional sector, every library job I’ve applied for, all require an MLIS. Requires someone with a knowledge of library systems, taxonomies, metadata schemas, and research components. Are these things one can learn on the job? Sure, but having the degree, I find, means I have a deeper understanding than by just learning it on the job.

3) Technology is going to take over anyway, and soon libraries will be obsolete. This is not a new argument. Ebooks first came on the market, and oh, no one would want to read paper books anymore. Audiobooks came out, and oh, no one would want to read paper books anymore. People still read paper books. Library vendors are not hiring Librarians, and are moving into software development, and away from library services. There will always be library vendors. If one company moves away from providing library services, another company will step in to fill the gap. Libraries will continue to provide services. They’ll continue to be a community focal point. Proving books (electronic, audio, and yes, print). They’ll offer programs, and job help. Librarians will continue to provide taxonomies and research, and perhaps more and more, IT help.

Libraries are not going anywhere. Librarians are not going anywhere. We’re just always adapting.


  1. This is a great post.I have had these questions a time or two too (save for the question about Simmons making the lib school a department). I couldn't agree more about the comment that libraries and librarians are not going anywhere and just adapting. The work that librarians do is now needed more than ever and libraries have not been more relevant in a society with an increasing income inequality and vibrant digital divide. Thanks for posting.

    1. Thanks so much for commenting! You hear so much how libraries, and librarians, contribute to their communities, to then hear they're obsolete is so far from the truth.