Yeah, it’s that old topic again. You know, the “should you ever bother with the MLIS?” problem. Only slightly different. In this version it’s the “I got the MLIS so I shouldn’t be expected to do that” argument. Andy Woodworth sort of stepped in it with his post The Masters Degree Misperception. He writes:

It is a disservice to the education, to the degree, and to the profession when the bulk of a librarian’s daily tasks could be performed by someone with a GED. It does not take a master’s degree to place a hold on a book, clear a copier, push in chairs, tell people they are being loud, shelve items, or other similar tasks. When librarians are seen doing this and then told there is an advanced degree requirement, there is a reasoning dissonance that occurs in the outside observer.

You should go read it. It’s interesting, but not entirely on point. I like that it’s a more nuanced version of “what’s the point” with a little bit of elitism thrown in. You know that feeling, “I got my masters for this?” (Or maybe you don’t?) You should also read Emily Lloyd’s response, which I also enjoyed.

Now of course, I have to make it about me because isn’t everything about me? (That’s supposed to be a joke.) This week our student employees have had erratic schedules because it’s the first week of classes and they’re getting their own situations settled. As a result, I have spent quite a bit of time checking books out, putting holds on things, and fixing the printer. Did I go to grad school to do any of these? (Maybe the printer since it was a networking issue one of the times…) Not exactly, but I did go to grad school to be a good librarian and make our library a better, more service oriented space. If that means slumming on the circ desk, so be it. I say slumming it with sarcasm, because I think it’s really important to understand your patron’s experience with all aspects of the library.

Andy tries to soothe things over a bit with language about how his idea really can only be applied to large libraries, but I’m not buying it so much. So the degree should mean you’re only involved with planning and management and high level research? Then how will you stay connected with your users? It’s been a growing trend where more and more degreed librarians are being taken off the reference desks and given office hours instead. It’s got to suck to be taken away from the users like that. I love the fact that I spend 20 hours a week on a reference desk looking out to a library full of students and really getting an idea of what they’re doing. Even if it means that a lot of my interactions with them are for things that don’t really require my degree, it benefits me a lot as a professional.

8 thoughts on “I got a degree so I could fix the printer?

  1. Another point worth adding: pulling librarians off of the reference desk can cause patrons to think that anyone can do their job. I like working closely with the people I serve because it lets me do two things at once: 1. serve their needs and 2. prove that what I do is actually hard at times.

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  2. Last year on the Solos list-serve there was an extended discussion on this topic….ranging from the kind of extreme viewpoint you mention to some solos saying, “I do anything that adds value.” I think the solution is somewhere in between. “Anything that adds value” sounds like a very slippery slope to me, and yet I also acknowledge that when I help someone with the copier they will tend to see me as a friendly, resourceful person the next time they need something more related to my job. I hate making name tents, but have to do it twice a year and there is no getting out of it in a small organization with no support staff, so I am getting over it.

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  3. Most of the “menial” tasks usually fall under the “other duties as assigned” clause that seems to be universal in job descriptions. Since I wear the hats of both Technical Services Librarian and IT Department, I’m used to those “other duties as assigned,” and I’m not worried about what may come my way. Just do the job that the patrons require and things’ll be okay!

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