Monday, June 20, 2011

Need for Certification (Was: Graduate student cat question)

Posting to Autocat

On 19/06/2011 08:26, Jennifer Morrissey-Myatt wrote:
I am a MLIS graduate student and will be in my final semester at SJSU this fall. I have not taken any cataloging classes but I did complete two internships to learn cataloging as well as coursework for LIBR240 Information Technology& Tools (I somehow thought it was cataloging related - not sure what I was thinking there).

In my job at the Yolo County Library, I completed a 4-week online course on cataloging basics and am currently training on the job to learn cataloging.

My question is this: in the real world of library jobs, would this alternate way of learning cataloging qualify in place of coursework in LIBR 248& 249 (beginning& advanced cat)?
I agree with the comments the others have given, but there is still a major sticking point in all of this: certification. If a professional field demands a special certification, then that should at least count for something. In this case, the certification is the MLIS. After getting the master's degree, you can find yourself in a very ambiguous situation: you are not a librarian, you are not a cataloger, you are not a manager. In fact, after receiving the degree, it's probably easier to describe "what you are" by "what you are not", since what has really happened is: you have finally arrived at the starting line. It seems that in earlier times, organizations accepted this more easily: the recent graduate had "paid his or her dues," had shown they were serious in devoting themselves to the profession, so the organization would then be willing to risk the real resources to train you into the profession of reference, or cataloging, or acquisitions, or rare books, or whatever. It seems as if organizations are much less willing to do this today and prefer people to arrive "already trained".

Of course, this is unfair to the recent graduate and also unfair to those who teach the master's programs since the idea of education was never to produce finished professionals. Even law schools, business  schools or medical schools do not do that. Still, we can bemoan what has happened, but we nevertheless have to deal with the facts as they are.

Do you need an entire MLIS to become a cataloger? No. And probably most people who took a cataloging class 30 years ago have forgotten practically all of it. Therein lies the problem why some are devaluing  the degree, for some of the latest controversy, see

Jeffrey Trzeciak wants to hire PhDs instead of people with an MLIS. My own opinion is that he is making precisely the same error except on a different scale: someone who has only gone to school and wound up with a PhD, although that is certainly good, that person is in exactly the same situation as I mentioned above: you are still not a librarian, you are still not a cataloger, you are still not a manager; you are standing at the starting line, only now you have a PhD instead of an MLIS.

Whether the MLIS is retained as a prerequisite or not, I think more and more that a separate certification for the field of "metadata creation" should be required and updated periodically, much like a doctor or dentist. If that were the case, I think the field of cataloging would command much more respect.

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