Re: [ACAT] Tell all your associates, don’t go to library school.

Posting to Autocat

On 19/06/2012 21:27, Flynn, Emily wrote concerning the Forbes story that the worst master’s degree is an MLIS (

However, on InfoDocket today, the Colorado Library Research Service Blog was featured with their 60-second poll “The Value of an MLIS to You”:
And Annoyed Librarian already has had her say on the matter:
Degrees and jobs are what we make of them, as well as what people are able/willing to take.  </snip>

There are more blog posts on this report too. While I may not like what the report says, the question is not so much the current state of librarianship, but this article is for someone considering getting an MLIS, so it assesses future prospects in terms of ROI–return on investment. So, is traditional librarianship a growth field? Will it hold steady? Or does it seem as if it will decrease?

Of course, this is predicting the future so you may as well try to divine it from one of the methods mentioned here: As an aside, in ancient times the Roman augurs would try to predict which future course of affairs would have the blessings of the gods by watching the flights of birds. They really are fascinating and I never tire of watching them. I found an example: If you are close, huge parts of the sky can fill up with birds! Of course, augurs couldn’t really predict the future with these birds or with any other methods, they could only make educated guesses, and this is what the Forbes article is doing.

If you are trying to give useful information to someone who wants a career, the question: “does traditional librarianship really have a future?” seems perfectly natural. And does it have such a future that someone should risk making a bet of going into debt for tens of thousands of dollars? I think that already, the library is seen by members of the public more and more as a kind of “community gathering place” and one option to try to get something when it’s not online for free, but libraries are seen much less as a place to go for information. Especially current information. That is a change that should not be underestimated.

So long as publishers maintain their attitude of no reasonably priced ebooks, printed books will remain the best option and therefore, libraries will be needed as a place for the physical copies. But this obviously cannot go on forever and sooner or later, publishers will be forced to give what the public wants: ebooks and other materials that are much more reasonably priced. But these providers are, and will be, far more interested in selling to *individuals* than to libraries since they will be able to sell many more copies and for other reasons, such as direct advertising. Therefore, a service such as Amazon Prime (including movies and TV shows, but it could include music and other resources as well) could be much more attractive. Just let people check out more than 1 book a week, especially students. Right now, it’s $79 a year, which could even go down as more people joined or even entire communities. With competition from Google Books + Videos, ITunes, and Microsoft will do something plus many others I am sure, matters are set to change radically and fundamentally, while prices will in all probability, not go up radically. The question “does traditional librarianship really have a future?” seems even more pointed.

I think library skills and library ethics do have a future and that future could even be bright, but the field must change in radical ways. What is the most radical proposal from libraries now? While there is the Digital Public Library of America that some are trying to build, it is good project, but I see it as just another version of what the other, *big* information agencies are creating, so I can’t see the DPLA as all that radical, just going along with the flow. So what is the most radical proposal? RDA and FRBR. Give me a break!

I can certainly understand how someone, especially outside the field, could say that the prospects for an MLIS graduate are poor. We need new directions.