ACAT Editorial by LJ about the worth of an MLS

Posting to Autocat

On 15/12/2014 7.57, Gene Fieg wrote:

While roaming around on the Web, I found this article published in Dec. 2014:
What do you think about it? For me, yes, I had experience in doing library work, but library school organized it for me.

I did notice that the author says he is the editor-in-chief, while the journal lists him as the former editor in chief–a discrepancy that a librarian, especially In authority work, would correct. No?
Anyway, when a library publication denigrates cataloging, where do we go from here in our profession–at least we think it is. Others apparently do not.

More and more people are questioning the value of a college education more generally, and not just the MLIS. The media arguments coming from the book “Academically Adrift” are an example; another example is a recent article from Forbes (of all places), but these kinds of articles can be multiplied easily.

There is a basic problem: a college education has never been designed to produce trained workers. They don’t do vocational education and never have. Perhaps Music school is different, as Michelene Orteza mentioned. But someone fresh out of law school is not a decent lawyer yet: they will be chewed up by experienced lawyers and are only at the beginning of their careers; the same goes for doctors and so on. In school, what you really learn is how to write some papers and answer test questions well enough to pass the classes, but to learn how to practice law, medicine, or how to catalog, takes experience in the field. In library school I learned a lot of things–the overwhelming majority of which I have forgotten now–and it was only in the “real world” that I began to understand what I had been taught. I discovered that a lot of what I had been taught was right, but a lot was completely wrong as well.

Right now in our difficult economic times, there is this conundrum where the vast majority of people are in college not to “discover themselves” but *to get a decent job* so that they can start on their lives, getting married, raising a family and so on. Colleges insist that they are not in the business of vocational education, but something different. At the same time, companies no longer seem to want to train people who are fresh out of college and want people with experience. The new graduates are caught in the middle. It’s difficult.

About people denigrating cataloging–that’s been going on for a long, long time. Catalogers must start to prove that their catalogs are worth the added value, otherwise the nay sayers, e.g. “Giving up on discovery”, will win the day. And it’s not enough simply to talk about how great our catalogs are at giving “access”, people no longer believe it. We have to prove it to a business mind-set that prefers algorithms to people. Although the questions are different, I think the challenge is similar to what Antonio Panizzi faced all those years ago.

Panizzi triumphed in the face of almost overwhelming odds, but will we? I think we can, but will we? Only time will tell.