Librarian gap? This again?

Apparently University of Missouri-Columbia got a big grant through IMLS to help them train more librarians. Apparently this is because there is a librarian shortage. They are not even trying to bring up numbers to justify this anymore, there are just statements like this

“With only a certain number of accredited programs, we can only graduate so many people a year,” [Professor John] Budd said. “There is a bit of a supply-and-demand inequality.”

Reading the actual grant guidelines is less of an exercise in tooth-gnashery than reading the way it is portrayed in the article.

10 thoughts on “Librarian gap? This again?

  1. I can believe that Missouri has a librarian-recruitment problem, but graduating more newbie MLSes isn’t going to help them.

  2. Ahh, well no. The grant was not to produce more librarians, but to support doctoral level work in librarianship. We are faced with a genuine shortage of faculty members who have worked in, or care about, or understand, libraries. We have information geeks coming out of our ears, but librarians are in really short supply. Read my article, The Coming Crisis in Education for Librarianship in American Libraries last October for more details.

    And Dorothea may doubt all she wants, but the vast majority of our grads go directly into jobs, and we get calls from employers asking for more.

    Geographic mobility is the key. If you insist on not moving away from the place you got your degree, of course there won’t be jobs. Start with a list of places you *won’t* go and everything else is a possibility.

    the professor

  3. from the article:
    “There is a looming national shortage of librarians due to retirement,” said Eileen Maxwell, a spokeswoman for the institute [IMLS].

    sigh. the “librarians are retiring in waves!!” meme rears its head.
    [rolls eyes]

  4. I think that Prof. Seavey is and Dorothea are probably both right: having geographic mobility and a willingness to work for a pittance will get you a job. Sigh. I have neither.

  5. A year into the new online MLIS at Rutgers (which I heartedly *do not* recommend – they do not have their act together at all) we met face to face and the admin’s asked us why those of us who are not working in libraries or education currently have made that jump to library school – and at least 4 people (of about 16) mentioned the supposed looming librarian shortage and fears that their current employment was dissapearing out from under them and being a librarian was going to save their homes/families etc.

    So sad.

  6. Yes, all the jibber-jabber about librarian shortage is a bit of a crock and the institutions seem hell-bent on glutting the market with more and more. However, the IMLS grant, as the professor points out, is to train PhDs. My impression is that while the Masters level librarian situation is iffy, there is a real need for more well-trained PhDs to think deeply, do smart research and teach well. I haven’t encountered many of those, so I’m all for training many more. More good librarian PhDs is a good thing for everybody.

  7. Shrug. There’s lots of practitioners thinking deeply, doing smart research, and teaching well (*points up at our hostess*). I don’t think it takes an IMLS grant to realize that there’s an untapped teaching-labor pool there — it just takes letting go of the Ph.D fetish.

  8. This is an interesting line of comments. Since my name is mentioned I feel rather obliged to say something. First, yes Charley Seavey is correct; being mobile is a huge plus when it comes to getting a job. As for data, I can only say that our graduates who aren’t place-bound are getting excellent positions across the country.

    If librarianship is a genuine profession then it requires a vibrant body of knowledge. Practicing professionals contribute mightily, but a group of trained researchers can also help. Is there a disconnect between education and the profession? To a very substantial degree the answer is yes. Can something be done about the disconnect? Yes, but the impetus must come from the profession and mainly in the form of accreditation. In short, there are some positive steps we can all take.

  9. Problem with training doctoral library educators is that the very essence of what they are doing (research and teaching) distances them from their subject (what happens in libraries).

    While acquiring my MLS, I came to a realization pretty quickly: the professors had a very vaporous grasp on library workflow and technology (we cataloged on paper using an old version of the DDC our Prof. felt comfortable with (i.e. he didn’t want to learn a new version), which is great if an errant time machine ever deposits you in 1965). The part-time and guest faculty, mostly library directors and assistant directors, taught us how to deal with real-life situations in all areas of library service.

    I am succeeding in libraries because of my natural strengths (cold-blooded workaholic with good networking skills) rather than my library school education. LIS PhDs are a negative value commodity in today’s information age.

  10. Soviet_Bear, I think whether library educators are down with real world skills or not depends greatly upon the individual instructors and institutions. A blanket statement that library PhDs are out of touch is IMO an overstatement.

    My experience back in the early 90s was completely different from yours, and Professors Seavey and Budd were two of the three instructors whom I credit for imparting the real world library knowledge to allow me to successfully navigate the path to Library Director. This was during a period where the college administration were trying their darndest to distance the school from the “L” word in every way possible. Of course we were all younger then, and perhaps they’ve ossified in their pedagogical style, but somehow I doubt it. Professor Seavey’s concern about PhD’s who have relevant library experience reassures me. Lord save us all from the “information specialists” I interview who think librarian is a dirty word.

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