One of the topics I’ve seen come up more and more in library blogs and on various listservs over the last few months is the future of the MLIS degree. There’s no doubt that public libraries are changing and will continue to evolve over the next several decades, and that casts some very understandable concern over the vitality of the MLIS and its equivalents.
A message by ALA President Sari Feldman in the October, 2015 issue of “American Libraries” addresses this conundrum. Ms. Feldman acknowledges that technology’s ever-changing nature makes it difficult to keep related skills and knowledge current without regular on-the-job professional development. Recent MLIS graduates frequently lament about the poor state of the current library job market, which also raises questions about the future of the degree. In her article, Feldman cites conversations with several industry leaders who weigh in on the current state of higher education. Although there are many schools of thought on the topic, it is clear that the structures of MLIS programs must change. This means both the increase of online education and the actual focuses and curricula of the programs.
To further this cause, ALA has launched two task forces specializing in accreditation of LIS programs. One, the Task Force on Accreditation Process and Communication, focuses on internal and external communication concerning the value of LIS education and its place in higher education. The other, the Task Force on the Context of Future Accreditation, will develop a white paper concerning the specifics, contexts, and values of accreditation and, based on the findings, a new framework for accreditation.
Although I was fortunate enough to receive a librarian position several months before completing my degree three years ago, enough of my peers have struggled in finding work that I am very sympathetic to the difficulties surrounding the LIS job market. Additionally, now that I am employed in library administration, I find myself saying more and more often that my degree did not prepare me for certain situations of the job. These sentiments, both of which I believe are shared by many in our field, help illustrate Feldman’s point. If our educational structure does not continue to evolve with the profession, we are ultimately doing ourselves as librarians a disservice.
There’s certainly no easy answer to this, even as the cost of higher education continues to rise. However, the development of the ALA task forces should help provide more formal and accessible research on the topic that can then be turned into policies and best practice.
What are your feelings on the MLIS?
Borman,Laurie D. “Task Forces on LIS Accreditation Announced.” American Libraries Magazine, October 30, 2015. Web. http://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/blogs/the-scoop/task-forces-on-lis-accreditation-announced/. Accessed January 5, 2016.
Feldman, Sari. “The Future of the MLIS.” American Libraries Magazine, October 30, 2015. Web. http://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2015/10/30/future-of-mlis/. Accessed January 5, 2016.
ALA Executive Board Document #12.38 presented at ALA Midwinter Meeting (Chicago, IL). 28 June 2015. http://bit.ly/1kJ8fOV. Accessed January 5, 2016.