Be cool, stay in school?

During my application process to different library schools, one of the requirements of an application was to interview a librarian in a position that we were interested in. When I went to interview my librarian, I found out that she was also the head of the faculty department and was in charge of hiring. She told me that when I graduate I would be going up against people with Ph.D’s and years of experience to get jobs. She wasn’t cheerful or overly encouraging of my future endeavors. I walked away from that situation feeling slightly puzzled and discouraged, not understanding her attitude. Reflecting back on that, I realize that she was perhaps trying to dissuade me!

There’s this idea out there that people who don’t know anything about librarianship or technology should be weeded out of the programs. After reading this interesting post on dissuading some students to quit school , it got me thinking about the issues surrounding this. There’s plenty of opinion that some of these schools are guilty of being “degree mills” and are contributing to the flooding of the job market. There are too many graduates (well educated, and undereducated) and not enough jobs, which creates a terrible unemployment cycle for everyone. We’ve all heard it before. The dissuasion perspective suggests that those who don’t seem like library material should drop out, but I’m not sure I agree. I do think that if the course load was more difficult, people would just opt out of the program themselves; but I seriously don’t see how the work could be made more difficult without a complete overhaul of the library education system.

The other issue I have with the dissuasion mentality is that collaboration is such a key part of librarianship. I find it very hard not to help other students who are struggling. I want to help others if I can, it’s part of my nature and what drew me to this field. I’ve heard horror stories about other graduate programs where students deliberately try to sabotage each other because their field is so competitive. Has this field gotten to the point that people are so disheartened about the job market that interested students need to be discouraged?

It’s probably not necessary to talk someone out of the degree; but it could be helpful to at least have a realistic sense of the issues surrounding the library world. This is most likely what the librarian I had initially interviewed was doing, trying to give me a reality check. Instead of leaving students high and dry, a good dose of reality should be encouraged instead. Practical projects where students can observe and see what really happens in the library, might help the misguided by letting them see what skills are needed and what librarians actually do. Also, having provocative conversations in the classroom to allow for this kind of discourse helps open eyes, at least it did for me. For now, I don’t have any real solutions, but by sharing information and helping each other, we can add more value to this degree.