Chiming in On the Biggies

There have been a few, ahem, debates going around and I could make a post on each of them, but things have just been too much in my home life recently, so I’m going to chime in one on one.

MLS or non-MLS?

My favorite call on this issue is coming from Dorothea Salo, but there are others by Rachel Singer Gordon and Meredith Farkas. I know great librarians of both the MLS and non-MLS variety. I am one of those who started as the latter and made the decision to got the former. I know the good, bad and ugly in both realms — but most of it from my line of view is good. I hope my colleagues do not see me as a “high and mighty OMG I have my MLS so sit back” kind of person. In fact, it was because I had a mentor that was the opposite of a HAMOMGIHMMLSSSB that I was able to gather the knowledge and skills that make me who I am today. The MLS, well it sort of helped I think. I’d say the MPA helped more, frankly — but I did have the opportunity to meet some very interesting people along the way to the MLS as well — and that did a lot too.

There is one thing that getting the MLS does do, and that is establish an accountability trail which may reduce risk in the workforce. That’s not a whole lot, but I do think it is something. One thing I find interesting is that the blogosphere may be a not-bad proxy for accreditation and the recent blab on the MLS may be a side-effect of this. David Rothman and Walt Crawford are good examples. The contribution that those blogs make to librarianship more than counts for having an accredited degree in my mind.

I think the ALA and librarian accreditation as a whole better start looking to Web 2.0 and social networking as a threat to their credibility. If the Masters is going to mean something, it ought to mean that those who came through the gate had earned it using their head, heart and body — and not just their pocketbook and ahem lips. Dorothea Salo has more to say on this.

Gaming or No-Gaming

I support gaming in public libraries. It seems to me that most of the gaming skepticism comes from non-public librarians, though I could be wrong. There are a few things that I feel are being misconceived here.

  • Public Libraries use gaming to attract teens

That’s not precisely true. If we have public computers, the teens are already there — gaming. Gaming programs are an attempt to channel the gaming energy into a community building experience. It’s noisy; it’s not books; it’s probably more fun than your average taxpayer would like to think a teen should be having in a library — but it does some very important things: a) it builds trust with teens, helping them to see the library as a positive place to be b) it engages them toward other positive — not necessarily toward books, no — but if it is staffed properly, lots of progress can be made toward strong research skills, safe internet use, respect for property, respect for each other and so on and c) it builds community support around the library. Police, Fire Fighters, Health Professionals, Recreation Professionals, Social Workers and more have got behind some of the activities we put on for teens — and that’s because they know libraries play their part to help young people grow into productive, healthy and happy adults.

In a nutshell, teens are in the library anyway — we might as well say “hello” on their terms. If I can go back to my “made-of-straw” non-public librarian again, we cannot forget the essential role (no, responsibility) that public libraries play in community development.

  • Gaming programs are unnecessarily noisy in libraries

Have you ever been around public libraries post-adult programming? You get a group of people excited about a topic, they are going to be chatty, noisy, laughing sort of people. I have also seen a good share of older adults being disruptive, evening bullying to teens simply because they are teens. The library is a public space, shared by many people from many walks of life. There are going to be moments when a public library is not going to be the Mecca you expect it to be. We try our best, but it’s always a challenge to make everyone happy all the time.

  • That’s not what libraries are for. . .

As they say in the unconference world “the people who are here are the right people.” Teens are in public libraries because they need us. We bloody well better serve them. We’ve had board games for years. Heck, I went to the library in my young age to play with the games on the Apple computer way back when.

Media Equity

Michael Sauers chimed on Media equity at the request of David Rothman in an episode of Uncontrolled Vocabulary. And, yes Greg, I will buy a t-shirt. I think I am going to put in a longer post on this issue, but I’ll start my questioning now.

I agree with Michael that policies related to public computers in libraries should try to mirror those for other formats, but I am not yet convinced that this has to do with a principle of media equity. As an avid reader of Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan in my day, I feel that media makes a big difference in communication. Whether this difference can or should influence freedom of information as offered in libraries is a hard question. The only way I can think of to get at the bottom of this is to try as hard as I can to refute Michael’s position and see what I have left in the end. My instincts say that I’ll conclude that Michael is right on this one — however, there is an assumption in favor of individualism that makes me a little uncomfortable in using media equity as a axiom for all service.

I will say that the media equity line does make things easier in the end. Explaining the policy is alot easier too when you treat the computers the same as if they were anything else.


9 thoughts on “Chiming in On the Biggies

  1. You’re gonna write a longer post on the issue of buying an Unvocab t-shirt? Can’t wait to read that! 😉

    Oh, and your Media Equity link needs to be fixed.

    That said, I’m with you on gaming. I think we need to be very aware of how we market it and represent it to the community, but on the whole, it’s a good thing.


  2. I sat up when I read your comment that the MPA has been, frankly, more helpful than the MLS to you. I’ve said the same thing to several librarians over the years and I always get a weird look from them like, “how could you say that!?!”.

    It’s true, though, while the MLS is required and provides a solid foundation for understanding the specific environment in which we operate, the MPA does a much more complete job of developing policy analysis, planning, and critical thinking and has been the best thing I’ve done for myself in my career.


  3. Great post–and, in this case, I’m specifically referring to the gaming section, which I find eloquent and persuasive. (The other stuff ain’t bad either, but there I probably have a vested interest.)


  4. It seems to me you are not supposed to call yourself a physician unless you went to some kind of med school, an attorney unless you went to some kind of law school, a pastor unless you went to some kind of seminary, an accountant… .
    So, I don’t think you ought to call yourself a librarian unless you went to some kind of library school. Of course, I’m dumb enough to think the Librarian of Congress ought to have a library degree…


  5. Walt Lessun:

    You are making a common logical error: “here are a few examples of title privileges that depend on credentials, therefore all title privileges require credentials.” This is patently not true.

    Credentials exist in IT, HR, fundraising, public service, project management and more. These credentials do help in employment, but in the end, do not override skills and experience when coming up with professional titles.

    Even your examples aren’t perfect. The “pastor” example, in particular, is frought with problems as well. Plenty of “pastors” out there whose credentials could be easily discredited. Hospitals are frequently managed by non-physicians as well.

    The status positions you describe all have mechanisms to de-professionalize those with the credentials that, for whatever reason, have failed to meet a standard of service to their profession. Without such a mechanism, I think the title “librarian” is completely up for grabs to whomever wants to apply it. In the end, title status will depend alot on whether those with the MLIS reliably outperform those who do not. I suppose the big question is whether the David Rothmans and Walt Crawfords of the world are anomalies or not.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s