September 3, 2010

Why is it always "versus"?

As I've mentioned once or twice before, I've got definite warm fuzzies for people who work in libraries and do library tasks and duties but who may not have an MLS (hereafter known as "paraprofessionals"). Andy Woodworth strikes again with his posting "The Master's Degree Misperception" - his post itself was intriguing in discussing the worth, or lack thereof, of the degree in relation to the tasks done in most (public and academic) libraries. The reference desk got its own particular commentary... and I recall the drama stories I heard both from my mother (at a community college) and a close friend (at a public law library) relating to who manned the desk when and what questions they were allowed to answer, and what they were not. (I never did understand that.)

My own thoughts are that, while I didn't learn anything practical in grad school that I could apply to my jobs (my first professional presentation was titled "Things I Didn't Learn in Library School"), I did learn quite a lot philosophically, and that helped me with the larger questions and exposed me to issues I hadn't been before. When they came up again (as they always do), at least I had a clue of what they were and where to go to get help. But, in day to day life? My MLIS doesn't do a thing for my job skillset, security, or capabilities, nor is it a factor in how my coworkers see me.

What's been reeeeeally interesting is the comments and Twitter discussion. Some folks are gettin' downright feisty about the whole thing. It's been fascinating to watch the flames. I'll be watching this one for a bit.

Update September 9th: The conversation continues to evolve.  Emily's responses are well stated, and Kendra had a very good point; I'd rather be out with my patrons (albeit not at a reference desk in my case) than tucked away somewhere, unseen and unknown about.

How do you feel about it?

Over on Will Unwound, Will Manley is hosting a series of guest posters. The first one was Andy Woodworth, of Agnostic, Maybe, and his post is titled "How do you feel about the Librarian Image?"  It was an interesting post about how his attitude towards the inevitable stereotype of librarians has changed - originally irksome, he has "learned to stop fretting and embrace the stereotypes." Here's to intelligent and passionate!

Just as interesting to me were the multitudinous comments, both accepting and dismissive of the stereotypes, including plenty of examples and stories. One subtheme I learned about - being unaware myself as I've pretty much only worked solo - is the intra-library stereotype situation. Much was made of the sexual stereotype as well, and we even delved into pop culture via Project Runway.

As I noted in my own comment, I can only hope that the view changes in the next 25 years more than it has in the last 50... and it's up to us to help those changes along!