How to Dissuade
This has been on my mind since reading Andy Woodworth’s ill-fated but provocative Sunday Speculation this week. I’m not talking about retirement though, I’m thinking about how to stop ill-equipped students from completing the MLIS program in the first place. We certainly can’t count on the library schools to do it–they need to get paid, but oftentimes you encounter someone so completely wrong for the profession, who you know will never be able to find a job, that I just wish there was an easy way to talk him or her out of it.
This idea was broached by a colleague of mine at my alma matar’s re-accreditation future planning meeting that I attended last spring. The purpose of the meeting was to solicit feedback from practicing librarians as to what they think graduates need to know to find success after graduation–how to build the best librarians. Overall, I think it went well, but when my colleague posed the idea that oftentimes we find people in library school who have no understanding of the profession, who have no customer service skills, who don’t really subscribe to the core beliefs of the profession–maybe we need a nice way to show them the door.
Perhaps that sounds a bit harsh, but in this economic climate, isn’t it kinder to discourage those who are likely going to struggle to find work after graduation before they spend money on a degree they won’t use? I’ve been saying all along that this economic downturn is an opportunity for the profession to reinvent itself, for the best and brightest to advocate and remain competitive in the age of google. If people who aren’t going to do that aren’t going to self-select out, perhaps they need a little nudge.
Miss Information was recently called upon to serve on a committee about revamping the technology classes at that same alma matar. I use the words technology class-es because technically there are two, but only one is required, and the other sounds like a cataloging class, so no one really takes it. Just like the required technology course, it is very basic stuff, often people already know it and it’s just a question of coasting along until grading time. She and I spent the day g-chatting about what students in other programs are learning, what we use most often in our day-to-day and basically what we would like to see new colleagues equipped to do once they join our ranks.
As we were conversing, a woman came up to the reference desk and chatted with my co-worker for a bit. He went to the back room to get something, and she turned her attention to me.
“You must be a recent graduate too.” She said.
“May ’09.” I told her, “When did you finish?”
“Oh, I’m only in my second semester, I’m working two job just to pay for it and can only take one class at a time.”
We talked a little bit more, and I learned that she wants to do something with information literacy instruction, but she was very unimpressed with the required technology course.
“It is very basic.” I agreed.
“No, it’s not that, it’s good that it’s basic.” She insisted, “I’m technologically illiterate and the kind of librarian I’m going to be doesn’t really need to know all that stuff. I don’t think it should be a requirement for everyone. Plus, they don’t do anything for the people who don’t already know all about computers, we’re just left to flounder.”
It was at this point where I kind of shut up because to say what I wanted to say would have taken hours probably, and not been well-received. In a nutshell, what I wanted to tell her was this:
- ‘The kind I’ve librarian I’m going to be doesn’t really need to know all that stuff’ is not true. There is no kind of librarian that can do his or her job without knowing how to use a computer. Also, in this economy, you will most likely not wind up being the kind of librarian you set out to be. Just among the handful of writers of this blog, the only one who is the kind of librarian she set out to be is Madame Lawbrarian, and that’s because she has a law degree.
- You’re in grad school. If you are incapable of getting up to speed with the rest of your classmates, or unwilling to teach yourself until you are prepared to take the class, you have no business being in grad school. You wouldn’t start an MBA program and whine “I don’t know anything about microeconomics!”, you would either learn or fail. The technological competencies for the course of study are extremely basic and are posted on the department’s website and in the syllabus for the required technology course. There’s no excuse for acting like this is a shock.
- If you want to teach information literacy instruction, you need to know how to use a computer. You’re not going to be teaching students how to read a book, or just how to locate materials on the shelf, and the students certainly aren’t going to listen very well if you just get up there and talk to them without showing examples, or knowing how to use the online catalog.
- The internet has been around since the late 1960s, and popular since the 90’s. Html, which is what is taught in the required technology course (I told you it was basic), has been around since the 90’s as well, and what’s covered in this course is basically learning how to make headers and bold things. If you can’t master that, you’re screwed; and if you thought this doesn’t apply to me, you need to learn more about your profession.
This woman was also talking about how difficult it is for people, especially those without any library experience like her, to get internships. If she’s having trouble getting an internship and has no real experience, she will not find a job. Even if it takes her five years to complete the program, she’s will not be able to compete against the tech-savvy and well-rounded people looking for full-time work, like myself.
I’m not in the habit of crushing dreams, but doesn’t it seem like in the case of this woman that she is wasting her time completing this program? Unless she has a vast change in attitude, and starts landing part-time library gigs while taking classes, there is simply no way anyone will hire her.
Even though I’ve titled this blog How to Dissuade, I don’t really have a magic bullet, or know if this is something that others in the field agree with. It seems radical and cruel to tell someone else “You picked the wrong profession, try again,” but it’s cruel to be kind.
Filed under: A Day in the Life, By: The Librarienne, change or die, digital divide, libraries | 18 Comments
Tags: computer skills, html, information literacy