Thanks for reading my blog, Karen!
I think there are a number of things at work in Andy's post and in the comments, not the least of which are:
1) Frustrated job seekers. Recent posts to the LITA-L email list, discussions between librarians on Friendfeed, and posts similar to Andy's over the past few weeks have re-fired a perennial issue. Notbeing able to find a job makes them question the worth of their degree. This isnt limited to librarianship - English PhDs complain about this all the time :)
2) Uneven curricular robustness across programs, making some folks feel they didnt have to work very hard for the MLS. I dont know what a good way to deal with this is, other than overhauling accreditation requirements. More programs are offering (if not requiring) internships, which helps a bit.
3) Uneven expectations of entering students regarding job availability. To me, as I mention in my post Karen mentioned (http://guardienne.blogspot.com/2010/09/on-great-myth-of-librarian-grays.html
), this is a matter of personal responsibility as well as distorted info from the professional associations.
4) False expectations of what "working as a professional librarian" means, particularly to MLS students and recent graduates.
5) A disconnect between the skills offered in the MLS and the skills needed in the profession. Most MLS grads are unequipped to do research design, data analysis, public administration at the management level, heavy budgeting, or other (what I would call) "professional level" responsibilities in librarianship. Unless students were mindful about selecting their electives to build these areas, they may have missed out entirely.
6) Not understanding that the MLS is not the equivalent of an MA research degree in a subject area (at least, in my experience). It's intended to be a professional degree, imparting the theoretical foundations as well as the skills necessary to function in a library with the understanding of how the library as a whole operates and the relationships between its units.
7) Not looking outside of libraries for work, despite the fact that many schools have deliberately altered their offerings to make the MLS marketable as information management skills outside of the very limited (and poorly funded!) library world.
Interestingly enough, while the general trend (at least according to anecdata and discussions) is that librarian jobs are being replaced by parapro positions, at my university library (among others) we find that as we continue to automate and deduplicate efforts on the staff side, we need *more* professional librarians to handle things such as instruction (particularly as we move beyond the undergraduates and into upper division and graduate program curricula instruction), project management, and exploring new areas that the library may be able to contribute to the University. And so, as staff retire or leave, those lines are morphed to faculty librarian lines where we need them most. Slow going, but it's happening.
You can see my feelings about the issue if you read the comments on Andy's post, but by and large, I would make the argument that yes, not all jobs in a library require the MLS. I do, however, believe that the MLS is graduate work if the student ensures it is
through their own effort and in consultation with their professors. There are students who are very happy to pass up research methods/analysis and management courses. I hardly think they're in any position to be claiming they're underutilized if they havent developed the sort of skills their employers need.
Colleen S. Harris