Thursday, February 09, 2006

Madison Public Library hiring policies: Should MLS be required?

A recent column in the business section of the Capital Times described the mini-furor over the Madison Public Library hiring two new employees who lack MLS degrees:

Recently, the Madison Public Library hired two youth librarians who didn't have master's of library science (MLS) degrees. Veteran librarians were puzzled, since this hasn't happened in over 16 years, and since they all have MLS degrees.

On the other hand, since the library is just like any other city department, it follows Madison's human resources department guidelines in hiring procedures. Under the Civil Rights Act, Madison tries to attract candidates of minority and disabled groups who might not have the same access to MLS degrees as others.

The full column provides more detail, but I wonder if this isn't another recent news story that in some ways echoes Garrison's themes of professionalization and sex-typing coupled with low wages and low status ...

6 comments:

Brendan said...

Working for MPL, I can say that part of the furor was the fact that other, equally qualified candidates, who had their MLS degrees, were not chosen. And these were people who have worked in the Madison Public Library system for several years in various capacities. It is discouraging, though, to see our profession devalued like this, especially since it's kind of "right under our noses." I've looked at library job postings across the country and ALL of them state that an MLS degree is required. So clearly, it is somewhat valued. Yes, there are those who will say the public library doesn't really have its own niche, that bookstores and Blockbuster are all people really need. But for a significant population, in Madison at least, the library is still one of the most important institutions in their lives. I have people everyday at work who say the two cards in their wallet or purse they use the most are the credit card and the library card (which is an interesting dichotomy in itself). I think the MLS degree issue has more bearing with librarians themselves than with the general public, but it will be interesting to see if their is any public sentiment expressed surrounding this issue.

Kelly said...

The column says "Under the Civil Rights Act, Madison tries to attract candidates of minority and disabled groups who might not have the same access to MLS degrees as others", but were the people hired actually disabled or members of minority groups? If they were, were there really no other disabled or minority applicants who had MLS degrees? The majority of students at SLIS now are white (a few, like me, are even a whiter shade of pale), but there are some who aren't.

Brendan said...

As far as I know, all the people hired were white.

Katie K said...

In that article, Louise Robbins said, "There were students (in the MLS program) who would have been wonderful but chose not to compete with those they knew in the system." I think this is a really interesting point because even though I'm only a second semester SLIS student, I contantly hear about how difficult (impossible?) it is to get a job at a Madison library (within the UW system or at MPL). Now I'm certainly not trying to downplay this situation but could it be that MLS degree-holders simply avoid applying for jobs in Madison because they think it's impossible? I admit that I'm not even considering finding a job in Madison after I graduate. I'd be interested to see where the applicants with MLS degrees are from.

Jeremy4031 said...

One important factual clarification I later heard: At least one of the two non-degree librarians MPL hired is currently a SLIS student pursuing their MLS degree. So I guess that's at least half a loaf.

SarahStumpf said...

The Isthmus did an article about this a few weeks ago where they said that one of the people hired would complete their MLS from SLIS in May and the other would complete it next Fall.

I'm not a grad student in this class, but I fail to see what all the fuss over this is about. Why is it so important that a person have an MLS in their hand instead of in progress? Obviously the Madison Public Library system felt these people would be a better fit then anyone else.

Brendan says "I can say that part of the furor was the fact that other, equally qualified candidates, who had their MLS degrees, were not chosen" but I fail to see why these people should have gotten some kind of automatic priority based on their completed education level. I feel like part of the fuss is about the MPL challenging the system of privledging those with an MLS.

I'm a history student here and I spent some time looking at the professionalization of childbirth and part of the goals of any profesionalized job is to push out and ostracise people who want to do that job in ways that deviate from the norm. Professionalization is as much about kicking people out and putting them down and it is about lifting up the profession or providing quality services.

I think it is cool that the Madison Public Library is willing to put it's needs and the needs of it's patrons before rules and regs about when someone gets their MLS.