Hello all,

This subject of this thread is not unique to librarianship. In every
profession there are hierarchies and debates around the type of training
necessary to fulfill responsibilities. In librarianship this dichotomy
is often characterized by the insertion of "professional" in front of
the word librarian to distinguish us from the non-professional.
Sometimes the term para-professional is used to refer to the non MLS
members of staff. Librarianship is not unique in this regard; consider
the para-legal or the physician's assistant or the nurse in relation to
the physician: different training; similar duties; different privileges;
different pay. In some professions it's easier to see the difference. I
think the lines are quite blurry in librarianship, and I've met a number
of people throughout my career who do not have the MLS but who are
absolutely excellent librarians. And I"ve met MLS holders who are not
particularly impressive in either the day to day things or in broader
issue thinking. Is this unique to librarianship? No. All professions
have examples of good and bad, regardless of qualifications. But, does
that mean we say the higher degree is meaningless. I think the answer is

In many professions individuals with the "lesser" qualifications have
come to take on responsbilities formerly purview of those with the
"higher" qualification. Take dentistry, for example. Twenty years ago
when I went to the dentist I saw him/her for an exam and filling. Now,
most of the time, the hygenist or dental assistant does the cleaning and
the mapping of my mouth (e.g. exam!), with the dentist popping in only
to take a quick look for, I assume, verification purposes. Similarly,
I've had an assistant do a filling, with the dentist coming in only to
administer the analgesic. Is this good or bad; I don't know. Does this
situation cause dentists to write letters to professional organizations?
I don't know. Do the dental assistants or hygenists spend a bit of time
over a beer on the weekend talking about how they can do a filling
better than the Doctor? Probably. Do the doctors think they're a bit
better trained than their assistants? Probably.

To conclude...libraianship is not the only profession to: 1. keep an eye
on the standards for professional positions; 2. fret about the
absorption of "professional" jobs by "non-professionals." Our profession
is no worse than any other. This internal debate about education and
credentials is not unique and nor do I believe its intent is to be

Michelle Fiander