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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 no.

 

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 disrespectful.

 

Michelle Fiander