I imagine most readers are somewhat familiar with the current debate about credentials needed or preferred for ALA’s executive director (ED) position. ALA members can (and should) cast their votes on this important issue between March 12 and April 4 of this year. This credential question is a huge philosophical thinking point, but it also feels a little like the debate about what makes a librarian–a degree or experience?
According to various opinions online, there are definitely two camps: those who believe you aren’t a librarian without a specific degree and those who feel job experience in a library can legitimize a claim to the librarian title. On the surface, this seems to be an issue only for public librarians, but I think it’s relevant to school librarians as well. Despite research consistently showing the benefits of a having certified school librarians in schools, a belief persists that almost anyone with some training can serve as a librarian. The certified part of the equation is usually overlooked.
If we consider various combinations of job experience and degrees enough to be considered a librarian, then where does that leave school librarian advocacy? Are we just advocating for school libraries to exist with or without school librarians? According to this Book Riot post and this Medium post, the MLS degree shouldn’t be required to advance in the field. Neither post mentions school librarians or CAEP accredited degrees, but as a school librarian, I’m concerned about public perception and the potential ripple effect of this stance.
I may be a Henny Penny here, but I hear “You need a Master’s degree for this job?” on a somewhat regular basis. Will my answer to the question be “not in a public library” and eventually just “no.” If public libraries don’t require certified librarians, why should schools? In much of what I’ve been reading online, school librarians aren’t mentioned nor are potential consequences for school librarians. Why is that? In my experience school librarians face this issue as well, and we have a stake in the outcome of this issue too.
I support inclusive efforts, but I think the problem could be better addressed by providing equitable access to higher education and creating pathways for more minorities to become librarians. I also have to wonder if there’s an underlying link between the perceived value of certified librarians, the fact women make up approximately 80% of the profession, and the perception of women’s work.
Do you think certification requirements to be a librarian should be relaxed in either public, school, or both? Are librarians unfairly excluding people from the field, or placing the appropriate amount of value on library science education and work?
I think the ALA ED issue and the degree v/s experience issues are in the same building, but on different floors. I’m not sure I feel the same about each issue. I’m still reading, talking, and listening, because my decisions on these issues may impact the future of the library profession.
Author: Mica Johnson
I’m a school librarian at Farragut Middle. I like the lib to be loud, messy, and full of student activity. I love tech stuff as much as I love books, and I’m part of an awesome rotating maker space.