However, does this mean that the value of the MLIS has decreased? Yes and no. Yes, because too many degreed, professional librarians means that the job market is overly saturated. Yes, because there are lots of highly qualified unemployed librarians out there applying for entry level jobs as paraprofessionals just to have a library job. Yes, because of those so-called degree mills letting anyone become a librarian whether or not they are truly qualified and/or suited to be one.
But at the same time, no the value of the MLIS hasn’t decreased. Why? Because, let’s face it, as much as we say a paraprofessional can do anything (and sometimes better) a professional librarian can do, it just isn’t true. I have a wonderful, very competent library assistant who just cannot do the work I do. She’s great working in the library and working with our users, but she isn’t comfortable at doing reference work (PubMed confounds her) and cataloging just doesn’t make sense. I could spend lots of time teaching her those skills, but I can’t teach her the background nor can I really answer the “why?” questions; that’s something that one can only learn in library school.
Anyone can learn to be a good searcher or a good cataloger or even a good administrator on the job. But that’s not just what library school is about. Library school is about gaining experience in several different fields of librarianship. It’s about learning how to conduct research in case you are ever called up to write a grant or design and publish a study for your institution. It’s about exposing yourself to a variety of ideas and viewpoints from a vast group of librarians. It’s about making connections, both social and intellectual, with your colleagues.
So in my humble opinion, the value of the MLIS has decreased, but is still incredibly important. Without one, you are stuck checking in books, shelving, and doing simple tasks, not because you lack the skills to do other things but because you don’t have that piece of paper that says “Masters in Library and Information Sciences” on it.
Annie, my advice to you is to stay in school and stay very positive about your chances of getting a job. Become a well-rounded librarian. Take classes in a variety of subjects; do at least one internship (more if you can manage it); get a part-time job or volunteer in your local public or academic library; get involved with the research your professors are doing; make important connections with professors, other librarians, and students by joining associations, going to conferences, and discussing library issues with those around you.
Stay positive! The job market will turn around one of these days. If you work hard and open yourself up to all sorts of possibilities, you will likely find yourself working as a professional librarian very soon. It may not be in the place or even in the type of library you wanted or expected, but it will be a library job. And, hopefully, that will be enough to start.
I invite you to check out my series on what I wish I learned in library school (read the comments; they are really good), my guest post series from new librarians, and check out my friend Lauren’s post on internships.
I hope this helps and answers some of your questions. Again, thanks for writing and for reading!