Librarian By Name, Geek By Nature
11/07/2012 § 50 Comments
My cohort, we talk. After our weekend intensive classes, we often go out roaming in search of a likely bar, and when we find one, we sit, we drink, and we talk. And since we’ve generally just spent 12 hours in class together, we usually end up talking about library school.
This month marks the halfway point through our MLS program, and by now we’ve begun to form some strong opinions on the subject: what’s working, what’s not, what we’d change if we could. And a few of us began to play with this question: if you could design your own MLS program from scratch, what features would you definitely include? Especially those that are lacking from library education as it exists today — if you were establishing the program that would define library school for the next generation, what do you think would absolutely need to be a part of it?
Yeah, that was a bit of a can of worms.
There were as many answers as there were people in the conversation, and many of the responses were necessarily informed by the idiosyncrasies of our own MLS program. But I can tell you what my answer was:
In my fantasy library school, every MLS granted would require demonstrated proficiency in a hard technical skill. Coding, database admin, network admin, multimedia production, etc. — not just a little dabbling in web design or knowing how to secure a wifi network, but some serious skills. And I mean every MLS, from the archivist to the youth services librarian. From now on, “librarian” also implies “geek,” and everybody’s got to earn their badge. You may never use it, but just like high school algebra, you still gotta learn it.
But that needs to change. We talk at great length about how vital we are in this information age, but just our saying so isn’t going to convince the rest of the world. We have to be able to back up our words with concrete action, and to do that, we need to know that we collectively possess the skills necessary to implement our ideas without relying on others to do our geek work for us. What would librarianship look like if we all understood how our ILS is constructed, and how to build and adapt it to our library’s specific needs?Or if we all could be actively involved in building public wifi networks in our cities and towns? Or if we all felt confident enough with technology to start hackerspaces in our communities? And what better time to start learning those skills, if we haven’t already, than in library school? Some schools already offer higher-level technology instruction, but many — like mine — still don’t.
This is hard stuff for a lot of us, hard to imagine and harder still to do. But I think these are the sorts of skill that are becoming imperative for us as librarians to possess, and that without them we risk permanent irrelevance. So my hypothetical dream library school would be teaching them from the first term as a required course, and not calling any student “librarian” without them.
But that’s just me. Do you think we need a more rigorous technology requirement for the MLS? What would you do with your perfect library school? Leave a comment!