Many articles out there talk about the at-times massive disconnect between what we learn at school and the reality of the library profession. Fair enough; when I taught a course in the publishing program at Ryerson I didn’t expect students to be able to hit the ground running, but I did hope I was giving them something to take away with them so that they weren’t too deer-in-the-headlights about it. I think my school, for my MI degree, was trying to do the same. Good intentions.
The difference, though, for me, is that I was working in publishing while I taught that course. I was out there, armed with current information, aware of current trends, and I shared that knowledge, if sometimes in the form of dishy anecdotes, with my students.
Higher education, on the other hand…
I admit I had one foot out the door when I arrived at the University of Toronto. Once I decided to make a career change, a big decision I took a long time to make, I wanted to get on with it. This could explain why I was so completely floored by the amount of theory being tossed around. I get it; core courses need to address the needs of all paths of study, some more theory-based than others. So, once they were behind me, I looked forward to taking the more practical, library science-specific courses. And there’s where the program let me down. On the whole, I felt like I wasn’t getting enough practical training, training that I think is best led by industry professionals.
I know of several publishing programs; their mandate is to help people enter the industry (or serve as PD for those already there). While few to no publishing houses require that applicants have the certificate, I think they’re extremely useful and I always looked for it on a resume, especially if the applicant didn’t have previous publishing experience.
I’m not going to get into a library-versus-publishing debate. Neither is more noble than the other, as far as I’m concerned, but there is a clear difference in what’s required of a person in order to enter these two professions. And the perception out there, right or wrong, is that degrees trump certificates. Look at the faculty complement: degree programs hire lots of academics, while certificate programs hire, all but exclusively, professionals. Why so far apart? Is the idea of ‘training’ too lowbrow for some tenure-track assistant professors? That might be unfair. It probably is. But I wonder.
This might be an abrupt ending to an otherwise rambling post; I think, for me, it comes down to two questions. Do I think that an ALA-accredited library degree actually has to be a degree? I do, though I’m willing to be swayed. Should there be a requirement that at least a certain percentage of the degree program’s instructors have current or recent workplace experience? Yes. Yes, yes, yes. Honestly, I would have taken so much more away with me when I graduated. And, on a more personal note, I would have enjoyed myself more.