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hiring non-mlis grads to increase diversity

It has been too long, so I can’t remember who made the comment that inspired this post, but it does tie in nicely to my previously posted ‘fix’ for librarianship. It struck me, as a read some comment again about the MLIS that one way to increase the overall diversity of the professionals within the field is to hire outside of the degree.

Yup. I said it. I think that the MLIS should maybe be a ‘preferred’ but not ‘required’ qualification to be a librarian. I know this is pratically heresy in a field saturated with hires competing for fewer and fewer entry level positions, but I honestly think that there may be a few benefits to this approach.

The largest, by far, is to simply sidestep the problem that library schools are having with recruiting a diverse student body (and I imagine that retention is likewise a big issue). Part of the reason that the lack of diversity in librarianship remains a problem is that marginalized students, for the most part, aren’t really going to library schools. There are many reasons for this, but I’m largely convinced that – without significant changes in higher ed beyond just library schools – librarianship will never be that attractive of an option to many marginalized students.

The economic cost of having to do an additional master’s degree combined with the relatively low wages and, importantly, the not-so-promising job prospects pretty much ensure that the MLIS is one of the least attractive graduate/professional degrees imaginable. There is very little about the hard realities of the situation to motivate marginalized students. It is foolish. The overall cost/benefit for a library tech diploma is much, much better for the marginalized student. Or, you know, something with better job prospects that pays better.

But… if we stop requiring an MLIS, we could possible recruit marginalized students who would be interested, if not for this significant barrier.

(Note: part of accepting this proposal means leaving behind the notion that the MLIS contributes anything meaningful to person’s ability to do librarian things. Given that the pervasive feeling, overall, is that library schools are largely failing to provide relevant education to the actual profession, this isn’t a tough sell. However, while I know that my particular library education was largely pointless, I don’t think that this is true of all schools. Importantly, I definitely think that the general dismay over library schools does a lot of damage to those schools trying really, really hard to provide a relavant, useful education for their students.)

Anyway, the point is, is that without searching outside of the non-diverse MLIS candidate pool, libraries will continue to maintain the status quo of employing a largely homogenous workforce.1