Love Your (Future) Librarians

For those of you who don’t know (which, for all I know is all of you, since I haven’t written in a year) I will be starting my fourth semester (of five) of graduate school. I am studying library and information science.

That’s right – I want to be a librarian. A children’s or teen librarian, to be specific.

You can stop laughing now. Because yes, I’m aware that many people think libraries are dying out as printed media begins to be pushed aside in favor of electronic media. And I’m aware that Forbes recently (well, in June) named Library Science as the worst Masters degree for a job in this article. Sure, they list a low growth rate of the profession and a low median salary as their evidence, but do they stop to consider the range of options someone with an MLIS has as they seek employment?

Forbes listed school librarian, reference librarian, and library director as common jobs for people holding this degree. While these are jobs someone with an MLIS may hold, they are a very limited selection. My school alone offers graduate certificates in Arts and Museum librarianship, Records and Information Management, and Archival Administration to name a few. Students can also specialize based on their courses (Digital Content Management, Organization of Information, Law Librarianship, Health and E-Science to name a few), or follow a more general course of study. All of these options open up a myriad of doors and possibilities.

But my big issue with articles like this is that people throw them in the faces of those of us studying for this degree. Lower pay or limited job growth doesn’t mean we don’t work hard and put in a ton of time to get the degree. It doesn’t mean that the jobs we seek are less difficult or not as necessary as jobs that other Masters degree holders are seeking. It means that many of our jobs are being cut due to lack of funding and misunderstanding of what we do. Maybe it means Forbes didn’t consider all the options we have, but only those that a.re obvious. It means people flaunt these articles as evidence that we, their friends or family, or complete strangers are wasting our time and tuition.

Here’s the problem with that logic – I know I didn’t pursue this course of study to make boatloads of money. I may never be obscenely wealthy, and I’m okay with that. I’m aware that the starting salary of the job I want is well below the average for someone with a Masters. I want to be a youth services librarian and the job requires a Masters. I want the job so I can put stories in the hands of children and teens. I believe in the power of stories to teach, to be therapeutic, and – above all else – to entertain. Stories are necessary and libraries make access easier and inexpensive. If I can help one child find the book they need at the right time, I will have made a difference. I know the power those books (or movies, stories, poems, etc) can have because they’ve affected me and changed me and made me who I am. Everyone should have access to that chance.

This is why I study, work like crazy so I can manage to survive grad school, and why I picked my degree. So please, stop throwing articles like the Forbes article in my face and telling me it’s worthless. Because to me, it’s not. And I’m betting that many of my fellow MLIS students feel the same. It’s frustrating when people don’t even try to understand that it’s not about the money – we love what we do and what we want to do. So instead of saying we’re wasting our time (or that those who came before us did), love your librarians and your future librarians. If you haven’t needed one at some point in your life already (you might’ve without even knowing it!), chances are you will someday.

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