The Future of Academic Librarianship?
When I heard that Jeff Trzeciak would be coming to Penn State to talk about transforming libraries, I was excited to attend his presentation. Mr. Trzeciak is the University Librarian at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and has over 20 years experience in academic libraries. Being a newer leader in academic libraries, having roughly the same experience in the profession as I have, a fellow “GenXer”, and a former Library Journal Mover and Shaker, I was interested to hear what he had to say about academic librarianship.
Mr. Trzeciak’s presentation “Transforming Traditional Organizations” provided many good talking points. He suggested that libraries must take risks and be creative and innovative, suggesting that we should take the role of “enthusiastic prospectors”. The presentation went on to highlight some great things going on at McMaster, and many of the ideas that he has tried there (consolidating reference desks, training staff to answer reference triage, getting librarians more “face time” with faculty) are all things that I have tried with great success both at Penn State and elsewhere. I even liked the idea of the library hiring postdoctoral fellows to work on research and collection development projects, especially in the digital humanities and special collections.
When Mr. Trzeciak turned his attention to future happenings in his library is where he lost me. He believes that librarians should not be in supervisory positions, and he doubted that any new librarians will be hired at McMaster in the near future. Instead he made the case for hiring non-MLS PhD-holding candidates to fill positions previously held by librarians. It is these points that I most vehemently disagree with, and I feel that Mr. Trzeciak is doing a disservice to the profession in advocating for this type of change.
MLS-educated librarians are the keepers of the profession. Librarians hold the training, vision, and vocation for this type of work. I do believe that the MLS curriculum can be “bulked up” and improved, and am making this a professional priority of mine in the upcoming years. Making the MLS degree program a full 2 years (48 credit hours) and requiring more courses in management, statistics, assessment, and leadership would be a great way to start. PhDs in fields other than library and information studies are not the right people to entrust with the keys of librarianship. Librarians, educated in an enhanced MLS curriculum are the right choice.
Mr. Trzeciak’s presentation not only touched a nerve with me but with others in the biblioblogosphere. Jenica Rogers and Amy Buckland have posted similarly on their blogs. And I concur. Not only are libraries important, but so are librarians. Ms. Rogers put it more eloquently than me:
Don’t let people like Jeff Trzeciak make you invisible.