ROI: What’s Yours?

8 Apr

In my reply to a comment made by Regina Raboin, a colleague at Tufts University, I wrote:

One thing that I’ve been thinking a lot about is while it’s acceptable (even exciting) to be a life-long learner and seek professional development/continuing ed opportunities in our work, why do we find that more and more we need to start doing this from the get-go? It seems to me that our degrees are the equivalent of automobiles, nowadays; they depreciate in value as soon as you walk off the campus.

What do you think? What’s the return on investment of your graduate degree in library and/or information science? Are you prepared for the workforce or do you find you need additional skills before you even begin? I’m curious about this for any number of reasons, but wonder more what my readers think. Please share your comments here. Thanks!

Car Lot

Image from the U.S. National Archives. Unrestricted.

10 Responses to “ROI: What’s Yours?”

  1. Kate Cheromcha April 8, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    I viewed my degree as the first step – albeit a BIG one – toward becoming a professional librarian. The field is so broad and deep, and with so many different aspects and avenues, I knew my education was far from finished. After all, new medical school graduates are not legally allowed or considered able to practice medicine until they have completed their post-graduate medical education. The degree is the start, not the finale, to becoming a professional librarian.

    • salgore April 8, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

      Thanks, Kate. That’s a good point on the role of post-graduate medical education. Is librarianship in that same vein, though? Do we consider ourselves professional practitioners on the same level? Interesting to think about.

  2. Natalie April 8, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

    I graduated from LIS school five years ago, and consider my decision to become a librarian one of the best I made. Better salary, permanent position, interacting daily with students and researchers, learning something new every day – not too many negative aspects come to mind. I didn’t feel prepared at first (me? teach EBM to dentistry students? What’s EBM?) but embraced unknowns as opportunities to learn. Being surrounded by experienced colleagues was also an invaluable asset.

    • salgore April 8, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

      Thanks, Natalie. I agree that embracing the unknown and having colleagues around are both great assets.

  3. HidLib (@HidLib) April 8, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

    Honestly, I’ve always thought my MLIS program gave me very few skills useful in a medical library environment. Every class seemed like an overview class, so all the in-depth learning I needed to become a decent reference librarian was done on the job, aided by more knowledgeable colleagues who were happy to teach me. And can I just say for the record how weird I think it is that a school would offer a Master’s in library and information SCIENCES and yet not offer (let alone require) completion of coursework in research design, stats, or anything similar?

    • salgore April 8, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

      Totally with you on that last point!

      • Kate Cheromcha April 9, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

        I also agree – fortunately, my graduate school (URI) did offer (and require) such a course. But there are plenty of other gaps that aren’t being consistently filled by the masters programs. For example, while in graduate school, I researched a disconnect between education and employer expectations for Electronic Resources Librarians. Based upon my education, it didn’t seem that a new graduate would have all the needed knowldge and skills to succeed in such a position, yet the employers rarely required experience in their ads. Definitely some unmet expectations there!

  4. Amy A. April 9, 2013 at 8:53 pm #

    I agree with all of the points mentioned above. Library school provided me with basic knowledge that has been useful when the work involves the 600 field in MARC records, the use of the semi-colon in cataloging, or Ranganathan’s Five Laws; otherwise, I have learned everything on the job. When I graduated from library school I did not realize how little I knew. But it didn’t take much time to figure out that, while my diploma qualified me as a librarian, it did not qualify me as a great librarian. Since day one, I have been dependent upon CE, networking, and professional collaboration in order to perform successfully.

    At this point, I would say that the ROI on library school is worth it only because it is the minimum requirement for entry into the profession. Given the rapid developments in our field, and the sluggish bureaucracy of higher ed institutions, changes to the MLIS curriculum may never be implemented quickly enough to give students a better (or more meaningful) ROI on practical skills and knowledge.

    How much longer will the MLIS remain a viable degree? Many librarians now find it necessary to take CE, or second degrees, in the areas of technology, management, marketing, …

  5. Rikke April 10, 2013 at 11:49 pm #

    I’m on board with most of what’s been said so far. And so far what I’ve heard from recent grads and current students (I get to talk to a number of them regularly) leads me to believe that they don’t get a lot of practical knowledge that would lead to immediate ROI in a job with a few exceptions. Classes in information literacy pedagogy and research design seem to help for academic librarians. Knowing the theory of how to teach is not the same as being able to teach, but at least knowing learning theory and how that might apply in reference, instruction and web design seems to be pretty practical. Research design … well I think I’d be preaching to the choir here. But it is the internships that I’ve seen students take that make all the difference on immediate ROI. It’s where they learn the how to do this thing called librarianship.

    But, the value of theory seems to comes in later, at least in my personal experience. I’ve had a number of recent discussions on principles of access to information related to dark archives, organization and architecture of knowledge related to data management, the actual implications of indexing and thesauri structures on searching (usually meta-analysis related) and information seeking behaviors of clinicians to inform service design. While I probably could have come by this information by reading alone, I found myself hearing those debates and lectures from 15 years ago clearly in my ears. So I’ve come to value even more the instructors who took the time to gather those readings, cultivate the discussion and fertilize my mind with the theory that I am now harvesting for my patrons.

    • salgore April 15, 2013 at 7:37 am #

      Thanks, Rikke. Your comments regarding theory vs. practice make me think that if the MSLS/MS LIS/MLS degree was advertised as an academic graduate degree, this would make a lot more sense. It’s a practical degree, though, and as such I think people obtain it believing that they are prepared for the workforce when they finish it. I imagine that, given the subject and how incredibly fast our profession is changing, it’s likely impossible to teach the practical skills, thus the hope is that in understanding theory, we’ll be equipped to figure out the job.

      It’s a conundrum for both sides, schools and students. Makes me wonder more about the model. Maybe we really need a learn-as-you-go degree. I’ve seen this idea proposed. You take the most essential courses to get started, then work your way through while you’re actually working. Interestingly, this is the route of many paraprofessionals, isn’t it? Yet, the profession won’t hire them (or pay them) as librarians until they earn that degree.

      Lots to think about. Thanks for adding to the conversation. See you soon!

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