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Total Librarians vs Total MLS

Page history last edited by Kim Miller 15 years, 4 months ago

Question 1 - June 30, 2008


Bruce Pomerantz, MN:


I have a library which has underemployed staff with MLSs that are not classified as librarian. They accept the lower position and pay in hopes of a librarian vacancy opening up and that it will give them an edge in applying for the position. They are unionized so I assume there are distinctions in the work they are allowed to do.


However, some of their work is virtually indistinguishable from that of the librarian position, i.e.. they work the reference desk. I do not know if they are involved in materials selection or staff committee work or other professional duties.  As a consequence, I have a library that states it has (e.g.) 25 librarian positions (Data element 251) but states it has 35 MLS. (Data element 251). I received an accurate edit check stating MLSs exceed Librarians. The Data Element 250 definition states that the staff have the MLS, but does not qualify the requirement by stating “and working in a professional capacity.”  


Cynthia said to either reduce the number of MLSs or increase the number of librarians.


I’m inclined to reduce the number of MLSs for the purposes of peer comparison and general analysis because comparing staff expenditures and number of librarians would be misleading. 


Are there different opinions?


IMLS Comment:

Can anyone tell me if there is a precedent for altering the MLS figure to conform to the number of staff librarians?  If so, than that would argue for suppressing the MLS number as Cynthia has suggested.  If not, I would be inclined to ask Census to maintain the “imbalance” in the data file so that the data more accurately reflect current staffing realities, especially since this issue is something we would want to monitor over time.  Thoughts?


More Comments from SDCs:

Kathy Sheppard, SC

I think this data (i.e. how many MLS holders are working out of class, negatively speaking) is important. It’s an interesting number for several reasons, and a fairly common occurrence.  I have worked in two libraries where this was exactly the case.  I’m not sure what the mathematical consequence would be of allowing the number of MLSs to exceed librarian positions. 


I guess this is a change in the survey that needs to be discussed and possibly approved in another year?  As a newbie here I’m not sure what the procedures are for revisions.  I’m with you, I’d reduce number of MLSs as that is clearly more in line with the intent of the question (to get numbers of staff, not information about their education.)


Nicolle Steffen, CO

Lowering the number of MLSes seems the most logical to me, too.



Data element 250 asks for *librarians* with master’s degrees. So when the question “do we count staff with an MLS that aren’t librarians” is asked here, we advise public libraries to count staff members that meet the criteria of having all of the following: the title of librarian, the duties of a librarian, and the ALA-MLS.


I agree, it would be very interesting to know how many MLSes are working in jobs other than professional librarian. However, I don’t think that is the intent of this question. I think to get at the MLSes working as support staff (probably for lower wages) is an interesting, but different question. My 2 cents.


Holly Van Valkenburgh, NV

In our collection of data via BiblioStat Collect, we request:

  • Librarians with an MLS Certified Librarians
  • Librarians with any other master’s degree
  • Others holding the title of Librarian


Obviously, we had never considered the alternative currently under discussion.  We could add the category and report that data separately, if it is decided to do so.  I believe it is a valid data element and should be reported separately.


Dianne Carty, MA

I am in total agreement with Nicolle.  Data element 250 asks for librarians with MLS degrees. 


We have it both ways here in Massachusetts–those in librarian positions without an MLS and those in non-librarian positions with an MLS.  Because we ask for the educational levels of all staff reported, we can look at just about anything.  However, for item 250 we report only those MLS’s in librarian positions.


To return to the question at hand–SDCs should supply the information that each specific data element requires. 


Diana Very, GA 

I agree. From what I’ve heard, the trend in management is to lower the salaries of librarians in several locations. I would like to know how many librarians with MLS are not considered professional staff.


Juan Lee, UT

This is interesting. The reality is: a library has MLS’s not classified as librarians. 


Do we report reality or do we “adjust” reality for the purposes of peer comparisons?


Susan Vittitow, WY

If it MUST be adjusted, I think the logical thing to do is to do it the way Bruce proposes – to lower the number of MLS’s.


I’m inclined to agree with many of the others who posted, though, that it would be best to keep the numbers as they are. If more and more libraries are employing MLS’s in non-professional positions, that would be an important thing to know.


Ann Reed, OR

Usually this is the type of question I would steer to the Data Elements Subcommittee of the Steering Committee.  But since this started as a general discussion, I agree with Diane and Nicholle – according to the definition, not all library employees can be considered librarians (see definition of total librarians).  Unless one is hired in a job with the title and duties of a librarian, one wouldn’t count the MLS.  Yes, clerks may occasionally fill in at the reference desk, but this would probably be an aberration in the level of job duties.  We don’t currently measure the number of underemployed MLSs.


It would be interesting (and depressing) to track that figure, but I would ask – to what end?  I’m already chivvying people to collect the federal elements as is – I hate to add to them without compelling reason.  Is it that library schools would curtail enrollment to decrease the oversupply? 


Is it that there would be a broad-based initiative for paid internships to give MLS grads a start in the profession?  Is it that instead of scholarships, more people would pour funds into paid part-time jobs or internships to help?  Is it likely that the only reason local libraries haven’t opened more librarian positions is an undersupply of MLS types?


That said, I think if it’s a one-shot survey on this issue, I could get a lot of our medium and larger libraries (where MLS in clerical capacity is more common) to report that data and give us an idea of what’s going on.  Yearly, it would be difficult.


Bruce Pomerantz, MN

I went along with my inclination, which was the consensus, and reduced the number of MLSes to those who had positions titled Librarian so that ALA-MLS=Total Librarians.


I’m uncertain why the edit checks failed to flag the inconsistency in previous years.


I opine the accredited schools should survey their graduates of the past several years to determine how many ended up in non-librarian positions in libraries.


Question 2 - March 6, 2009 



I had a library ask me about staff who have an ALA-MLS but who are working in a position which does not require that degree. Are they counted as ALA-MLS or are they counted as support staff?



IMLS Response:

The official IMLS response to this question is the same as what Denise and Bob have said in previous e-mails.  The data element requests the number of individuals working as librarians who have ALA-MLS degrees, so support staff who have an ALA-MLS degree should not be included in this count.


Bruce was correct to point out that he had posed this question before.  The answer was actually already posted on the Questions/Comments/Feedback page of the wiki (http://plsc.pbwiki.com/Data+Element+Definitions:+Questions+Comments+Feedback+Input+Corrections) in the pdf document (http://plsc.pbwiki.com/f/Data+Elements+Questions+Comments.pdf) that appears on the page. 


This pdf document is updated with new answers every time we resolve a problem in this forum.  Please try to remember to visit the Questions/Comments/Feedback page on the wiki before posting a question to the d-list.


IMLS thanks you all for your assistance in resolving this issue.



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