Barnacles on the Ship of Librarianship

Tom Peters, "Barnacles on the Ship of Librarianship:"

In the past two years or so, however, as I thought about the state of librarianship, a wild and crazy idea keeps surfacing: What if libraries themselves are unnecessarily retarding the progress of librarianship? What if they have become barnacles on the ship of librarianship?


I think some of these thinkers forget that there are always people who can barely swim well enough to make it to the boat. Sure, the thinkers got on in a dry port and sit up with the captain and get Leo DiCaprio to hold them against the bow to feel the wind rush by or whatever part that was in the stupid movie someone made me see. And if the ship hits an iceberg, they probably have helicopters to fly them to safety.

And they forget about all the people in the water. Every year we see people who can't find any information in libraries or online; they couldn't find their asses with both hands and a specially trained ass-finding hound.

Libraries are there for people who need them. And each day they arrive, as many as the day before. So don't give up on that "ship" (can we finish with the damn ship metaphor???).

This has always been the case (leastways post-Dewey) ... but I think it is getting more and more noticable to library users and library governance.


If library directors actually had some management and financial skills, we would be way better off. In the entire history of my career (academic, public, and other), I have never seen a director who was really effective at doing PR, basic management skills, statistical analysis and budgeting. A lot of times library management repeatedly shoots itself in the foot. This is why I don't have a traditional library job. And if I leave this job (competitive intel analysis), I will most like stay in corporate management and avoid working in libraries if at all possible.

As someone posted in the original story, the profession needs to be more inclusive.
The commenter said (and I agree) that MLIS programs are trying to shoehorn in too many disciplines in librarianship and libraries, librarians and library schools fail to realize that we are now a multidisciplinary world.

You shouldn't need an MLIS for all professional jobs in a library. There are people who get whole degrees in management which includes finance, marketing, and PR. There are people who get whole degrees in technology. The average MLIS grad does not even have enough coursework to be a 'jack of all trades'. The situation is so bad that even basic librarianship issues (cataloguing, information organization and reference) are skills that these grads lack!

If the profession were more inclusive, the library world would have librarians with degrees in business, in technology, in IT, in education and yes in library science. What is important here is not the MLIS. It's the skills, and if people lack the skills - the ship is going down, doesn't matter what pretty papers you have that certify your knowlened.

Well said. thank you.

Well, maybe ... I see it as being comprised of several professions that have the commonality of working within a library (now information science/information distribution) environment. ALA's ownership of "librarianship" post 1910 or so led to the existing problems.

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