[Libs-Or] Message from Betty Turock

Diedre Conkling diedre08 at gmail.com
Wed Mar 7 17:47:05 PST 2018

Monday, March 12- Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Require the MLIS for ALA’s Executive Director

As we make one more monumental decision in a world where fake news too
often trumps fact, let’s take a hard look at the truth of what’s happening
in our profession. The word library is disappearing from the names of
schools, departments, and programs. “iSchool” has taken over as the
prestigious name for programs in which students are largely preparing for
accredited degrees as librarians.

And who has allowed this truth to become reality? We have—librarians and
library leaders. We must resolve to cease giving away any more of our
validity, our credibility as a professional force.

At this critical moment in our history another devaluation faces us. We are
making a portentous decision: whether the MLIS degree is preferred —but not
required —for the position of Executive Director of the American Library
Association. Is it possible that we can’t find anyone in the profession
skilled enough to run our association? With this change in criteria is it
possible that the profession is one more time being devalued by the members

Never mind that our Association was established by librarians and has been
led by librarians who fought for our recognition as a profession. ALA— led
by credentialed library leaders— has remained the major organization in the
world advocating and assuring that libraries and librarians endure as
powerful forces throughout time and has lent its authority to
pronouncements about libraries in the highest national and international

Eliminating the MLIS requirement for the Executive Director cannot be
misguidedly marked as a move to frame diversity as a focus of the
Association. The creation of the Spectrum Scholarship Program did that more
than 20 years ago —and the development of its greater than $5 million
endowment, forged largely from the gifts of the members of ALA, belies any
lack of action on ALA’s part to recognize the crucial dimension of
increasing diversity in our numbers.

As much as I have tried, it is impossible for me to divorce the further
devaluation of librarians created by removing the MLIS as a required status
for the ALA Executive Director from the fact that ours is a profession in
which women over time have constituted the majority of our number,
currently more than 70 percent. This places librarians among the category
of occupationally segregated, which not only brings with it the devaluation
of women, but also what is considered women’s work. We have reached
maturity in a society where even as leaders in occupationally segregated
professions we have grown up prejudiced against ourselves. Recent articles
about the relationship between gender and library leadership show
increasing strides in reaching leadership positions, yet none of these
figures reflect women in leadership ranks in proportion to their numbers in
the profession. It is illustrative that iSchools, chartered more than a
decade ago have had only one woman as its leader and she as a replacement
after the death of the current leader and dean of the same school.

The removal of the MLIS degree as a requirement will take us backward in
our struggle to demonstrate that women and women’s occupations have
effective leaders not in spite of, but because of the experiences they are
likely to have shared and the sensibilities they are likely to have
developed. ALA has promulgated equity for all of its leaders regardless of
gender through centuries of confrontation with the discrimination that
professions dominated by women suffer.

With this debate we are self-deprecating, devaluing our worth and the worth
of thousands of librarians across our country who are extraordinary
leaders, managers, activists, and visionaries. More important only
librarians are instilled with the knowledge of the profession, its work,
its areas marked for key action, its democratic culture, its core
preparation and values. In this time when democracy is under siege, it
should not be not up to members to educate a new ALA Executive Director in
the reasons why a career in librarianship is worth the dedication of a
working life.

VOTE LIBRARIAN, vote for who we are, what we do, and what masterful leaders
we present to the communities and the profession we serve. Time’s up! The
time is now!

Betty J. Turock, Ph.D.
Past President and Honorary Member American Library Association
Professor and Dean Emerita
Rutgers University
School of Communication and Information


*Diedre Conkling*

*Lincoln County Library DistrictP.O. Box 2027Newport, OR 97365Phone & Fax:
541-265-3066Work email**: **diedre at lincolncolibrarydist.org*
<diedre at lincolncolibrarydist.org>
*Home email: **diedre08 at gmail.com* <diedre08 at gmail.com>

“If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change
your attitude.”―Maya Angelou
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