The Struggle for Professional Control in a Time of Financial Crisis: Librarians Credentials in the United States

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 09:15
Oral Presentation
Lisa FREHILL, George Mason University, USA, Energetics Technology Center, USA
There are 9,000 public libraries with 17,000 outlets in the United States. Library agencies in each state certify librarians. The main credential, the Master of Library Science (MLS) is a postgraduate tertiary program accredited by the American Library Association. The economic crisis of 2008 merely intensified the pre-existing struggle for professional control – and, survival, itself – of public libraries and librarians.

The financial crisis occurred along with significant social forces impacting U.S. professional librarians. The internet and digital information revolution resulted in the rise of “information science” programs, sometimes within, but sometimes outside established MLS-conferring library science schools. Complicating these changes are status differences across libraries and gender differences of these fields; i.e., library science remains heavily female, while information science, especially those in computer science tertiary organizations, are proportionately more male. Such programs reflect the changes occurring in the technical content of librarians’ work.

This paper draws upon data from two major, longitudinal surveys. The U.S. Public Libraries Survey (PLS) has been collected annually since 1988 with response rates of 95%+, provides rich information on activities and programs of public libraries and about its workforce. A second collection, the State Library Administrative Agency (SLAA) survey, has been collected annually since 1994 (biennially since 2010) with 100% response from the U.S. states and District of Columbia (51 reporting units). The SLAA provides information about state trends in programming and services to libraries of all types and how states govern libraries. These datasets show the extent to which the 2008 financial crisis impacted libraries differently, with significant differences across the 51 reporting units. They, along with policy documentation, provide insights about how the U.S. library profession has attempted to mitigate challenges to the profession.