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EDUCAT  December 2009

EDUCAT December 2009

Subject:

Re: PhDs for cataloging instructors, or not?

From:

Janet Hill <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Discussion List for issues related to cataloging & metadata education & training <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 8 Dec 2009 13:20:29 -0700

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This is not in direct answer/response to any one message, but rather an assemblage of opinion the issue of whether a PhD is needed for cataloging instructors.

Obviously, it is not necessary to have a PhD in order to teach cataloging and to teach it well.   LIS programs all across the country are proof of that .... when you consider that most programs carry a significant portion of their cataloging-related curriculum by hiring practitioners who hold masters degrees rather than PhDs

For the woman who initiated the conversation, who is (if I recall) in her 50s, but who wants to teach cataloging, a PhD may not be worth pursuing.  It takes time, it costs money, it involves research, and it leads to a research position (that is, to a tenure-stream position in which research would be a major component).

BUT, for the long-term health of the cataloging curriculum, and for the good of the subdiscipline of bibliographic control/information organization (IO), and for the good of our libraries and their users, we DO NEED people who have completed a PhD, with all that implies for the ability AND PENCHANT for doing research.   We need people doing research in IO.  We need people who can serve as teachers and advisors for current students/future practitioners, AND for future researchers.  In other words, we need an IO professoriate.

We need to have people in the professoriate who can speak on behalf of the cataloging-related curriculum and the cataloging-related facets of the discipline, who can have an influence on the direction of the programs and the discipline.   And in most programs, full representation and influence over the program is shared only (or at least primarily) among the tenured (or possibly tenure-stream) faculty.  And, to be blunt, the parent universities tend not to take non-PhD-held opinion as seriously as they take opinions espoused by those who hold PhDs.   When most of the IO curriculum is carried by people without PhDs, and people whose primary "identity" is as a full time practitioner somewhere else, rather than as a full-time faculty member, the curriculum suffers.  Resources go elsewhere within the program.   Important facets of the curriculum are de-emphasized.  Students get the message that IO is not important.  Prospective doctoral candidates can't find qualified thesis advisors and shift their focus.

But, I think we make a mistake when we draw a line between the PhD as a research degree (which it is) and the Masters degree as NOT being a research degree, and especially when we draw the corollary and say that jobs that require a PhD involve research while for jobs that don't require a PhD, research isn't needed or relevant.    

And I think we make a mistake when we use "research" as a boogey man.  

OK, so I just gave a talk at the Library school in Tennessee on the practitioner's role in the advancement of the profession, and this is much on my mind.  The discipline advances through research, inquiry, experimentation, and communication.  And MOST of the people in the profession have masters degrees.  The terribly few with PhDs can't do all the research that we need, AND they don't work in the laboratories (the libraries).   Everybody in the field needs to carry a share of the responsibility to do research, inquiry, experimentation, and communication (i.e., publication).  NOT JUST the PhDs in the LIS programs, and NOT JUST the MLS people in academic libraries where librarians are faculty who need to earn tenure.    Research (to use a shorthand for all the other things) is not a terrible dreadful horrible impossible thing to do.   It's something that our LIS programs should be preparing all of their masters graduates to be able to do, and something that the LIS programs should be letting all of their masters students understand is a part of being a professional.   AND they should not let people out of the program thinking that there is only one kind of research worth doing.   It doesn't have to have all kinds of statistics attached to be research, or to advance the profession.

AND ... besides being useful, research can be incredibly rewarding and lots of fun.   

Stepping off the soapbox now ....

    janet, who holds an MA

Janet Swan Hill, Professor
Associate Director for Technical Services
University of Colorado Libraries, CB184
Boulder, CO 80309
[log in to unmask]
     *****
Tradition is the handing-on of Fire, and not the worship of Ashes.
- Gustav Mahler

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