beadylady (beadylady) wrote in libraries,

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a question on library directors

Hello: I saw an ad today for a library director. The requirements read, in part:
Bachelor's Degree with a Library Assistant Certificate or 9 credits in Library Science, or a willingness to obtain the desired credentials within a set time period.​ The successful candidate would have library or related business experience, management and interpersonal skills, computer skills, criminal background check, and be service oriented.​

Recently, I began volunteering at a local public library. The director there (who has both an MLS and a Ph.D., though the doctorate is not related to LIS), asked me if I had a BA (which I do). She mentioned some director's jobs would be opening up in our public system soon and that I might want to consider applying.

Also, a good friend of mine (who recently earned her MLS) has been working as a branch director for several years now. She started out as a circulation assistant, and a few months later voila, she was director of a branch. She has the same BA as I do, but managed a bookstore.

Can anyone clue me in on how someone can be a library director w/o an MLS? Why would an MLS NOT be required? This just seems odd to me.
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It's relatively common in smaller public libraries (smaller towns, not smaller libraries, that is.)

The reality is that a lot of smaller towns can't pay the salary for a MLIS, or the job isn't always a full-time job. And so they take what they can (which is usually why the ads say "MLIS is wonderful, but BA and library experience required" or whatever.)

It's also not uncommon for smaller public libraries to do things like hire someone with a BA and then promise them support to do a MLIS program or finish one, or whatever, especially if they think they have someone who could do a great job (known quantity) who has a BA but not the MLIS - usually someone already working there, or who knows the town really well.

Small town libraries also have a lot of independent discretion. Some library boards are awesome. Some are not so great.
This. Also, if someone's been working at the library, and then moves into the position, it's probably because they've shown the ability/skills that would otherwise qualify them. After all, there were libraries and librarians a long time before MLS programs existed.

I would imagine that's why the director there was seemingly encouraging you to apply--she's seen you at work, which really tells you more than any certificate can.
This: smaller library districts can't afford to pay ML(I)S prices, or can't offer a full time job, benefits, whatever and realize there's no way they're going to attract someone with the degree. Plus state requirements vary (though usually boils down to "libraries serving above X population level must have a director with an MLS (plus other staffing requirements depending on size of libraries)" and frankly, given budget crunches I can well understand why smaller (and therefore with correspondingly smaller budgets might not want to pay the salary even if they could in palmier days of yore.


June 16 2012, 00:01:25 UTC 5 years ago Edited:  June 16 2012, 00:02:19 UTC

Depends on the library system and its size. You do not advance without the nessisary library certificate quals to that position in my library district.


June 16 2012, 00:59:31 UTC 5 years ago Edited:  June 16 2012, 01:07:40 UTC

I'm not sure I'm getting this right (because you are talking about the American system), but in Australia (and again I'm talking more generally maybe than specifically library systems) there is often an expectation of experience and skills in public administration, business management etc over specific library qualifications for this level of job. Obviously *some* experience in library management is required, but a lot of the work involved is actually more administrative or management - so the beefier requirements focus on those.

Relevant additional library skills can be taught, or can be shared by more experienced senior librarians etc, excellent management, financial control, HR management etc skills are probably more relevant immediately to this sort of role. Decisions about what to order in, how to manage individual collections etc are important, but generally in the domain of the experienced librarians.

EDIT - I'll eat my words! It does seem library skills are a primary requirement - as per govt job descriptions like this one:
At larger libraries, a Masters in Business Administration may be seen as being much more desirable in a candidate than an MLS, on the logic that an MBA should know how to run a large organization and schmooze with the local politicians, and the MLS folk who make up the rest of the organization can take care of the actual library-specific day-to-day stuff.
The most common scenario I'm aware of is what people above detailed. Small system, can't/won't pay for MLS because it's only part time, don't want to pay benefits etc. If you are in a much larger system, I'd have a careful conversation with HR before applying/accepting a job like that. If in a larger system and you would have MLSs working for you... I don't know if I'd take it. Many librarians can be prideful of our degrees and training and it would be entirely possible for there to be some really nasty personnel problems related to having a non-librarian boss.
I'm not sure what defines a large vs. a small system. There are 10 library branches serving about 320,000 people in our county.

Thank you all for your input.

I surely don't want to step on anybody's toes, but the library I'm volunteering in only seems to have one MLS on staff (the director herself).
This is a medium to larger system. A really small library like they are talking about is like my home town - one library serving a county of about 11,000.
Shot from left field...

Nepotism. The neice/nephew/friend candidate would not otherwise qualify!
I am a library director without an MLIS. In the system for which I work, a library must be chartered to serve a population of more than 7500 in order to have someone with an MLIS as a director. As the others have mentioned, size matters. Most of the libraries in my area are too small to afford the salary of someone with an MLS. I have a BAH in English and History and postgrad in journalism. I worked in this library as a clerk for a year before the director position became available. Someone with an MLIS also interviewed for the job. She works two part-time clerk jobs elsewhere in the county, and did not want the director's job because she did not want the responsibility.

I don't know how it works in other states, but here, you have to pass the Senior Library Clerk civil service test in order to be the director and the Library Clerk test to be a clerk. There are qualifications to be met before you can take those tests (in addition to the $15 service fee, of course!) - but I believe even those vary by county. For the Library Clerk test you have to have at least a high school diploma, and for the Senior Library Clerk test a certain number of years experience in the library field. When a library is interviewing for a position, they are meant to interview the top candidates from the civil service list first etc. etc. etc.