Librarians vs Library Techs: The epic struggle

While in Library school in my management course the conflict between professionals and para-professionals was brought up, in fact I had to be part of a group presentation on the conflict for a good portion of my mark. The back story goes something like this. In the good ole days many librarians toiled with cataloging, reference services, and other services. Today many librarians feel that employers and colleges are sourcing out their jobs to library techs, thereby flooding the market with para professionals and stealing all the library jobs that once were prevalent in our society. What people fail to notice is that things change…it is a fact of life.

Today Librarians and library techs are competing for many of the same jobs. This is true, but what librarians and library students tend to forget is that there has been a shift in the way librarians are used in the library. Today librarians act as managers of the library. Most management jobs in the library and information sector require an MLIS/MLS. This means that many jobs not for Librarians 20-35, 50 years ago are now exclusively accessible to MLIS/MLS graduates.

This is a bonus for us librarians. We can attain jobs that library technicians cannot and we can also vie for the same jobs that they can. We as librarians have an advantage in the library market, in that we are qualified for all jobs in a library; from library assistant to library CEO. Can a library technician say that?

In some cases Librarian and Library techs are one in the same. It is simply a title put forward by an employer. Some job postings I have seen say library tech, but what they really want is someone with an MLIS/MLS and vice versa. At the school board I work for the only difference between a librarian and library tech is elementary school (called a library tech) and high school (called a librarian). They offer the same services for different patrons, at least as far as I can see. Not to downplay library technicians, they serve a vital role. They are the core workforce in a library with many practical skills, not offered in a master’s program. We as librarians can learn quite a bit from them and they from us. This can only be achieved if we work together to create a harmonious library environment.

3 thoughts on “Librarians vs Library Techs: The epic struggle

  1. Sarah

    I agree with what you are saying here. My question is about the amount of school each option takes. I have a BA and the MLIS is a two year program. The library tech program is a two year program. Meaning that regardless the option I choose, I will receive 2 years of library specific training. What is the main differences between the two? More management courses for a masters?
    Why is there such a divide between two groups that receive the same amount of training in a specific subject?

    1. lordatwater Post author

      Well, the main difference is practical vs theory. If you want practical skills such as how to catalogue and a class devoted to each type of system (Dewey, LC, LCSH, ARCCII, MARC, etc.) then you would want to take library tech training. If you want to know why it is like it is and get a little bit of everything including management training, reference services, types of librarianship than take an MLIS. The MLIS is very Theory heavy, and many students complain about that; library techs however get heavy practical skills. Both are relevant (even if students don’t see it at first)


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