The great international debate

My library has been working on updating our tenure and promotion policies. Yes, I can hear the collective groans from everyone out there, and it has indeed been a slow and painstaking process. But wait — lest I start out on a negative note I want to hasten to add that it is also a process in which I feel privileged to be participating.

As we’ve been combing through our potential new policy, I found myself tripped up by what I would formerly have considered the most standard of requirements: the ALA-accredited MLS degree.

Now here’s my thought process as we picked apart the document that my coworkers have worked so admirably hard on: an ALA MLS, sure, that’s the standard every librarian should have. Hm. Of course, ALA is an American organization, so what happens if the individual in question isn’t American? Do we want to immediately exclude librarians from other nations from ever getting a permanent job here? (Can you see the lightbulb going off?)

Personally, I thrive on diversity, the meeting of different opinions, backgrounds, perspectives. Don’t you? Part of what I love about our field is the fact that we do value those differences and gain such richness overall. So I decided to do my research and find out what the deal is on international librarian credentials that might fly in the US. My best find was an article in New Library World (v.108 no.1/2) entitled “International credentialing, certification, and recognition in the United States” but the article is an explanation of the problem, not an answer.

It did, however, lead me to ALA’s policy (54.2) on the issue:

The master’s degree from a program accredited by the American Library Association (or from a master’s level program in library and information studies accredited or recognized by the appropriate national body of another country) is the appropriate professional degree for librarians.

But this must be some sort of evasive maneuver. How on earth does one determine what the “appropriate national body of another country” is? Does someone out there maintain a list? I suddenly realized how complex all of this really is.

I don’t have any answers either, I’m afraid, but this issue concerns me greatly. The geography of our nation has always lent itself to a certain amount of isolationism when it comes to the world at large. If our field is based on an isolationist approach to the way we credential librarians, then I worry for our future in a world that shrinks by the day. Here’s a crusade desperately in need of a crusader. I know I, for one, will be thinking about the alternatives.