with UCLA Daily Bruin - 3/12/2002
below appeared in the Daily Bruin (UCLA). Some Goliard staffers took initial umbrage and the correspondence is
Library science degree: file that under 'stupid'
ACADEMIA: Nothing even remotely scientific, useful
about this program
By Sony Barari
Looking through the UCLA catalog trying to figure out
a way to weasel out of my latest D-minus, I stumbled across a real
academia. There is actually a graduate program, here on our campus,
called library science. Now, without bothering to actually research
program (and possibly forsaking the comic potential), I will attempt
relay the import of this discovery to you.
First of all, does this really need to be a graduate
program? As far as I can remember, every librarian with whom I have
ever come in contact has been a socially inept housewife who needs a
little extra income to help out around the homestead.
Other than an uncanny ability to impede potential hoopla and
don't understand why these overzealous school marms need to attend a
professional school, and thus be equated with scientists, doctors
and lawyers. I don't even think you need a GED to successfully put books
on shelves. Hell, a properly trained monkey with a fancy hat could
probably do that.
Secondly, what could these people possibly be learning
for such a long period of time? I can't imagine the Dewey Decimal
System taking more than a day to master. And what then? How to
requisition books and donations from private institutions without
annoying people? That's another day at most.
Come on, what could be the most serious issue facing a librarian?
How best to maximize profits from overdue fees? If you overcharge, nobody will go overdue. If you undercharge, you won't
make any money. Ooooh! We better start a graduate program to address
And why must this be a graduate school? What is there to learn
that you couldn't easily pick up "on the streets?" It's not like
we're training the leaders in cutting edge library methodology. Are these people
developing theses regarding new and revolutionary decimal systems? I'm pretty
sure Dewey has it covered.
Now, I understand that working at the Library of Congress might
be kind of a
drag, but that's only like 30 people. They could just take one of
those mail-in courses, couldn't they? They could pick up gun repair
while they're at it. Now that's a skill.
Library science? Science? There is not a single scientific thing
about library science. Putting on a silly puppet show for kids
doesn't exactly merit a Nobel Prize. They should call it library
communications, or library sociology, or some other crackpot title.
Please. Working in a library is about as scientific as phrenology or
astrology, and certainly less so than making moonshine in a tub. And mind you, the
program is accredited by the American Library Association. Hallelujah! God
forbid we have librarians from DeVry or Brymon peddling their
Now, I thought to myself that maybe I was being overly harsh, so
I decided to look into the program. Word for word, this is the
official description of the master's in library science:
"At UCLA, the MLIS program provides students with a blend of
conceptual and theoretical knowledge and practical experience. In
the classroom, students acquire a solid foundation in contemporary
library and information science theory, information seeking and
retrieval skills, and information technology expertise."
Take a moment to read that again. "Theoretical
knowledge?" What is that? "Information seeking
skills?" I rest my case.
As luck would have it, the annual
Special Libraries Association conference is in Los Angeles this
summer and will be attended by upwards of 2000 of the school marm
types to which you refer. Yes we will be descending, albeit
unwillingly, on the fetid, smoggy, crime ridden freeway system you
call a city in June. As a public service to you and your readers, I
will personally make sure that as many of us that want to come along
(and once this column is distributed throughout our organization
that number should be substantial) stop over and look you up while
we are in town. I trust you have a class or two to make up this
summer and won't flee back to Ridgecrest. Perhaps, when
faced with physical examples of the profession, you will consider
revisiting your impressions of us. I expect you'll find, when we
summon you squinting from your reeking lab or whatever troglodytic
Westwood hole you dwell in, that not all of us are inept housewives.
Some of us are not wives at all in fact, and frankly quite capable
of separating a scrawny, self important cell biologist from his
petri dish and splintering his D-minus spine over our knees.
And lest you fear that your
underachieving school is the only Pac10 institution offering the
Library Science degree that you find so worthless, you should be
aware that the schools in the upper tier of the conference such as
Washington and Arizona also offer an equivalent to the MILS degree.
And these are institutions, by the way, where athletics are taken
seriously, and whose sports figures aren't constantly in trouble for
stealing parking passes from the handicapped, recruiting Australian
non-students to play a few weeks of illegal college softball, and
driving unsanctioned sport utility vehicles. Yet they join UCLA in
offering students the chance to become proficient in information
management at an advanced level.
And information, after all, is
something that if I was a faceless failure of a lab rat with
apparently no life experiences other than writing for my high school
newspaper, if I was named after a brand of television, and attending
a fading, loose with the rules, school in an increasingly squalid
city, I might want a little more of in hopes that I might use it to
better my petty life in some way. This would especially be true if I
made habit of publishing my ignorance for all to see.
P.S. If you take offense in any way to this missive
you may assume it is satire.
P.P.S And no, when we think of
college basketball we do not think of Pauley Pavilion and the ninth
seeded Bruins. Not anymore. Not since Bill Walton left and I noticed
he sent his sons elsewhere.
I just wanted to take a moment to
go ahead and apologize if my article has offended you. It was
written solely with the intention of providing a piece of comic
material to UCLA students. The intention, however obscured that it
may have been, was certainly not to belittle the library profession,
but rather to poke fun at the misguided misconceptions people have
about many things that they do not completely understand. This has
been a recurring theme in a series of Daily Bruin articles over the
past couple weeks. I'll be the first to admit that my article is
grossly cursory in nature in regards to library science. I actually
did take the time to research the profession, and understand that it
is indeed a valuable institution to our society. It'd be idiotic of
me or anyone else to think otherwise, and I hope that this common
sense overshadows the propagation of any contrary opinion. Sometimes
exaggeration is the key to comedy (I've never been close to a D-),
and the "uninformed" opinion that you may find so
offensive is actually an indictment of the propensity for our
society to form opinions based on solely superficial foundations. I
assure you that I have the utmost respect for you and your
profession. I can't imagine anything more vital and integral to
academia than information dispersal and communication. Which is
precisely the point of the article I wrote. I hoped that the
juxtaposition of such a clearly noble profession with some of the
gross stereotypes associated with it would help enlighten the reader
as to the clear chasm that separates informed and misinformed
formation of opinions. I chose library science as the catalyst for
this concept because I felt the disparity between common sense and
misconception was the greatest here. I regret now that I didn't make
this more clear in my article, but rest assured that I'm not the
ignorant monster that some have made me out to be. Thank you for
taking the time to write to me, and once again, I apologize.
Now, I sent this basic apology to
the Daily Bruin as soon as I realized what an uproar my article had
created, and hope that they will print it. On a more personal note,
let me tell you a little about myself that might help ground the
article more clearly. Ever since I can remember, I absolutely loved
to read. In elementary and junior high school, I actually had my mom
pick me up an hour after school got out so that I could hang out in
the library and read. Inevitably, some shushing and dirty glances
did occur, but for the most part I have maintained a great
relationship with the librarians who I dealt with in the past, and
respect them deeply. In fact, my best friend's mother is a librarian
(the housewife "type"), and I think that she is a
wonderful person, and that her job is infinitely important to the
kids and adults in my small hometown. As for college, I can't even
begin to describe the amount of time I've spent here at the UCLA
libraries. (not actually studying) From days spent in the book
stacks, to lazy afternoons looking through archived Time magazines,
I've utilized and enjoyed the libraries here as much as anyone else.
I have cherished the opportunity to watch films from D.W. Griffith
to old TV episodes in the media lab. I'm not a moron, and I realize
that it takes a lot of time, effort, and skill to orchestrate a
library system as massive as the one here at UCLA, and others like
it around the world. I am very sincere in this, and am now getting
frustrated by the constant and numerous attacks directed at me. I
hope you consider my apology.
I'm not sure if you've seen these
explanations and apologies before, but I want you to know that I absolutely
don't hold the stereotypes that you think I do. And as
far as the state of UCLA basketball and football goes, I'm all too
painfully aware of our shortcomings. Maybe if we'd fire Lavin . . .
but that's a whole other story. Thanks again for writing, and I hope
this kind of explains what the point of my article was.
As you can see from our retort to your piece we are not complete strangers
to satire ourselves. And although some of us technically are librarians, we actually
enjoyed your viewpoint column and laughed out loud when we first read it. Believe
those we know who chose to sit through "library science" school know better than anyone how
lame it is and the people who take it so seriously as a profession on the level with medicine and the hard
sciences are to be pitied and ridiculed. Many in the discipline, and by
our calculations, most, fall into the categories of frustrated untalented writers, painfully
shy education school bailouts, obsessive readers trying to avoid reality, and anal retentive control
freaks trying to wield power over hapless patrons. Also, as we dare say you've learned over the past week, they are very sensitive to attacks on their profession
mostly, we believe, because they are constantly afraid of being exposed to the world for what they
We remember being shocked ourselves initially when we found out there was such a thing as library science. Some of us chose
to study the discipline originally, not because we thought it was legitimate on it's own but to assist us in researching works of fiction and because
we wanted to hang out in grad school but didn't want to work too hard.
On the other hand, like in any profession, there are some
talented and interesting people scattered about who would be
successful no matter what they chose to do but for some reason ended
up working in library related environs. Many of them, like us, are
far from school marms. And as we know you now realize, controlling and
organizing information is vital in today's society and the talents
and skills required to maintain and disseminate knowledge are
increasingly valued. It's not rocket science or brain surgery (Smithers
get me the ice cream scoop!) but scientists and surgeons alike would
often be lost without us.
The main reasons we chose to respond to your piece the way we did was because of the contrast between the
folks you attempted to lampoon and some of our personal stats as librarians. One of us, for example, presides over a library housed in an
big dirty mine, wears steel toed boots to work, a hard hat, safety
glasses, has a spittoon in the library, stands 6'2" (6'4"
with his steel toes on) weighs 235lbs, and played college hockey
long enough to hit a player from UCLA so hard that blood was
squirting out of his rectum.
And we know of many other colleagues of comparable stature and in similar circumstances. Another reason for the tone of
the retort was that we have developed a healthy dislike for UCLA over the
years (mainly because the likes of Lavin, Tonya Harding, Don McClean etc.)
Above all however, we appreciate good writers and we believe you
are, or will someday be, that. We haven't been exposed to any of
your other columns but based on the one we've read we can see that
you have a talent for articulating spoof and satire (you should do
well in law school). As you are clearly aware but many are not, the
point of a column like that is to pull some strings and push some
buttons. In hindsight, you probably should have been even harsher on
the profession simply to tip them off that you were mostly joking.
We think the majority of them totally missed the point specifically
because they are so paranoid that society shares your written views
and they have grown weary of trying to legitimize what they do to a
mostly skeptical populace. Also, we suspect that since many were
unfamiliar with the Bruin Viewpoint and whatever topical undercurrents and
themes it had been sustaining and instead were asked to consider
your column on its own, they took it at face value and immediately
went on the attack.
As we're sure you're aware, stereotypes exist for a reason and while not all UCLA students are spoiled
preppies, not all prima donna college athletes are being paid under the table, and not all that have
library degrees are dull, bun wearing, spinsters, the majority probably are. To expose them as
such in a well read publication, even
satirically, takes guts. We were pleasantly surprised to find that you were the thoughtful sort who regretted
any misunderstanding about his column but would have been equally impressed had you taken the stance that
library science is, in fact, a questionable degree that shouldn't
get so pissy about having to explain itself.
Keep on keeping on and good luck.