Montana State Library Commission: Votes Whether to Remove Master’s Degree for Directors

Date:

Call to Action  

The Montana State Library Commission will vote on December 6th whether to remove a Master’s in Library Science degree requirement for directors of large libraries from the list of Montana Public Library Standards.   

Please support the removal of this requirement and return this important hiring decision to local control.  

The deadline for public comment is December 1, 2023 at noon.  

Submit Public Comment: (Click here to do so)

There will also be a public hearing on Zoom on December 1st at 1:00 PM. 

Please send written comments and consider attending/participating in the hearing.  

What are the Public Library Standards and why should you care?  

The Montana Public Library Standards are requirements that public libraries in Montana must fulfill in order to receive state funding. See the full list here: Standards: (Click here to view).

The standards are created and administered by the State Library, which collects the necessary data from public libraries and determines if they qualify for funding.  

The Master’s Degree requirement currently applies to the eight largest libraries in the state. The majority of libraries are free to hire a director that fits their needs; some have directors with the degree, while others do not.  

Removing the degree requirement from the list of Public Library Standards gives the local library board the ability to hire the person best qualified for their particular circumstances. It returns control over this decision to the local level, where it rightly belongs.  

Furthermore, most Master’s in Library Science programs are accredited by the American Library Association (ALA). https://www.ala.org/  Please note: the Montana State Library recently voted to separate from the ALA. Also, candidates who wish to earn this degree must go to school out-of-state or online, because this degree is not offered in Montana.

This makes no sense.  

Opponents of removing the requirement worry that library boards will hire high school graduates without experience or skills as directors. This is insulting to the residents who volunteer their time and talent as board members for their local libraries.  

Another argument for keeping the requirement is that large, and therefore “rich” libraries can afford a Library Director with an MLS degree, and therefore should pay for one. While it is true that larger libraries have larger budgets, they obviously also have higher expenses, and their library boards manage their finances just as carefully as do the smaller libraries.  

Opponents also claim that the quality of library services will decline if this requirement is removed. In light of the fact that there are 30 (!) other standards remaining on the list, this claim is ridiculous. The long list of Library Standards will safeguard quality services in our public libraries across the state. The vast majority of libraries currently do not have to satisfy this requirement and are functioning just fine.  

Opponents further advocate that large libraries need the expertise of a degreed librarian, yet the degree requirement only applies to the director position, and ignores degreed librarians working in other roles. Your large library may have several degreed librarians working as department heads, but their expertise does not count towards fulfilling the state standard.  

Please support the removal of this degree requirement and empower your local library board to hire a library director that fits your local needs.  

Here are some sample comments to get you started:  

Dear Montana State Library Commissioners:  

I support removing the Master’s Degree requirement from the Public Library Standards so that citizens can make a hiring decision locally.  

— OR —   

I support removing the Master’s Degree requirement from the Public Library Standards so that my local library board can hire the best candidate for the job, regardless of what piece of paper they may or may not have.  

— OR —   

I support removing the Master’s Degree requirement from the Public Library Standards. It applies only to a few libraries in the state, and that’s not fair.  

— OR —   

I support removing the Master’s Degree requirement from the Public Library Standards so that every public library in Montana is free to make the best hiring decision for their unique situation.  

— OR —   

I support removing the Master’s Degree requirement from the Public Library Standards. Library boards should be able to hire local talent and people with experience, and not just those who have a Master’s Degree in Library Science.   

The deadline for public comment is December 1, 2023 at noon.  Submit Public Comment: Click here.

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