The Ticket You Get Punched”: The Divide Between Academic and Public Librarianship and the MLIS

Document Type



Most professions experience at least some real or perceived divide among practitioners who engage in the work of the profession daily and those who train practitioners. As a result, practitioners question the value of this training. The goal of the current study was to learn more about this divide in Library and Information Science (LIS) and uncover potential solutions. In six focus groups (FGs), practicing academic and public librarians discussed curriculum in light of the requirements of the profession. Findings suggest that practitioners still perceive a divide among themselves and LIS educational institutions. Participants generally viewed the MLIS as little more than “the ticket that you get punched” to get a job. A consistent concern across participants was the irrelevance of skills training, suggesting the need for MLIS programs to engage often with local practitioners to identify workplace trends and required skills. Participants also noted that the communities served by the profession exist as an abstract idea in the MLIS, because students do not interact directly with the people who make up these communities. Findings suggest that the MLIS can reassert its value through a renewed emphasis on core values of the profession, which are not learned on the job. Therefore, while the divide persists, the conversation with practitioners outlined in the current study is itself a means of closing it. This study contributes to the literature on LIS education by highlighting the value of FGs as a method within this literature.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

APA Citation

Freeburg, D., & Vera, A. (2021). “The Ticket You Get Punched”: The Divide between Academic and Public Librarianship and the MLIS. Journal Of Education For Library And Information Science, 62(1), 17-33.