the Goliard
March, 2002

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Exchange with UCLA Daily Bruin -  3/12/2002

The article below appeared in the Daily Bruin (UCLA). Some Goliard staffers took initial umbrage and the correspondence is included below.

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 jewel of
academia. There is actually a graduate program, here on our campus,
called library science. Now, without bothering to actually research the
program (and possibly forsaking the comic potential), I will attempt to
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 merrymaking, I
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 this!

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 knowledge.

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.

Response One

Hey Sony,

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.

Author's Reply

Dear Goliard, 

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.

Sony Barari

p.s.

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.

Second Reply

Sony,

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 us, 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 are.

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.

The Goliard

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