There is great difference of opinion about this, particularly among some public library CEOs. Certainly there are recent examples of great library leaders without the MLIS and more than a few unmitigated disasters who held the credential. Rather than tackle this issue (although I do not see professional librarianship inherently antithetical to appropriate business and political acumen), I’d like raise a side issue.
I recently heard the CEO of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) speak. He, Dan Cohen, was very impressive. He is not a librarian and this was made abundantly clear in the introduction.
Now Cohen spoke to a crowd of several hundred librarians. These are people who are not shy about posturing around the merest slight or opportunity to point out professional (and thus moral) inferiority. Not a murmur. There were questions that typically began with “you are doing wonderful things but…” what about your collection management policies? What is your position on professional values like intellectual freedom? And so on.
Outrage to Apathy?
I was seated beside an urban public library CEO. I mentioned that if she were replaced by a non-librarian, there would be outrage (not to mention rampant discourtesy), public questions, and resolutions. But why not for the Digital Public Library of America? Now, please, I am not suggesting that the CEO should necessarily be a librarian. But isn’t it interesting that no one seems to care? Is it that it is not bricks and mortar? Too technological? Too senior (we excuse the aging historian)? Why does this one not matter? No LJ editorial. No ALA Council motion.
Interesting choice of title for its mandate: the Digital Public Library of America.
Maybe a more substantial question would be why no one cares that the DPLA Board of nine has only two professional librarians on it (and a few more with the title…)…