Debating the Doctorate

I've debated the value of a doctorate for a non-teaching librarian in my Academic Librarianship course, with library school students, and with my boss. All these conversations came back to me today when I read Jill Hurst-Wahl's post about further education (she asks some great devil's-advocate questions). She mentions this valuable book aimed at we in the over-educated (or the desire-to-be-over-educated) category:
"Getting What You Came for: The Smart Student's Guide to Earning a Master's or a Ph.D."

I love this quote at the beginning of the second chapter:
"Graduate school is a ritual humiliation in which novice academics are initiated into their respective disciplines."

During the Dark Times between researching my thesis and writing it (a year in which I had little guidance, a fruitless job hunt, and a frantic scramble to find an alternate career to teaching), I certainly felt the heavy truth of that statement. I pondered getting out of the Art History program completely (I'd already taken the core courses for library school) and cutting my losses. But I was encouraged by the then-head of SLIS's digitization program (thank you, Dr. Hastings!) and my new major professor--my previous one having left the university--(thank you, Dr. Donahue-Wallace!) to persevere. After Dr. D-W took over, I began and completed my thesis in less than five months--which proves that, as this book professes, you don't have to spend forever on it--but I discovered this only after a year and a half spent fearing it, avoiding it, feeling lost, and having regular nightmares about one of the professors on my Thesis Committee (part of that "ritual humiliation" thing).

I'm blessed now to be in a position at an academic library where second masters' are encouraged, rather than at a public or other position, where I might feel that my time, effort, and money were wasted. I'm even currently taking a class that I'm very interested in, albeit at non-degree-seeking status. But as I don't currently have the desire to teach, I can't see any purpose to starting a PhD, in any subject. I don't think I can justify the time, money, and effort not only for myself, but for my husband and family. I already spent 5 1/2 of our 6 years of married life in school; the first two years in particular, I'm sure my in-laws thought that "I've got homework" was just my periennial excuse. I did schoolwork all the time--every holiday, family dinner, weekend, evening. Much as I love this class, I'm immensely relieved that the pressure and burden of school is (mostly) gone.

Of course, there's then the small fact that after spending 24 out of 28 years in school, it's still bizarre to try to think of myself outside of the student-mindset. Not a small portion of my (and my husband's) decision for me to enroll this semester was due to the belief that if I quit school cold-turkey, my brain might break.

And now you understand why I work on a university campus. It's all because my parents spent my formative years stressing the importance of a college education--eleven years of higher education later, it's the only place that feels right.

Update: Yikes. Five of my last six post titles are alliterative. Maybe I took that English degree a little too seriously...

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