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How Would You Change Library School?

October 20, 2010

The Setup…

There has been quite a bit of discussion lately about the value of a Masters in Library Science degree. Bobbi Newman (Librarian by Day) has two posts (Post #1 and Post #2) that serve as nice digests of these discussions on the web.

There has also been talk about the make-up of the library school curriculum. Most recently, Micah Vandegrift–a current library school student–wrote a guest post for the In the Library with a Lead Pipe blog. Micah describes his idea for what he calls the HackLibSchool experiment which centers (initially, at least) around a collaborative Google Document. The post garnered some chatter on Twitter with the hashtag #HackLibSchool, and now a wiki has been created.

The Question…

How would you change library school if given the chance? As a current library school student or a graduate of a library school, is there anything that you would recommend as an improvement for an MLS program?

Tomorrow (Thursday) I will be attending a session at the South Carolina Library Association 2010 Annual Conference that addresses this very issue. The “SLIS Curriculum Review Forum” session will center around a current review of the core MLS courses taught in the School of Library and Information Science at the University of South Carolina. The session will be held in the form of a focus group discussion “to share feedback on skills gained in the program and skills needed in the workplace.”

I know this is super short notice, but I had a late-night, 11th-hour idea…I would love to be able to bring your thoughts to the discussion at tomorrow’s session. Respond with a comment at the end of this post or tweet your “library school reform” suggestion to me at @jkennerly. Here’s a great chance for you to provide some valuable feedback to a real-life library school. Go!

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  1. October 20, 2010 at 10:53 pm | #1

    a) I attended a GREAT library program and learned so much about my future role as an instructional specialist and partner.

    However, even my experience could have been bettered with an emphasis on…

    b) more field experience.

    c) integrating 21st century technologies in order to meet the needs of 21st century learners.

    d) advocacy training

    e) the establishment of a PLN to promote continued prof. growth.

    d)

    • October 20, 2010 at 11:16 pm | #2

      Thanks for the comments!

      RE: b) and d) Yes, yes!

      RE: e) Have you seen this from a 2009 presentation for a K-12 education technology conference? http://sites.google.com/site/buildingapln/ It would be easy to see such things incorporated into a course (or across multiple courses).

  2. FSkornia
    October 21, 2010 at 1:42 am | #3

    I saw your tweet just as I was going to bed and decided to stay up and formulate a response.

    The first thing, I agree fully with Jennifer that the most important thing needed in library school is more field practice. I am in favor that in place of a thesis or special project (the requirement at my school), there should be a required practicum – maybe even 2 semesters worth and maybe at 2 different types of libraries. This works favorably for both the student, who will gain valuable experience that is difficult to get otherwise, and for the libraries. Especially in this time of drastic budget cuts across the board and difficulties in hiring and keeping staff. Having a nearly fully trained student-librarian (since the practicum likely would occur near the end of their degree) that does not require precious payroll money would be a significant boon to libraries.

    The other thing I would like to see is more connection between local libraries and their nearby library schools. I don’t know what the situation is like at other schools, but at my school there is very little outreach to the local libraries with the exception of an option Library Practice course which is essentially an arranged internship. Even at the university, there is a major disconnect between the LIS department and the library, despite them being located in the same building. I’ve been able to personally make connections in the library community because I’ve sought them out through my state library association and ALA (Twitter actually helps a lot with this too), but I feel that I shouldn’t have to try so hard to connect with my soon-to-be peers. Strengthening ties between the local libraries and the library schools can only help the entire profession.

    My final thought is something much more drastic and far-fetched. I’ve been wondering whether the MLS program as it stands is capable of creating the sort of librarians that are needed to help progress. Does the program need to be longer to account for the wider range of skills that are needed and looked for in new librarians? What courses are being taught that are no longer applicable or are soon to be obsolete? What courses should be created to replace them? Should there be a bigger push to attract potential librarians at a younger age and maybe develop a 5 year bachelor’s/master’s program?

    I hope this helps, and thank you for prompting people to think about this issue. I’m sure I’m not the only current student that is asking why, but I guess the real question is what are going to be able to do to fix it in the future? Good luck tomorrow.

    • October 21, 2010 at 8:21 am | #4

      Thanks for (staying up and) your sharing your thoughts. Helpful, indeed. More good talking points to throw into the mix. I hope you didn’t loose too much sleep last night. :-)

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