In Library School and Beyond

In a post published today, Nicole Engard, from What I Learned Today, discusses the problem of keeping up with the library profession. She writes:

I’ve been talking to a lot of new people lately – students and librarians alike – and in those talks, something has become very clear to me – no one is teaching people the simple techniques to keep up with our profession. I’m not talking about the power user style of keeping up (subscribing to hundreds of feeds), I’m talking about the basics of library journals. In my program I have only had one professor encourage us to read American Libraries (she even emailed us the online version every time it came out). I had one professor point us to digital library journals (in my digital libraries class) and others have pointed us to the databases where we can find library specific articles. What about the journals most libraries subscribe to?

I wonder if this particular skill is even considered to be important in terms of library education. I have to agree with Nicole that I haven’t encountered much at all about current awareness in my time at library school. I’m not saying it isn’t there at all. If I recall, it seemed to be something that was not explicitly stated, but was encouraged in a couple of classes. In these classes, the professor and the students often shared links to library news or articles that they thought were important. This professor also required us to subscribe to several listservs (that I am now still subscribed to – ARGH!!! – I’m getting so tired of listservs). Some professors add journal titles that are relevant to the class on the syllabus. Again, this encouraged keeping up in what I would consider to be a passive manner – and mostly related to the actual course material rather than libraries and librarianship in general. There is definitely room for a more explicit statement about keeping up.

So, I’m trying to decide – does this actually belong as part of library science curriculum? I can see faculty thinking that they have enough to teach to students. I can also see them thinking that this is a basic skill that students should already have – and realistically, can learn easily on their own with some guidance. However, there does need to be guidance. There is definitely a need for a basic primer which could include a list of standard journals, listservs, blogs, websites, etc. that faculty feel are critical (using library blogs as a way to stay current has never been mentioned in school). This wouldn’t necessarily need to be part of class, but possibly part of a package or orientation given to all students. Faculty in specific classes could add to it with specific information tailored to specific subjects. If such lists were updated regularly and made public, librarians who have been out of school for awhile could use these resources to update their own knowledge. Library schools need to set the expectation that students keep current with news of the profession.

Some information on keeping up with the profession (and some blog posts on how not to be overwhelmed too):

Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Keeping up is a commitment that we should all take the time and energy to make. It really isn’t hard. Unfortunately, it is the easiest thing to let slide when work and life get busy.

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6 Responses to In Library School and Beyond

  1. Nicole says:

    I understand what you’re saying – but our field is growing and changing by the minute and if we’re not taught in school about how to keep up then we’re going to fall behind real quick! I find it shocking that librarians (and I know this is a generalization) aren’t keeping up in every way they can. I constantly hear about libraries where people are unwilling to change or learn new things … maybe (and this is total speculation) if we were all forced to keep up in school – and taught the right techniques we’d be better as a profession.

    As for professors trying to teach us too much already – I can think of plenty that can be replaced in the curriculum with more necessary skills.

  2. Jennifer says:

    Nicole, I do agree. Keeping up is vital. I guess I’m just a bit pessimistic about this making it into the curriculum at library school. This, I guess, is why I think it should be an expectation from schools that their LIS students keep up rather than a specific class requirment. I fear that some professors might require it – but many more wouldn’t.

    Your point that there is plenty in the curriculum that could be replaced is quite valid.

  3. I would enjoy just knowing what my professors read- what they think is important to the profession. More than instruction, it helps create a context for information- I can see that this person that specializes in this likes to read these things. When faced with a list of hundreds of possible resources, it’s hard to decide what you’re going to read.

    I have had several teachers suggest various listservs, but so far, I have refused to subscribe. I used to subscribe to listservs back when there was no better option, but I find they’re just not very useful for me. Luckily, many of them archive online, and shame on those that don’t.

    I find that a few blogs serve as a great filter for the print media- people talk about an article, then I track it down and read it. I have a few print subscriptions I read thoroughly, but it’s by no means a lot.

    Working in an academic library is the best way to keep up- I just take my lunch break in the periodical room occasionally. :)

  4. Emily says:

    I agree that it seems like keeping current is one of several areas that library school programs seem to neglect… and they shouldn’t! There are so many different ways to keep up, and it’s so important in the field, I feel like it should get at least a mention. But maybe it’s an indication that the teachers themselves may be a little behind the times on this one, as well. Telling you to subscribe to 80 thousand listservs doesn’t hack it. Sure, that’s one way, but there is so much more out there, both in print and online. It’s too bad that keeping up professionally is not much more than an afterthought right form the outset.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Karin, I would enjoy knowing what my professors read also. Professors are a great resource. I agree about blogs. I get most of my information from various blogs too. It is much more entertaining than thumbing through periodicals!! :)

    In my experience so far, many professors are still pushing the listservs. And, that just doesn’t work well any more – I’m trying to get rid of as many as possible because they drive me batty. But Emily, you are right that this could indicate that professors may be behind the times. Keeping up definitely needs to be a priority rather than an afterthought!

  6. […] In Library School and Beyond (Life as I Know It) […]

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