LIS Education

Over on Tame The Web, Michael Stephens asks “How does/did your LIS program measure up?” Stephens discusses an article in Library Journal on Michael Gorman by John Berry. In the article, Berry writes “Librarianship requires graduates from programs designed to respond to national trends in information, leisure, technology, and entertainment and the need for civic awareness and community.” I believe that it is in relation to this quote that Michael Stephens is asking about LIS programs. I’m really not sure how to assess my LIS program in relation to this quote. Really the question is, will all students graduating with their MLS from SCSU be able to “respond to national trends in information leisure, technology, and entertainment and the need for civic awareness and community?” I would have to say no – but I doubt that any graduate program would be able to claim that all of their graduates have the knowledge needed for this. So much of this comes down to what the student wants to learn and what type of librarian the student wants to be. In the course of my studies, I have run across students who want to learn about new technologies, want to learn about the ways that people use technologies and seem to care about the people they will serve as librarians. However, I have also run across students who only seem to want to do the required work with as little effort as possible. One doesn’t normally interact with these types of students much. I can’t definitively tell what type of student they will be, but I suspect that they will simply want to go through the motions of any future library job.

Personally, I feel as if I am getting quite a bit out of my educational experience. I’m not sure how much of this I attribute to the actual program and how much I attribute to my own initiative and desire to be a better and more responsive librarian. Ok, that statement isn’t really true. Honestly, I have to attribute most of it to my own desire to make connections, to widen my horizons, to learn something beyond the lectures and textbooks. I can say that in only two of the six classes that I have taken (or are taking) have we discussed the types of issues or strategies that I would consider to be beyond the bounds of traditional librarianship. In a third class, the focus was primarily issues relating to the traditional librarianship concepts of freedom of information, privacy, ethics, etc. – and I think that was appropriate. However, the other three classes could have been so much more. In the reference class, there was no discussion of the impact of technology on reference services. Internet sources were treated as if they were simply sources of information. We didn’t discuss search strategies for finding pertinent information, use of instant messaging, social software, ways to engage patrons or ways in which patrons look for information. The class could have been so much more.

I have to admit that because I have lots of practical library experience, it is difficult (maybe impossible) for me to judge how well my LIS program would prepare people without any prior library knowledge for a job. I’m pretty secure in the path that I want to take, and have the experience to support my chosen path – thus, practical knowledge is not an issue for me. The MLS program definitely does not impart practical, day-to-day knowledge of library operations (exceptions are field studies and internships of which not everyone takes advantage). It is definitely much more theoretical in nature. So, really what do students need from an MLS program? I think the difficult part of this equation is that students differ in their learning styles – and they need different things. Students with significant library experience could use a different course of study from those without any experience. How do we assess these types of issues? I’m not entirely sure. I do believe that those of us who are graduate students need to take some responsibility for the education that we receive. The information that we need to know is out there. We have to find out how to harvest it. We should all be discussing LIS education and what it does well and what it does poorly. I could certainly have done without several of the classes I have taken so far – so there is certainly room for improvement.

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