What do we want from our LIS education? Laura Cohen has a list of suggested skills, which she calls foundations skills, for LIS programs in today’s world of Library 2.0. I like the list – think that most of the items are extremely important for people to have a handle on in order to be successful at librarianship. In response, Steven Chabot, from Subject/Object, posts an interesting comment. In the comment (available on his blog also), Steven writes: “While I agree somewhat with what you have listed, was not the degree conceived as Library Science? Many of the things you have mentioned, at least in terms of having to teach or learn them, could be picked up with a few hours of an O’Reilly book. Am I paying thousands of dollars to evaluate URLs?”
Recently, Steven has been bemoaning the lack of academic rigour in his MLS program. Without a doubt, Steven has a point. Many of the technical skills can be learned on one’s own or in workshops. Yet, one problem is that there is a contingent of MLS students who have no library experience – and not much in the way of technical experience. LIS school must endeavor to train students with divergent backgrounds. How can I with over ten years of experience in libraries and extensive experience with technology have the same educational needs as someone who has never worked in a library and is not comfortable with technology? How do schools account for different experiences and varied levels of knowledge? Honestly, I don’t think schools themselves do account for such variables. Should they? Or should that be left to individual instructors? In my experience in graduate school, it is the professor that takes into account the varying degrees of knowledge held by students. I must add that some are exceedingly proficient at this – and some are not.
I have to wonder if in this time of uncertainty about libraries and their purpose if that same uncertainty does not plague library schools. Are MLS programs vocational in nature or theoretical? Which should they be in order to best educate librarians? Should students with differing levels of experience be allowed to have different programs of study? If the MLS becomes something that people just want “get through” is not the library profession as a whole going to suffer? I don’t really have any answers to these questions. Ultimately, I believe that a person who wants to learn how to be a librarian, who cares about the information needs of library users, wants to help people find information and believes in librarianship will do well whether they are self-taught, educated via a vocational MLS program, educated via a theoretical MLS program or taught through experience. I believe in the value of the MLS (I wouldn’t be going otherwise), but believe strongly that we are all hold responsibility for our own educational experience.