Hack Your Program: Indiana University-Indianapolis SLIS
25/05/2011 § 15 Comments
*Disclaimer: These are my personal opinions and are not representative of the student body. I started in Fall 2010 as a full-time, out-of-state student. All criticism is meant to be constructive.
I go to the School of Library and Information Science at Indiana University-Indianapolis (a.k.a. IUPUI). It’s a nice campus that located just west of the downtown area. Overall, I would say that my program has a very traditional approach to the LIS education. For example, we graduate with an MLS, not an MLIS. Students can either take classes online, on-campus, or long-distance, via satellite classes, although long distance learners are required to take at least one class in person. I moved here from CA because I wanted to attend a school in person, so I mostly am taking on-campus courses, which works best for me personally. I really have connected with the student body and the professors here, which has made my experience really awesome.
Concentrations and/or specializations:
There are three main tracks that people take, academic, public, and school media specialists. Additionally, there are some dual degrees and specialization certificates offered on this campus. Some that stand out in my opinion are the MLS/ Master of Science in Health Informatics and the MLS/ Master of Arts in Philanthropic Studies. These are specializations that I haven’t seen offered at many other schools.
SLIS Indy has several graduate assistantship positions, either in the SLIS office or at the university library. Getting a GA position means you get 6 credit hours a semester reimbursed, you work 20 hours a week, and get a bi-weekly stipend. However, you must apply by May 1 for the following fall semester to be eligible for consideration. Otherwise, financial aid can be found through FAFSA and work-study positions. I also suggest looking at professional associations to look for scholarships. The down-side to this is that the university library here cut the GA program for the next year so now students primarily work in the SLIS office.
Here at SLIS, we have 15 credit hour foundational courses that we must take. The degree is a 36 credit-hour program, which takes about 2 years to complete if you go to school full-time.
- Collection development
- Library management
- Introduction to research
- Cataloging or representation and organization of information.
After we take these core classes, the rest of the coursework are electives which we can tailor to our own interests. We are also allowed 6 units outside of SLIS, if we want, as long as it is approved by an advisor. This means 6 units at the Bloomington campus or in another department. Personally, I wish that I didn’t have to take all of the foundational courses but in the end, I suppose I will graduate with a well rounded education. Our degree does not require a final project or a thesis, so students feel either relieved or directionless. We have the option to do directed research or reading for credit, so if students feel compelled to take on a personal research project, they can do so for credit. I think it would be nice to feel like I was working towards a capstone project or some sort of culminating final project, as opposed to taking a bunch of classes, then just being done. There’s not any room in our program for that level of self-reflection, which might be very helpful in a graduate degree.
IUPUI has several libraries on it’s campus, including law, art, medical, and dentistry libraries. In addition, Indianapolis is home to several museums, special libraries (like the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library) and private companies which offer volunteer and internship opportunities for SLIS students. As a result, this is a great campus to get practical experience. Internships are not required, but students can earn up to 6 credit hours for internships that they do.
We also have this great program, The 21st Century Leadership Program, funded through an IMLS grant that provides students with the opportunity to do an internship for credit and take a leadership forum class. These credit hours are paid for, in addition to a stipend and travel grant money. You can do your internship anywhere as long as it’s approved by your advisor. This allows students to get practical experience and be paid for their time. However, funding for this program might only be for 2011.
IU Bloomington has the ALA Student Chapter, plus many other great student groups geared towards all the specialty degrees. We have ALISS, our own student group which I was recently elected as the Chief Information Officer. Unfortunately, getting people to participate is hard because our school has many commuters and long-distance students. Every semester there are brown-bag lunches with professors, guest speakers and special events, connecting students to alumni and faculty.
- Nice campus and main library. The classrooms are all up-to-date and have a.c. in the hot summer. I say this because I’m taking a class in Bloomington and the classroom is really stuffy (I know, this is a personal thing).
- Many opportunities for students to get practical experience since this campus is located in an urban setting. The Indiana State Library is two blocks away from campus and welcomes SLIS students to come volunteer on projects that align with students interests.
- Great student body and faculty. Everyone here is really friendly, which has helped me feel more welcome in a new place. The faculty are pretty approachable and are willing to talk to students, even if they’re not their advisor.
- SLIS Indy/ IUPUI UL Joint Research Conference is held here in our library. It’s a great way for students and the librarians to interact and hear about what research projects. It’s also an opportunity for students to present their research in a low-pressure setting, since they have the home team advantage. I wrote more about it on my blog and I volunteered to be on the planning committee for next year. It’s a good way to get experience with conference planning!
Areas for Improvement:
- No option for MLIS. Yes I know, it’s a single letter difference, but it matters to some. I recently found out that IU-Bloomington is part of the iSchool caucus, and I think their course offerings reflect that. Even though we are supposed to be the same school, our courses differ. More information science classes would be awesome.
- More technology classes would be nice. IUPUI has an informatics program, including a master’s program in human computer interaction. If only we had some of those classes, but geared towards library students. Think of the possibilities!
- Limited opportunities to get instruction experience. This is a requirement for many academic library jobs, but at our school, it’s hard to get that experience unless you find an internship that allows you to do information literacy instruction. The professor who normally teaches the education of information users course didn’t teach it this past year; so many students never had the chance to at least take the class dedicated to this area of librarianship.
Next year, IU is going up for ALA re-accreditation. This means that all the faculty members, from both campuses, are looking critically at the program and potentially making some changes. For IU-Indy, an academic librarian track is most likely going to be added. We also got a new Executive Associate Dean, Dr. Lipinski this past January, so I do expect more changes in the coming years.
Overall, I would say that this program is very heavy on practical experience and lighter on theory. Many of our class projects have us go out into the community and talk to real librarians. I really appreciate that aspect of my education because I think it enhances my understanding of librarianship.
If anyone has any questions about IU please ask away. I am not the lone spokesperson for this program so IU Bloomington students, IUPUI students, if you guys have any experiences or thoughts you want to add, please go ahead and add any additional comments or experiences to address anything I missed.