Library School Mergers
11/10/2013 § 15 Comments
I recently received an email via my library school’s student listserv explaining that our university Provost has asked the library school and the College of Media to explore “integrating their two units.” It is very early in the exploratory process, and certainly not a sure thing yet, but it got me thinking about the possibilities. I don’t know much about the merger idea, but it seemed OK to me: easier access to more classes and professors, additional networking contacts, and perhaps a stronger focus on writing/communication for library students? What’s not to like?
However, it seems my opinion is not shared by everyone. Another library student/employee responded (to everyone): “It will be a horrible disaster for all new graduates who want jobs and will definitely destroy GSLIS itself.” After some brief online searching I found an article in the local newspaper from a few years ago when the exact same merge was proposed. In it, our former dean explained that his main reason for opposing the merge was the possibility of our rankings “plummeting”: “The decision on our side was really about, ‘How would a different structure likely affect our competitiveness?’ It wasn’t a rejection of Media.”
I then started to wonder how other schools have handled mergers in the past. I had recently read about Indiana University’s merger of its School of Informatics and School of Library and Information Science into a single school called the IU School of Informatics and Computing, which seems to me like a success. While Indiana’s merger was recent (2012), still other schools were founded/re-arranged on mergers in the past. For instance, the School of Information Science & Learning Technologies (SISLT) at the University of Missouri was formed in 1997 with the merger of the School of Library and Informational Science and the Department of Educational Technologies.
All of this got me thinking: how does this kind of merger affect the admissions, public perception, and job prospects of a library school and its students? For those of you in merged schools, what effects of the merge do you see? Was your college decision influenced by such information? And for those in independent schools (aka just library science), would you be receptive to a potential merger like the one the University of Illinois library school is facing with our College of Media? In your opinion, how do you think mergers like this affect library education, positively or negatively?