Praxis and the Perennial Conflict between Theory and Practice in Library Education

05/06/2013 § 7 Comments

prax·is \ˈprak-səs\ n. 1. the actual work of a profession (as opposed to the practice of it in training situations) 2. in social work, the concept of reflexive, integrated theory and practice 3. in education, the processes of reflective experiential learning or, following Paulo Freire’s work, the combination of reflection and action in the world that leads to transformations of oppressive conditions

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Photograph from Pages and Pictures.

Does a dog need to read a book about being a dog? Does a librarian need to read a book about being a librarian? These questions may seem similar, but I suspect that most people have different answers to them. And yet, much of the conversation about library and information science (LIS) education seems to suggest that librarians do their work best simply through practice rather than reading and learning about librarianship.
More on praxis, Shulamith Firestone, and dogs…

Theory Vs. Practice: Separating What’s Important

28/01/2011 § 11 Comments

Please welcome our first guest Hacker, Lauren Gibaldi! 

Lauren Gibaldi is in her second to last semester at Florida State University’s School of Library and Information Sciences. She’s aiming to become a youth services librarian within a public library, and hopes to create information literacy programs for kids and young adults. She’s a strong supporter of intellectual freedom, and loves supporting banned books. Read her blog, or her other blog, and follow @laurengibaldi on Twitter.
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Library school overwhelms us with information, deciding what’s necessary for life-long careers in the field. Yet, as I navigate through each semester, I’ve started to mentally note which elements learned will help me post graduation, and which will fall to the wayside, getting forgotten in the abyss that is my mind.

Let me back up.

Before I became I library student, I was a high school English teacher. Before becoming a teacher, I was an English and Education college student (note: English AND Education, not English Education – the former is much more helpful in the long run). I learned Piaget’s theories, and Erikson’s stages. I learned how to look inside the mind of a child and debate his or her maturity levels. Educational theorists were the definitive answer when dealing with children.

And then I started teaching. And everything I learned quickly disappeared. When I looked at my darling 16 year olds, I didn’t think which cognitive level they were at; instead, I thought “What can I do to get them to work.” (Or, more accurately, “What can I do to stop them from throwing the furniture.” Seriously). The literature read only went so far – it was my patience and understanding that got me through the year. It was my knowledge of the subject taught, and my willingness to work with each student one-on-one. Never in the year did I think “Okay, what would Piaget think.”

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