LIS Education and Its Discontents
10/02/2011 § 13 Comments
Our friend and fellow library blogger Andy Woodworth published an Open Thread on his blog today with the topic “Library School.” We thought it necessary to summarize some of the comments that were added to his post here, as we are in the business of writing about that exactly. Generally? There was some blatant negativity. LIS students think Library School is easy. Or is it just the nature of the web that brings out complaints in people when they have the chance to rant? We’ve added our comments from the post below along with some general themes that seemed to be discussed throughout the comments. And please take our survey below -
Andy, what an excellent topic. As some of you may know, I love talking about library school. I’m in my very last semester, and while I agree with some of what’s been said here, I’d like to add one thing – if you don’t like it, change it. If it’s too easy, get a PhD and reform the curriculum. If you feel like you have something to say, write an article for In The Library With A Lead Pipe and turn it into a group blog of library school students talking, writing about, and discussing library school.
These types of grievances are not new, and not particular to library school. What is new is that all of sudden, thanks to the social web and new technologies, we can all get together and talk about this stuff online, and be productive about making it different. So, say something. Join the HackLibSchool experience. PLEASE join ALA and let’s reform that organization. Talk to your Dean. Write letters to the politicians. Use information and its tools to make something better.
All that said, my specific experiences in Library School mirror many of yours. It is easy. I do very well, and learn some of what I might need. I have been aggravated being in classes with working librarians who approach everything from their perspective at their library, and are nervous about ebooks stealing their jobs, while I approach everything from a “critical thinking” point of view coming from a previous Master of Arts. I feel the tension between academic librarians, public librarians, corporate librarians, etc. I hate group work. I’ve got the ALA Code of Ethics tattooed on my brain and soul. BUT! I’m coming out of this with a sense of the power of information to change things. And I have the opportunity to be a part of that because I spent two years, and waded through this muck of LIS education. So we’ll see what happens next.
http://hacklibschool.wordpress.com. Be The Change.
Thanks for the space and opportunity to discuss this, Andy. I’m just finishing up my MLIS degree at the University of Washington and I share similar frustrations [practicality vs theory, professors who haven't set foot in a library in years (or ever), reactive rather than proactive, etc.]
I think this can and should be handled two ways:
1. We need to take responsibility for our education. If we aren’t getting what we need, we’ve got to say something! This can be at an individual level (see — making an appointment with a dean or student advisor) or a group level (see — HackLibSchool (http://hacklibschool.wordpress.com))
2. As has already been said, we’ve got to supplement our degrees with internships, volunteering and experience. It’s an extra step, but it’s a necessary one if we want to get out into the library-world and make some changes.
Such great discussion going on here. Thank you Andy for opening it up today!
I admit, for the first year of my MLIS program I complained a lot. Part of it was just the shock of going back to school and the rest included my rants about theory heavy classes, professors with very little actual library experience, the divide amongst students of different library specialties, what seemed like a lack of practical experience combined with in-class learning, etc.
But then I remembered this was a graduate program. Not undergrad. That if I wanted to get more out of it, as many have said here, it was up to me to stop complaining and to try to do something about it. I tried taking varied electives, reached out to professors, fellow students, the dean, all in an attempt to get as much as I could out of the 2 years I planned on spending in grad school. Because remember, you’re (well I am at least!) paying a lot of money for this degree!
I also sought out an internship which has amazingly turned into a full-time job that I feel very lucky for. But I still try to develop my networking and professional development by attending ALA last year, meeting students via social media, and becoming involved with http://hacklibschool.wordpress.com (see Heidi and Micah’s comments as well).
Now I am totally psyched to be entering this profession. Do I think that the program could be changed and developed and enhanced? Yes, absolutely. So let’s start talking about what that looks like!
One final note- I have felt like if students want to be challenged further and want a more theory driven program, that is the beauty of the PhD program…which I will not be pursuing!
Loving this conversation. Can’t help but throw my two cents in.
I’m in my penultimate quarter at UCLA, and we’ve been told by professors and adjuncts that our program is much more rigorous than others they have taught in, mostly because we are on the quarter system. This doesn’t equate to rigor, in my mind: it’s just a less amount of time to do the same amount of work. Rigor looks like in-depth study and critical analysis of current theory and thought, and then putting that into practice. I find this lack of rigor to be especially true of my specialization in children’s services. Our studies and our classes are *so cute* and warm and fuzzy, and I feel like we’re one of the most deprofessionalized fields of IS as a result.
Ultimately, I’m personally glad that my program has been relatively easy, as it’s given me the chance to take on leadership positions, volunteer, and attempt to create my own study path. I do worry, however, about MLIS students who don’t take this initiative; when they graduate, how is their education going to affect the view of IS as a profession? The ramifications for professional credence, pay, and the priority of IS in funding (as Court mentioned above) really are affected.
Julia’s Response on Final Projects:
Our school’s capstone project is akin to a conference poster, created to summarize a paper/project done for a class. It’s a useful way to help students feel more comfortable presenting their work, but I also have been wondering about how useful that project is for students. I will say that our program is definitely geared more for the practitioner than the researcher, which is great–we need well-trained practitioners in the field! I also feel that it has the potential to keep students from being more well-rounded: I’ve always felt like a key to making our field even more awesome is to have practitioners who are also researchers, so that they can add their perspectives to the body of work being produced. However, a lot of programs aren’t set up that way: in our program, several students have tried to do theses and have found that there just isn’t enough time in a 2 year program to pick a topic, research, and defend it (there would be if we picked topics our first semester, but people grow so much in a program that this isn’t always the best idea!) I would be curious how other programs are handling the balance between teaching research and teaching practical skills: coursework? capstone projects? assistantships?
- The MLIS degree is too easy
- Idea of “Theory vs. Practice” in the degree
- Student involvement and student organizations
- MLIS final projects
These are some of the themes that brought us all here to Hack Lib School. Stay tuned for posts and discussions on these themes and many others that affect us as students of an ever-evolving profession. As Micah writes in his original article, “How Would You Hack Library School?”