November 20, 2014

Feedback: Letters to LJ, May 15, 2013 Issue

Online MLS is needed

As a recent MLS graduate (Clarion Univ., PA, 2009), I appreciate Krystal Taylor’s concerns for the quality of LIS programs and the future of our profession. I also agree with her that it is to the benefit of our profession that students have the option of attending classes on campus. However, I find her comment that online programs result in “lackluster librarians” to be an overgeneralization.

I am the product of a completely online program as are many of my colleagues. Many of us who opt for online programs are already library parapro­fessionals before we begin our studies. We are motivated to pursue an MLS/LIS degree because we love libraries and we are committed to the future of our profession. Personally, I had many reasons for opting to complete my degree online. There are no…American Library Association (ALA)–accredited LIS programs in my area. Having three children…as well as a spouse in a well-established job, uprooting my entire family to attend school was not a viable option. I was already working as a library paraprofessional and learning a great deal in my position. I did not want to leave a job that was very satisfying and was giving me invaluable, practical experience.

During my time at Clarion, I experienced numerous online discussions that I would call heated and enlightening, including a memorable one on the issues facing urban libraries that highlighted the value of the real-life experiences many of us had working in that setting. Due to the structure of Clarion’s online program at the time, I took classes with the same students (my cohort) throughout my program. This gave us the opportunity to get to know these individuals through two years of discussions, chats, phone calls, joint projects, and class ­presentations….

There are…ways to build and nurture collegial relationships, such as becoming active in ALA and various state-level professional organizations. I also built wonderful professional relationships with several of my professors and would feel confident calling them if I needed their professional assistance or support. Online students simply have to build their professional contacts in ways that differ from on-campus students….

On-campus classes are the best option for some students, however not everyone has the option of attending traditional classes. Just because we earned our degrees online does not mean that we are lackluster professionals, nor does it indicate that we are less passionately committed to the future of libraries than our colleagues who chose a more traditional course of study.

—Darla Kincaid, Newport News, VA

Review issues

I just became aware of LJ’s review of my book, Robert R. Taylor and Tuskegee: An African American Architect Designs for Booker T. Washington, and there are serious problems with it. Taylor’s biography does extend beyond the short “biographical” chapters, presumably the three without Tuskegee material. Taylor’s personality, MIT education, working habits, relationships with black and white colleagues, administrative style, racial views, marriages and family, and ventures into Cleveland, Louisiana, and Liberia are interlaced throughout the seven other chapters concerning Washington’s purposes and Tuskegee’s expansion. This is the fullest biography of any African American architect to date….

The reviewer says the book is addressed to Tuskegee’s own and that Dreck Wilson’s biographical dictionary and Melvin Mitchell’s The Crisis of the African-American Architect render it unnecessary for others. But Mitchell’s main point is that cultural amnesia about Washington’s endeavor and Taylor as the architect caused the “crisis” of his title. Black architects lost any sense of cultural purpose to match that of musicians, artists, and writers because they did not know about Tuskegee. Mitchell sees it as the iconic African American site of the early 20th century. Visitors of many races came from other continents as well as blacks and whites from across the nation. The present Tuskegee National Historic Site continues to attract…. Taylor is garnering admiration, too. He is the only African American in any popular architectural history—Dell Upton’s Architecture in the United States—and he was exhibited in Africa as an American pioneer.

Finally, the book’s 116 photographs include all of Taylor’s Tuskegee buildings plus those in other cities and states. Wilson, Mitchell, and Upton have two Tuskegee building photos among them. Whites who care about architecture want to see black achievement. More important, blacks need historic as well as contemporary design heroes even if the buildings are distant. They will seek them out once they know their worth.

—Ellen Weiss, Tulane Univ., New Orleans

Correction

In Kristi Chadwick’s “Following Digital Clues,” author Nele Neuhaus was incorrectly identified. She is a woman.

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