It’s a song you may have heard before. Are the majority of educators out of touch with the realities of the professions they support, including those in LIS? How do we prepare our students for a rapidly changing field?
A few months ago I suggested that one of the things preventing librarians from working at web scale might be “a lingering emphasis on collections over users.” I and others have argued that the evolution of libraries and library service will include a pronounced shift from libraries as book warehouses to libraries as centers for discovery, learning, and creation via any number of platforms. I might have been guilty of a bit of collection bashing in these discussions, and recent occurrences of collection trashing have given me pause.
“BEING ADAPTABLE IN A FLAT world, knowing how to ‘learn how to learn,’ will be one of the most important assets any worker can have, because job churn will come faster, because innovation will happen faster,” writes Thomas Friedman in The World Is Flat. I’ve invoked this “learn to learn” mantra before, but recent shifts in the opportunities for librarians and library staff to learn have brought me back to it.
An LIS student’s letter to the editor of LJ gave me pause. Krystal Taylor, studying at IUPUI (Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis), detailed the move her program is making from classroom-based instruction to almost 100 percent online delivery. A big-picture concern is evident: “What cost will this be to the library and information science field?” Her word for those completing an online MLS: lackluster.
A new report from Pew Internet and American Life, “Library Services in the Digital Age,” should be required reading for all in LIS education, especially those involved in strategic and long-range planning. For LIS educators, this is yet another call to action for reevaluating core and elective course content.
Are we preparing graduates for the information workplace? That’s a question I recently considered while reading Paul Fain’s article “Grading Personal Responsibility” in Inside Higher Ed (12/13/12). He describes a new initiative at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College, NC, emphasizing as part of the curriculum “soft skills,” including personal responsibility, interdependence, and emotional intelligence. Are there some soft skills particularly necessary in information professions?
What keeps you up at night?
I ask this question at some of my library conference presentations as a way to break the ice and get people sharing. The answers are usually in a similar vein: budgets, ebooks, and losing relevance. We might even call those answers the unholy trinity of librarian insomnia.
What should the LIS core look like in 2012 and beyond? For sure, it will always include an overview of our history and foundations. Our core values remain, even as delivery methods and priorities shift. Beyond that, I envision core courses focused on three important areas: how people access, use, and create information; how technology impacts and extends our world; and how librarians can show leadership in these two areas to serve and better their communities.
The Risk and Reward Conference (R2), focusing on creativity and innovation in libraries, was planned for September 2012 up in the mountains in Telluride, CO (where the local tourism board won the bid to host the conference). The initial placeholder webpage was mysterious, lacking a lot of details one usually finds on conference pages. As more details about R2 appeared in the spring, I was intrigued and decided to attend in spite of relatively high travel and boarding costs, using conference funds made available to me by the Provost’s office at San Jose State University. It was well worth it, and changed my entire perception of a conference experience.
If you’re looking for an exciting, community-focused project, check out LFLs. Get your library interested in sponsoring one or more LFLs or offer programming to help neighborhoods. If you’re working in a mostly digital environment, consider stewarding your own LFL in your neighborhood. The benefits and rewards will recharge you.