ve heard the “what are they teaching in library school these days, anyway?” comments for as long as I’ve been an educator; it comes with the territory. It’s natural, and healthy, that all of us are invested in the process by which people become members of our profession. However, in the last few years, another couple of tropes have entered the fray: that there are too many students in our programs and that the number is growing, that there aren’t enough jobs for them, and that students and recent graduates feel betrayed and even lied to as a result. That has extended, in some conversations, into calls for somebody to do something about this, such as, perhaps, ALA through its accrediting functions. Taken together, these seem to indicate substantial questions or misgivings about LIS education and its infrastructure. As an educator and proud member of the profession, that’s concerning to me as well.
Jessica Generoux has secured an innovative internship while she pursues her Master of Information and Library Science at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Generoux, previously a library assistant at the Regina Public Library’s Albert Branch, is now the University of Saskatchewan’s (U of S) first Aboriginal library intern. The paid internship was established as part of the U of S’s Promise and Potential integrated plan, which includes Aboriginal Engagement as a top component. Over the next three years Generoux will rotate through each of the university library’s branches, gaining experience in academic librarianship and, in turn, offering U of S staff and students a window into her culture and heritage.
A few years ago I went to my optometrist. On hearing I was a librarian, she asked me a fiction reader’s-advisory question. Of course, I’m not a public librarian, or a reference librarian either. Rather than try to explain that to my optometrist, however, I went along with her assumptions about what librarians do by recommending a recent read. It isn’t just optometrists who have narrow notions of what this field encompasses; too often our own notions are barely any broader. This worries me, not least because it doesn’t reflect the variety and opportunity I see in the information professions.
You’d think Library Journal and ALISE (Association for Library and Information Science Education) had Paul T. Jaeger in mind when they wrote the criteria for the LJ/ALISE Excellence in Teaching Award. Jaeger, associate professor, College of Information Studies (CIS), University of Maryland, College Park, is the winner of the 2014 award, sponsored by ProQuest, which merges the LJ and ALISE honors for the first time. Jaeger clearly “illustrates student-centered thinking” in his teaching. His contributions to curriculum design at CIS display his expertise and command of new developments. Current and former students enthusiastically tell of Jaeger’s work as mentor, career builder, and collaborator in their working lives. Teaching the core values of the profession comes easy to Jaeger, because his commitment to them is rooted in his early personal and academic life.
The beginning of each semester always rejuvenates me. There is nothing more stimulating than those first few sessions with a class of expectant students, arriving with their high energy, curiosity, and desire to participate and impress. My new class at Pratt Institute’s SILS came to New York from all over America and the world. The students range in age from their 20s to their 60s, which has so often been typical of my LIS classes. It is a great privilege and honor to work with them to try to answer the accursed questions that continue to plague our profession.
I found myself drawn into odd conversations with librarians, archivists, and other information professionals soon after I started teaching library school. Not the conversations about how terrible I am and how bad I am at what I do and how whatever I’m doing in the classroom is automatically the wrong thing—those conversations are standard, and I am as inured to that angry dismissiveness as anyone can be. No, the odd conversations I landed in over and over again went something like this:
Our professional credential is an embattled thing. It’s a rare day that the master’s in library and information science (MLIS) escapes a conversation unscathed and unquestioned. This is rightfully so. Nothing so time-consuming and expensive, and essential, should be taken for granted. It should be under constant scrutiny by the schools themselves, the candidates, those who hire graduates, and the broader profession that it serves.