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.
There’s a lot of consternation out there about training our workforce. Recent articles from voices in the field of library and information science (LIS) have questioned the value of the MLIS or pointed toward an uncertain and evolving future. Former LJ editor in chief Michael Kelley’s “Can We Talk About the MLS?” garnered much attention. Kelley argues that the profession should have a serious conversation about the values and merits of formalized, professional LIS education.Kelley’s call for discussion is a sound one and is echoed in Brian Kenney’s similarly themed piece in Publishers Weekly, “So You Think You Want To Be a Librarian?”. Kenney’s frank approach looks beyond collections to interaction. These articles struck a nerve; the resulting links, comments, and discussion serve as evidence of librarians’ interest in the topic and, perhaps, their sensitivities to these issues. Why the consternation? Librarians want libraries to succeed, and they know that libraries must evolve in order to succeed. The future of libraries is closely linked to the skills of newly minted librarians.
“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.
In a discussion after a recent presentation, an educator stood to make a counterpoint to my take on participatory teaching. “I’m paid to have control,” she said. More than one person in the room gasped. I should have directed her to the new Horizon Report. Among the key trends identified as those impacting teaching and learning for 2013 is an emphasis on “open.” The report states, “Open is a key trend in future education and publication, specifically in terms of open content, open educational resources, massively open online courses, and open access.”
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.