April 25, 2018

Burger To Appoint LIS Task Force

By LJ Staff

Is LIS education meeting the practical needs of the profession? That perennial subject was addressed in the American Library Association (ALA) – Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) Forum on Library Education held on the opening day of the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Seattle. With some 80 percent of those present educators and 20 percent practitioners, there were too few students or new librarians to offer their immediate perspective – a limitation that has also been the case in previous forums. While most defended the status quo, debating whether responsibility for reforms sat with ALA accreditation or the schools themselves, ALA President Leslie Burger pledged to push the issue forward.

Of course, accreditation begs the question of whether the profession retains sufficient commonality – a core around which to build a curriculum. John Budd, who teaches at the School of Information Science and Learning Technologies at the University of Missouri – Columbia, asserted that there is a "common knowledge base" for the LIS professions, citing the organization of information based on taxonomies, service, access for particular purposes and groups, management of organizations, and ethics. Thomas Leonhardt, who chairs the ALA Committee on Accreditation, asserted that "accreditation is not the place to begin reforming library education." Leonhardt, director of the Scarborough-Phillips Library, St. Edward’s University, Austin, TX, mentioned research that he said showed that "94 percent of the LIS programs have curricula that address the core competencies" although he didn’t spell them out.

Michael Gorman, formerly ALA president and dean at California State University, Fresno, began by saying "there is a profession of librarianship centered on work in libraries." He also asserted that "ALA has a duty to ensure that people entering the profession have education in the core body of knowledge" related to that profession. In a refreshing reframing of the issue toward ongoing education, Burger declared it "somewhat odd that I can be a librarian for 30 years and never step foot in a classroom or do anything that shows that I’m keeping up with developments." She pledged to immediately appoint a library education task force, saying it was urgently needed to capture the results of the current conversation and to complement accreditation.