April 22, 2018

What’s in a Name? Readers Sound Off on Rutgers Proposed Name Change to SCILS

By Andrew Albanese

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(This article first appeared in the March 26, 2009, issue of the LJ Academic Newswire.)

Last month, the decision by faculty of Rutgers University’s School of Communication, Information and Library Studies (SCILS) to change the name of the school to the School of Communication and Information garnered significant criticism among librarians, even though library faculty at Rutgers generally supported the change.

With the university’s board of governors set to approve the change at its meeting April 2, Mary K. Chelton, professor, Graduate School of Library and Information Studies, Queens College, City University of New York, (and a double alumna of Rutgers’ programs), shared with LJ a letter she wrote to school administrators. In it she warned of denying history and denigrating the role of women. Her essay is here

Jorge Reina Schement, Dean of the School of Communication, Information and Library Studies Schement responded to concerns raised by Chelton and other librarians, emphasizing that the revised name focuses on commonalities and new opportunities. His essay is here.

In response, LJ readers are voicing their own opinions on the issue. Some Rutgers alumni seemed strongly opposed to the change. “The name change seems ill-advised,” commented one alum. “If the people of New Jersey still want libraries and librarians as the NJLA response suggests, the School’s name should reflect where they can get the latter.” 

“I have always been a very enthusiastic alumna (1967) of the Rutgers SCILS,” wrote another. “If this name change is made, I will never mention the name Rutgers again in my life. Shame on the dean.”

Some newer grads, meanwhile, seemed supportive. “I recently received my MLIS from Rutgers, and I’m glad they’re changing the name,” wrote one commenter. “An MLIS degree is about how information and communication work within a library. Another way of looking at it is this: physicians go to medical school, not hospital school or private practice school.”

One school librarian who disapproved of the change noted an increasingly ironic schism: “I am a proud librarian, and refer to myself as such, even though my official title is Media Specialist,” the librarian commented. “The words library and librarian share universal meaning while communication and information is a nebulous term that may have any number of meanings depending upon context.”

“Just a reminder, Dean Schement is not a librarian,” commented an academic librarian. “He has no vested interest in Library Studies in the title.”

Follow the money, suggested another librarian. “SCILS graduates represent much less than 25 percent of the alumni donors to the school. Who is Rutgers going to try to court? An MLIS with a $40k per year salary or successful journalists and media folks who have made it into the big time and can demonstrate that with hefty donations. I think the decision to change the name to SCI is a poor one and lacks integrity. I also think that it is a cold, calculated move to follow the money.”

For the latest comments, read the story here—and add your own perspective.

Read more Newswire stories:

University of Michigan Press Merged with Library, With New Emphasis on Digital Monographs

Bell’s Perspective: ACRL Offers Fresh Hope for Academic Librarianship

Library Journal Seeks Library of the Year Nominations

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