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Christina's LIS Rant
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
  Have library schools forgotten to defend themselves?
NB: Rant to follow.

As a fairly recent ('02) graduate of library school, I had quite a bit of training on planning, marketing, evaluating library services and programs. It was quite clear that one of my jobs when I got to the professional workforce would be as a champion for my library -- where ever that would be. I've since been a part of many innovative campaigns in that regard and have proudly witnessed my fellow alumni have some great successes and, in several cases, some miserable failures.

So, why are many of the library schools at risk of being effectively dismantled? Are the professors who taught us not marketing themselves successfully or are we as alumni letting them down? Is this to be expected with CS and engineering provosts as has been suggested in the case of Maryland and at UB? We don't make the kind of money that engineering, CS, and business grads make so is that the problem? Maybe we need to recruit more for our alma mater?

Are all of the library school classes to be taught by adjuncts because they are the only ones with library experience and "anyone" can teach the other core courses? (I really do bristle at the fact that "anyone" can teach MLS students when they have no idea of the environments the students will face in the workforce).

I'm on this rant again after reading about the dismantling of the UB School of Informatics. Sounds like that may not be all bad, but it is certainly unfortunate that they didn't choose to fix it.

Once again, these are strictly my opinions and do not reflect those of my colleagues at work or in the graduate program.
 
Comments:
Don't know if you saw this recent article.

I spoke at UB in April and found it a welcoming and intelligent environment, with students who are very interested in librarianship. I hope that this will not adversely affect students who are already in the program (meaning that I hope that they can finish and get a good education). Those who have not begun the program may want to look elsewhere. [Some students have chosen UB over SU because of its cost. This could now cause more people to select SU as either campus or distance students.]

I did hear at the SLA conference that many library schools (many of which are now I-schools) are having a hard time recruiting full-time faculty. I don't know why. I do know that those faculty with "real" experience are valued by the schools and the students because they can talk about the real world, not just theory. Many of these people do not have Ph.D.'s and many are adjuncts (like myself).
 
I did see that article. BTW- as a clarification, some of my best instructors have been adjuncts, but I'm not sure for general purposes that an entire program can or should be taught by adjuncts. Also, I know of one case in particular where a school did not try to keep and has not tried to hire faculty with library experience -- despite the fact that these professors are valued by students.
 
Quick comment from a UB student -- the faculty, the School of Informatics administration, and of course the students were frankly blindsided by this action. The details are still being ironed out, but in certain communications it appears to already be a done deal, even though no prior notice had been given to the School of Informatics or to the other UB departments involved in the "reorganization" (the Graduate School of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences). However, this is not a dismantling of the Library School a such -- it's discarding the idea that LIS is part of a broader study of Informatics.

I agree with your perspective that library schools should be willing to defend themselves; trust me, we're taking all the channels possible to understand this situation. We haven't received clear communications of how any of this will impact course offerings, degree programs, or budget lines, yet the university administration appears to be moving independently and forcing the SOI stakeholders to hold their breath. I am hoping to get some more clear answers in the next weeks.
 
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This is my blog on library and information science. I'm into Sci/Tech libraries, special libraries, personal information management, sci/tech scholarly comms.... My name is Christina Pikas and I'm a librarian in a physics, astronomy, math, computer science, and engineering library. I'm also a doctoral student at Maryland. Any opinions expressed here are strictly my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer or CLIS. You may reach me via e-mail at cpikas {at} gmail {dot} com.

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Christina Kirk Pikas

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