Friday, June 09, 2006

Presentation Notes: Teleconference on "Confronting the Crisis in LIS Education"

It is a slow Friday at work today, so I am watching the teleconference sponsored by ALA and provided via the Texas State Library and Archives Commission and College of DuPage (Find the program factsheet here). The topic is on "Confronting the Crisis in LIS Education." It seemed somewhat interesting, until at the top of the hour, they launched into what pretty much boils down a commercial. It is pretty much the tone of one of those public television moments where they pat their backs and ask for support. However, there are some good thoughts in this, even though, overall, the teleconference was not exactly something I have not heard before in other venues. So, some ideas from the presentation then:

  • LIS programs do not provide specialization. This is usually acquired informally via workshops, lectures, etc, or via on-the-job training.
  • In terms of the job market, employers often place obstacles in their requirements for experience. When possible, the workplaces need to make entry-level positions more available and embrace the energy of recent graduates.
  • On the other side, LIS faculty need more awareness of what is currently happening in the field.
  • A professional should have professional attributes and a theoretical knowledge. The staff the library hires will set the tone for the library and its environment. The organization hires for the vision of the future.
  • Essentials of development include the organization's core philosophy. The organization must be committed; it must plan, and it must assess the progress.
  • Reasons for training and development. One, to fill in gaps. Another to define the values and philosophy of the organization. Training and development can also provide for morale and for intellectual stimulation of the staff.
  • Some training and development does not require money. Something as simple as having group discussions of provocative articles for instance. However, whatever the training and development form, there will always be a time commitment.
  • The observation that journals mostly represented by practitioners. (Actually, the representation is from practitioners on the tenure track who have to publish. What we need it seems is to be able to write and publish in other fields, and it should actually count as part of what is accounted for at tenure time. This did not seem really addressed by the panelists).
On the issue of teachers in LIS programs, I can't help but wonder why is a PhD is required to teach. I personally think librarians should be taught by practitioners. Maybe for theoretical research, sure, go for your doctorate, but to train new librarians, I don't really see the necessity. I think some of the best courses I had were provided by practitioners. Maybe it should be more of a teacher-researcher model. Something to think about. Overall, I don't think anything new or ground breaking was said. If nothing else, not a bad way to spend a slow Friday morning.


Jenne said...

I'm way behind on blogs, so I just now got to your post here. I think your question about why a PhD is needed to teach future librarians is interesting. (Kind of parallels a similar question that came up in our question and answer after the teleconference-- which was why does a librarian need a master's?) I am starting a doctorate in the fall (this might be the first public place where I have said that, but hey, I just passed comps, so now it seems more real.)

I think it is important to have PhDs in this field, at the very least to study all of the human information behaviors involved in librarianship. I also think it's good to have a strong theoretical base from which to approach librarianship. However, there are many courses that are appropriately taught by practitioners. Cataloging, for one. (Assuming that the cataloging practitioner has a strong theoretical base.)

I'm still fumbling with my thoughts about the question. I'm not one of those people who will ever say only a PhD can be a good teacher (one of my best English teachers in undergrad did not have a PhD), but I do think that theory helps the working librarian more than he or she might realize.

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Jenne: Thanks for stopping by. Congratulations on the journey. If you passed comps, you are almost there. I am not convinced that to teach practitioners you need a doctorate. Sure, to study the theoretical base and to do the research, I can possibly see that. Even then I think given the cost of getting such a degree in terms of time and financially makes it somewhat questionable. The theory may be needed if one is to work at a higher level in academia, but for the average (and I don't mean that in any despective way) public or academic librarian, I don't really see the costs justifying the need for a doctor in LIS. Also, I don't think theory is the necessary purview of the doctoral person. While LIS education could likely benefit from a bit more theory, I don't automatically equate theory and doctorate. To know what you describe may take a good time to study, but I don't necessarily think it is exclusive to a PhD or other doctoral progam.

Then again, I may be the wrong person to ask. I left a doctoral program (in Humanities, not LIS)when I saw it as being too theoretical and not practical enough. Not to mention the job market was abysmal. I am National Writing Project teacher, and theory was a fairly substantial part of what we did, and that certainly did not require a doctorate. But, I suppose each person has to follow their path.The fact you are almost there is something to be proud of. I do wish you the very best, and would love to hear from others as well.

Best, and keep on blogging.