1. Draft revised Standards for Accreditation of Master’s Programs in Library and Information Studies

The Committee on Accreditation (COA) seeks comments on the DRAFT revised Standards for Accreditation of Master’s Programs in Library and Information Studies. Comments will be accepted from December 6, 2013, through October 24, 2014.

Throughout the standards-development process, the COA seeks, receives, and uses comments and suggestions from the communities of interest in both the United States and Canada. We welcome and encourage you to comment on the DRAFT Standards.

The COA held a virtual town hall webinar on the DRAFT revised Standards for Accreditation of Master’s Programs in Library and Information Studies on February 20, 2014. You may view the recording here: http://ala.adobeconnect.com/p7rd84ts16n/.

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The Committee on Accreditation will review commentary at its fall 2014 meeting with the intent to bring a new version of the Standards to the ALA Council in 2015. Implementation of the new Standards by programs would begin with biennial narrative reports due in 2016 and with comprehensive reviews that have a site visit in 2018.

13 comments ↓

#1 Lizzie B on 12.13.13 at 1:40 pm

As someone who has worked in academic libraries as a middle manager for 12 years and someone who is currently getting my MLS, I will say this.. Library school SHOULD elevate a student’s knowledge and capabilities past what a very good paraprofessional learns on the job. The vast majority of LSISs do not. Too many library professors have been so removed from the day to day workings of a library that all they can offer is antiquated theories which rarely are reality in a library. But since accreditation requires more full time professors and less working ones, library schools will remain stuck in the past.

“Theory over practice,” that idea was fine when the main practice was learning (on the job) print resources, like indexes and other print-only resources which are redundant now. Principles, theory, and values could be interwoven into the curriculum but should NOT be the sole focus. It used to be that those things were all that could be taught besides cataloging and basic reference skills because most skill needed to be taught on the job due to individual libraries holdings. Times have radically changed since then. Now if you look at ALA JobList most jobs require (as a base) far more sophisticated experience than anyone will get in a library school. Seems to me LSISs are doing their students a disservice by not giving them REAL skills which will make them better library workers past what good paraprofessionals already know .

Classes on project management, accounting/budgeting, web design, marketing/fundraising/development, class design (since 80% of all academic librarians teach), and real classes on emerging trends- all that is seriously needed to make fantastic librarians who will contribute to our changing field. Unfortunately, accreditation standards place a higher emphasis on theory over practice.

Our profession is more sophisticated than the past. Our jobs are more technical and forward thinking but library school isn’t. If we continue to think about past practices, we will be left behind and be irrelevant in this ever changing technology-rich world we live in. All programs should be more forward thinking and less concerned about the past which will never come back.

If ALA doesn’t change standards then schools will not see the value of changing their programs- the bland status quo will remain and new librarians will not be equipped to handled the real world technology which they will face the second they try to find a job.

#2 Amy on 01.15.14 at 10:41 am

I am of the opinion that the library profession could learn quite a lot from the teaching and engineering professions. In both of those professions a masters degree is not required to be considered a professional worthy of a salaried position in their fields. Many teachers and engineers do choose to get masters degrees as well, because they may then command a higher salary and take on higher level positions, but it is not required just to get a foot in the door.

At present the library field, as a profession, is demanding masters degrees for entry level professional positions where the work involved simply does not require that level of education! Sure, if I want to be an academic librarian, or the head of a department, and especially a director of a library, I should get a masters degree. But I could easily do the job I am doing now with an undergraduate degree in library science and my work experience alone. Instead, the ALA is demanding that people go into debt to get a masters degree in a low-paying field, all so we can be considered “professionals”.

There is very little I gained in my grad school education, apart from letters to put after my name, a network of other librarians and $20,000 in student loan debt (on top of what I already owe for undergrad). If Library Journal’s statistics are correct, I can only hope to ever earn about 15% more than what I’m being paid now if I reach the highest levels of my chosen specialty. That’s a lot of money to have spent for very little reward – except that I LOVE what I do.

However, just because I love what I do, doesn’t mean that it should cost so much time and effort to do it. ALA should seriously consider accrediting BA LIS programs, not just masters programs. Keep the masters – but leave it for those who are especially ambitious or who actually need it to do the work in their chosen specialty. Not all of us do, and those who don’t also tend to get paid less, so we have a much lower reward to be earned from pursuing the MLIS degree.

It is possible to be a professional librarian, who takes librarianship seriously and has ambitions and experience valuable to the library community WITHOUT a masters degree in the field. Please, let’s consider that option!

#3 Emily on 02.04.14 at 10:29 am

I was shocked not to see anything about learning theory, pedagogies, teaching, or even public speaking under the Curriculum standard (specifically 2.2). As a librarian, an increasing part of our jobs involves instruction of some type and it’s vital for MLIS grads to receive some training in their curricula. I know this is an upward trend in academic libraries and imagine public and other types of librarians have a need for learning how to be effective teachers, even informally. Thankfully my institution (Pitt) had a course in instruction that was the most helpful of all my classes. I think we’d be doing future graduates a disservice to not include learning about instruction as a core part of the curriculum.

#4 Sharon McQueen on 02.04.14 at 7:30 pm

The ALA Executive Board passed by motion (January 24, 2009, Document 2008-2009 EBD#12.30), “That the ALA Executive Board supports the report of the Presidential Task Force on Library Education and refers recommendations 1-10 to the ALA Committee on Accreditation and requests a response by 2009 Annual Conference.” The 2009 Committee on Accreditation (COA) response to the Final Report of the Presidential Task Force on Library Education states, “The Task Force recommendations raise many important issues.” These many important issues have not been adequately addressed in the DRAFT revised Standards for Accreditation of Master’s Programs in Library and Information Studies.

#5 Emma on 02.05.14 at 8:46 am

As an academic librarian, who came to the profession with a teaching background (taught in a classroom for over ten years), I am very confident in my skills to teach to one person or groups of people on the services that the library provides. But, from what I see in many new graduates who have the MLS degree is that they were never given the proper training in teaching or technology that is needed for libraries today or in the future.

The young graduates (under age 30) who have the knowledge and experiences in technology that they bring to the position knew technology from growing up in a technology society. The MLS curriculum doesn’t prepare the students for any or the needed skills for a library in the future. And, as you know, academic and public libraries are becoming so different from what they were even five years ago. If we don’t change along with the expectation from patrons, then we have put ourselves out of the market. But who’s fault is that?

The librarian’s role has changed from what people think librarians do. Many think we “read”all day and the general public does not always know that there are numerous jobs a librarian does during the day. But, why should a librarian have to work over 5 years in a library to learn all those skills. These necessary skills should be taught in the college/university before the student graduates.

I would suggest that the ALA board, who approves of the curriculum for colleges and universities that are offering an MLS program and graduating new librarians, look at a few schools that are successful in properly training their graduates. One example, I can think of, is the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. I was surprised to know that the program at UNC requires each student going for the MLS to be in a rotation of departments for several weeks. Their learning and experience in every department of the library helps them to understand the workings of a library and how that particular department supports the library. This personal experience may even help the student decide where they would like to work once they graduate.

I am sure that there are other locations that have a wonderful program and their curriculum is outstanding as well. If I was in your shoes, I would give incentives to the colleges that have unique and creative ways of teaching MLS students. ALA get out from your office or constant meetings, go out and visit a few colleges that have innovative ideas to see what is being done there so that curriuclum can be changed. And, then move forward in your thinking and lets make this profession alive again.

Just my opinion!

#6 Zary on 02.11.14 at 1:22 pm

I suggest rigorous requirements on internship.

#7 Jennifer on 02.12.14 at 3:34 pm

I second Zary’s comment. Given not only the often-theoretical nature of LIS education but also the extreme difficulty in obtaining professional positions without prior work experience, it seems strange that the standards would not consider internships, practica and other practical experiences a requirement for accredited programs. I am a recent MLIS grad, and was fortunate enough to have had a fellowship which included work experience; however, as this was not required or even emphasized by my program, many classmates graduated without substantial experience and have subsequently had difficulty finding employment.

#8 J. Nadal on 02.14.14 at 12:26 pm

III.5 is hard to parse. Is the intention that non-PhD Faculty or faculty who have a distinguished professional record are welcome by COA? If so, grouping this under “scholarship” sends a mixed signal. I’d suggest striking “scholarship”, and eliminating the parentheses to make the sentence read “…appropriate research, creative, and professional activities that contribute…”

Glad to see the change in V.1

#9 Sara on 02.17.14 at 12:48 pm

I agree with a previous comment about looking to education for a model and accrediting bachelor’s degrees. I would also suggest using social work as a model. In each case, you can start with a bachelor’s degree and certification. In order to move up the ranks professionally, you’ll probably have to get a master’s degree eventually, and a master’s degree can also serve as an entry point for people making a mid-career change. At the same time, any LIS degree should include more rigorous practical experience AND theory. We can take examples from education and social work there, as well – students learn psychology, statistics, and must fulfill practical requirements. The educational models are out there for us to emulate if we have the courage to do so.

#10 GJG on 02.17.14 at 1:19 pm

Where to begin…
Jennifer is correct; it is a disgrace that *anyone* can graduate with an MLS without having worked in a library (or other germane institution, web development would be acceptable for people interested in this) during the course of pursuing their degree. Reforming this aspect of library school education would go a long way towards addressing the glut of similarly-qualified grads who flood the job market every year. While there is theory in librarianship, ultimately, it is a profession – a trade. Few trade schools worthy of the name allow graduates out on the market without non-classroom experience.

#11 Sara on 02.17.14 at 1:46 pm

I agree with the above comments. As a more recent MLIS grad (May 2012) I found that my work in a related field was VERY helpful in acquiring a position after library school. I was lucky to have started volunteering at a local institution before starting MLIS classes, I was then offered a temporary position with the same institution while I was in school. I found that pairing the theoretical work in my evening classes with the practical work I did during the week really helped solidify the knowledge I was gaining. My program did not require an internship, but one of my elective classes did – it was in that class that I was able to get a second perspective on the profession outside of my day-to-day work.
Getting situated in a career was also made easier by the networking that my job and my internship provided. I learned about professional organizations that I could join through my “field” work – while those same organizations were not emphasized at all at school.
I understand that practical experience can be hard to come by, but don’t most institutions have libraries? How hard would it be to tell students that before they graduate they need to spend one semester or a practicum working in the school library doing cataloging, reference, and instructional work?

#12 Nancy Roderer on 02.20.14 at 2:15 pm

In general, I think the revisions clarify the existing standards and do a good job of bringing in the emphasis on assessment that is occurring in our field and in others. I particularly like the added emphasis on applying the results of assessment.

A small point: the following seems a bit out of date in leaving out online education.

…” location of the offering of a program or its components, or the means by which a program or its components are delivered, e.g., satellite, closed circuit television, ”

This did lead me to review the aspects of the standards that are specific to online and remote program delivery and they seem appropriately updated to me.

#13 Eileen Abels on 03.11.14 at 2:46 pm

I believe that the changes to standard 1: Systematic Planning and Standard 6: Assessment and Evaluation help clarify the importance of both planning and assessment.

However, I would like to see changes to Standard 1.2 and the sub-standards, 1.2.1 – 1.2.10 which are too detailed and may even be confusing. 1.2.1 seems to give a good overview of the field. Some of the topics seem too specific and not all of the 10 items are at the same level. Especially troublesome is 1.2.4 the value of teaching and service to the advancement of the field. Most programs interpret this to mean that teaching and service are important to the programs rather than focusing on the fact that this is reflected in student learning outcomes. Other problematic sub-topics in my opinion are: 1.2.4, 1.2.6, 1.2.7.

I think that 1.2.8 and 1.2.10 could be combined.

Overall, I do think that 1.2 needs to be revisiting and reworked.

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