5. Final Report of the Presidential Task Force on Library Education

The Final Report of the Presidential Task Force on Library Education was issued on January 13, 2009, to the ALA Executive Board (2008-2009 EBD#12.30) for “discussion and referral to the ALA Committee on Accreditation.” The report includes recommendations to the 2008 Standards (found on pages 21-38), and comments on the report were collected between May and September of 2009. This section of the site documents this comment collection process and includes the following:

  • The full text document of the Final Report of the Presidential Task Force on Library Education (PDF).
  • The COA response (PDF) to the Final Report of the Presidential Task Force on Library Education. This response was transmitted to the Executive Board on June 1, 2009, and presented at the Executive Board meeting of July 13, 2009.
  • Comments on the Task Force recommendations made directly on this site between May and September, 2009 (see comments section at the bottom of the page). Since the deadline for comments has passed, the comment feature has been turned off.
  • Comments on the Task Force recommendations (PDF) sent directly to the Office for Accreditation. We have received comments, outside of this site, in response to the Task Force recommendations to the Standards. They are listed in chronological order, with the most recently received comment appearing first.
  •  2008 Standards side-by-side with the ALA Library Education Task Force recommendations to the Standards (excel format). In order to easily compare the Task Force recommendations to the Standards, we have developed an excel spreadsheet that compares the two in a side-by-side format. Column A contains the 2008 Standards, and column B contains the Task Force recommendations to the 2008 Standards.

 

 

22 comments ↓

#1 Vivienne Monty on 05.29.09 at 12:52 pm

Re: The final report. I do agree with many of the comments particularly those expressed in nos. 6 and 10 that outcomes be measurable. In doing external reviews over the years, it has been very difficult to deal with outcomes that are not measured in any way. It becomes opinion.

I am worried however about being overly prescriptive as well. Programs vary tremendously. We must keep focus on the school/program within its own institution and not try to tell them how to run the show too much. They must have leeway to be individualistic within the confines of meeting the standards.

Thank you.

#2 ALA gets reactionary « Diplomatics Books – Evan Knight on 05.29.09 at 8:26 pm

[...] 2009 · No Comments The Task Force (”TF”) for Library Education submitted their final report of “Standards for Accreditation for Master’s Programs in Library and Inform…” to the ALA Committee on Accreditation (”COA”) this January.  Click on the [...]

#3 Alum on 05.29.09 at 9:43 pm

The only actual hard facts I see in this report is that adjuncts should be shunned – circle the wagons, boys, they’re after our jobs.
There’s little mention of students (they can form their little clubs for a year) nor eventual employers, who should have substantial input on what librarians need to know.
No wonder employers are hiring from outside the field to get the skills they need, while new graduates need a second masters to be employable.
I would suggest one thing that’s obvious to students – that teaching faculty need to be taught to teach, not get tenure. A PhD in anything doesn’t make you a teacher, even in kindergarten. That should be a central concern here, you are certifying schools, after all.
What, exactly, will you measure students by? Scoring 90% on an AACR test, something that most librarians will never use in its remaining lifespan? Learn to write Boolean search strings? Draw an organizational chart shaped like a daisy? Those are the useless things I was taught, and I just graduated 6 years ago, but they are measurable.
This report only reinforces the belief of many that ALA is an organization for administrators at coastal schools , and old ones at that. I will look forward to seeing the discussions on other blogs.

#4 Joyce M. Latham on 05.31.09 at 10:15 am

I believe the task force recommendations pose a significant opportunity to seriously engage with the degree of commitment to the profession of librarianship at multiple levels. As someone who has been a librarian, a library administrator and now an LIS educator, I support the recommendations for a strong core set of concepts and skills, a significant representation of practice within the tenure track faculty and the need to return engagement with the frames of “knowledge” and “culture” to practice. Libraries are about more than information, and the emphasis on technology by many programs has minimized the “situated nature” of much technical practice.
But I also believe that the recommendations are a launching pad, and not a final determination. While most educators find “must” difficult to deal with under any circumstances, they have finally responded in a serious way to the values important to practitioners. Unsworths call for “empirical leading to a genuine understanding of the needs of the profession” is an opportunity for educators to partner with practitioners in exploring both the present and the future, both established, traditional practce and the possibilities of an expanding practice. I have contacted IMLS for a copy of the grant awards database so we can begin to explore how much collaborative research has occured in the past. I have also requested information about representation on IMLS grant award committees. Perhaps practice and research CAN finally come together via these recommendations to begin to look seriously at the concerns of the profession. Perhaps there is a possibility for mutual growth in the debate.

I do want to leave with one observation, however. The fact that people are making anonymous posts seriously concerns me: it raises issues about intellectual freedom and intellectual authority, which may be another round of discussions. I can’t imagine why anyone in any information profession would not chose transparency.

#5 Sharon McQueen on 06.02.09 at 8:00 am

I posted the following on jESSE, a library and information science education discussion list:

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Subject: Re: ASIS&T response to the ALA TF on Library Education

I served on then ALA President Leslie Burger’s Presidential Task Force on Library Education from its formation in March 2007 to our term end at ALA Midwinter 2009. Prior to that time I served on then ALA President Michael Gorman’s Presidential Library Education Initiative.

Last week Donald Case posted an email to this list (included below) directing our attention to the ASIS&T Board response to the Final Report of the ALA Presidential Task Force on Library Education (TF). He was seeking discussion of that report. I feel both the ASIS&T response, and that of the deans of the iSchools/members of the iCaucus, warrant replies from the TF. Unfortunately the TF no longer exists, as our term ended with the submission of our Final Report. I have been in contact with ALA staff and former TF members and, at this point, it does not seem likely that the TF will be able to respond as an entity. But there have been so many inaccuracies and misinterpretations on this list that I feel compelled to respond as an individual, as a former member of the TF.

I read Donald Case’s emails and many of the subsequent posts with dismay. A number of those posting appear not have read (or carefully read) the *entire* Final Report of the Task Force:

http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/governance/officers/ebdocuments/20082009ebdocuments/ebd12_30.pdf

A number appear not to have read the current (January 2008) Standards for Accreditation of Master’s Programs in Library & Information Studies:

http://www.ala.org/ala/educationcareers/education/accreditedprograms/standards/standards_2008.pdf

Many appear to be completely unaware of the history and context that brought about the formation of the most current Task Force. I feel the Final Report of the Steering Committee on the Congress for Professional Education (June, 1999) is mandatory reading, for a start:

http://www.ala.org/ala/educationcareers/education/1stcongressonpro/1stcongresssteeringcommittees.cfm

The section “Background and Context” of this report should be enlightening. It is clear that ALA Council was voicing “its concerns about the preparation of librarians.” Most of us on this list know that concerns regarding library education (debates on theory vs. practice, etc) go back decades. But at this point in the 1990s the concern was “other than.” My own observations at that time lead me to feel I am not overstating matters when I say that “concerns” for library education were more of an outcry. At that point in time I took a highlighter to the bios of those running for ALA Council and marked each candidate who was running “to fix library education” (or some similar sentiment). The resulting document was quite colorful, I assure you. This strong chorus of disapproval arose due to several factors, one of them being the 1992 Standards revision.

I once asked ALA staff what the mechanism, procedure, and schedule was for revision of The Standards. I was told that there was nothing in place, that The Standards are revised when the need becomes apparent to a critical mass of ALA members. (The current 5 year cycle is a relatively recent development.) The 1972 Standards did not see revision for 20 years. Many felt that a revision was not only long overdue, due to rapid and massive change affecting the field, but that the 1972 revision had been far too specific. The pendulum certainly swung in reaction—many felt is swung much too far. The negative reactions to the 1992 Standards were almost immediate and intense. As you can see from the “Background and Context” section of the Final Report of the Steering Committee on the Congress for Professional Education, ALA Council members were questioning “the efficacy of those standards.” (This Congress is sometimes referred to as the 1st Congress, as two more followed: one on continuing education and one on support staff.)

The notion, put forth by several people on jESSE, that our TF was reacting to a non-existent concern(s) from the field, or worse—putting forth the implication that we created the concern—is odious. Is it possible that jESSE subscribers have forgotten that vigorous debates on this topic have often taken place on this very list? Or perhaps they would rather (conveniently?) forget. In 2002 and 2003 alone there were numerous threads on such topics as the dissatisfaction of various areas of librarianship (academic, cataloging, etc) with the education of librarians (as evidenced by a number of meeting topics and publications of these various groups), the lack of LIS doctoral graduates with library backgrounds, students graduating without having covered areas basic to the field of librarianship (as they have increasingly become electives), the perception that LIS educators ignore the concerns of library practitioners – there was even a debate on whether or not library education was in crisis. (I feel the debate on crisis vs. no crisis was a convenient excuse to avoid dealing with the actual expressed concerns, but there it was.)

In addition, meetings that have focused on LIS education have been held since the 1st Congress made its Final Report. During ALA President Michael Gorman’s 2005-2006 term, his Presidential Library Education Initiative worked to organize an LIS Education Forum in January, 2006, at the ALISE Annual Conference and ALA Midwinter Meeting in San Antonio. Forum papers were presented by Fiona A. Black, Michael Gorman, and John Budd. I highly recommend that jESSE subscribers read these papers, which may be accessed here:

http://mg.csufresno.edu/forum1.htm

As one of the organizers of this, and other forums and events, I can tell you there were open microphone periods for comments from the floor, as well as small group discussions. I can also tell you that concern for the education of librarians was still running very high.

At our first forum the Library Education Initiative had decided to hold small group discussions at 10-top round tables. I had been asked by Michael Gorman and Norman Horrocks to keep notes for my table. But a COA staff member appeared and announced that she would be recording all comments. None were recorded while I sat at the table. In fact, any criticism regarding The Standards and the accreditation process was defensively and ferociously debated. Feeling abused, all but a few got up from the table and found other places to sit or left the forum entirely. Not surprisingly, reports stemming from COA state that the 1992 Standards have “served the field well.” We must have been attending different forums. ;-)

Back to the 1st Congress. The roster of the Steering Committee of the 1st Congress reads like a who’s who in the field. Ken Haycock chaired. A number were, or went on to become, ALISE presidents (Ken Haycock, Shirley Fitzgibbons, Connie Van Fleet). Robert Martin went on to become the Director of IMLS. Bob also served on our TF. His background was invaluable.

In their initial meeting, the Steering Committee summarized “why we’re here” as follows:
• Changes and perceived changes in LIS programs. (Current at that time: changes at Berkeley — and a high-profile interview with the Berkeley dean in Wired, changes at Michigan, the Kellogg grants for innovation in curricula, the 1998 ALISE discussion of its mission, name changes at various schools)
• Perceived failure to develop professionals to serve particular groups – particularly children.
• Perceived failure to develop professionals with “core competencies” – particularly cataloging.
• Perceived disjuncture between the graduate programs of LIS and employers.

The Steering Committee expressed concern that the Congress not be an “attack” on LIS education – and noted differences between LIS programs.

A number of questions were raised by the Steering Committee in their discussions, including:
• What is the “domain” of the profession?
• Is it “profession” or “professions?”
• Does “of the field” mean librarianship – or any field related to information studies?
• What does ALA accredit – a broad or narrowly-defined field of study?

In my opinion, everyone concerned with the Final Report of the most recent TF should read the Recommendations of the Final Report of the 1st Congress. Partly because, and THIS IS IMPORTANT, The ALA Executive Board received the 1st Congress Recommendations at the 1999 Annual Conference and acted to move forward through referrals to existing bodies and creation of special task forces on core values, core competences, etc. In other words, ALA leadership has already decided that ALA will move forward on the 1st Congress Recommendations. But various ALA entities have let the ball drop. Our TF was one of the task forces created to pick up the ball.

Since the 1st Congress made its final report, ALA staff have kept reports on the most recent status of the implementation of the 1st Congress Recommendations. One of the pieces of unfinished business from the 1st Congress was that Core Competences of Librarianship be put before Council. At one of our forums, I remember several LIS educators requesting that ALA provide LIS education with a set of core competences. They stated that such a document would be useful and embraced. Ken Haycock stood to (wearily, I thought) remind all present that ALA had already approved such a set of competences but that it (as well as other work of the 1st Congress) had been repeatedly held up for years.

The Core Competences had been (several times) to the Committee on Accreditation (COA), the Committee on Education (COE), and it is my understanding that an outside consultant was hired at one point. When our Task Force finally put the document before Council in final draft form, after nearly 10 years in the making, we did not expect people to assume the Core Competences were our idea, though some did. A few of us did, however, expect thanks for finally bringing it to completion. ;-) And from most, that is what we received. But it is my perception that a few individuals and groups did not wish to see the Core Competences pass. I attended a meeting of the COA at which I received the clear message that COA did not wish to see the Core Competences pass. It was my strong impression that COA resented the existence of the TF. But whether the Core Competences came into being or not is neither the decision of COA nor of the TF. Both entities serve at the pleasure of Council, not the reverse. And Council had already decided that the Core Competences were to exist.

From reading the jESSE posts of this last week it appears to me that some of you were not only surprised by our TF Recommendations, but by the existence of the Core Competences as well. My turn to be surprised. Last summer (12 Jun 2008) ALA Senior Associate Executive Director Mary Ghikas posted to jESSE. Her post read, in part:

“The Library Education Task Force is requesting your comments on the attached statement of ALA Core Competences of Librarianship, not later than July 31, 2008.”

The jESSE archives may be accessed here:

http://listserv.utk.edu/archives/jesse.html

The TF fully expected to follow a discussion thread on jESSE, but there was not one subsequent post. Not one. Even though the jESSE home page states:

“The listserv also serves as the official electronic “channel” for the Association for Library and Information Science Education, because of its widespread reach – and by request from the Association.”

Now, almost a year late, one jESSE subscriber expresses concern that Youth Services was not included in the Core Competences. Youth Services was well represented on the TF. My areas are public library youth services and youth literature. Holly Willett teaches and conducts research in youth services. Brenda Pruitt-Annisette is a practicing school media librarian. And our TF Chair, and former ALA President, Carla D. Hayden, originally comes from the youth areas. Not one of us considered youth services to be something *all* graduates should be required to know. The idea that one specialty area of the field, no matter how important, should be included as core would open the door for others. There are only so many credit hours in our programs. As the first paragraph of ALA’s Core Competences of Librarianship states:

“This document defines the basic knowledge to be possessed by all persons graduating from an ALA-accredited master’s program in library and information studies. Librarians working in school, academic, public, special, and governmental libraries, and in other contexts will need to possess specialized knowledge beyond that specified here.”

From at least one jESSE post, I actually get the impression that the sender does not realize that the Core Competences have already passed ALA Council.

Many posters have failed to read the TF charge carefully. We were not charged to create a series of actionable recommendations dealing with fields other than librarianship. Our TF was charged:

“…to create a series of actionable recommendations to ensure that library and information science education programs produce librarians who understand the core values of our profession and possess the core competences of the profession needed to work in today’s libraries.”

We have been accused of not faithfully executing our charge, an accusation that I find insulting and repugnant. A careful reading of our charge and the results of our efforts prove otherwise. There has been some jESSE criticism that the TF was not representative of the field of librarianship. First, we were not charged to create our own TF. The TF was created and its members were invited to participate. We did not select ourselves; we were selected. Blaming the TF for its own make-up is peculiar indeed. It shows a misunderstanding of the workings of ALA. Second, I feel a sincere effort was made to be inclusive of the field. I feel that the mix of librarians (school, public, academic…) and educators was particularly well done. But if memory serves, one jESSE subscriber has referred to us as a group of practitioners. A glace at our membership roster (included in our Final Report) shows that library educators were included to a great degree. I logged in to the ALISE Membership Directory and searched the name of each TF member. The ALISE Membership Directory shows the following as being current ALISE members:

John M. Budd
Michele V. Cloonan
Mary W. Ghikas
Edward C. Harris
Sharon McQueen
Holly G. Willett

Our Final Report listed 23 TF members. ALISE members accounted for just over 25% of our TF membership. When we first formed, 2 of our members were on the ALISE Board. John Budd was Past President and Michele Cloonan was President Elect. So there was at least one ALISE Board member on the TF during its entire existence.

Not all LIS educators on the TF are currently listed as ALISE members. The following are all the LIS educators who were also members of the TF (just over 30%):

John M. Budd, Professor
Yvonne Chandler, Associate Professor
Michele V. Cloonan, Dean
Edward C. Harris, Dean
Robert S. Martin, Professor
Sharon McQueen, Lecturer & Doctoral Candidate
Holly G. Willett, Associate Professor

And when we were first formed, Tracie Hall was Assistant Dean at Dominican, though she left that position prior to the submission of our Final Report.

A lack of understanding of the way in which ALA functions has been the cause of other very odd jESSE posts in this thread. For example, folks have questioned why we distributed our work on the Core Competences widely, but did not distribute the TF Recommendations. The answer is simple: it was not our call in either case. The TF reports to the ALA Executive Board. Once we had a final draft of the Core Competences, we submitted our report to the Executive Board. Given the fact that the Core Competences had already traveled widely and had received a great deal of commentary over many years, we recommended that the document go up for a vote at Council. But that is the call of the ALA Executive Board; we may only recommend. The Executive Board instructed us to circulate the Core Competences once more, and so we did.

When we submitted our Final Report and Recommendations, it was called our “Final Report” because our term was over. The TF ceased to exist. How, then, were we to have circulated the Recommendations and taken comments? We would not have done so, in any event, without direction to do so from the Executive Board. I, for one, felt that the term of the TF should have been extended. Given COA’s history of resistance to any substantial revision of the 1992 Standards, I felt that was the best course. (The January 2008 “revision” is a very good edit, an update of terms, etc. COA’s opinion has repeatedly been that no substantive revision is needed.) Some of us felt that the ALA Executive Board would circulate the Recommendations after we had disbanded – and in fact, that is what is now happening.

One of the most disheartening things I have experienced in reading these posts has been attempts to stifle discussion and debate. I was shocked to read:

“How is this suggestion even worthy of further consideration?”

This particular comment was made in regards to Recommendation #7:

“That ALA’s accreditation standards prescribe that a majority of the permanent full-time
faculty teaching in the program are grounded in librarianship by virtue of their
educational background, professional experience and/or record of research and publication.”

By my experience, LIS educators often forget that ALA accredits programs, not schools. Schools can, and do, have multiple programs—in some cases one may be ALA accredited and one not. If the American Library Association accredits a program, it makes sense that the Association would want to see faculty with library orientations. If the majority of the faculty teaching within a program has no library background (either in educational background, professional experience, or research agenda) should ALA accredit that program? Our TF thought not. Would the American Bar Association accredit a program if the majority of the faculty were from fields other than law?

No one on our TF (to my knowledge) is opposed to interdisciplinarity. The question is not: Is it good? The question is: How many faculty from various fields other than librarianship should a program sustain before ALA is no longer able to accredit that program? I once taught for a program in which 50% of the faculty had no library backgrounds whatsoever. By the director’s own admission, 99% of the students had enrolled in that program to become librarians. Does that ratio make sense? Interdisciplinarity *is* a good thing. But so is librarianship. The Recommendations of the TF have been called “radical.” I suppose it is radical to consider that students entering our programs looking to become librarians may actually wish to study librarianship. I suppose it is radical to consider that those who hire our graduates may actually want them to receive an education in the field.

We needn’t shortchange librarianship to gain interdisciplinarity. We ought to remember that most of our programs allow our students to take electives from campus programs other than our own. I have yet to hear anyone argue against courses in fields other than librarianship, but when those courses tip the balance in an LIS program, when areas core to the field are no longer required, doesn’t ALA have the right to object? I maintain it is not only the right of ALA, but the responsibility of ALA.

But I forgot, I’m not supposed to be discussing these matters. They’re not worthy of discussion. I do find it ironic, though, that the very person who requested debate on this issue is also looking to shut down components of it. I have witnessed a pattern over the years: When serious issues arise, issues clearly in need of attention, LIS education has had a tendency to shut down the discussion, often by accusing those who express the concerns (or those who attempt to address them) of being “myth perpetrators” It seems to me that any time a jESSE subscriber expresses a concern from practice, some will try to limit debate—often through use of extremely patronizing language and/or bullying behaviors.

The ASIS&T response states:

“At present, almost 30% of LIS graduates do not enter library jobs and the proposed prescriptive emphasis on specific competencies will displace content that addresses non-library-related knowledge and skills.”

And what of the 70% who *do* enter library jobs? Also, I would like a citation for that figure. Does it include all programs of LIS schools? Including those not accredited by ALA? Does the 30% include new titles for what are really library jobs? Many of our graduates work in special librarian positions, carrying out the work of special librarians but with various new titles. Yes, our graduates work in multiple environments. So do doctors. But when I seek medical care, I don’t select a health care professional educated in some field other than health care. The fact that librarians work in multiple environments is a testament to the value of the field.

Again, I strongly encourage jESSE subscribers to read the current Standards. Much of what the TF recommends is already there, but it is worded poorly or has not been enforced. For example, take the issue of full-time faculty and adjuncts. The Standards state:

“Fulltime faculty members are qualified for appointment to the graduate faculty within the parent institution and are sufficient in number and in diversity of specialties to carry out the major share of the teaching, research, and service activities required for a program, wherever and however delivered. Part-time faculty, when appointed, balance and complement the teaching competencies of the full-time faculty.”

I feel Michael Gorman said it well when he wrote:

“This is a clear direction that, in order to be accredited by ALA, a program of library studies should not only cover all the parts of the field as defined and delineated earlier within a core curriculum, but that should also have qualified graduate faculty who are intimately involved with the *major share* (my emphasis) of teaching and research in the subjects encompassed by the field preferably by direct teaching or, at a minimum, by curriculum development and coordination. No matter how the term “major share” is defined (and it would be disingenuous to define it as, say, 51%), it is the clear intent of the Standards that an accredited program would use adjunct, part-time, faculty to meet either extraordinary circumstances or to teach in specialized areas. In other words, a program in which the teaching of important parts of the field of library studies such as cataloguing (“organization and description”) and reference (“interpretation”) were the responsibility of adjunct faculty would not be in accordance with the letter or spirit of the Standards.”

http://mg.csufresno.edu/PAPERS/Accreditation_standards.pdf

As the Standards state, adjunct faculty members “enrich the quality and diversity of a program.” No one I know denies this. Practitioners have real world experience and practical knowledge that can be of great benefit to our students. But there are a number of important disadvantages to the overuse of adjunct faculty. First, in most departments, adjunct faculty members do not influence the curriculum. Though they may be invited, and welcome, to attend faculty meetings, few do. Final decisions regarding curriculum are the province of the full-time faculty. Without a reference/user services full-time faculty member at the table, this basic area of the field can become an elective. (It is my understanding that in at least one of our programs, it is.) Second, the Standards refer to the research and service activities of full-time faculty. If substantial areas of the field are taught by adjuncts, substantial research and service for those areas of the field will not be carried out. (Relatively few adjuncts engage in research.) There are important areas of librarianship in need of investigation and study. Without full-time faculty in those areas, librarianship suffers a great loss. Third (and this point has been made a number of times on jESSE) doctoral students must be mentored by existing full-time faculty. Without adequate numbers of library-oriented faculty, library-oriented doctoral students cannot find mentors—or may not even be recruited at all.

The ASIS&T response states that the TF Final Report represents “a significant narrowing of the LIS field.” But again, the TF was charged to focus on the education of librarians. Because we did not focus on the many fields included under the ASIS&T umbrella, “such fields as computer science, linguistics, management, librarianship, engineering, law, medicine, chemistry, and education,” (ASIS&T web site) we have been accused of violating the values of ALA. We have been accused of narrowing the field in a manner “fundamentally opposed to the long-standing commitment to diversity and liberal thinking that ALA so gallantly champions.” Violating ALA’s values? Opposed to diversity? This group? Oh please.

How many fields should ALA be in the business of accrediting? Is ALA qualified to accredit a program with a computer science focus, for example? The “1972 Standards for Accreditation” became the “Standards for Accreditation of Master’s Programs in Library & Information Studies 1992.” It is my understanding that this change was made to reflect the titles various schools had been adopting. The 1992 Standards stated:

“The phrase “library and information studies” is understood to be concerned with recordable information and knowledge and the services and technologies to facilitate their management and use. Library and information studies encompasses information and knowledge creation, communication, identification, selection, acquisition, organization and description, storage and retrieval, preservation, analysis, interpretation, evaluation, synthesis, dissemination, and management.”
Yet, in 1999, the 1st Congress made the following recommendation:

2.2. determine whether ALA is accrediting programs for librarians only or also for other information professionals, including specializations
• the Standards for Accreditation apply to library “and information studies” yet there is some question as to whether this is [a] “librarianship” under a different name, or [b] librarianship expanding into other areas, or [c] a broader range of information professionals, including, for example, archivists, records managers, researchers, Internet managers and trainers
To my knowledge, ALA has not fully addressed Recommendation 2.2. The Standards often refer to “the field.” But what is “the field”? Those involved in writing 2.2 felt clarity was needed. And I suspect they hadn’t even considered “the field” to include all the fields of ASIS&T members (i.e. computer science, linguistics, management, librarianship, engineering, law, medicine, chemistry, and education). I feel ALA leadership ought to take a serious look at what ASIS&T is, and what ASIS&T is asking of the ALA accreditation process. And what ALA asks of the accreditation process. (By the way, I do wonder if ASIS&T is this involved with the accreditation processes of all the fields they encompass. If so, they must be very busy people indeed.)

The Standards refer to “a general foundation of library and information studies.” But what is that, exactly? COA has referred to the current Standards as “a statement of broad principles.” Should they be? What is the purpose of accreditation? The ASIS&T response indicates opposition to “nationally mandated standards.” So, shall we dispense with them? The Standards actually do cover core areas, but by being “indicative, not prescriptive”—by being “qualitative rather than quantitative”—programs are at liberty to do as they please. For example, collections is covered in the Standards (“identification, selection, acquisition”) yet of the 4 LIS programs I have taught within, only one required their graduates to study collection management. The way accreditation works is that the schools tell COA what they do (mission, goals, objectives, etc) and COA decides if they are doing it well or not. ALA really needs to set a minimum here. Programs seeking accreditation from ALA must do/have X. If ALA will not do that, accreditation has no meaning.

Thank you for your consideration of my post.
Sherri

P.S. The response from the deans of the iSchools/members of the iCaucus begins with the following:

“This letter is being written in support of positions communicated to you by the American Society for Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T) and by the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) in response to the January 2009 report of the ALA Library Education Task Force.”

What is the ALISE position? I have yet to see one.

Addendum to the jESSE post:

ALISE has issued a statement, but has not yet taken a position. The fact that the iSchools would claim to be supporting the ALISE position when ALISE has not yet issued one, is irresponsible at best. It gives the impression that ALISE is in full agreement with the ASIS&T response, as well as the iSchool response. I have been in contact with ALISE President Linda Smith. She understands that the iSchools statement has caused confusion and confirms that ALISE (as of June 1, 2009) is still formulating a position statement.

#6 Rachel Applegate on 06.04.09 at 3:01 pm

As an ALA external panel member, and also a peer evaluator for the Higher Learning Commission, I am in favor of the increased emphasis on student learning outcomes accountability–seen in the new Standards and echoed in this Task Force Report.

As an LIS educator who came out of practice…and who is very ‘library’ oriented, I feel very comfortable with the emphasis on the library grounding of faculty AND the library-orientation of their teaching, service, and research activities.

But as a member of a search committee, I comment that good standards may need more supportive elements.
For example, many certified school library media people can make more money than an LIS professor–and both get the ‘summers off.’ That makes it hard to attract full-time faculty experienced in school library media.
Many public librarians have very busy practice lives, and they are not rewarded for research/evaluation and publication. That means it is challenging for them to transition into a job as a SLIS professor with research responsibilities.
Hence something of an over-abundance of people with academic library backgrounds.

I once had a dentist…while working on me…comment that his professional association ‘topped off’ the salaries of valuable dental faculty so they would be more comparable to what they could earn in practice.

I’m not dreaming of that, but I think that if ALA expresses these strong preferences for a practice basis for faculty and for lively / strong research agendas tied to practice, it may need to be as intentional and supportive as is for other initiatives such as the spectrum scholars. They could advocate at the federal level (IMLS perhaps other agencies) for more research funding–currently IMLS funding is primarily directed at education, not the research that those educators conduct in/for/about the field. They could help current practitioners see themselves as LIS faculty–work toward it.

#7 Tom Wilding on 06.07.09 at 7:13 pm

I’ve been reading with interest the diverse posts on the JESSE listserv concerning the report of the Presidential Task Force on Education. I find myself continually going back to a question asked early on (sorry…I’m not sure who asked it originally). What’s broken? What needs to be fixed? I’ve read the task force report several times and fail to find any data or any compelling statement of need that would lead to the rather significant and somewhat draconian recommendations that the task force has made. It instead refers to papers and reports from the several congresses and fora on professional education and lists a series of bullets that may or may not be representative of the climate of those meetings.

I attended the first two congresses and at least one forum. I heard the same complaints from practitioners that I’ve been hearing for four decades. Forty-five years ago I was told that the Yale University Library took two years to train a professional cataloger once they had gone through an accredited master’s program. Practitioners for some reason still think that LIS education programs should prepare someone to step into a position with the ink still wet on her/his degrees and function fully at the level of other librarians who have been around for years. That will never happen.

I interviewed and hired librarians for some thirty years before I retired a few years ago. Many were new graduates. It was rare to find someone who I didn’t feel was prepared to take up the professional reins. Is the task force telling us that those thousands of librarians who came out of our programs were ignorant of the fundamentals of our profession? Really!

I have been fortunate enough to serve on seven or eight external review panels in the accreditation process over the years. One thing those panels always do is to listen to both graduates of the programs and to practitioners who hired the graduates of the programs. Certainly the graduates have told us of things they would like to have learned, but in a thirty-six hour program (I believe most are at that level) there will never be time to cover everything. The employers, though, have consistently told the panels on which I served that they are highly satisfied with the librarians they’ve hired. So what’s broken?

Admittedly both the graduates and the employers have a stake in the continuation of accreditation for their schools, so I really don’t expect them to trash the schools. On the other hand, I wouldn’t expect them to be as positive in their feedback either if such were not the case.

I was the lone voice on the Council floor to speak against the competences. I still fail to see what they add to the conversation. When pressed to come up with a statement of core values, ALA managed eventually to develop a succinct statement of eleven core values, each with a descriptive statement. This is a useful statement. The core competences number in the forties and sound much like a grocery list of competences. I doubt that any accredited program can really hope to have all of its graduates meet all forty-some competences in those thirty-six credit hours. A list of that many competences by its very existence implies that it is an exhaustive list even though we all know that librarians will need and will develop many more. I’m also not sure how a program will document that their graduates indeed meet them even if they do, or how an external review panel could hope to deal with the documentation of this in their short visit.

Like others have expressed, it seems to me that the task force set out to drive education and accreditation back to the “good old days.” In the “good old days,” practitioners said much the same things about library education. Educators, fortunately, have always had their eyes on the future and done a darn good job of producing new crops of librarians not for “today’s libraries” but for the libraries of the future. If we produce librarians for today, who will staff our libraries tomorrow? Or in 2025? Or in 2050?

So in the end, I’m still wondering what is broken and will the recommendations fix it? I seriously doubt it!

–Tom Wilding, Professor of Practice
Associate Director for Academic Programs and
Interim Director
School of Information Resources and Library Science
University of Arizona

#8 Bernie Sloan on 06.08.09 at 11:23 am

In the spirit of fairness, I wanted to make a few comments about the iSchool/iCaucus letter to the COA.

1. The letter begins by saying:”This letter is being written in support of positions communicated to you by the American Society for Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T) and by the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) in response to the January 2009 report of the ALA Library Education Task Force.”

I am not sure why the letter mentions supporting the position of the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE). ALISE had not issued a position statement in response to the report of the ALA Library Education Task Force when the iSchool/iCaucus statement was issued. I believe the ALISE board is still surveying its institutional members to determine what position to take. I feel obliged to point this out, as some folks in the blogosphere have reported that ALISE is opposed to the ALA TF report, based on the iCaucus/iSchool letter. ALISE could very well come out against the report, but it’s premature to claim they have done so already.

2. The letter then notes that “The task force report advocates a shift towards a prescriptive core curriculum, linked to accreditation, as a means of assuring that graduates share a common and well-understood set of knowledge and skills…Stability of any ‘core curriculum’ is infeasible during such a period of rapid change as we are currently witnessing.”

This is a rather curious statement in that the ALA TF recommendations specifically stress that it be “…made clear to programs seeking accreditation that the Association is not interested in prescribing a ‘core curriculum’.”

3. The iSchool/iCaucus letter then goes on to say “We note that the recommendations of the task force focus on programmatic inputs (LIS PhD requirements for faculty, for example).”

The ALA TF recommendations do NOT require that LIS faculty possess an LIS PhD. Rather, the TF report wants some faculty in programs that educate librarians to be “grounded in librarianship by virtue of their educational background, professional experience, and/or record of research and publication.” An LIS faculty member could hold a PhD in just about any discipline and still be “grounded in librarianship” if he or she had some professional work experience, held a master’s degree from an ALA accredited program, or had done library-oriented research or publication.

Bernie Sloan
Sora Associates

#9 Stephen Bajjaly on 06.08.09 at 12:28 pm

(Most of this post originally sent to JESSE on 5/27/09)

Like many others on JESSE, I assume, I have been digesting the ongoing discussion about the Library Education Task Force (LETF) final report and debating if, when, and how I should contribute. To Don Case’s point, since I do not want my silence to be construed incorrectly, I offer the following comments about the process and the product of the LETF recommendations.

With regard to the report, I am somewhat puzzled by two of the perceptions that form the basis for the LETF and its recommendations:

• “the perceived gap between what is taught … and competences needed for work ….” Perceived by whom? I am concerned that a few loud, persistent voices have, over time, created a situation in which something that ain’t broke is going to be fixed anyway. Like most of you, we are in regular touch with those who employ our graduates to ensure that what we teach is what is needed. We are constantly tweaking the curriculum to ensure we stay on top of the latest trends, issues, and concerns. I have yet to encounter any real sense that our curriculum is out of whack. What we do hear repeatedly are concerns centered on personality traits, attitudes, and beliefs. Similarly, I also don’t hear a whiff from anyone that they have trouble finding high-quality talent to fill their job openings nor do they need to interview, interview, and interview in order to fill a vacancy.

• “the perceived inadequacy of the current ALA accreditation process.” Again, perceived by whom? We are up for our reaccreditation this fall. I certainly find it disheartening to learn that all our considerable time, effort, and energy is going to an inadequate process. Ditto for the times I have served on an ERP team.

With regard to the recommendations, I offer the following comments:

• Recommendations 3 and 4: rewording the standards as active imperatives. I am concerned that stating the standards as “you must do this” and “you must do that” runs absolutely counter to the desire to “re-orient library education and the relationships between practicing librarians and library educators in a positive direction….” It’s news to me that the current process is not positive. It seems to me that the current process and the current standards work quite well: the vast majority of programs are doing just fine and that the re-accreditation process roots out the programs that need remediation. I worry that re-wording the standards in such black/white terms will cause programs – individually and collectively – to question the entire ALA/COA process and to debate whether it is all “worth it.”

• Recommendations 8 and 9: balance of full-time to adjunct faculty. As I read it, the underlying premise here is that full-time faculty are necessary to deliver a high-quality education. I am concerned that the outcome of these recommendations would unnecessarily limit student choice. At Wayne State, we rely on adjuncts to expand both the number of courses and the delivery locations in any given semester. We could adopt the “airline model” and certainly trim back so that the majority of classes are taught by full-time faculty. Students would have less options and each course would be full, full, full. I see this standard, if enacted, as playing out this way long before I see us getting several additional tenure-track lines. I would much prefer to see a recommendation that centers on the outcome of the teaching – the quality control – rather than making assumptions about who is doing the teaching.

• Recommendation 7: library-oriented faculty. Since each program is different, having an absolute standard about the ratio of faculty is problematic. I would assume that all accredited programs have “suitable” faculty teaching all of their courses. The accreditation standards should account for a review of faculty “suitability.”

• In terms of doctoral education, I would prefer to let the marketplace, rather than accreditation, handle this situation. For those of you associated with doctoral programs, do all of your graduates find employment? If so – great. If not, orienting more of your doctoral students to obtain library work experience and to conduct library-oriented research will make them more marketable to a School like Wayne State. Of the 90-some doctoral students who submitted to the ALISE job placement service this year, I think there were not more than a dozen who piqued our interest in any way (because they lacked suitable job experience). If the marketplace overall is not turning out sufficient PhDs to staff our Schools, then there’s an entrepreneurial opportunity for one or more PhD programs to fill this void.

I think LIS educators are very concerned about quality control. We think traditional library environments are great places for our graduates to have long, productive, and satisfying careers. But we also recognize that our graduates increasingly find useful, worthwhile employment elsewhere. And our Schools/Programs operate within a context and culture unique to our respective campus and regional environments. In particular, LIS administrators are sensitive to these multiple, often competing priorities, and are attuned to what we need to do on our respective campuses to ensure the long-run viability of our Schools/Programs.

In sum, I advocate that the newly-adopted Core Competences become a part of the standards process (recommendations 1 and 2) and that outcomes assessment (recommendation 10), already a part of the revised 2008 standards, be adopted. The rest need further work or should be eliminated.

Stephen T. Bajjaly
Director and Professor
School of Library and Information Science
Wayne State University
http://www.slis.wayne.edu

#10 Bernie Sloan on 06.08.09 at 5:05 pm

I am writing in response to the recent ALA “Final Report of the Presidential Task Force on Library Education”.

I am a retired practitioner with 35+ years of experience working as a librarian. For the bulk of my career (30 years) I did not work for a library, and did not have the word “librarian” in my job title, but I still considered myself to be a librarian. I worked for various upper-level higher education administrative units (administrative computing, planning & budgeting, etc.) supporting the development of large-scale information systems for college and university libraries. I am well aware that not all graduates of ALA-accredited LIS programs work in libraries. I’m a prime example of this.

In addition to working as a librarian, I spent several years in a doctoral program in a top-ranked LIS school in the late 1990s and the early years of the 21st century. So I have some background in how LIS schools operate.

I want to start out by making some general comments about LIS education and education for librarianship:

1. LIS schools are academic units within a higher education setting. They are not standalone “library schools” that focus solely on training librarians. As units within higher education institutions they have certain responsibilities to the parent institutions regarding research and scholarship…they are not simply professional schools.

2. LIS schools now deal with “information” in a sense that goes well beyond the “traditional” boundaries of librarianship. Many students in the various programs of a typical LIS school do not go on to “library work.” Quite a few programs at LIS schools are not designed to educate librarians but rather deal with MIS, informatics, etc. I have no problem with this.

3. Over the past 15-20 years, especially, the field has seen a decided metamorphosis from traditional “library schools” to interdisciplinary “information schools”. This has been a good thing, for the most part. There are several examples of strong LIS programs today that had been struggling “library schools” facing potential closure in the 1980s and 1990s. The shift in emphasis from professional training school to scholarly information school no doubt saved quite a few LIS programs.

4. Having made these previous points, I also recognize that the vast majority of students in ALA-accredited master’s programs enter these programs with the intent of becoming librarians. Indeed, probably the majority of graduate students in LIS schools (regardless of whether or not they are in the ALA-accredited programs at these schools) end up getting jobs in libraries. Donald Case’s ASIS&T letter noted that “almost 30% of LIS graduates do not enter library jobs.” I take this to mean that more than 70% of LIS graduates DO ENTER library jobs. While LIS schools are certainly not standalone “library schools”, the LIS schools do have a responsibility in preparing students for librarianship. Note that I did NOT say “training librarians.” Librarians have plenty of on-the-job learning experiences to improve their skill sets once they are out in the field…I think ALA-accredited LIS programs need to prepare students for the profession of librarianship. I don’t have enough space here to discuss the differences between training librarians and preparing students for librarianship, but I’d be happy to discuss it with interested parties.

I applaud the INTENT behind the recommendations in the “Final Report of the Presidential Task Force on Library Education.”:

1. The Task Force wants to make sure that SOME of the tenure-track faculty responsible for educating students for librarianship (i.e., teaching in the ALA-accredited programs within LIS schools) actually understand something about libraries and librarianship. Sure, information organizations of all types may have some generic across-the-board similarities, but they also have their differences (e.g., philosophical, social, ethical, economic, etc.). I don’t think there’s a one-size-fits-all model that encompasses information science as a whole. Is it wrong to want to have SOME tenure-track faculty who understand the more unique aspects of libraries and librarianship?

2. The Task Force wants to make sure that LIS schools do not over-rely on adjunct faculty to teach library-oriented courses. (This is sort of a continuation of my previous point). Adjuncts make valuable contributions. I know adjuncts who are better teachers than tenure-track faculty. The point here is not that adjuncts=bad. The point is that adjuncts, because they have full-time responsibilities elsewhere, often cannot participate fully in the organizational culture of an LIS school. I served as a doctoral student representative to an LIS school’s faculty committee for a year in the late 1990s. I don’t recall any adjunct faculty attending these faculty meetings (for all I know they may not have been eligible to do so). Decisions affecting the education of students for librarianship were often discussed by tenure-track faculty who didn’t fully understand the unique aspects of libraries and librarianship. I’m not faulting the faculty members. They were good-hearted, thoughtful, well-intentioned people. But many of them simply had no experience with libraries beyond using the online catalogue or going to a library to check out a book. That would be sort of like people making policy decisions at a Pharmacy School based on their experiences picking up prescriptions at the local drugstore. If LIS schools have an overreliance on adjuncts to handle library-oriented coursework, and a critical mass of tenure-track faculty who don’t understand libraries making curricular decisions, the ALA-accredited portions of that LIS school’s offerings may suffer.

3. The ALA TF also developed a set of recommended “Core Competences of Librarianship” in a document separate from its report. The TF report recommends that these core competences be incorporated into ALA’s Standards for accreditation of master’s programs in library & information studies. I believe the intent of the Task Force was to make sure that there is some level of library-oriented context in courses taken by students in ALA-accredited master’s programs within LIS schools. The iSchool/iCaucus letter raised the spectre of a “core curriculum”, but a careful reading of the core competences document doesn’t seem to support this view.

While I am highly sympathetic to the intent behind the Task Force’s recommendations, I am also concerned about any possible unintended consequences resulting from the abrupt changes dictated in Task Force recommendations #3 and #4: “That the standards be revised to be written using imperatives and in the active voice – stressing that adherence to them is required for accreditation” and “That the standards be stated to be prescriptive, not indicative – mandates not suggestions.”

It’s been interesting watching the discussion of the Task Force report unfold on the JESSE e-mail discussion list. On one hand I’m not sure if the pro-report people fully understand the potential implications of the recommendations for LIS schools. On the other hand I’m not sure the anti-report people fully understand the intent behind the Task Force recommendations. Ironically, you have two groups of people who sincerely care about LIS education talking past each other as if they were speaking different languages.

What should the Committee on Accreditation do? I’m on record as being critical of certain elements of the iSchool/iCaucus response to the Task Force report, but their letter does suggest a course of action that might have merit:

“As deans of the iSchools, we suggest that the most efficient means of achieving the outcomes that you desire would be to conduct empirical research leading to a genuine understanding of the needs of the profession and to consider how those needs are, or are not, being met by programs such as ours. We envision this work being conducted in an atmosphere of mutual respect between those who teach and those who practice, and would willingly engage the expertise and resources of the iSchools in the achievement of such an outcome.”

Rather than gradually letting the Task Force report slide into oblivion alongside previous reports from similar task forces, perhaps the report could be used as a starting point to the sort of meaningful dialogue that the iSchool/iCaucus letter suggests?

Bernie Sloan
Sora Associates

#11 John Budd on 06.09.09 at 9:09 am

I feel compelled to respond to Alum’s posting. I did serve of the Task Force and nothing could be further from our intentions than limiting the role that adjuncts play in professional education. That said, when it comes to the essential body of knowledge–the knowledge, skills, and values that every generalist graduate should have–the Task Force did express the belief that someone on the program’s faculty should be able to espouse those essential elements. That is expressed in the form of advocated that many of the program’s full-time faculty have a connection with librarianship. I mean librarianship writ large here, and not simply individuals who work in buildings called libraries. Adjuncts have, and must, add to the offerings of accredited programs. Many practicing professionals have specialized knowledge that enriches students’ experiences.

During my time of the ALISE Board of Directors I helped draft a proposal to IMLS to enhance the pedagogical and student assessment skills of adjuncts. Unfortunately the proposal wasn’t funded. I hope–no, I urge–the ALISE Board to revisit that initiative.

I do want to affirm a point that Bernie Sloan made. The Task Force report EXPLICITLY states that it is not in any way advocating a single prescriptive core curriculum. This issue must be made as clear as possible. The members of the Task Force were unanimous is making certain that such language featured prominently in the report.

I’ll close on a personal note. Professions, by their nature, include a body of knowledge and skills, an ethical commitment, the goal of serving clientele, and a few other things. These factors are usually affirmed through accreditation of educational programs. If people genuinely believe that these elements do not apply to librarianship, then they are stating there is no such thing as librarianship. If they claim that the information field(s) is too broad to be brought under an epistemological, ontological, and axiological umbrella, then there is nothing to unify them and no need for associations. In the JESSE listserv postings the name of Jesse Shera has been invoked. If every there was a thinker who embraced inclusiveness, but with definitive confines, it was Shera. Empirical research into the needs of the profession demands entirely upon how an initial question is framed. If the search is for multiplicity of fields that use “information,” then the evidence will be found to support the status quo. If, on the other hand, the initial quest is to discover what librarianship is today, the findings could be quite different.

The one demand that educators and practicing professionals should make–and this blog is one venue by which it can be expressed–is honesty and integrity in the discourse on this issue.

#12 Bernie Sloan on 06.09.09 at 2:06 pm

In recommendation #7 of the Final Report of the Presidential Task Force on Library Education, the Task Force wants to be sure that some tenure track faculty in ALA-accredited programs “are grounded in librarianship by virtue of their educational background, professional experience, and/or record of research and publication.”

Recommendation #11 in the final report suggests that a future task force might examine and make recommendations on aspects of library education other than that taking place in ALA-accredited LIS masters programs, including “doctoral education”. I think one constructive direction that such a future task force might take is considering how to make library-oriented research more attractive to LIS doctoral students and junior faculty. You don’t magically get “faculty grounded in librarianship”. You have to come up with ways to get get doctoral students and junior faculty interested in library-oriented projects.

Research grants for library-oriented projects might be one incentive. But more importantly, it’s imperative to make it clear that there can legitimate scholarship in a library-oriented environment. Libraries are complex, technology-rich organizations where those involved in studying CMC, CSCW, HCI, etc., can find interesting subjects for theoretical scholarly research.

I often hear people describing librarianship as “practice”…different from the “theory” of academia. But I think it’s possible to do theoretical work in a library setting. LIS academics need to be made aware of the possibilities. This is something that a future TF might consider doing.

Bernie Sloan
Sora Associates

#13 Bernie Sloan on 06.12.09 at 2:39 pm

In some of the recent jESSE e-mail list discussions of the ALA TF report on library education, several people have asked for evidence that there are indeed problems with the current state of “library education”.

I was doing some exploring on the American Library Association web site, and I ran across the entry for the ALA Committee on Education. Interestingly, the second element of the COE’s charge reads as follows:

“* to assure that the Association actively solicits from its members information about the condition, currency, relevance, and type of education necessary to improve current and future library and information services. This information will be shared with the ALA Committee on Accreditation, the ALA membership and its units, and allied professional organizations”

Has the ALA Committee on Education done anything to fulfill this element of its charge? If so, are there reports that detail the COE’s findings?

Bernie Sloan
Sora Associates

#14 Michael Golrick on 06.14.09 at 6:33 pm

I have to say that as a library practitioner, a member of ALA Council, and a former member of the ALA Executive Board when the Task Force was created, I am annoyed that so many of the objections are just being raised now. It was at Midwinter, after extensive publication, that the Competences were approved. Where was everybody then?

There is so often a disconnect between the theoreticians and the practicing librarians/library administrators. And no, the recommendations say that a MAJORITY need to be full-time, and that they need to know something real about libraries! Read the text!

#15 Bill Crowley on 06.14.09 at 6:34 pm

First, I applaud the thoughtful work reflected in the “Presidential Task Force on Library Education.” This effort to defend relevant library education is both needed and overdue.

Second, the recommendations are clearly directed at ALA-accredited library and information programs and do not attempt to prescribe the education or the faculty for any other degree offered by the relevant university department, school, or college. Taken as a whole, this valuable effort represents an attempt to prevent irrelevant “information” or other courses from being substituted for a relevant “library” curriculum.

Third, at the risk of being seen as pushing my own works I will note that in the past several years I have published two books —Spanning the Theory-Practice Divide in Library and Information Science (Scarecrow 2005) and, more recently, Renewing Professional Librarianship: A Fundamental Rethinking (Libraries Unlimited, a “Beta Phi Mu Monograph,” 2008) which seek, in part or in whole, to provide answers to why some faculty have no problem with exiling “relevant library education” from their professional lives and educational programs. Briefly, library and information (LIS) practitioners operate in different co-cultures with different rules, values, and different standards for “success.”

I happen to be one of those individuals who had an extended career in libraries (23 years, in New York, Alabama, Indiana, and Ohio) prior to earning a PhD in another field (higher education). However, my higher education dissertation was written on the research university library. I also happen to have degrees in history, library service, and English (with a thesis in occupational folklore), with no two degrees from the same institution!

This varied background and the different perspectives it represents led me research a bit extensively on a not-so-original question–why do the perspectives, values, and interests of LIS faculty and practitioners so often and so extensively differ? Many members of the LIS faculty co-culture, particularly those who lack extensive experience working in an actual library or information/knowledge center, are convinced that their point of view, standpoint, or lens–usually formed in an academic environment and focused on “information” –provides a true vision of the world outside of their virtual classrooms and research agendas.
Unfortunately, it often does not, at least in academic, public, and school environments. Such lack of awareness complicates any efforts to communicate among co-cultures.

A number of my information friends hold that LIS is a multidisciplinary field as opposed to one addressing “library” issues. I will put off the implications of this argument for another time. However, in this context I find it a bit ironic that so many faculty members are ignorant of–or ignore–relevant research which can explain the gap between faculty and practitioners, research, for example, from the area of communication. The communication field often deals with matters pertaining to co-cultures and their interactions. It is a natural development to use this intellectual resource to consider the fundamentally critical problems in cross-cultural communication that often “define” faculty-practitioner relationships. It affects not only our teaching but our research. In this context I tend to wince at claims that we need to make sure that our students understand our research without first determining if the work that we thrust upon them is relevant to their professional aspirations as defined by the practitioner communities they seek to join–their preferred library, information, or knowledge co-cultures.

At some point the self-serving resistance of faculty to reasonable practitioner demands for relevance may lead in Canada and the United States to attempts to replicate the disaster that has afflicted “library” education in the United Kingdom. There, as a result of the emphasis on “information” leading to diminished opportunities for library education at the university level, the (British) Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals has apparently modified a variant of the old apprentice-journeyman-master approach in order to prepare library professionals. If faculty attempts to diminish the value of an education that helps libraries meet crucial societal needs for reading and lifelong learning continue, it is likely that the issue may become the subject of legislative hearings at state levels. This possible reaction by legislators, community leaders, and others who appreciate the value of libraries and well-educated librarians would be as understandable as it would be regrettable. It would also demonstrate that certain LIS faculty have forgotten that our universities and programs were created, not to provide faculty jobs, but to meet critical public needs.

Too often LIS faculty do not teach practitioners how to meet the priority needs of their service communities. In particular, viewing all students as “information practitioners” in the age of information self-service–as opposed to reinforcing the well-regarded learning and reading roles of academic, public, and school librarians–is a guaranteed way of encouraging future faculty-practitioner discord.

The proposed changes in the ALA accreditation program comprise a reasonable approach to insuring a relevant library education that responds to critical public needs within American and Canadian states, provinces, and localities. As such, they embody what the U.S. has termed the “land grant” philosophy of educational and research relevance in meeting public needs. The land grant ethic is a longstanding commitment which has too often been neglected in the erroneous effort in certain LIS programs to label everything “library” as “information.”

Regards,
Bill
Bill Crowley. Ph.D.
Professor
Graduate School of Library and Information Science
Dominican University
crowbill@dom.edu

#16 Louise S. Robbins on 06.15.09 at 11:01 am

I have now read the task force report multiple times and all the comments on the blog and on JESSE. I have several comments to add:

First, while the TF report does say it does not prescribe a “core curriculum,” since such a prescription was part of its charge, it is understandable why the prescriptive nature of the document would elicit a concern that that is exactly what it does.

Second, the concerns which elicited the call for the TF and its report were “perceived” inadequacies without much to back them up. I’d like to second John Unsworth’s call for some real research. [Not long ago, a colleague and I responded to statements that there are too few subject specialists coming out of LIS programs by doing some research that showed there are in fact few subject specialists, and few positions for them to fill; we concluded that programs to create specialists for a particular area were not likely to be helpful because, especially in an economic downturn--going on in libraries for a long time, it seems--subject specialists are not numerous and retirements are not happening as fast as at first thought.]

Third, the TF seems, as other commentors have noted, to be oblivious to the academic milieu in which many of us live and work. This especially manifests itself in the section on faculty, in which the backgrounds and activities of faculty members are more prescribed than in the current standards–and may be contrary to the academic environment in which such faculty members must also succeed. When outside forces put administrators into positions they don’t like, the unintended consequences can be, well, unintended. Another second: to the idea that IMLS fund more research in library-related areas, thereby supporting faculty and doctoral students in research in desirable areas. It really is true that the research follows the money; this is a concern in many fields, not just in LIS.

Fourth, I’m pretty sure LIS educators have always operated under the assumption that a standard is a standard, and it was our job to do our best to meet the COA standards. I at least regarded them as what we “must” do. Changing the wording to “must” is a rhetorical device used to say we have all fallen down on the job and need to be forced to behave. It seems pretty counter-productive.

Fifth, I find the Core Competences (CC )(my dictionary says that should be competencies) embody the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that master’s degreed librarians should have to some extent. BUT to say that *every* graduate should, as the Curriculum section of the revised Standards proposes, know ” the intricacies of planning, finances, personnel, uses of technology, and services” (II.2.3), “knowledge of all current and potential technological applications [for the provision of library services]” (II.2.5), as well as all the other little things like foundations and ethics of the field, collection management, reference provision, information literacy, and the like is asking students to undertake a program that is even longer and more expensive than our 42-credit program. It seems highly unlikely that readers of this post, even seasoned librarians, can say that they alone, without consulting their colleagues, or their human resources department or whatever, would meet those criteria.
While we teach every single competency mentioned in the CC, it is not all taught in required courses, and, in our faculty’s opinion, should not be. As many posters on this site suggest, different skills are highly valued in different positions in different libraries. Should we require students who intend to work in children’s services to take multiple courses in organization of information? No–but they must take one. Everyone has to take a foundations course that covers a lot, and everyone has to take a course that grounds them in the fundamentals of information provision. Some other courses formerly required we moved to a “highly recommended” tier two so that students could manage to specialize without precluding every elective.

Last, this moment in history, with universities looking for programs to cut and libraries hiring fewer and fewer professionals, seems a strange time to ask ALA’s COA, which has worked fruitfully with library educators for decades, to take a tone that implies a wide-spread failure on the part of LIS programs to educate librarians.

#17 John Budd on 06.15.09 at 11:17 am

Elsewhere I’ve applauded what Bill Crowley has said. I’ll do so again here. I also urge all professionals (writ large) to consult an article by Howard Gardner and Seth Shulman and published in the Summer 2005 issue of Daedalus. In that piece they discuss six commonplaces of professions. I’ve yet to see a more complete or articulate statement.

Also, as Michael Golrick points out, there is little that is really new here other than an explicitly state set of recommendations. The tension between programs and practicing professionals has been around a long time, and little has been done to build bridges. The recommendations are intended, at least by some of us who had a hand in drafting them, to be an attempt at bridge building.

It’s my understanding that COA will present a report at this summer’s ALA Annual Meeting. I’m skeptical whether the few posting to this blog will serve any genuine deliberative purpose, so the effort must be made.

#18 Joseph McDonald on 06.19.09 at 1:18 pm

I note Donald Case’s objections to the standards, sent directly to the office for accreditation on behalf of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. They are spot on.

I also see some larger issues which no one seems to addressing. For example, Scott Bennett, in “Libraries Designed for Learning,” (Council on Library and Information Resources, 2003), which is a study “to help understand how library design in the 1990s responded to the need of students not simply as users of information but more broadly as learners,” notes in several places how librarians are woefully ignorant of the teaching and learning process. Claiming to support teaching and learning, librarians know virtually nothing about it. This matter isn’t touched on in the proposed competencies and new standards.

It strikes me it is time to recognize the dissolution of “librarianship” as a single profession. Public librarians and academic librarians, at whatever level, have rather little in common, any longer. And “special” librarians, information specialists, and information scientists have long had very little in common with academic or public librarians.

Does ALA not have the imagination or fortitude to seize the historical moment to help create “professions” that truly contribute to student learning or the public’s “need to know?” I know a number of deans and provosts who are quite weary of ALA’s self-serving, and librarian featherbedding. A set of rigid, doctrinaire, unimaginative and non creative competencies and standards will do nothing to advance a good understanding of the relationships among information, teaching, learning and how to achieve them.

#19 Tom Wilding on 06.19.09 at 3:27 pm

I routinely use the Library and Information Studies Education and Human Resource Utilization, a Statement of Policy, the most recent version of which was approved by the ALA Council in 2002 as ALA policy. In preparing for class tomorrow, I re-read this, and found several points in it interesting in light of the task force report and recommendations and of the recent conversations about them. I’ll quote them here so you don’t need to go find them:

#27. Certain practical skills and procedures at all levels are best learned on the job rather than in the academic classroom. These relate typically to details of operation which may vary from institution to institution, or to routines which require repetition and practice for their mastery. The responsibility for such in-service parts of the total preparation of both librarians and supportive staff rests with libraries and library systems rather than with the programs of library and information studies.

#28. The objective of the master’s programs in library and information studies should be to prepare librarians capable of anticipating and engineering the change and improvement required to move the profession constantly forward. The curriculum and teaching methods should be designed to serve this kind of education for the future rather than for the practice of the present.

#30. In recognition of the many areas of related subject matter of importance to library service, library and information studies should make knowledge in other fields readily available to students, either through the appointment of staff members from other disciplines or through permitting students to cross departmental, divisional, and institutional lines in reasoned programs in related fields. Intensive specializations at the graduate level, building upon strengths in the parent institution or the community, are a logical development in library and information studies.

It would seem to me that there is at least a hint of disconnect between ALA policy as embedded in this document and the philosophy that parented the core competences and the policies that are recommended in the task force report.

#20 Judy Tapiero on 06.21.09 at 8:54 am

I am neither a library school professor nor a librarian of renown or academic achievement. I am an MLS consultant and have just celebrated 21 years of working mostly with special libraries: non-profits, corporate, business and consulting firms to turn their libraries and information centers into functioning, PROFITABLE, information assets for their organizations.

We are lacking in teaching any of this at iSchools. I looked in vain in the Recommendations document for any hint of change or recognition of the importance of MARKETPLACE and BUSINESS SKILLS having a prominent place in the curriculum and for addressing the real situations that librarians face in the workplace. Many of the competencies are the same as when I went to library school nearly 40 years ago — except for tech of course. But the world has changed, the profession has changed, libraries have changed and we are still teaching the same old same old.

No wonder that the articles I have written over the last 15 years have all been rejected; that comments I made in St. Louis in 2000 to Jim Matarazzo of Simmons at the KM meeting about offering business courses or joint programs with any of the business schools in the area were met with “my Dean would laugh me out the door.”
And more recently, when I asked Stephen Abram about why there weren’t any professional examinations or (re) certification (exc. for school) that is the hallmark of a profession (MD, DDS, Acct., Eng, Arch), he said “most librarians would fail.” Now that’s a real show of confidence!

There are a few library schools (Syracuse, UNC, Drexel to name a few) that do gear their curricula to the real world and not the academic but first of all we need to get faculty who have actually worked outside academia to teach not just theory (even conflicting theories among those teaching the same course) but actual case studies on how to go about planning a library turnaround, for example, or how to merge three libraries; how to write a stratgic plan, a budget, a marketing strategy; or how to revisit and revise actual job descriptions to prevent someone from being fired, or how to embed the library so that its functions continue, albeit in a different form.

There are so many real-life situations that can be taught and must be taught before graduation so that a librarian has some idea of the challenges that await and doesn’t go into a job thinking “I will learn everything I need to know on the job.” Wrong. Does a doctor say this, or an accountant or an engineer? They are ready to apply the skills they have learned in a job for which they are qualified. I wish librarians thought this way.

The one accommodation iSchools have made to this are the hiring of a few Adjunct Professors. But they are just that, adjunct, to be let go at will, not to be considered full faculty with the same privileges. But they are the ones who teach the PRACTICAL and who impart valuable lessons about what issues and trends are happening in the marketplace. For the most part, their courses are also the best-attended because students crave their knowledge and experience.

The PRACTICAL is not taught in library school and “history of libraries” or “admin” in this case would seem totally irrelevant and not serve the interests of the students, current and future. Students should be required to spend 150 hours working during their MLS program. Many schools do require this but many do not. “Independent study” should change its name to reflect what it is: Work experience for credit.

To sum up, our library school students need:

1. Programs that offer courses with a business focus, either in house, or jointly with business/law and other graduate programs

2. Faculty who have real world experience working in libraries (or alternative settings) and who bring that experience to teaching

Judy Tapiero, President
The Organized Library
Baltimore Maryland
http://www.theorganizedlibrary.com

ALA Member

Director, Maryland Chapter SLA
2008-2010

#21 Bernie Sloan on 06.26.09 at 6:49 am

Maybe someone can clarify something I just don’t understand about the reactions to the final report of the ALA Presidential TF on Library Education.

From what I’ve read, the ALA Executive Committee referred the TF report to the Committee on Accreditation in mid-January. Despite the perceived controversial nature of the report’s recommendations, it seems to have languished in some sort of limbo for four or five months.

The TF recommendations don’t seem to have been highlighted in American Libraries or Library Journal until May. Two organizations directly involved in LIS education (the iSchools and ALISE) did not submit responses until late May (iSchools) and late June (ALISE), despite the controversial nature of the recommendations. If I remember correctly, ALISE didn’t contact its institutional members for comments until early June.

The very earliest traffic I can recall on this topic on the jESSE list, which is dedicated to LIS education, is dated 5/20/09.

So, why did it take so long for this important report to hit the radar screens of LIS practitioners and educators, when it was referred to the ALA Committee on Accreditation in mid-January?

Just wondering…

#22 admin on 08.19.11 at 8:04 am

We have reorganized this site. The following comment was left on a now deleted page that contained the COA Response to the Final Report (now included on this page). It was left by Kathleen de la Peña McCoo on 08.10.09 at 11:31 am:

“The Schedule of formal calls for comment on revisions: 15 Dec 2010; 15 Dec 2011 is thorough. I look forward to the wide-ranging discussion this will gather.”