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.




#1 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.

#2 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.

#3 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.

#4 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.

#5 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

ALA Member

Director, Maryland Chapter SLA

#6 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…

#7 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.”