3. 2008 Standards

The 2008 Standards for Accreditation of Master’s Programs in Library and Information Studies were adopted on January 15, 2008.  You may view the 2008 Standards  in PDF format.

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

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#1 janet swan hill on 06.02.09 at 12:14 pm

After years (decades) of criticizing ALA’s accreditation standards on various grounds, I find myself concluding that what may be of greater seriousness (greater than defining a particular graduate curriculum) in providing adequate education for information professionals are (1) the lack of an undergraduate program leading to the masters degree, and (2) the brevity of the masters degree programs. I recognize the near imossibility of providing an undergraduate curriculum (a minor?) that would be widely enough available across the country, so creativity in devising optional approaches would be needed. (e.g. an intensive undergraduate “prequel” semester, along the lines of the original “Denver plan”; a set of acceptable undergraduate course sequences cobbled together from a typical college or university undergraduate curriculum, etc.) As to the second item, we have for too long been told that considering the level of salaries in the field, students would not be willing to attend a lengthier program. But some longer programs flourish regardless. And, considering the expansion of the LIS field and all that it comprehends, it is foolish and deceptive to pretend that a 36 hour program (especially one without a solid LIS-related undergraduate curricullum/preparation) provides adequate preparation for information professionals entering the field. Until these two issues are better resolved, no amount of tweaking the masters curriculum will meet the needs of the profession.

#2 Laurence S. Creider on 06.08.09 at 9:57 pm

Section II.5. states” When a program includes study of services and activities in specialized fields, these
specialized learning experiences are built upon a general foundation of library and information studies.”

I do not believe that specialized fields should be an option; every library school should provide some. When I went to library school in 1981, I had a choice of three ALA-accredited library schools, each two hours away from where I was living, with no specialties. My choice was practically random, based on my evaluation of only a few graduates. I knew what I wanted to specialize in, and the experience was salvaged only by an excellent professor.
Obviously, not every school would provide every option. Such specialized studies, which need the basis of a general foundation, could form the basis of a second year program. Rather than a two-year master’s program, the profession would be better served with a one year master’s mandatory and an optional second Master’s degree for the completion of the second year program in a specialized field. This would allow for intensive education without demeaning the core of the profession. If libraries, particularly research or special libraries, wished to require the second MLIS or equivalent for particular positions, that would make sense. Internships could be part of the second year. Both catalogers and rare book librarians might find such an arrangement useful. The generally larger salaries of academic libraries might justify an individual’s investment in the second MLIS.

On the other hand, I would hate to see an undergraduate major in LIS. The idea reminds me of the four-year teaching degree that has inadequate preparation in an academic discipline. My impression of new academic librarians is that their knowledge of what serious research requires from librarians to help faculty and graduate students is inadequate. Nor would I be happy about any requirement for certain types of courses on an undergraduate level. The profession has far too many good people who discovered their vocation to be a librarian after completing a major and frequently while working in a library. When I was in library school, the problem was not so much inadequate preparation for library school as inadequate general education.

#3 Neil R. Hughes on 06.09.09 at 7:56 am

While I generally applaud the language of the standards, which permit each school desirable flexibility in curriculum design and focus, I would like to see a more rigorous definition of some of the skills still expected of information professionals, e.g., cataloging, which continues to range beyond mere technical skill required for the creation and dissemination of metadata into the need to provide broad, deep, and rich content. The standards might therefore benefit from greater granularity, in order specifically to address the qualifications of information professionals who follow a “traditional” library track, as well as those who now pursue careers in other areas, e.g., human-computer interaction.

That we now have professionals who believe that catalogs at research institutions benefit solely from being more like Google to the exclusion of all other possibilities speaks poorly for our educational standards–beginning with our analytical thinking skills, which really should have been better developed by the time we begin any graduate, professional degree. I cringe to think of the possibility that doctors (for example) might start to pursue similar, fashion-driven policies rather than continuing to follow the research- or clinical trial-driven policies that have been the hallmark of sound professionalism in every discipline. (And regrettably, we can actually see such trends in modern medicine. The question we must ask ourselves then becomes: shall we model ourselves after respected cardiac surgeons and endocrinologists, or after hucksters who are selling Botox treatments for crows’ feet to the gullible public? We seem now to be hewing dangerously to the latter.)

Market trends may be fine when it comes to selling books and content. They are completely inadequate when it comes to being the primary drivers of standards for information professionals, such as those guiding the indexing, retrieval, and display of the metadata that allow entry to the many worlds of purposefully developed collections (including e-resources). Library schools are losing sight of this fact in lockstep with many of our administrations, and our educational standards need to address the problem soon. I therefore call for the eventual development and addition of specific skill sets to the standards, employing rigorously-applied definitions supplied by considerable numbers of practicing professionals appointed from representative groups (e.g., in my own specialization, the Music Library Association’s Bibliographic Control and Reference & Public Services Committees).

Neil R. Hughes
Head, Music Cataloging Section
Cataloging Department
University of Georgia Libraries
Athens, GA 30602-1641

#4 Jay on 06.17.09 at 5:02 pm

I would like to offer my opinion on the issue raised in this forum regarding undergraduate preparation for the MLS.

I believe that a prescribed undergraduate preparation for graduate study leading to the MLS should not be required. Based on my experiences in my MLS program, I would say I benefited enormously both academically and professionally by having the opportunity to work with classmates from a broad variety of academic backgrounds. Their diverse backgrounds provided fresh perspectives that enriched the educational experience offered by my program. It is very stimulating and exciting to study similar materials with other students who approached the material from different theoretical and analytical perspectives than I had experienced within the confines of my undergraduate education. Additionally, every day I was challenged to communicate my views within an interdisciplinary context that was similar to that which I experienced during my practicum in an academic library. Therefore, with due respect, in my opinion a required undergraduate background is unnecessary and undesirable.

#5 Linda M. Polak on 06.19.09 at 1:00 pm

My comment concerns Section II.5. I think the library education concerning service is a school environment lacks greatly. I have my undergrad in elementary education and the MLS. I was a elementary librarian before I got my MLS…having done the library/media endorsement on my elementary certificate.

When one wants to become a school librarian they need what is stated in this section – “…knowledge and competencies developed by relevant professional organizations.” Getting an MLS with a concentration on schools without an elementary teacher certificate is hard. First and foremost in a school environment, I am a teacher. I’m a librarian second.

I am evaluated as a teacher and I am expected to know education theories and best practices in education. When I have MLS students as student teachers they are completely unprepared for the school environment. They do not know how to write out a lesson plan. They do not know education jargon. And when I receive reference calls the first thing I’m asked is does this person understand the education environment. And when they are lucky enough to get a job, I see their frustration in not understanding the profession of education.

One “school libraries” class in a MLS program is not enough. Student teaching 8 weeks in an elementary library and 8 weeks in a high school library is not enough.

Hopefully with this section, MLS schools will see a mandate to offer more classes on school education in their programs.

#6 Lori Carter on 06.20.09 at 6:21 am

I would like to expand upon Linda Polak’s comment. I came to the school library profession after attaining a degree in elementary education. I agree that having an undergraduate degree in education is essential. If school library media specialists are expected to collaborate and work with education professionals – as well as show leadership as an educator – it is paramount to their success. Additionally, there is a vast missing component in school library education at the graduate level. Connections must be made to the schools of education that reside within collegiate institutions. Schools of education must link the standards, knowledge and competencies of exemplary teaching to the information literacy skills, knowledge, and competencies of exemplary school librarianship. Effective teaching requires the knowledge of available resources, ethical use of information, and the ability to integrate these skills (among others) in teaching and learning. When I obtained my degree in education, I had no introduction or explanation of how or why I should integrate my teaching with the library media specialist in my school. These connections are imperative, as classroom educators become school administrators. While the connection to another collegiate institution is implied in, “other fields of knowledge”, I believe the connections should be much more explicitly stated with regard to school librarianship.

#7 Kathleen Stipek on 06.22.09 at 6:25 am

As long as library schools are concealing themselves under rubrics like Information Studies, there is no way that an emphasis on library services is ever going to ‘take.’ Right now library schools are so eager to be Anything But Library Schools that they seem almost ashamed of libraries. Academia needs to face the fact that most library school graduates work in libraries and get over their desire to become a pseudo social science.
Then, perhaps these ideals will be implemented, and American librarianship can be restored to its roots in public service.

#8 Ibironke Lawal on 06.22.09 at 7:13 am

I commend your task force for the work already done on Library
Education. I have gone through the report and read the comments of the
deans of iSchools.I tend to agree that some flexibility is needed in
this fast moving technological world and a solely prescriptive core
curriculum may not serve the institutions or profession well. However,
the Committee on Accreditation could prescribe the number of hours that
should be devoted to certain competencies in the curriculum. For
instance, three credit hours of exposure to research methodology for
both quantitative and qualitative research methods are grossly inadequate.

I wish you happy deliberation.


Ibironke Lawal, Ph.D.
Associate Professor/Engineering & Science Librarian
Virginia Commonwealth University
Richmond, VA 23284-2033
Phone: 804-828-8739
Fax: 804-828-5672

#9 Mary on 06.22.09 at 8:50 am

An undergraduate library degree is important for small libraries. This would provide a trained, or at least informed, workforce for small and rural libraries. Since many librarians receive their Masters degree online, they can work in the field with a background of knowledge that would be a winning situation for both them and the library they work at.

#10 Ann on 06.23.09 at 9:36 am

Linda and Lori’s comments compelled me to take a second look at Section II.5. Accreditation standards as they relate to school librarians need to provide for obtaining background, if not complete licensure, as educators. After 34 years as an educator who had been licensed in 3 states, 22 of them as a certified library media specialist and one who received National Board Certification, I moved to another state,granted temporary licensure, only to be unceremoniously dumped before I could complete this state’s LM certification and was subsequently replaced by someone who wasn’t nearly as qualified as an educator.
I am hoping that this revision will encourage schools of library/information to work in concert with state boards of education to help determine who is really best qualified for school library positions.

#11 Carl Paulson on 08.10.09 at 7:19 pm

The several references to diversity serve no useful purpose. What we should be doing, to serve all populations, was codified a long time ago by S. R. Ranganathan. All we need to do is to change “book” to “information source,” and “reader” to “user.” We don’t need to beat this concept verbally to death. It is implicit in our profession.

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