Saturday, March 04, 2006

LIS education crisis: Practitioners respond

In Practitioners and Library Education: A Crisis of Understanding published in the Journal of Education for Library and Information Science 46(4):pp. 313-320, internationally respected library leader Carla Stoffle and budding librarian Kim Leeder respond to Crying Wolf; the only crisis in LIS is one where practitioners have failed to understand the needs of LIS education.

They remind us of our disciplinary past. For example, they cite a 1985 article in Library Journal by Samuel Rothstein which "presented “An Anthology of Abuse,” documenting in excerpts the criticism LIS programs endured over the course of ninety-four years between 1887 and 1981." An anecdote about librarian reactions to the closing of the Columbia University program is also sad.

Their standpoint is provocative: "It is our position that the greatest problem with LIS programs is the fact that many practitioners do not understand the goals of library education, the demands under which these programs operate, or the standards to which they are held. Practitioners want to dictate a curriculum based on their interests or the hiring needs of their particular libraries, without acknowledging the tremendous range of subject matter that these schools must address in only 36 to 42 hours of coursework."

To their credit, Stoffle and Leeder describe specific ways in which practitioners can work with LIS schools and faculty. They conclude: "The trouble is that if practitioners continue the loud and destructive criticism, and if they do not step up to the plate to offer real resources and financial support, they will create a self-fulfilling prophesy: LIS programs that cannot succeed, and a real decline in library education. Taking a more constructive (though not prescriptive) approach to dealing with concerns about library education will better serve everyone involved, including the schools, students, and practitioners."

Carla Stoffle is Dean of the University of Arizona Libraries and the Center for Creative Photography, home to the acclaimed Living the Future conference. Kim Leeder is Special Assistant to the Dean.


Heather Morrison said...

This talk of crisis puzzles me - as a practitioner, I have nothing but respect for the library schools and professors I am familiar with - my alma mater, University of Alberta, and local school, University of British Columbia, is particular. It is true that new librarians need experience in addition to the theory they learn in school. From my point of view, though, this is the responsibility of we practitioners, which I see as being addressed through practicum placements, internships, and support for new hires, rather than through education.

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