Monthly Archives: January 2012

21st Century Library Strategic Management


In my Strategic Planning series of posts in the fall of 2010, I stated that the Strategic Plan was essential to the survival of a 21st Century Library. That series was fairly comprehensive in addressing the Strategic Planning model that I proposed, but it did lack follow up regarding the HOW. Once you make your 21st Century Library Strategic Plan, then what? Implementation is also very important, because as Morris Chang stated:

Related to my recent Leadership posts, management is equally as important in accomplishing the 21st Century library’s Goals and Objectives. Where leaders provide the vision and inspiration, managers provide the means and capability. Generally, organizations consist of leadership and management positions. Always leaders are directly responsible for the success of the organization, most often managers are not. Possibly a military analogy will best explain this concept.

In the military there are commanders and there are staff officers. Commanders are legally responsible for the unit they command and the individuals assigned to that unit. Commanders have authority to promote, and award medals and incentives, as well as impose non-judicial punishment on those who violate regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Commanders or responsible to accomplish the mission given to them by their superior commanders, whether that mission is in combat or peace time. Use the “charge and take that hill” image if it helps explain the responsibility of a commander.

Staff officers are the assistants to the commander. They are assigned primarily in the areas of personnel, intelligence, operations and logistics. These broad areas of support are charged with the responsibility to support the commander in accomplishing the unit’s mission. These support staff acquire the means and resources and make them available to the commander and his unit, as well as to his subordinate commanders and units to also accomplish their missions. In that way, when the commander is ordered to “charge and take the hill”, he has the means and capability to succeed.

In the same way, libraries are organized with leaders and staff positions. An analogy can be made between commanders and library directors, between subordinate commanders and branch managers, and between staff positions and reference, technical services, circulation, trainers, etc. Every library is different in terms of the number of staff and types of positions in its organization, but every library is the same in terms of those who establish the mission, goals and objectives, and those who support them by providing the means and capability to accomplish the mission.

This is where “strategic management” comes in.

Strategic management is a field that deals with the major intended and emergent initiatives taken by general managers [library managers] on behalf of owners [directors, boards and jurisdictions], involving utilization of resources, to enhance the performance of firms [libraries] in their external environments. It entails specifying the organization’s mission, vision and objectives, developing policies and plans, often in terms of projects and programs, which are designed to achieve these objectives, and then allocating resources to implement the policies and plans, projects and programs.

Strategic management is a level of managerial activity under setting goals and over Tactics. … In the field of business administration it is useful to talk about “strategic alignment” between the organization and its environment or “strategic consistency.” According to Arieu (2007), “there is strategic consistency when the actions of an organization are consistent with the expectations of management, and these in turn are with the market and the context.” [Wikipedia]

Where many libraries are out of step with reality today is in understanding the “strategic alignment” between the organization and its environment, therefore that have no “strategic consistency.” Many library jurisdictions, boards, directors, and staff still believe that it is business as usual. They have missed the fact that both the external and internal environment have changed – dramatically! Their missions, goals and objectives, and actions are NOT “consistent with the … market and the context.”

“There is nothing more wasteful than becoming highly efficient at doing the wrong thing.” is often attributed to Peter Drucker, But regardless, the concept is fundamental to the principals that drive a strategic plan, a strategic vision, and strategic management of a 21st Century Library.

The 21st Century Library is efficient at doing the right thing – providing the information needs of its 21st Century customers. It accomplishes this through strategic management of its goals and objectives, and providing the means and capability to succeed.

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Changes in Our Librarian Education for the 21st Century – Revisited


In my original Post Changes in Our Librarian Education for the 21st Century in May, 2010, I wrote the following.

Unfortunately, much of the MLS theory gets lost in the face of reality dealing with customers and daily issues. The standing joke of “What they don’t teach you in library school.” has grown legs for a reason. An MLS program is not intended to be a skills program. Advanced degree programs are inherently theory based and not training and practicum based. However, information with immediate application in addition to contemporary theory is highly useful. One example is the University of Michigan Library: The Future of Libraries (YouTube) with an excellent perspective on what libraries and librarians should become.

If SLIS are to stay relevant, like we all want libraries to do, they need to become more – more nimble at including current professional demands and requirements, not just “tried & true” library theory. Schools of library and information science MUST get more relevant and cutting-edge curriculum NOW to address these 21st Century librarianship issues. Tomorrow is too late.

It’s always nice to find out that what one wrote 19 months ago is still their opinion today, and still relevant. Schools of library and information science (SLIS) should seriously consider a bachelor’s degree program to provide “skilled” librarians for the workplace.

In a very recent New York Times, Education Life, article, What You (Really) Need to Know, former Harvard President Lawrence Summers posed some very interesting ideas about higher education. I believe many of these concepts could find application in our schools of library and information science (SLIS) – especially in a bachelor’s degree program.

Summers wrote about the rapidly changing world as compared to the stability of the university curriculum as “Part of universities’ function … to keep alive man’s greatest creations, passing them from generation to generation.” He also acknowledged that the structure of higher education has remained static.

With few exceptions, just as in the middle of the 20th century, students take four courses a term, each meeting for about three hours a week, usually with a teacher standing in front of the room. Students are evaluated on the basis of examination essays handwritten in blue books and relatively short research papers. Instructors are organized into departments, most of which bear the same names they did when the grandparents of today’s students were undergraduates. A vast majority of students still major in one or two disciplines centered on a particular department.

But the most interesting part of his article was his speculation that “Suppose the educational system is drastically altered to reflect the structure of society and what we now understand about how people learn. How will what universities teach be different?

Here are some guesses and hopes.”

1. Education will be more about how to process and use information and less about imparting it. This is a consequence of both the proliferation of knowledge — and how much of it any student can truly absorb — and changes in technology.

In SLIS master’s program curriculum the emphasis is on theory. This does not mesh well with the idea that librarians need to learn skills and to operate in a collaborative environment. They should be prepared to enter the professional workplace where mastery of facts is less important than being able to think creatively and innovate new technology and ideas.

2. An inevitable consequence of the knowledge explosion is that tasks will be carried out with far more collaboration. … More significant, collaboration is a much greater part of what workers do, what businesses do and what governments do. Yet the great preponderance of work a student does is done alone at every level in the educational system. … As greater value is placed on collaboration, surely it should be practiced more in our nation’s classrooms.

Views on ‘collaboration equates to cheating’ are changing in the face of the reality Summers points out. Strategic Partnerships is one of the new 21st Century librarianship skills that must be developed. Library science majors collaborating with business majors, marketing majors, and computer science majors is a good thing!

3. New technologies will profoundly alter the way knowledge is conveyed. Electronic readers allow textbooks to be constantly revised, and to incorporate audio and visual effects. … In a 2008 survey of first- and second-year medical students at Harvard, those who used accelerated video lectures reported being more focused and learning more material faster than when they attended lectures in person.

This is not news to any librarian, whether they are in the stacks or in the classroom. Learning this new technology is best accomplished by using this new technology, and where better to learn than in the classroom as an integral part of the curriculum.

4. As articulated by the Nobel Prize-winner Daniel Kahneman in “Thinking, Fast and Slow,” we understand the processes of human thought much better than we once did. … Not everyone learns most effectively in the same way. And yet in the face of all evidence, we rely almost entirely on passive learning. …

“Active learning classrooms” — which cluster students at tables, with furniture that can be rearranged and integrated technology — help professors interact with their students through the use of media and collaborative experiences.

If current SLIS have one strength, this is probably it. Even when I went through the MLS at ESU in 1995-6, it used this methodology, and it was very effective. It incorporates many other tenets of what librarians need to learn.

5. The world is much more open, and events abroad affect the lives of Americans more than ever before. This makes it essential that the educational experience breed cosmopolitanism — that students have international experiences,

At the risk of sounding like I’m bragging, the 2011 in Review of this 21st Century Library Blog showed many viewers from every continent. I gain much information from librarians in other countries. Collaboration is international today, not just local. Exposure to this reality should begin in SLIS.

6. Courses of study will place much more emphasis on the analysis of data. … As the “Moneyball” story aptly displays in the world of baseball, the marshalling [sic] of data to test presumptions and locate paths to success is transforming almost every aspect of human life. … [C]ertainly the financial crisis speaks to the consequences of the failure to appreciate “black swan events” and their significance. In an earlier era, when many people were involved in surveying land, it made sense to require that almost every student entering a top college know something of trigonometry. Today, a basic grounding in probability statistics and decision analysis makes far more sense.

For many years now people have been predicting change in the world, in the way it does business, they way it accesses information, but SLIS curricula have not kept pace with ANY CHANGES. University curriculum committees are notoriously slow to make changes, yet universities are supposed to be the incubators of ideas and innovation. Why aren’t we seeing any of that in SLIS curriculum?

Summers ended his article with the following.

A good rule of thumb for many things in life holds that things take longer to happen than you think they will, and then happen faster than you thought they could. Think, for example, of the widespread use of the e-book, or the coming home to roost of debt problems around the industrialized world. Here is a bet and a hope that the next quarter century will see more change in higher education than the last three combined.

It took many years for the e-reader to become a reality, but now Kindle is the fastest selling item in Amazon history. It also took many years before the tablet computer became a reality, but iPad launched an avalanche of mobile computing, as did the iPhone before it. Now mobile communication devices are everywhere doing virtually everything.

Technology is advancing exponentially, society is advancing exponentially, but education is barely advancing. WHY? Librarians can and are making changes in the way their libraries do business! We’re seeing excellent examples of that in practice in local libraries. SLIS are a collection of librarians, so why are we not changing librarian education? WHY DO SLIS WAIT UNTIL THERE IS A CRISIS TO MAKE CHANGES?

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Librarian or Radical Social Activist?


Last weekend began ALA’s Midwinter conference. Obviously, librarians (and others associated with the profession) got together to discuss the old and new topics of the profession – mostly old. But LIBRARYJOURNAL Online posted this on Saturday – ALA Midwinter 2012: Occupy Wall St. Librarians Wonder, When Did Sharing Become a Revolutionary Act? – about the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) librarian activists.

The article reports on a panel discussion that was sponsored by the ALA Masters Series and “included the first OWS librarian”. Another of the panelists and OWS librarians, a very recent MSIS graduate, was cited in the article that “he characterized the librarians as continuing the fight for their beliefs” even though the library had basically been destroyed when the protest was broken up by New York City authorities.

What concerns me are the apparent radical activist beliefs, motivations and perceptions of these librarians that inserted themselves into this “Occupy” movement, and affiliated a social protest movement with a “library” by using totally warped reasoning.

My first questions are: Who assessed the need for (we’ll be generous and refer to their book collection and reading area as) a “library” for the protestors? Who decided that their OWS library was a “People’s Library”? What is a People’s Library? Is that a new category like Public, Academic, School, Special, etc.?

Who decided this was a “library” in any sense of the term? If that was a “library”, let me show you my library that I carry in my brief case.

That same panelist was also quoted as saying that; “I joined [the People’s Library] because building a library, any library, in times like these is an act of resistance, and protest, and hope, and love,”. ?????? SERIOUSLY? Resistance and protest against whom? Your local library Board? Your local town council for cutting the library’s budget so it can still provide police and fire protection, and teachers salaries? Protesting against the Library of Congress? Society in general because libraries are not more valued? PROTESTING AGAINST WHOM? And, since when did the mission of a library become social protest?

In my opinion, these librarians are on the wrong track as far as what librarianship is all about, as well as the role of a library, and are simply acting out their frustrations toward society under the guise of librarianship.

Another panelist “spoke movingly on the topic of libraries’ importance. “Librarianship has a long history as a liberating force in society,” she said.” SERIOUSLY? Libraries have long been about liberating society? Read my Post from September 16, 2011, 21st Century Librarianship vs. The 1876 Special Report in which I quote the authors – librarians – who professed;

So that in fact it is only just now that we are coming to the social state where we are ready to produce a trained literary class. Thus far we have not done it, whatever may have been the case with a few individuals, and we have had no business to do it. Ax, plow, steam engine, not pen and palette, have been thus far our proper implements; and we have done a noble “spot of work” with them. Exactly now, at the end of our first national century, it is good to sum and value just this total of attainments. And exactly such a scientific instruction in books and reading as is here discussed is one of the influences which will do most to correct our views, to raise our ambition, to bring us up to the present limits of attainment in knowledge and in thought, and to prepare us for extending those limits. [page 235]

“… we are ready to produce a trained literary class” can only be interpreted as elitist librarians and their more elitist scholarly colleagues making the decision and plan as to how, what and who should be educated with books. We know that from the history of education in the US. Saying that “Librarianship has a long history as a liberating force in society,” is just not true.

Librarians had a very elitist self perception not that many years ago, and it seems as though that pendulum is swinging back in that direction.

As recently as 2007, George Needham is quoted as saying; “The librarian as information priest is as dead as Elvis.” The whole “gestalt” of the academic library has been set up like a church, Needham said, with various parts of a reading room acting like “the stations of the cross,” all leading up to the “altar of the reference desk,” where “you make supplication and if you are found worthy, you will be helped.” (When ‘Digital Natives’ Go to the Library, Inside Higher Ed., June 25, 2007.) If that is not a historical example of professional elitism, I’ve never heard one.

One of the panelists is quoted as saying; “How have we come to a place where the sharing of books, and the gathering and disseminating of knowledge has come to be such a revolutionary act – one that brought the full force of the militarized New York police department down upon it?” she asked. “I think the reason is that today we see an all-out assault on what libraries stand for and what they do.”

If we concede that building a library – “any library” – would be great and a necessary act, it would only be revolutionary if there wasn’t one already! Last time I heard the NYC Public Library, and its 70 something branches, is still up and running stronger than ever. How far away was the closest NYCPL branch – 2 or 3 blocks? Who knows whether the books that were retrieved from the NYPD after the protestors were cleared out were even usable before the OWS protestors were cleared out? Does anyone really believe the NYPD wants 3,000 paperback books?

Talk about self-centered! Does this person seriously expect anyone to believe that the New York police department was targeting the “library”? These librarians want to bizarrely take up a mantel of persecution upon themselves and their cause – whatever that may be but which is totally separate from the OWS cause – simply by affiliating their “library” with an illegal protest movement. An “all-out assault on what libraries stand for and what they do” – SERIOUSLY? I can’t help but wonder if this person even knows what libraries stand for and do.

I’m very concerned about this radical activist role that new librarianship seems to be taking upon itself. It is not the role of the librarian. It does a disservice to our profession to have radical activist librarians making hysterical vague and patently untrue claims about societal assaults on libraries.

Librarian or Radical Social Activist – which one did you get into the profession to be?

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2011 Blog in Review


The WordPress.com stats folks prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 57,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 21 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

The Complete Report.

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Two Years of Blogging


Today marks the beginning of year three of my blogging adventure. The past two years have been an adventurous, bewildering, challenging, discouraging, encouraging, enlightening, exciting, exasperating, frustrating, and satisfying experience (don’t worry I wasn’t planning an alphabetical listing of emotions). What began as one of those Library2.0 23 Things “things” turned into much more. I had no idea where it was going beyond exploring the 21st Century Library, or if it would even survive, but two years later and almost 73,000 views – who knew!

I now understand that it is virtually impossible to separate Library from Librarianship without taking both topics out of context. So, this coming year my emphasis will be directed toward exploring Librarianship, but I have no idea what direction that may take. I’m anxious to find out.

In these two years I have learned a lot about librarianship – more about what it can be, as compared to what it is. My only regret is that I wasn’t able to reach more librarians, and that more librarians that I did reach didn’t share their librarian experiences and perspectives. Maybe you all can help me change that in the coming year.

I have gone from a viewership low (notice I didn’t claim “readership” since I can only hope viewers actually read the posts) of 4 daily average to a high of 286 last month. I have gone from two followers (my wife and daughter, bless them) to 145 followers. I wrote 210 posts in 102 weeks (thanks to many smart folks’ ideas), and have total views of almost 73,000 – from all over the world.

My most viewed posts were the following, not counting the Home Page that has been viewed 12,100+ times, with the approximate number of views.
21st Century Library Strategic Plan – Goals and Objectives – 3,100
21st Century Library Strategic Plan – Vision Statement – 3,050
Five Challenges Every Librarian Must Face – 2,500
21st Century Library Strategic Plan – Mission Statement – 2,050
Customer Is The Purpose – 1,950
Library Science Ranks #4 in Highest Unemployment – 1,750
Changes in Our Librarian Education for the 21st Century – 1,700
Are You a 21st Century Librarian? – 1,700
21st Century Library Strategic Plan – Forecast – 1,500
Apple Slams the Door on eBook Apps – 1,225
21st Century Skills, Libraries and Librarians – 1,025

Oh, ya, 1,250 of you checked me out on the About page. 🙂

My most views in one day was 766 on December 1, 2011, after Are You a 21st Century Librarian? was picked up by American Libraries magazine (which obviously generated the high number of views on the Blog). Customer Is The Purpose from January 26, 2011, and Five Challenges Every Librarian Must Face November 28, as well as Library Science Ranks #4 in Highest Unemployment December 2, and Why Don’t Librarians Collaborate More? December 14 were also picked up by american libraries DIRECT online newsletter, in the Actions & Answers section (near the bottom).

Frankly, I still can not explain why the Strategic Planning series of posts has been overall the most popular. Combined, the series equals almost 15% of all views. – ???

I sincerely appreciate each one of you who have viewed my posts, and especially those readers who shared your thoughts by commenting. I greatly appreciate those who have subscribed to follow my posts, especially your vote of confidence that you think I may have worthwhile ideas to write in the future.

I look forward to a new year of writing about 21st Century Librarianship, and sincerely hope you readers will help us all in this endeavor to transform librarianship into what it needs to be to thrive (not just survive) in this uncertain 21st Century future.

Thank You All!

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The Excellent Library Leader…


… charges, she doesn’t just walk. She leans in to talk to people to show she really wants to hear them, and she listens with her whole body when someone is talking to her. Her face is always open and she looks excited most of the time, but will be quiet and serious when appropriate. She speaks of inspiring concepts and actions. She relates to her subordinates, as well as peers. LEADERS – they are made of different stuff than others.

The discussion that follows is about what makes excellent libraries – EXCELLENT LEADERS – the primary factor in all excellent libraries. The world is filled with people who believe that their position on the organizational chart has provided them with a group of followers. Actually, it has only given them a group of subordinates. Whether the subordinates become followers depends on whether the person in charge acts like a leader.

There are a multitude of characteristics that make a person an excellent leader. However, space necessitates limiting this discussion to those that have been found to be the most prominent in excellent leaders. Excellent leadership requires an appropriate balance of all characteristics and the exclusion of none. YES, you have to do it all! People in leadership positions can develop these characteristics with some effort and commitment. “Each person must develop his own leadership. Leadership cannot be bought. It cannot be conferred. It cannot be inherited. It knows no divine right. It cannot be passed on by any process of succession. It is acquired only by the personal mastery of each individual aspirant.” Sterling W. Sill, 1977: “Leadership” Salt Lake City, Bookcraft

1. Lead by Example:
There is no substitute for leading by example. As adolescents one of the first things we learned was that often times adults would tell us to do one thing, but do something else themselves. We could not understand why we were told to do something that they would not do themselves. As adults, we are still bothered by leaders who tell us to do one thing and yet do something else. People will naturally follow someone whom they feel is able and willing to share the work load and the hardships. A director who does not work the circulation desk, shelve materials, conduct story time, and interact with difficult customers will never be able to inspire loyalty or commitment to her or her vision of an excellent library. A director, who is known for making decisions based on favoritism, rather than merit, will destroy any confidence subordinates have in being treated fairly for their hard work.

2. Involved/ Visible/ Accessible:
Followers have to know their leader in order to be inclined to follow her. Only through being involved with her workers (i.e., talking to them, being visible when things are going well, as well as when things are not going well, being accessible to people who need her leadership, etc.) can a leader hope to be known by her subordinates and influence them to become followers. People have no reason to follow some one they don’t know when the going gets tough. During the Battle of the Bulge, GEN Dwight D. Eisenhower visited with his troops and is reported to have said; “A commander needs to talk with his men to inspire them; with me it’s the other way around. I get inspired by you – the men who are going to win this war.” Being involved professionally with subordinates work provides a two-way benefit.

3. Quiet Confidence:
In a survey of senior Army commanders, quiet confidence was one of the characteristics they felt was important in an excellent leader. They thought more highly of officers who did not engage in a lot of fanfare, chest beating and personal horn blowing. Excellent leaders are recognized by their accomplishments and those of their followers, not by their talk. It is reported that on one occasion in the face of great obstacles, Joan of Arc said to her generals; “I will lead the men over the wall.” A general said, “Not a man will follow you.” Joan replied, “I will not look back to see whether anyone is following or not!”


4. Delegation:
Creating a system of leadership depends on the proper delegation of duties and authority to subordinates. An excellent leader knows how and when to delegate authority because she knows the abilities of her subordinates and how much authority they can handle. She also knows how to delegate in order to maximize the utilization of her resources to accomplish the library mission. Delegation is an essential and critical element in developing the abilities of subordinates. What better way is there to communicate trust and confidence and also develop responsibility in subordinates than to delegate meaningful tasks to them? One of GEN George S. Patton’s most quoted remarks is, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”

5. Risk Taking:
Striving for excellence has the associated risk of failure. Stifling that practical risk taking attitude also stifles achievement. Success has to be oriented on achievement, not failure. Practical risks are inherent in all productive endeavors. If leaders expect their followers to be motivated to excel then they have to be challenged. If a person is not challenged then she is stagnating. Stagnation leads to dissatisfaction and boredom. Honest mistakes are a consequence of striving for excellence and must be used as a learning experience.

6. Competence:
Competence, in strategic and technical skills, provides the leader with the prerequisite knowledge upon which to base sound and timely decisions. It also allows her the ability to conduct first hand assessment of her library’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as be a mentor to subordinates. Competence is the foundation upon which the excellent leader establishes her credibility as a capable leader.

There are too many examples and descriptions of leaders and leadership to all be included here, but I wanted to end with these words of wisdom from two well known and highly respected business leaders. In 1985 Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus published Leaders, from which I borrowed the observation that “Managers are people who do things right, and leaders are people who do the right things.” Here are three more quotes on which one can begin to develop their own leadership.

Leaders are the most results-oriented individuals in the world, and results get attention. Their visions or intentions are compelling and pull people toward them. Intensity coupled with commitment is magnetic. And these intense personalities do not have to coerce people to pay attention; they are so intent on what they are doing that, …they draw others in. (pg. 28)

The actions and symbols of leadership frame and mobilize meaning. Leaders articulate and define what has previously remained implicit or unsaid; then they invent images, metaphors, and models that provide a focus for new attention. …an essential factor in leadership is the capacity to influence and organize meaning for the members of the organization. (pg. 39)

Leaders acquire and wear their visions like clothes. Accordingly, they seem to enroll themselves…in the belief of their ideals as attainable, and their behavior exemplifies the ideas in action. (pg. 46)

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Why Not a Bachelor in Library Science? – Revisited


“Why isn’t that a good idea? Seems as though it is a very good idea in some librarians’ minds – at least those in Connecticut, Kentucky and Maine.” – and NORTH CAROLINA.

The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill’s renowned School of Information and Library Science has recently announced –

Dual Bachelor’s – Master’s Program
The Dual Bachelor’s – Master’s Program is a unique offering in higher education. Of the 24 iSchools in North America, only 4 offer an accelerated Bachelor’s – Master’s program of any sort; and other than these 4 iSchools, only 1 of the 58 programs accredited by the American Library Association offer an accelerated Bachelor’s – Master’s program.

The dual Bachelor’s – Master’s program is intended to enable Information Science (IS) majors to obtain both their BS and MS degree by early planning of an undergraduate program that integrates well with the graduate degree requirements for either a Master’s in Information Science (MSIS) or a Master’s in Library Science (MSLS). While the BSIS provides sound preparation for entry into the information professions, the Master’s degree provides a distinct advantage to those who aim to advance to managerial or leadership positions.

The BSIS and Master’s programs prepare students for careers in public, private, and governmental institutions of all kinds as information system analysts, designers and developers, data managers, web designers, librarians, archivists, and similar areas. The SILS curricula offer students a sound foundation of coursework, augmented by projects, internships (field experience), and research opportunities that contribute to making SILS graduates highly sought after by employers.

With this kind of horsepower behind a BS in library science, maybe we’ll see some movement in this direction – eventually.

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