Tag Archives: SLIS

Why Not a Bachelor in Library Science? – Still Asking


Even though I haven’t written about this topic since April, thoughts on it are never too far from my mind, especially when I have comments on the post from readers who just discovered it. That’s what has happened recently, so I wanted to add some more discussion on this topic – Why not a bachelor’s degree in library science?

To date, no one has offered any good educational, managerial, career or workforce related reason why it is not a good idea.

My arguments have included my post from last December – Library Science Ranks #4 in Highest Unemployment, and the job market – as well as the economy – show no signs of improvement any time soon.

The old argument about library technicians do a more technical and specific job, while “Librarians” (meaning MLS degreed) are generalists and management candidates that can do everything DOES NOT HOLD WATER! It’s simply RHETORIC to justify the arbitrary distinctions between “professional” and “para-professional!” No one with only an MLS degree and no library experience is a qualified manager. Someone who has earned a BS in librarianship, worked in a library and then earned an MLIS has the prerequisite skills and experience to be a capable manager. That’s the way careers are built!

Everyone knows that there is virtually no authority (i.e., government, librarian union, etc.) that dictates who can and cannot do certain librarianship tasks within a library organization. THIS APPROACH – “OK, since you don’t have an MLS, you can only do these limited tasks within the library organization, and since you do have an MLS, you can do all the rest of the tasks that “Librarians” do.” – DOES NOT HAPPEN! All “librarians” do everything!

Why is the MLS entry level for this profession when recent college graduates can’t find jobs because they don’t have experience? Just read the over 40 comments to Annoyed Librarian at LibraryJournal.com, and you’ll see this current career system is broken!

History reveals what happened in the librarian profession as it transitioned through academy training to university certification to bachelor’s degree and then master’s, but the WHY is still elusive. Some speculate that it was an ALA effort to legitimize librarian as a true profession in the 1960s. However, as far back as 1923, a bachelor’s degree was still not the standard within the US. The Williamson Report, officially titled “Training for Library Service” A Report Prepared for The Carnegie Corporation of New York by Dr. Charles C. Williamson, (1923) contains disturbing similarity to today’s SLIS situation, as well as endorsement for the bachelor’s degree in library science as the standard.

THE LIBRARY SCHOOL CURRICULUM [Page 23]

Obviously there is no agreement among the schools as to the relative importance of the different subjects in the curriculum. The amount of time given to a subject seems to depend on the personal opinion or desires of the instructor or the principal. While considerable interest has been manifested in discussions as to what should constitute the minimum essential instruction in cataloguing, apparently no effort has been made by the Association of American Library Schools to arrive at minimum standards for the course in cataloguing. Complaint is common that the curriculum is overcrowded, while important new subjects are clamoring for admission. The school that succeeds in giving its students the essentials of cataloguing in thirty-five hours, while others require two or three times that length of time, can take up other subjects that may be more important for the general professional course.

There are many more similarities in the Williamson Report to conditions within the librarian profession in 1923 that have not noticeably changed by 2012, but those are resources for other discussions. On the matter of library science degrees, Williamson reported the following.

CHAPTER VIII – JOINT COURSES, ACADEMIC CREDIT, DEGREES, AND ACADEMIC STATUS.
….
[Page 69] A considerable proportion of the fifty per cent of library school graduates who have the college degree did not take a four-year college course and then the library school course, but took both in four years, receiving college credit for the library courses. …
Graduates of any accredited library school may be permitted, in individual cases, to offer certain library courses for the bachelor’s degree; but college faculties are not always willing to give full academic credit, particularly for technical courses.

[Page 70] One of the fundamental viewpoints of this report is that professional library work requires a college education or its full equivalent. Three years of college study, however, are better than two, and two are better than none. … The joint course plan as described above, in which three years of college work are followed by one year devoted exclusively to library school study, is to be preferred to the Simmons College plan, in which the library courses are spread throughout the four years.

A committee of the Association of American Library Schools has recently considered the subject of professional degrees for library courses. In its report it is recommended that the B.L.S. degree be recognized as the professional degree to be conferred on the completion of a course of two years of professional and technical study, for admission to which a four-year college course is required.

Even though Williamson’s report indicates that the MLS was emerging as a status degree for the profession at the time, the BLS was considered the necessary “standard” for the profession.

According to John Richardson, Jr. of UCLA, History of American Library Science: Its Origins and Early Development Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, Ed. Mary N. Maack and Marcia Bates. Francis and Taylor, 2010., the MLS as the professional standard was adopted in 1951.

1930s
• 1930: First PhD in library science: Eleanor Upton at University of Chicago.

1940s
• 1949: Twenty-seven of the thirty-two accredited schools adopt the new MLS degree (or in process of doing so); ….

1950s
• 1951, July: ALA adopts new Standards of Accreditation making MLS entry level degree. ….

1960s
• 1966: ALA establishes Office for Library Education; …
1968: ALA’s COA establishes subcommittees on undergraduate and graduate standards for accreditation. ….

Which begs the question – If the MLS was the accredited “entry level degree” in 1951, why in 1968 was ALA still reviewing undergraduate standards for education? My speculation was that many library schools were still offering the undergraduate degree, and ALA felt the need to regulate those out of existence. Which also begs the question – Why?

Today BS programs ALREADY EXIST in Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine and North Carolina. Remember Maine’s Information and Library Service Program operating since 2004? Decades ago the Maine State Librarian went to UMA (which is not a graduate-degree granting institution), and asked about offering librarianship programs for their diverse library community, partly because UMA was exploring distance education. Maine has experienced an evolving recognition of a “career ladder” within the segments of their librarian profession that supports a BS as entry level and MILS for advancement, because students graduate with a confidence in their ability to be immediately effective in their first library position. The University of Maine, Augusta BS program is very much oriented toward the practical application of librarianship, compared to the theoretical perspective of an MLS program.

Also, the State of Kentucky has put forth excellent justification FOR a bachelor degree in librarianship.

1. In Kentucky there is a gap in education for library staff and future MLS librarians. A state law requires all public library employees to be certified. … There was a gap in education between the Associate degree and the Master of Library Science offered at the University of Kentucky.

2. We believe that librarians, especially public librarians, are called upon to do much more than their earlier counterparts. Skills in technology, management, marketing, and finance are needed for the 21st Century Librarian. Can all this be learned in the 36 credit hours of most Master’s programs?

3. Rural librarianship! In Kentucky, almost one-third of our rural library directors do not have an undergraduate degree. Salaries are low and it is almost impossible to recruit a MLS librarian to these areas.

Also, the prestigious University of North Carolina Chapel Hill SLIS Dual Bachelor’s – Master’s Program could be a model for every SLIS.

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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L-Schools and I-Schools Embracing D-Schools?


We can only hope! But, if you’re like most librarians, you have no clue what this means. It means that Library schools and Information schools should consider embracing some of the curriculum of Design schools. Interesting.

Designing Better Libraries Blog is all about “exploring the application of design, innovation and new media to create better libraries and user experiences.”

Design, as we conceive it, is a way of examining library services and reengineering them to make them more accessible to patrons. … we are entering a time when our traditional techniques for developing new services may be inadequate for serving a new generation of library users with their own unique search behaviors and service expectations. To address these changes, we advocate a kind of design thinking informed by processes developed by major design firms and design schools that emphasizes a novel approach to devising and implementing new ideas in libraries.

A recent Post titled L-Schools and I-Schools Should Take A Closer Look At D-Schools caught my attention as much for the Huh? factor as for the innovative approach to improving library services and user experiences – something that libraries desperately need to remain relevant.

According to the Wall Street Journal (watch the video) D-Schools [Design Schools] are hot and B-Schools [Business Schools] are not. The WSJ is acknowledging an important trend within B-Schools that has been growing in popularity for a few years. While it’s true that a few forward thinking business schools, most notably the Rotman School of Business (U of Toronto) and the Weatherhead School (Case Western) have integrated design thinking into their curriculum, the vast majority of business schools are still offering the same traditional courses and career paths for their MBA students. Moving to a design thinking influenced curriculum makes good sense because more businesses are making use of design thinking and looking to hire those who can bring more of these skills to their companies. At my own institution, the Fox School of Business includes the Center for Design and Innovation, where the faculty are exploring the intersection of design and business, and exposing the newest MBA students to the design inquiry process, a variant on design thinking.

This whole trend speaks to the assertions I’ve been making that librarians must develop business acumen, and libraries must be run more business like. Despite the fact that many librarians resist the idea that ROI is appropriate for libraries, the fact remains that funding agencies require it. It’s a done deal, so libraries had better get with the program or face outsourcing, or an even worse fate – closure.

The author goes on to elaborate on the situation by stating;

Perhaps now is the right time for L-Schools (Library) and I-Schools (Information) to take a closer look into this trend, and consider how to integrate design thinking into the curriculum that prepares future library professionals. I made this suggestion in a post a few years ago, and there was a mixed reaction – everything from “Who is he to tell us how to design our curriculum” to “Sounds like an interesting idea” to “I’m already doing this”. The lack of enthusiasm for my suggestion was likely owing to a lack of familiarity with design thinking. Courses on library instruction, human-computer interaction or usability studies may include some elements of design, but it would be completely different to integrate design thinking philosophy into the curriculum – so that every graduate has internalized the design inquiry process as a problem-solving methodology.

And, he ends the Post with this plea.

We need LIS graduates with those traditional skills that prepare them for library work. We have a greater need for students who are savvy problem solvers. With the wicked problems confronting the library profession, we need colleagues who can design elegant solutions. Design thinking skills could help our future librarians be the kind of problem solvers and decision makers that can tackle any challenging no matter what area of librarianship is involved. That’s what design thinkers do – they figure out what the real problem is and design a solution. Perhaps some L-Schools and I-Schools will seriously look into the D-School trend, with an intent to use it as a model for future curriculum development. If the goal is to create better libraries, shouldn’t it start with how we prepare future librarians? In the meantime, is it possible that more libraries will just start hiring D-School graduates? I think some already are or will do so soon. [Emphasis added.]

While I’m less generous with my assessment of today’s SLIS curriculum than this author, ANY incorporation of ANY 21st Century topics to better prepare librarians for the future they will face would be an improvement. If business is trending toward design skills, SLIS had better take a close look at providing something cutting edge before Librarians are considered antiquated academics.

Don’t believe me, but consider the Forbes article published June 8, The Best And Worst Master’s Degrees For Jobs that ranked librarianship as “the worst master’s degree for jobs right now.”

Library and information science degree-holders bring in $57,600 mid-career, on average. Common jobs for them are school librarian, library director and reference librarian, and there are expected to be just 8.5% more of them by 2020. The low pay rank and estimated growth rank make library and information science the worst master’s degree for jobs right now.

Even Will Manley thinks the MLS will not recover when the economy does. In his June 5 Post for american libraries, he states “Ah, but when the economy recovers (and there are hopeful signs on the horizon that a recovery has started) won’t the librarian job market recover along with it? … Not necessarily.”

The massive budget cuts of the last five years have forced school, academic, and public libraries to learn to function with fewer and fewer MLS holders, and library users don’t seem to notice the difference. Can they tell that there are fewer new books to choose from? Absolutely. Do they realize that there are longer and longer waits for popular ebooks? Absolutely. Do they notice when main library hours are slashed and branches are closed? Absolutely. Do they know when a professional librarian has been replaced with a paraprofessional or even a clerical person? Rarely, if ever. To the average American, a librarian is a person who works in a library.

Don’t be shocked that school boards, university administrators, city councils, city managers, library boards, and even library directors are taking close notice of this lack of perception. Yes, people still want libraries. That’s not the issue at all. No, I take that back. That is precisely the issue. People want libraries so desperately that they are quite willing to sacrifice the cost of professional staff to get full hours and robust book budgets restored.

While I disagree with Will that people want libraries so badly they’re willing to have them with less qualified and capable staff, my perception is that the MLS has not kept pace with the changing times, and as noted above the current MLS borders on useless. One of Will’s commenters agrees. Furio wrote; “I finished my master’s degree and I didn’t learn anything beyond what I’ve already learned by working from the bottom up. I just came out of the program with a debt that I’m still paying. Many MLS graduates don’t have the experience required to work in libraries. Those who said that the MLS degree helped them to get new skills are those who have never work in a library setting. That’s the reality.”

Hey, SLIS – This is a Wake-UP Call! Your vanilla MLS is useless in the 21st Century!

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More Evidence FOR a Bachelor’s Degree in LIS


Last December I wrote the Post Library Science Ranks #4 in Highest Unemployment.

According to the Wall Street Journal post From College Major to Career, “Choosing the right college major can make a big difference in students’ career prospects, in terms of employment and pay. Here’s a look at how various college majors fare in the job market, based on 2010 Census data.” WSJ gleaned the study data from a report by Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Click here for the full report.

Some readers took exception to the data because it represented only bachelor’s level degree information relating to librarianship employment. As we all know, those entry level jobs are few and far between. But it all seems irrelevant in light of the latest information published by CNBC – 1 in 2 new graduates are jobless or underemployed.

Young adults with bachelor’s degrees are increasingly scraping by in lower-wage jobs — waiter or waitress, bartender, retail clerk or receptionist, for example — and that’s confounding their hopes a degree would pay off despite higher tuition and mounting student loans.

An analysis of government data conducted for The Associated Press lays bare the highly uneven prospects for holders of bachelor’s degrees.

Or does it? While it seems like the current unemployment/underemployment climate makes my advocacy for a bachelor’s degree in librarianship and information science even less appealing, actually it makes it even more appealing. Seriously? Absolutely! Read on.

While there’s strong demand in science, education and health fields, arts and humanities flounder. Median wages for those with bachelor’s degrees are down from 2000, hit by technological changes that are eliminating midlevel jobs such as bank tellers. Most future job openings are projected to be in lower-skilled positions such as home health aides, who can provide personalized attention as the U.S. population ages.

Taking underemployment into consideration, the job prospects for bachelor’s degree holders fell last year to the lowest level in more than a decade.

There is “strong demand in science, education and health fields” – not arts and humanities. Librarianship is a science field. We have need of entry level bachelor’s degree educated individuals who are multi-talented, technology literate, information literate, (dare I say) transliterate, young imaginative, innovative, in-touch librarians who can help change the profession to meet 21st Century challenges.

Be honest, when faced with a choice of science, education or health fields, which would you choose – SCIENCE!!

SLIS are missing the boat by not recruiting these young people into the librarianship profession. Now is the time – well actually, 10 years ago was really the time – to heavily recruit for a bachelor’s degree as an entry level position into the profession. Other disciplines and professions will be doing it. If we don’t get moving, we’ll be left behind – again.

“You can make more money on average if you go to college, but it’s not true for everybody,” says Harvard economist Richard Freeman, noting the growing risk of a debt bubble with total U.S. student loan debt surpassing $1 trillion. “If you’re not sure what you’re going to be doing, it probably bodes well to take some job, if you can get one, and get a sense first of what you want from college.”

Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University who analyzed the numbers, said many people with a bachelor’s degree face a double whammy of rising tuition and poor job outcomes. “Simply put, we’re failing kids coming out of college,” he said, emphasizing that when it comes to jobs, a college major can make all the difference. “We’re going to need a lot better job growth and connections to the labor market, otherwise college debt will grow.” [Emphasis added.]

How can any SLIS faculty or administrator read this and not see the opportunity here? We have a MAJOR pool of undergraduate candidates who have been working in the profession and currently are in local libraries EVERYWHERE. They know what they want to do, but the profession is stifling them! Most don’t have a bachelor’s degree, and the prospect of getting a master’s to become a “librarian” is beyond their grasp right now.

If there were abundant bachelor’s degree programs in LIS, these young library workers would have a stepping stone for career progression. This is not rocket science. All it takes is a few “establishment” librarians to think outside the box for just a minute to see the potential. Why isn’t somebody willing to step into the 21st Century?

This Post is not addressed to those SLIS with existing bachelor’s degree programs. Kentucky, Maine, and others are making an effort to address the shortfall, but are getting no support from the “establishment”.

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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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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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Why Not a Bachelor’s in Library Science?


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.

ALA has a webpage promoted by the Council On Library/Media Technicians (COLT) which lists institutions, by state, that offer training and education programs for ‘librarians’. I found three with BS programs, and contacted each.

One program director deferred to the ALA formal position regarding educational programs by writing back;

The American Library Association accredited only the Master of Library and Information Studies level programs. The MLS/MLIS is for the entry level professional librarian and information specialist qualification in the US. Please check the American Library Association’s website, under education and training, or under ALA accreditation.

The B.S. ILS program is for the paraprofessional, such as library technical assistant position in libraries. There is also a minor requirement. You could find more information about the undergraduate programs from our Southern Connecticut State University.

The second response was much more informative, and described the necessity for a BS program in library informatics.

Why create an undergraduate program in Library Science?
1. In Kentucky there is a gap in education for library staff and future MLS librarians. A state law requires all public library employees to be certified. … There was a gap in education between the Associate degree and the Master of Library Science offered at the University of Kentucky.

2. We believe that librarians, especially public librarians, are called upon to do much more than their earlier counterparts. Skills in technology, management, marketing, and finance are needed for the 21st Century Librarian. Can all this be learned in the 36 credit hours of most Master’s programs? The Library Informatics program compliments graduate level studies in Library Science and provides a pathway for library science students.

3. Rural librarianship! In Kentucky, almost one-third of our rural library directors do not have an undergraduate degree. Salaries are low and it is almost impossible to recruit a MLS librarian to these areas. Fortunately, the Institute for Museum and Library Services has agreed with us and funded two major grant proposals. The first project was Bridging the Gap: Supplying the Next Generation of Librarians to the Underserved Counties of Rural Kentucky. With a budget of over $1.3 million, we have given out over 50 scholarships, technology stipends, and provided mentors for students.

These are very good reasons for instituting a BS program to meet the needs of the profession in that state. I’m certain many more states have similar circumstances that warrant similar programs.

I recently spoke with the third respondent Dr. Jodi Williams, Information and Library Service Program Director, University of Maine at Augusta. She runs the Bachelor of Science in Information and Library Service program, and has since 2004 when she joined UMA coming from a faculty position at an institution that offered an undergraduate program in LIS, as well as a MLIS program. UMA offers a certificate, associate and bachelor’s degrees in Information and Library Service, and has since the 1990s. As she said; “Our program found a niche.”

Maine’s library community is like many other states in that it is appreciably rural and geographically dispersed. Many states can identify with that, as well as the pressing need to offer training and education in the librarianship profession. Decades ago the Maine State Librarian went to UMA (which is not a graduate-degree granting institution), and asked about offering librarianship programs for their diverse library community, partly because UMA was exploring distance education. The rest of the evolutionary and revolutionary story is history.

Years ago the program was about 70% Maine residents, but today the LIS program has 250 students, with about 30% Maine residents. The other 70% are from other states and foreign countries. Dr. Williams has traveled to the Pacific Islands to discuss articulation agreements, and plans to work with Salt Lake Community College, UT, next year about a similar associate degree articulation agreement. She also mentioned that she and the UMA BILS program have name recognition in Colorado – a noteworthy achievement by any standard.

One of the most striking features of the BS program is the requirement for each student to complete a practicum, supervised by an MLS “Librarian”. Not only is it an AH-HA experience for the students, even for those who have worked in the library for years and are reticent to do a practicum, but more importantly for the MLS librarians who supervise the BILS students. During our conversation, Dr. Williams told me that she is a change agent by “emissaries”, not activism, and has found repeatedly that this practicum experience for the seasoned MLS librarians has changed their opinion of the value of a BS degree to the individual, their library organization, and the profession.

Dr. Williams has noted an evolving recognition of a “career ladder” within the segments of the librarian profession with which she deals that supports a BS as entry level and MILS for advancement. The BS program is very much oriented toward the practical application of librarianship, compared to the theoretical perspective of an MLS program. It sounds to me like graduates leave the UMA BILS program actually knowing how to do things in their first librarian job, as opposed to MLS graduates who leave that program maybe understanding what needs to be done. How refreshing!

She said her students graduate with a confidence in their ability to be immediately effective in their first library position, which to me seems much more worthwhile than an MLS graduate who has never worked in a library and complains about “What they don’t teach you in library school.” That also sounds to me like the BILS librarian can DO the job, whereas the MLS librarian can TALK about the job! Why isn’t that a good thing for the graduate and the library?

Two examples of UMA BILS students making a difference are below (one a practicum, the other a student being active in the Occupy movement) located at these websites; Revitalization of Maine Media’s Library, and Occupy Movement and the Library.

Again, my question is – “Why not a bachelor in library science?” Can any program that achieves the following goals be a bad thing – for individuals, the library organization, or the profession? UMA’s ILS program website contains the following.

Trained library personnel must respond to the rapid national surge in information technology, and the Information and Library Services program provides relevant courses to assist students in acquiring this evolving knowledge and the skills necessary to become effective and well-informed members of a library team. Associate of Science and Bachelor of Science degrees in Information and Library Services are available at UMA.

This program prepares individuals for immediate entry into positions which support library and information service professionals; to upgrade skills of staff who are presently working in school, public, academic, and special libraries and in other information intensive positions and organizations. The program will prepare students for a career as a library and information services assistant. Students will examine policies and issues related to libraries, library careers, and the library profession.

Dr. Williams clarified the advantages of the UMA BILS program even further by stating in an email that;

Our degree very much promotes that there is a place for everyone at the table, but that we need a stronger understanding of those places and how people can move through the channels with both experience and different levels of education. This is about learning across a spectrum and understanding that some want the Masters while other students who come through our program are happily situated in their current jobs and glad to have the practical skills to better serve their patrons.

Based on that astute summary of a BS in ILS program, what can be so wrong with a profession that has the normal hierarchy of educational requirements for advancement – associate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctorate? Nothing! That old argument about library technicians do a more technical and specific job, while “Librarians” (meaning MLS degreed) are generalists and management candidates that can do everything DOES NOT HOLD WATER! It’s simply RHETORIC to justify the arbitrary distinctions between “professional” and “para-professional”! We all know that there are virtually no authorities (i.e., governments, librarian unions, etc.) that dictate who can and cannot do certain librarianship tasks within a library organization.

“OK, since you don’t have an MLS, you can only do these limited tasks within the library organization, and since you do have an MLS, you can do all the rest of the tasks that “Librarians” do.” IT DOESN’T HAPPEN! All “librarians” do everything!

Most states don’t even require school librarians to have an MLS, just a library media specialist certificate, and these people are actually in a position that really teaches their customers. Most have degrees in education! Public libraries don’t really have a mission to educate – inform – not educate – big difference. So, is the current system claiming that a master’s degree is more important for public librarians than for public school librarians? If that’s the case, maybe all any public “Librarian” needs is just a bachelor degree with a library media specialist certificate.

There is something drastically wrong with this picture! Why is the MLS entry level for this profession? Just read the over 40 comments to Annoyed Librarian at LibraryJournal.com, and you’ll see – IT SHOULD NOT BE!

All three of the states cited above recognized a need within their states for bachelor’s degree in library science programs. The program found a demand, which is always the first indicator of a need for more wide scale change.

I would sincerely like for any one to give me good reasons for this situation, if there is more to it than just a holdover from 19th Century elitist thinking.

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21st Century Library Paradigm – Even More Evidence


While reviewing IMLS publications, I came across their “For Further Reading” link to a 21st Century Skills reading list that contained this resource, “Libraries: A Vision. The Public Library Service in 2015.” England: Laser Foundation. 2004.

Introduction

This discussion paper is the outcome of a two-day seminar for librarians held at Bedford in 2004. It was organised by the Laser Foundation (see Appendix). Those who attended were mainly young middle managers (The Futures Group). Each section of this paper was drafted by a different hand, and then edited to achieve some uniformity of style.
It has not been found possible to remove all duplication, nor would all delegates agree with all of the sections. This is, after all, a discussion paper on one of the most contentious, but important social questions of today: the future of our public library service.

Some Conclusions

• There will continue to be a need for a public library service which is “free at the point of delivery”; there will also be a need for premium services (Section 4) which may be home delivery, professional research services, access to the national back catalogue etc, all of which should be on a full cost recovery basis. (Section 14)

• Library services must follow retailing in being “customer-led”. (Section 5)

• The introduction of Radio Frequency Identification systems into libraries can revolutionise allocation of staff time. (Section 6)

• In a world of rapid social and technological change libraries too must learn both to change and to encourage the careers of those who can manage change. (Section 6)

• Library staff may have to adopt a corporate appearance, wearing a uniform, or adhering to a dress code. They must spend more time “on the floor”, and be as well trained as good shop assistants in customer relations. Good staff must be properly paid; less than adequate staff must be helped to leave. (Section 9)

• Management skills are in short supply; library school syllabuses are out of touch with today’s needs. (Section 9)

• The division of responsibility for libraries between national and local government is serving the public badly. A radical change in both governance and method of funding is needed. (Section 10)

• In the future there will be no “one size fits all” library. Each will reflect local needs. Some will share a site with other local services, or with commercial premises; others may be “virtual libraries”. (Section 15)

[Emphasis added.]

When I read this paper, I was concerned that loyal readers might think I stole my ideas from this paper, but I swear I had not read this before now. The similarities are amazing even to me. A group of “young middle managers” got together for a “two-day seminar for librarians” in 2004 and developed this vision of the public library 10 years into their future. I was so blown away by the similarities I had to bold those items that are exactly what I’ve been advocating for many months – AND THEY CREATED THIS VISION SEVEN YEARS AGO!

They envisioned libraries operated using a business model, librarians with business acumen, customer driven services, a responsive organization, updated curriculum in SLIS, and finally my proposed 21st Century Library Paradigm – “In the future there will be no “one size fits all” library. Each will reflect local needs. Some will share a site with other local services, or with commercial premises; others may be “virtual libraries.”

[If I had found this paper sooner, it might have saved me a whole lot of brain cells. 😐 ]

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