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ALA’s alternate to an MLS

Nov - 8 - 2006
Nicole C. Engard

I was just reading my latest Library Journal and came across an article in Feeback titled “ALA’s alternate to an MLS.”

In it Leslie Burger makes me very happy :)

I’ve asked Dan O’Connor (chair, ALA Education Committee) to focus his group’s attention on creating an action plan for reforming library education at the ALISE/ALA Education forum planned for Midwinter 2007 in Seattle. Rather than getting educators and practitioners together for a “shoot the breeze” session, we will focus the session on a discussion of Needham’s proposal or any other proposal that comes forward, with the end result being an action plan for changing library education.

[emphasis added by me]

Leslie has some interesting points to discuss at the meeting:

1) Does accreditation still matter? 2) Should we create a new way to educate library workers? 3) Should certification and continuing education credits be mandatory for library workers? 4) Should we offer an alternate route to librarianship similar to that being offered for those who want to teach in public schools? 5) What would a core curriculum for librarianship look like? Should it be a standard for accreditation?

My answers.

  1. What does this mean anyway? Does it mean that the ALA approves of the curriculum that the school offers? I can’t imagine that’s all – because each school has such varied offerings.
  2. YES! We need to require on the job training like they do for teachers (student teaching). The professors instructing us (most of the time) haven’t been in a library in a while and don’t know about the real changes that are going on – by making students work while they go to school we can hope that they’ll get more out of their education.
  3. YES! The problems that most of of us have today is that there is such a varied education among the staff. Requiring continuing education would make it so that we’d all be closer to being on the same foot.
  4. I’m not sure what alternate route is being offered (but I’m going to research it), but I think there should be some sort of work experience qualification. I’ve been in the library for 5+ years now and I’m taking classes that for the most part aren’t teaching me anything new – I already know these things – there should be some way for me to be a “librarian” without having to spend thousands of dollars learning what I already know.
  5. If there were a standard that might make it so that students would come out with similar educations. I think technology related education needs to be required more than it is now. No one, in any of my classes has mentioned blogs – and wikis only came up when students referred to the Wikipedia – we need our future librarians to be trained in how to use these new technologies effectively.

I’ll be interested to see what comes out of this meeting – most of it won’t effect my current curriculum, but I hope it will effect the rules about continuing education once I have graduated.

6 Responses so far.

  1. Thom says:

    I don’t know where you’re going to school, but if the only things you are learning there are things you have also learned on the job, either the school is failing in its mission or you are not challenging yourself to conduct research, read widely, and pursue information-related issues intellectually. The study of library and information science involves far more than just “how to be a librarian.” It’s a shame to see such a narrow view of the field.

  2. Nicole says:

    I don’t think you understood me. They are teaching me how to “conduct research, read widely, and pursue information-related issues intellectually” – all things I’ve done for the last 5+ years while working in a library. In addition I’ve had the opportunity to write articles, present on topics related to modern libraries, and teach librarians and patrons how to use technology to assist in their day to day jobs and lives.

    My main belief regarding education – all education – is that it needs to be supplemented with actual on the job experience – learning by doing!

    I also feel very strongly about continuing education – because while you say that being a librarian includes pursuing information-related issues – if that’s so then why aren’t all librarians out there pursuing continuing education? My answer? Because we’re all busy and it’s not a requirement – it needs to be a requirement!

  3. [...] It’s weird sometimes how one topic can pop up in a bunch of different places at once. There’s been a debate going on in my library management class right now about library education, and the real value of the MLS degree. A few of my fellow students (and I’ll admit, I include myself in this group) are frustrated that our classes are focused a lot on theory and that we’re not getting very much practical experience (or that any practical experience we might have is discounted because we don’t yet have our degrees). Then I come across two very thoughtful blog posts from folks about the current state of library education and the value of the MLS degree, and some of the issues that arise from a degree that’s focused more on theory than practice. So, please, before you read on and hear my thoughts, go read this post by Josh Neff and this post by Nicole Engard. I’ll wait. [...]

  4. Thom says:

    I don’t know where you’re going to school, but if the only things you are learning there are things you have also learned on the job, either the school is failing in its mission or you are not challenging yourself to conduct research, read widely, and pursue information-related issues intellectually. The study of library and information science involves far more than just “how to be a librarian.” It’s a shame to see such a narrow view of the field.

  5. Nicole says:

    I don’t think you understood me. They are teaching me how to “conduct research, read widely, and pursue information-related issues intellectually” – all things I’ve done for the last 5+ years while working in a library. In addition I’ve had the opportunity to write articles, present on topics related to modern libraries, and teach librarians and patrons how to use technology to assist in their day to day jobs and lives.

    My main belief regarding education – all education – is that it needs to be supplemented with actual on the job experience – learning by doing!

    I also feel very strongly about continuing education – because while you say that being a librarian includes pursuing information-related issues – if that’s so then why aren’t all librarians out there pursuing continuing education? My answer? Because we’re all busy and it’s not a requirement – it needs to be a requirement!

  6. [...] Degree or Not Degree, That Is the Question. Of all of the new crop of posts I’ve seen today about library education, Josh Neff’s has the best comment thread. This is an extremely touchy subject. It’s a sensitive subject for me. [...]


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