SLA2008: All I Really Need to Know I Learned in … Library School?

This panel was very very insightful. The panelists were all recent grads of the University of Washington’s iSchool. They were Alex Berta, Rebecca Blakewood, Ann Glusker, Elizabeth Gould, and Beth Sanderson. Joe Janes and Nancy Gershenfeld professors at the iSchool gave us an intro.

University of Washington was the first school that decided to call itself an iSchool. So what does iSchool mean? For the U of Washington, it’s something that allows them to make their programs stronger because so many disciplines are all learning together. They have information science, information management, library and information science and others all in the one school.

I like the way they end their MLIS program – with a portfolio. In it the students include a significant leadership experience, significant training experience, significant paper, and others I can’t remember 😉 Basically it shows that you’ve learned enough to go out into the real world other than just taking classes on theory.

They’ve also bee n making curriculum changes like replacing the single required tech class with a variety of options and including a bunch of 1 credit, get you up to speed type, classes.

Next the Q&A (in notes format)

What do you feel you are taking out into the world now that you’re done with your education??

Ann: has found how impressed others are with the tech training they’re getting at the ischool. this is a great thing that the school does for them.

Alex: much more comfortable with technology because of this program – he comes from humanities background and so he didn’t have much exposure to these tools before (got on facebook to play scrabble).

Elizabeth: came out of the program with a much broader picture of how to utilize information. she always like doing research, but now she knows how to use the tools and find different ways to access information.

Beth: we’re coming out of the program with a way to explain what we do so that people can understand – because a better online communicator and in person communicator

Advice to panel from an audience member: I don’t feel that I got enough management training in library school, make sure you get more training.

Beth: they do have a core class that’s in management, there are also options for students to explore that further if they want to

Alex: took many classes where budgeting and management were brought up and discussed

Beth: you’re talking about things at conference that we’re learning in school

Alex: the current awareness among our professors is great

Core classes?

Beth: info behavior, info life cycle, reference, management, info organization (not specifically cataloging), technology, info policy and social context, info literacy, research methods, business

Joe Janes: there is a special library class that teaches you to balance it all since many special libraries are one person libraries

Audience member talked about how she got all the training she needed to run the law firm library she was hired to after graduation – this program is amazing

Do you think it’s a good idea to replace cataloging as a requirement?

Joe: yes

Beth: took info org and didn’t think it was too broad – didn’t realize it until she took cataloging how much she learned in info org – and since cataloging is going to change so much

Ann: every person she asked what to take said to take cataloging. it’s the most valuable class she took, the hardest class – but the most valuable

Nancy Gershenfeld: advises all students to take cataloging – because you get to understand the decisions that go behind the catalog

Audience: maybe the cataloging class need to be redesigned to show the breadth of the theoretical and the process of cataloging

Joe: students today are going to have to learn new types of cataloging – and since everything is up in the air it’s hard to teach one thing “my generation caused the mess, now these students are going to have to solve it” How do you teach the unknown.

Talk about your internships

Elizabeth: having someone organizing and setting up an internship for you is key – as long as i had something to do when i got there, i was happy. having a defined job so you know what you’re going to be doing, very important

Ann: just got to sit at the desk – didn’t really get to get her hands into anything else that she’s going to do in the library world – wanted to learn more so that she could say “oh yes, I’ve done that” we may look smart, but we’re inexperienced

Beth: worked with a professional librarian – it was very important to her to have the one on one experience with the librarian and work with them on a project

Elizabeth: both the internships they had – they asked her what she was interested in – and she was one of the staff – both helpful

Audience (ischool grad): the best thing was having to define 3 learning objectives before going into it – so going in they knew what they wanted to do and their mentors knew too – and having ongoing meetings with their mentors.


I stood up and told them that they were luckier than they realized – they are learning amazing things and will be much better prepared than I would have been if I wasn’t already in a library while in library school.

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  1. I agree that cataloging should definitely be taught in library school. The cataloging rules may be changing but in the meantime, libraries still need people who know what to do with a MARC record. In addition, not all libraries are going to jump on the bandwagon and immediately convert to the new procedure. So it behooves one to take the cataloging course that is offered.

    The ideal way to learn cataloging is to take the course AND work in a library (I was fortunate to have that opportunity). Of course “ideal” and “real” may rhyme but are two different entities altogether.

  2. I agree that cataloging should be required, because it’s the foundation for access to information in any library. Just as a general knowledge of reference services is also necessary, regardless of what you actually do. (Always remember the end user.)

    I think UW has a great program, and I slightly regret not applying there. At the same time, I strongly believe that the more you put into an education, the more you’ll get out of it. Every online program is going to struggle giving their students a strong practical foundation, especially if those students have little to no library experience, but students need to work hard to compensate. Just as if you know you want to work in systems or management, and you don’t have the background, you need to pursue those interests (perhaps outside of the program). I say this as somebody who’s getting a second degree in Information Systems, because I knew I’d lean in that direction.

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