Sunday, May 27, 2007

What are the library students of today learning?

I have been thinking about this a lot lately and starting to talk to some people about it. I am happy to have found out that Leslie Burger, current ALA President and Princeton (NJ) Public Library Director is also interested in this and is looking (I believe) into ways of assessing and addressing it.....

I just wonder what our current library students are learning and if they are learning about Web 2.0 technologies, customer service and the importance of these things to libraries. If we are spending time and effort to "catch-up" our current librarians, unless we are producing librarians who are "up" on these things, we will be fighting a losing battle.

I have been out of library school since 2003 (and that is even longer ago really than 4 years when you take into consideration how technology and the world changes even faster and faster as time goes by). None of these Web 2.0 things were being talked about then, but they really weren't on the radar then. I had some wonderful professors. I am sure that there are some wonderful professors now who are teaching these things or who are open to them - maybe the library students are teaching them in some cases! - and I am not disparaging library schools or professors. I just don't want us to focus all of our efforts on the current librarians only to find that the "new" ones also need such "catching-up."

You might assume that all "new" librarians are "young" librarians. But this is certainly not the case, just as it isn't the case that all "young" librarians and people know and embrace all of the Web 2.0 technologies and approaches or realize their necessity in the library world.

A colleague shared this (and he can identify himself, elaborate, or not, I have altered the quote a bit for privacy, and hope he doesn't mind):
I did a talk for (a class) as recently as October 2006. By show of hands, maybe 2 out of 30 in the class had any idea what RSS is, or read any library blogs.

I found this upsetting (because) RSS IS an information literacy technology. Perhaps it is THE single best technology for allowing us to manage the flow, display, sharing, and consumption of information. As promoters of information literacy, librarians should be ALL OVER THIS.

You know, you could say that perhaps they are using RSS and don't know it, like many "lay" people who are using it but if you ask them they have no idea that they are! Although I think the point is they should know... However, the part about not reading library blogs is just inexplicable!

I posted about it on another blog and got an interesting reply from a library student:

LibraryNation said...
I'm in library school right now and I'd have to say that there's a division of thirds in regards to the level of skill we future librarians have: a third of us are really up to
date on technology, web 2.0, and the like; a third don't know a lot about these
things, but really want to learn more and take all sorts of tutorials and short courses from our IT lab (staffed by fellow students) to expand their knowledge/understanding/use of these technologies. The last third don't have much interest in learning about these technologies, or perhaps don't even know that this is something they should be teaching themselves... something that's vital. Kind of like marketing ;)
... And maybe you're right about needing to educate our professors. I think they also fall into the three categories: those in the know, those who want to be in the know, and those who think it's relevant/unimportant or are unenlightened.

Let's make sure we take an even broader view - look at the even bigger picture - and make sure that the librarians of tomorrow coming out of library school will truly be librarians of tomorrow and not librarians of yesterday!

(Maybe things aren't as bad as I fear - can anyone help me out here?!)

UPDATE 05/29/07:
I received this message from Leslie Burger -
I’ve just appointed an ALA presidential task force on library education to
take a look at what is being taught in library schools, consider core
curriculum, and how the LIS curriculum needs to match what we need in the
marketplace. ALA Past President Carla Hayden is chairing the TF which
reports back to the ALA Executive Board with the recommendations at the 2008
Annual Conference.

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At May 27, 2007 2:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is Laurie, over at infodoodads, and I just graduated in Fall of 2006. I can tell you we learned about blogs (although the instructor didn't understand what all the fuss was about) and otherwise, we never discussed web 2.0. In fact, the first time I heard the term was at an in-service at the library where I currently work in the Summer of 2006. However, I have been keeping a personal blog for 2 years.

At May 27, 2007 3:33 PM, Blogger Scott Nicholson said...

I've been dealing with this (as the new MSLIS program director at Syracuse) and here are some of the issues I've run into:

- The accreditation standards to which we are held are 15 years old.

- A recent ALA president was very vocal about the failure of LIS programs to teach librarianship (
..and you can bet RSS feeds were not on his list.

- If something new is added, something old must go. But these official representatives from the profession indicate that nothing should go.

- The profession is changing fast. We are trying to prepare students for a career (and not necessarily their first job). Focusing on the Now and not the bigger picture will end up creating a training program and not a graduate degree. (See the work I've been in involved with with Dave Lankes on Participatory Librarianship to see how we do this with the faddish Library 2.0 concepts).

So, let me flip the question back to you and your readers...

What do we drop?

What in "traditional" librarianship is no longer needed so that we can focus on social networking?

(as an aside, we are dealing with this by teaching an optional CAS in Digital Libraries that students can do alongside their MSLIS degree, and in that, they do a lot of work with 2.0 and open source tools.)

I have my theories, but I'm no longer a practicing librarian, and I'd love to hear from the field as I try to chart a course for our program into the future.

At May 27, 2007 5:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

RSS? I'm in library school. I think I've heard of that ...

At UWO (London, Ontario) we have recently seen our first offering in social software, a distance course taught by Amanda Etches-Johnson.

At May 27, 2007 7:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just graduated a year ago with an MLS, and we didn't do much talking about web 2.0 concepts in classes. It was a distance program (which i realize now should mean that we were using all kinds of 2.0 tech, but we did our work in Blackboard and did some chatting and so forth in limited amounts. Most communication was through Blackboard and its various methods.) I agree with previous comments that (to use some library school jargon) most of the people deciding what goes into a library program are not "early adopters" of new technology. Some of them might like to be, but have a lot of administrative roadblocks to go through. That's my theory, anyway.

After getting out of school, I got a job as a librarian at a public library, where i discovered that i would be the "tech guy" for the other librarians. So, I had to start learning about stuff. RSS feeds were a mystery, and i had many mishaps trying to figure them out. I remember asking other librarians what they thought of MySpace and getting some pretty negative responses.
I know some people who are currently in programs, and they're often surprised by the different 2.0 things that i show them. I started a wiki so that i could promote a program at my library (still working on that part), but lots of other folks have found it helpful:

At May 28, 2007 12:42 AM, Blogger Tom Kaun said...

Scott said:
So, let me flip the question back to you and your readers...

What do we drop?

What in "traditional" librarianship is no longer needed so that we can focus on social networking?

I don't think dropping anything is necessary. I think creative use by professors of the various social networking tools available would certainly go a long way to giving students a head start. This, of course, implies a certain willingness on the part of profs to learn how these tools could, should, would be used. When I was in school in the dark ages of the 1970s we used the latest technology for presentations (slide projectors), searching (microfiche readers), computer programming (Hollerith cards), etc. Things haven't changed that much in library science and I'm a great supporter of teaching the basics in any subject but the how of teaching can always be improved to use relevant and interesting tools.

Although I've grown to see the power and utility of blogs I certainly agreed with Michael Gorman's take on the loss of cataloging as a library science skill. I still don't know what's going to replace it but certainly tagging has lost some its early luster as a possible substitute.

At May 28, 2007 6:23 AM, Blogger Michael Stephens said...


I've incorporated Web 2.0 into Dominican's "Ineternet Fundamentals and Design" class. The syllabus is at

This fall, I want to start my Intro classes with a lab section so all of the students can get an RSS aggregator. I honestly believe it will them in their coursework.

At May 29, 2007 1:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe that the most important thing an aspiring librarian can be taught is how to learn and think.

I think the notion that a library student should be taught web 2.0 (or in my day Dialog searching) is short sighted.

The dynamic nature of libraries requires librarians who can easily adapt to new technologies and incorporate them into the mission of the library.

I am not certain that the ability to adapt and syntesize can be taught by focusing on teaching a technology specific set of skills.

At May 29, 2007 7:57 PM, Blogger Adam said...

This is Adam from Lander, I graduated in May '05 with a library degree. We didn't discuss Library 2.0, but I think it's really been the last 12 months that EVERYONE has been talking about it. Here are competencies for our program(before and after):

Technological Competencies for Entering MLIS Students

The faculty expects students entering the MLIS degree program to be technologically literate, and to build upon this foundation of literacy throughout the program. A technologically literate student will:

* Demonstrate a sound conceptual understanding of the nature of technology systems and view themselves as proficient users of these systems;
* Understand and model positive, ethical use of technology in both social and personal contexts;
* Use a variety of technology tools in effective ways to increase creative productivity;
* Use communication tools to reach out to the world beyond the classroom and communicate ideas in powerful ways;
* Use technology effectively to access, evaluate, process and synthesize information from a variety of sources; and
* Use technology to identify and solve complex problems in real-world contexts.

See Standards for Technological Literacy published by the International Technology Education Association (ITEA) in 2000.

Technological Competencies for Graduating MLIS Students

Students come to the MLIS program with technology literacy competencies. The goal of information technology education within the framework of the MLIS program is for students to become technologically fluent, as defined in the 1999 report, Being Fluent with Information Technology:

Fluency with information technology requires three kinds of knowledge--contemporary skills, foundational concepts, and intellectual capabilities--that prepare a person in different ways for FITness:

* Contemporary skills, the ability to use today's computer applications, enable people to apply information technology immediately. In the present labor market, skills are an essential component of job readiness. Most importantly, skills provide a store of practical experience on which to build new competence.

* Foundational concepts, the basic principles and ideas of computers, networks, and information, underpin the technology. Concepts explain the how and why of information technology, and they give insight into its opportunities and limitations. Concepts are the raw material for understanding new information technology as it evolves.

* Intellectual capabilities, the ability to apply information technology in complex and sustained situations, encapsulate higher-level thinking in the context of information technology. Capabilities empower people to manipulate the medium to their advantage and to handle unintended and unexpected problems when they arise. These intellectual capabilities foster abstract thinking about information and its manipulation.

See Being Fluent with Information Technology. Committee on Information Technology Literacy of the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board; the Commission on Physical Sciences, Mathematics, and Applications; and the National Research Council. Washington , D.C. : National Academy Press, 1999. ( )

Affirmed by the faculty of the Department of Library and Information Sciences
November 3, 2004

At May 30, 2007 9:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have three classes to go. I wish there were more because I finally am beginning to understand what I will NEED when working, including social networking.

So far, little if any mention of Web 2.0, but I did have a class where all communication between teacher and students was done via a blog. Go Jill!

Rutgers is offering a Social Networking class this summer (how I wish it was also offered in fall). There is a multi-media production class that is offered pretty regularly. Finally, many teachers encourage the use of the web in our class projects. Is it perfect, no, but it is a start.

To be honest, the lack of social networking does not bother me as much as the limited offering of classes such as 'Adult Reading Interests'.

At May 31, 2007 5:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been thinking about this some more (especially after reading Jennifer's at Life as I Know It) and I've got a bit more to say - We still aren't saying "Library 2.0" at my school, although there's some talk of wikis from the Information Architecture and Usability folks, it's not formal. What I mean to say is that there is no class time devoted to discussing Library 2.0.

So that begs the question: Why not? I've got to assume the professors and at least some of the students (myself included) have heard of Library 2.0; so why aren't we talking about it? I have a few hypotheses about this:

- We're embarassed to start the discussion. We want to be dignified and serious (this is Graduate School after all) and we're worried people won't take us seriously if we mention blogs or web 2.0 gadgets.

- We don't know how to tie web 2.0 to the things we're learning. This is a distinct possibility. It's hard to make that leap sometimes... I'm taking cataloguing right now, and I have no idea how to connect web 2.0 to my study of Marc records and XML. No clue. How would I bring that up as part of a class discussion? I'm ready and willing to be an advocate at my school for L2, but I don't want to sound like an idiot because I can't come up with a connection.

- Too much history, not enough crystal-ball gazing. We do like our history in library school. And there are so many things to study that demand our attention. Maybe the difficulty is that there's no Library of the Future course. Perhaps we need a required seminar where students argue/discuss the future of libraries. I'd take a class like this in a heartbeat.

(I'm going to go cross post this to
to open up the discussion about it).

At May 31, 2007 5:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been having the worst time posting links in blogger over the past week. (I swear I know how to close a tag!)

The two links are to:
Life as I know it
Library 2.0


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