Library Degrees a Mixed Bag?

Nicole Engard has posted the results of her library school survey. She writes,

Why aren’t we all required to learn a bit of the basics from each area of the library? All schools should require an intro to reference/research, intro to cataloging, collection development, library automation, management, and systems class - that gives students a feel for each area of the library allowing them to decide where they want to go. Then after giving a grounding throw in some practical experience.

I agree with her in principle that a core curriculum is helpful in preparing library school students for librarianship. After all, what’s wrong with subjecting a future cataloger (or reference librarian, or subject selector, or systems librarian…) to learn about other aspects of what we do? It puts their work in context within the library.

I can’t speak authoritatively about other library schools, only having been to one, but I would surmise that the answer is simple: that the library degree tries to be too many things to too many people. We need clearer vision.

Case in point: the MLIS degree at Rutgers combines library studies, information science, and school media studies. If these disciplines are collapsed into the one degree, how is it possible to have a core curriculum? A good strategy is to have multiple tracks with set requirements, but students are, for the most part, left to mix and match their courses.

I can appreciate the freedom afforded to students by this. They can craft the degree that they want with very few restrictions. And that works for some students.

One is left to wonder, though, what a library degree from, say, Rutgers says about a candidates’ qualifications. One conclusion to draw is that selection committees need to look beyond the degree towards specific courses and especially towards experience in the workplace, whether it be in a library or elsewhere.

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