Convergence of Information and Law: A Comparative Study between I-Schools and Other ALISE Schools

Article excerpt

This study examined the incorporation of law-related courses into information studies curricula. Data were gathered from the 59 member schools of the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) and 4 members of the i-School community, who are not ALISE members. Results indicated that schools are infusing law-related courses in their curricula, and that i-Schools seem to be early adopters in this regard, as compared to other ALISE schools.

Introduction

One of the characteristics defining the study of information is the increasing acquisition of diverse disciplines into our core scholarly approach. Indeed because information is important to just about any discipline, it is inevitable that the study of information and these other disciplines should become intrinsically intertwined.

Nowhere, perhaps, is this intertwining more pronounced than in the fields of law and information. The law itself is essentially made up of information. At the same time, the field of information is increasingly being impacted by legal developments. This impact is becoming so central to the field of information that at times it appears the field is in danger of being swallowed by the Jaw.1

One only has to look at a few examples to begin to get a sense of this changing environment: the increasing central ity of intellectual property rights, perhaps best symbolized by controversies in peer-to-peer file sharing, database licensing issues in libraries, privacy and censorship issues (e.g., the supreme court internet filters case), legal impacts of information technologies, and information liability issues, just to name a few. Add to this mix the impact of international legal action (e.g., the European Directives on the protection of databases and privacy protection, the work of the World Intellectual Property Organization, international treaties) and the environment becomes increasingly complex.

Robust programs in information schools2 have to provide their students with some solid grounding on these information law issues, before they graduate. This is especially so because intellectual property, security, and privacy issues are likely to take center stage in the field of information for a long time in the foreseeable future. Unfortunately, in our experience of teaching information policy, few of our students come to our programs with a good sense of, for example, intellectual property issues, and equally few, perhaps, are well exposed to such issues before their graduation from information studies programs.3

Conrad and Rapp-Henrietta have noted forces, both internal and external, that influence the education of information professionals.4 These include external factors such as technology and the marketplace, as well as internal ones such as the shifting nature of knowledge creation and academic reorganization).5 Obviously, schools have to respond appropriately to these factors, and indeed a whole conference was organized to address these external and internal factors.6 Schools change their curricula, for example, in response to external competency requirements.7 It is our contention that the convergence of law and information is such a factor, as it demonstrates the merger of external and internal factors, and that i-Schools are leading the way in trying to address this convergence.

Objective

In this paper we view the convergence of law and information as a major challenge in the information field, and we examine the ways in which educational programs are engaging this challenge in order to leverage the field's interdisciplinary strength. Thus, we explore curricula and faculty expertise to gauge the diffusion of law into information schools. We present some preliminary findings from a pilot research project surveying the response of information studies programs to the increasing centrality of law in information. Further, we analyze and compare the responses between i-Schools and other information institutions. …