Assessment of a Library Science Program Specializing in Chemical Information

Article excerpt

Introduction

A recent workshop on chemical information careers confirmed that there is a great demand for chemical information specialists.[1] Indiana University's Chemical Information Specialist Program was started in 1969, and is a joint program of the School of Library and Information Science and the Department of Chemistry which results in a master's in library science (M.L.S.) degree with a specialist certificate in chemical information. The curriculum emphasizes special librarianship and information science and requires the completion of three one-hour chemical information courses among the 36 hours necessary for the M.L.S. In order to receive the certification, students must also have at least the equivalent of a bachelor's degree in chemistry. Students who complete the program have substantial experience searching chemical databases and may avail themselves of a voluntary reference internship in the Indiana University Chemistry Library. In addition, they learn to use the traditional printed reference tools in chemistry.[2,3]

In Spring 1992, Chemical Information Specialist graduates were surveyed to determine their perceptions of how well the curriculum had prepared them and what improvements or enhancements to the program they would suggest. Of 21 students who had graduated as of January 1, 1992, 19 were interviewed by telephone. The goal of the survey was to determine the relevance of the Chemical Information Specialist requirements to the needs of corporate information centers and university libraries where graduates of the program were then employed. This paper presents demographic data about the graduates and a summary of their comments which may interest library school educators, potential employers, and students who are interested in careers as science librarians. Results are summarized on educational background, employment history, on-line vendors and databases searched, and the respondents' reactions to the existing program, suggestions for course improvements, perceptions of trends in the profession, and the hiring requirements at their places of employment.

Educational Background

Information about undergraduate degree, advanced degree(s) and the year the M.L.S. was received was sought. The analysis in Table 1 excludes the M.L.S. degree, which was held by all survey participants. About one-third of the program graduates had graduate training in chemistry beyond the B.S. or B.A. degree.

Employment History

First Jobs

Five graduates of the program have been working five years or less, while 14 have been working for seven years or more. First jobs held after graduation were primarily in industry (14 out of 19; 74%), and five students (26%) began their careers with a university or research center. Nearly all these jobs involved on-line searching of chemical or life sciences databases in addition to other reference duties. First employers included the National Library of Medicine, Eli Lilly, The Dow Chemical Company, Union Carbide, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Clemson University, Bell Laboratories, Shell Oil, Memphis State University, Xerox, and Petrolite. The most frequently mentioned duties on first jobs, in addition to on-line searching, were collection development, selection of computer systems/software, cataloging, and automation of library functions. Those working in university settings were less likely to mention on-line searching as part of their duties; the corporate setting always involved considerable on-line searching, as well as related duties.

Current Jobs

Of the 19 individuals surveyed, 16 were still working in science libraries or technical information centers. Three were in related fields (specifically, as a patent attorney, structure analyst, and computer science student). Those who were still relatively new in their work doing the most on-line searching (N=8), while those with more experience were more likely to be managers (N=4) and/or to be working with computer automation of functions, systems design, or database development (N=10). …