The Community Engagement Model in Library and Information Science Education: A Case Study of a Collection Development and Management Course

By Mehra, Bharat; Robinson, William C | Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, Winter 2009 | Go to article overview

The Community Engagement Model in Library and Information Science Education: A Case Study of a Collection Development and Management Course


Mehra, Bharat, Robinson, William C, Journal of Education for Library and Information Science


This article presents the Community Engagement Model (CEM) in library and information science (LIS) education based on a case study of a collection development and management course taught during two semesters involving thirty graduate students. Students partnered with self-selected community agencies to develop collections to meet the needs of particular audiences in varied community-based settings. The article also reviews the learning experiences from the perspectives of the instructor, students, and collaborating community representatives, including discussion of the course goals, assignments, methods, and community impact. Results show positive gains for both LIS students and the collaborating community agencies. LIS students gained an understanding of collection development variables at work in particular community-based information organizations. Community representatives reported that partnering with students made a positive difference in their agency owing to students' practical and timely choices, levels of knowledge and range of selections, and their consideration of financial and strategic factors relevant to the community. In a professional school, learning in community engagement activities places students in the field where they encounter challenges that make LIS work stimulating and fruitful. Additional examples of how to make community engagement a more effective part of the LIS curriculum are needed. The CEM presented in this article may help other LIS educators conceptualize their courses towards this goal.

Keywords: Collection development and management, community engagement, Community Engagement Model, course case study.

Introduction

Contemporary trends in library and information science (LIS) education call for adopting a community (or civic) engagement model to re-define traditional notions of outreach and service that have been add-ons to LIS teaching, instruction, and research agendas (Harris, 2008; Riddle, 2003; Soska & Butterfield, 2004). According to the Higher Education Network for Community Engagement (2007):

Increasingly, higher education institutions are intentionally connecting academic work to public purposes through extensive partnerships that involve faculty and students in active collaboration with communities. This idea of 'community engagement' is renewing the civic mission of higher education and transforming academic culture in ways that are both exciting and challenging. (1 1)

This does not imply that the community concept has been under-represented in LIS education as even a passing historical glance at the profession will reveal numerous examples and community-related constructs, including: service learning, community informatics, participatory research, experiential learning, and community-based action research, to name a few (Ball, 2008; McCook, 2000a) integrated into LIS theory and praxis (e.g., civic Iibrarianship) (McCabe, 2001) and community librarianship (Muddiman, 1999). Each of these community-based concepts and practices have their ardent supporters and applicants of use in LIS education, as well as their own specific contexts of application, strengths, weaknesses, limitations, challenges, and desired outcomes (Durrance & Pettigrew, 2000; Slaymaker, Christiansen, & Hemming, 2005). Community engagement, however, draws attention to the progressive, collaborative, and participatory elements of other community-based practices in LIS education and captures a deeper library-community spirit based on democratic ideals and humanistic notions of equality, social equity, and justice (Chatman & Pendleton, 1995; Gibson, 2006; McCook, 2000b; Mehra, in press).

The teaching and learning of information creation, organization and dissemination processes in LIS education provides significant opportunities for the application of community engagement principles and practices (Mehra, 2004). These practices promote various kinds of interaction between the students, instructors and community members in LIS required and elective courses, independent study, practica, student participation in community activities, and student involvement in externally funded projects (Grotzinger, 1 97 1 ; Mehra & Sandusky, in press; Monroe, 1981; Neill, 1975). …

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