Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Taking the Classroom into the Community: MIS Students Supporting Computational Learning Labs

Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Taking the Classroom into the Community: MIS Students Supporting Computational Learning Labs

Article excerpt

What is the community role of a digital library? Master's of information science (MIS) students can ignore their local community if they only study computer systems, the Web, and networks. By attending a library school, they might be encouraged to learn more about communities where they live. When responding to a post-schooling survey, MIS graduates asked for more hands-on, pragmatic experiences in a graduate program. No one requested opportunities to improve literacy in a community or to spread knowledge globally. However, as shown by this case study, when receiving advanced training and serving a community are combined, student feedback is positive. This research-in-brief paper describes a six-month, community-centered project involving MIS students. Participants prepared computational science learning labs for low-income, ethnic-minority students from local middle schools. Results support the validity and credibility of using community projects to increase tacit knowledge and the technical skills of MIS graduates.


Historically speaking, determining curriculum for information science (IS) has been grounded in traditional library school research and influenced by some business demand for system competency. For example, Griffiths and King pioneered competency studies in the 1980s.1 In 1993, a leading educator in library and information studies noted that the marketplace imposed new requirements on library and information science (LIS) training and that educators must offer a new range of knowledge and skills to be sure graduates were competent in the job place.2 Ten years later a study of competency-based curriculum design for LIS was based on the premise that the "curriculum needs to be conceived in relation to market needs and employer perceptions about the competencies of professionals."3

An email survey of master's of information science (MIS) graduates from North Carolina Central University found numerous requests for more technical skills and job experience.4 The responses led MIS faculty to consider ways to provide hands-on, technical activities without diluting the academic and professional IS curriculum. Funding from the state of NC and the NCCU Office of Academic Affairs made possible a community-centered project with hands-on, technical learning experiences outside the regular MIS classroom.

The case study's project was part of a statewide initiative to encourage retention among college students. The grant's basic goals were: to produce satisfied graduates, influence retention positively, and inspire careers in science. Although such goals may depend on tacit knowledge development as described in this article, this research brief concentrates on how community involvement may enhance IS learning.

The project team chose the discipline of computational science (CS) as the subject area for student technical learning because of past experience with a digital library, the Computational Science Education Reference Desk (CSERD), which is a partner in the National Science Digital Library (NSDL) and is located at This digital library contains interactive software learning modules that require applying CS to solve problems in chemistry, physics, business, and other school subjects. Furthermore, because of a Pathway Program at the Shodor Education Foundation, Inc. ( for young students to use CSERD for learning more about math and science, the project would have direct community involvement.

Qualitative data was collected to determine if computer and information science interests might be positively affected by community service. Research involved observing students attending workshops over six months, conducting a survey and doing selected interviews to collect data for analyses. Although no broad generalizations can be drawn from one case study, it was discovered that career interests and graduation motivation increased somewhat after participation. …

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