Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Questioning the Focus of LIS Education

Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Questioning the Focus of LIS Education

Article excerpt

It is contended that the educational competencies paradigm unmasks the lack of (overall) identity in Library and Information Science (LIS) curricula. This observation is then related to statements appearing in the introductory part of European Curriculum Reflections on Library and Information Science Education, the e-book containing the final results of the European LIS school project ("But the overall view is lacking and transparency and equivalency suffer," "the disparate nature of LIS educational programmes"). The author observes that technology push controls the profession instead of the profession deciding on the relevance and adequacy of technology within the domain. At the same time new technology (i.e. the Internet) democratizes access to information (with all concomitant issues). It is argued that we need a focus on the basics to tackle this complex environment.


Over the last year I have been reconsidering my unpublished contribution towards the discussion of a curriculum for (digital) Library and Information Science (LIS) in the context of the LIS education in Europe project.1 As then, I feel that I was unable to connect some of my more important contentions. On the one hand, I was stating my case for the important changes in the competencies of the librarian, the archivist and other information professionals, while on the other hand I was proposing a competency framework as a working method to counter this erosion of identity that I thought to be prevalent at least in the Dutch context.2 More important than the reflections on my own contribution is that by now I have had a chance to read most of the other contributions of the Copenhagen experts' seminar.3 1 do feel very much supported by the remark in the introduction of the resulting e-book:

But the overall view is lacking and transparency and equivalency suffer. The apparent disparate nature of LIS educational programmes in Europe constitutes a barrier to increased co-operation in the field. There is a marked need for joint discussions of the structure and contents of LIS school curricula and for identifying and discussing possible common curricular elements both for the purpose of enhancing the quality of individual LIS educational programmes and for the sake of increased collaboration between European LIS school programmes.4

I definitely feel that the final report on the European project is the first step in the process of identification and discussion that is proposed. We must, however, make sure that the definition of an international LIS curriculum will not be derived through the mediocrity of a comparative inventory. The quality of the outcome will very much be defined by the quality of the discussion. Here, I want to provide my humble contribution to that discussion.

For my own small contribution at the time, I mainly used Dutch LIS professional practice and education as reference. In this paper I would like to put forward some more controversial contentions and I would like to rearrange my argument for the erosion of the identity of the librarian. In this way I hope to achieve a widened and hopefully more international perspective for the assertion about erosion of identity. However, in this paper I am not striving for a new curriculum which again would be very particular (and so most likely, very personal) but I want to provoke discussion on a more disinterested level. Questions to be answered on that level are of an entirely different nature as when we try to rearrange the curriculum based on plain observations and comparison. Such questions might be: will there be librarians at the end of the 2 1 st century? Will people still have a concept of archives of tangible artifacts that are substrates of information?5 Here are my contentions:

Contention 1: An educational paradigm based on competencies does not cause the increasing loss of identity of LIS. It only presents this loss in a starker way than traditional approaches to LIS programs where a cognitive perspective is more prevalent. …

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