Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

A Service-Learning Framework to Support an MLIS Core Curriculum

Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

A Service-Learning Framework to Support an MLIS Core Curriculum

Article excerpt

This paper identifies the core areas of the Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) curriculum at the School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS), University of Alabama, that informed student experiences during an ongoing service-learning project designed to provide basic technology literacy training to individuals with intellectual disabilities. This study was conducted to assess whether student participation complemented or expanded the knowledge and skills gained from the MLIS core through application in an external setting. The knowledge and skills acquired by the students are intended to raise consciousness of critical literacy issues that will enable students to participate in community engagement beyond their MLIS program. Through this study, the authors evaluate a project framework designed to connect student experiences in a training-based project with the core areas of the MLIS curriculum. Preliminary analysis demonstrates potential for the framework to serve as a practical generalization for developing similar basic technology literacy projects that can complement what is taught in other MLIS programs.

Keywords: service-learning, MLIS core, project frameworks, technology literacy, intellectual disabilities, information literacy


In 1999, the ALA challenged educators to utilize students in working with community residents to promote information literacy (Riddle, 2003). The underlying rationale is that service-learning projects, when combined with LIS, create an awareness of issues related to community engagement beyond the program of study such that students will continue to participate in similar activities as professionals.

The subject of service-learning is not new and appears frequently in the literature. Earlier cases of service-learning projects in LIS include the Library Services and Construction Act (LSCA) of 1964 and the High John Project at the University of Maryland in 1969 (Cuban & Hayes, 2001; Peterson, 2009). In addition to the many studies that examine the historical roots of service-learning in this field and in higher education in general, multiple studies have described practical trends of service-learning in contemporary LIS education (Roy, Jensen & Meyers, 2009). The literature suggests that there is general agreement about the importance of developing and promoting standards for service- learning, but ALA's action to strengthen service- learning suggests a need in that its integral - even perhaps compulsory - inclusion in LIS education has yet to be systematically implemented. Requiring students to complete servicelearning projects that prepare them for community engagement as professionals is increasingly significant for twenty-first century librarianship.

This study explores the practicality of an experimental framework designed to examine how the core areas of a Master of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) degree program support hands-on trainingbased projects and vice versa. The type of training being offered and employed as the context for this study is part of an ongoing, award-winning service-learning project developed and administered at the School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS), University of Alabama, intended to increase the basic technology literacy of persons with intellectual disabilities. This training model has potential as a framework for service- learning within LIS programs for future library professionals to meet the needs of the communities that they serve.


The primary research goal of this study is to demonstrate how such projects can systematically complement the core of an MLIS curriculum and provide a generalizable project framework for the design and implementation of future projects that can benefit the MLIS program at the University of Alabama and elsewhere. The perceived benefit of using a technology literacy or training-based service-learning context within LIS education is based on the potential for connecting and supplementing a variety of lessons from core courses into a single outside experience, developing an ability to create direct links between theoretical knowledge and practical application. …

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