Magazine article American Libraries

Reforming Library Education: A Student's Proposal

Magazine article American Libraries

Reforming Library Education: A Student's Proposal

Article excerpt

As a current library school student who also works full-time in a library, I believe that the MLS does not, for the most part, address the demands of the work environment. If we want to produce truly prepared librarians, we can take one of two paths: completely abandon the MLS in favor of apprenticeships; or re-shape the degree to serve the true needs of the profession, the librarians, and the communities we serve.

Before the year 2000, ALA plans to hold a summit on library education (AL, June/July, p. 118). I propose these three changes to MLS programs:

Supervised clinical classes

Library students should take and be graded on clinical classes, the same way that medical students practice physical examinations and law students have moot court. Library professors know that their students can successfully fulfill assignments, but they don't know if students can actually put the skills they are learning about into play.

In reference work, for example, this process could begin with in-class role-play stressing the basic elements of the reference interview. Then, each student (or pairs of students) could be assigned desk rotations in as many information environments as possible (children's, corporate, etc.), during which they would be supervised and graded on their reference interviews and research processes the same way they are graded on papers.

Each student would receive written evaluations that would be available to prospective employers. These evaluations would cover both familiarity with basic sources and more important qualities such as demeanor, ability to work with others, willingness to help, willingness to learn about new sources, ability to deal with difficult patrons, and ability to deal with failure.

Required nonlibrary electives

Historically, truly distinguished librarians have been scholars. We hope that all students arrive at library school with some scholarly and creative passions and interests that lie outside of the Dewey Decimal System. To this end, all students in library and information studies should be required to take a certain number of electives outside of the department, whether in the humanities, sciences, or arts.

All library students learn how to use Ulrich's and the Encyclopedia of Associations; but it is the individual librarian's expertise in contemporary poetry or particle physics that makes her an irreplaceable asset to the workplace. …

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