Education for Special Librarianship

Article excerpt

Education for Special Librarianship

* The Special Library Association's Policy Statement on Graduate Education (Appendix) of April 1988 presents in general terms improvements that are recommended in the educational program for the first professional degree, i.e. the MLS. This Statement is put in the context of the ALA accreditation process, Robert Taylor's recommendations for an MLS curriculum, and a current view point about education for academic librarianship. Suggestions are made toward a fuller statement of the educational requirements of special librarians.

The Special Libraries Association (SLA), in its April 1988 Position Statement on Graduate Education expresses concern "that many library schools' curricula do not offer the type or the range of educational experiences necessary to prepare students for careers in special librarianship."

They are not alone in putting forth recommendations for the improvement of the course of study that leads to the first professional degree in librarianship--variously named but usually referred to as the Master's of Library Science (MLS). The literature on education for librarianship is full of suggestions for improvement; the SLA Statement adds a new special library orientation to the discussion

The SLA Statement is limited to "those areas of current curriculum which require expansion or modification to meet the educational needs of potential special librarians." It is not, therefore, a complete outline of a recommended special library plan of study. The assumption is made in the Statement that "the competencies, skills, and attitudes derived from an accredited MLS program are important in any information environment." It presumes that basics such as cataloging, classification, and reference service, are part of the special librarian's education. The Statement also limits its recommendations to the library/information science component of graduate education and does not deal with the need for subject specific knowledge which is gained through other degree programs.

The SLA Statement, printed in full in the Appendix, is organized into five areas:

* Provision of information services;

* Technology;

* Management;

* Information resource (includes methods of

organization); and

* Information service/product evaluation

The detailed requirements recommended for each section are pragmatic in nature, emphasizing the competencies needed by practitioners in special library settings.

To paraphrase the SLA Statement, "information services" require skills and methodology for project research, systems analysis and design, management and administration, problem definition and solution, decision-making, and the capability of performing "exhaustive database searching."

In the technology area, students need a knowledge of the variety of systems available, the capabilities and limitations of each and the compatibility among different systems. Competency in systems analysis and design and "advanced knowledge of computer science" is required. SLA believes that the management demands on special librarians, because they "are placed in management positions early in their careers," are far greater than other librarians. Therefore, future special librarians need to understand general business management and organizational behavior to be able to communicate and work with other managerial personnel in the organizaiton. They must also be able to understand and manage the flow of all types of information on an organizational level. Specifically, SLA says that there is a need for greater emphasis on communications, human resources issues, planning, budgeting and finance, marketing, cost effective performance, productivity, profitability, and leadership.

To be prepared to manage the information resources needed by the library's clients, special librarians need instruction in database design, indexing and abstracting methods, including thesaurus development, in addition to the basic skills of user needs analysis and collection development. …

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