Educators Want to Connect Research with Practice. (Special News Report)

By Kniffel, Leonard | American Libraries, March 2003 | Go to article overview

Educators Want to Connect Research with Practice. (Special News Report)


Kniffel, Leonard, American Libraries


If you asked any of the 358 Association of Library and Information Science Education conference registrants what is at the top of the ALISE agenda, you would likely be told: connecting library and information science education with the practice of librarianship. Composed primarily of professors and doctoral students, the assembly also seemed fairly certain about where LIS education is headed: Clearly away from "L," definitely toward "I," and less clearly toward a lot of other letters that stand for dozens of related careers.

Programs at the 2003 ALISE conference, January 21-24 in Philadelphia, examined the theme of "connecting researchers and practitioners" within the framework of a "Declaration of Interdependence." Yet the lack of a core connection between the disparate offerings of most library school programs brought charges that whatever LIS education is preparing students for, it isn't a career in a library.

Fomentation over the future of ALISE itself came to a boil at the association's first-ever "Town Meeting," where an open mike allowed members to lobby for major organizational changes that would make the association a better forum for the release of research and more responsive to member needs.

ALISE President Elizabeth Aversa of the University of Tennessee said a search was about to begin for a new management firm to run the association. She told American Libraries that putting the contract up for bids was being done as a routine business practice, but many ALISE members said the Drohan Management Group, the current firm, simply was not performing up to snuff.

President-elect Peter Liebscher of Catholic University, who chaired the Philadelphia conference-planning committee, shocked many at the Town Meeting when he announced that he would resign, rather than take office in Philadelphia as scheduled. He cited health reasons, and new president-elect Louise Robbins agreed to assume the office a year sooner.

ALISE Secretary-Treasurer Patricia Fehan painted a fairly rosy picture of the organization's "improving" finances, and Aversa said this year's conference would likely "break even or better," noting that a "rocky year" as president had taught her that sound business practices must come before programmatic concerns. At the business meeting, several members pressed Fehan for a detailed accounting of expenses and revenues, which she agreed to assemble in the future.

Special interest groups Speakers at more than a dozen Special Interest Group sessions talked about diversity, archives and records management, - continuing education, curriculum development, teaching methods, distance education, and other aspects of LIS education.

Panelists Betty Turock of Rutgers University, James Welbourne of the New Haven (Conn.) Free Public Library, and Thomas Alford of Queens Borough (N.Y.) Public Library kicked off the SIG sessions with a discussion of the slow progress being made in recruiting people of color to the profession. Alford noted that while library schools may be preparing students for a variety of jobs in the private sector, "they are not preparing them for public-library work."

"It's disheartening to see that graduates come to us feeling ready to be director of the IT department. but they can't function at the reference desk," Alford said. Welbourne agreed: "The schools are not preparing students for the needs of public libraries, especially urban public libraries."

Another set of panelists talked about librarians who have been "transformative agents of struggle," as Clara Chu of UCLA called librarians who have fought racial and ethnic prejudice. Alston Plummer Jones of East Carolina University noted that "the congressional attitude toward immigration has not changed one bit" since the Great Migration of the last century when people from eastern and southern Europe were viewed as "inferior" to those from western Europe. Andrew Wertheimer of the University of Wisconsin gave a short history of library service to Japanese Americans interned during the Second World War. …

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