Teacher-Librarian Education: Time for a Rethink?

By Abram, Stephen | Internet@Schools, May/June 2013 | Go to article overview

Teacher-Librarian Education: Time for a Rethink?


Abram, Stephen, Internet@Schools


Warning: Opinions Ahead

IT'S February as I write this column, and over the last few weeks, I have had the wonderful opportunity to speak at four library and information science schools that prepare future librarians and information professionals to enter our field. It was a treat to visit and give lectures or keynotes at the University of Ottawa, the University of Toronto, Dalhousie University, and the University of Alberta. I have also had the privilege to sit on advisory boards over the years at a few schools such as San Jose State University, the University of Buffalo, Clarion University, Dalhousie University, and the University of Toronto. I have visited and spoken at many more. As the Special Libraries Association (SLA) president, I have visited a number of SLA student chapters as well. I've also been lucky enough to participate in leadership institutes for mid-career librarians.

I mention all of this because I've had the great opportunity to be in the front row as library and information science education has evolved to meet the needs of a changing future. Some schools focus their efforts on certain sectors of librarianship and keenly focus on producing librarians for schools, public libraries, academia, or industry.

At the outset, let me assert that I am not one of those people who derides new graduates or complains about the quality of LIS education. Frankly, I am very impressed by the vast majority of new students, graduates, and teaching faculty. They're more diverse, highly committed, and ready to join the profession at large than I've ever seen.

I can never understand those who publicly complain about the quality of LIS education, who disrespect their own school or education or other LIS graduates, and who do little to provide substantive input in a usable way to LIS faculty, to directors or deans, or to ALISE, the Association of Library and Information Science Educators (alise.org). I know a lot of other professionals- lawyers, nurses, accountants, dentists, doctors- and I can't remember a single one who stood there and asserted that the rigor of their education was substandard, prepared them poorly for their work, or was just "lite."

And yet, in our profession I hear and read this so often. It's the proverbial gunshot to the foot! Indeed, librarians have an anonymous (sorry, pseudonymous) columnist who regularly publishes her/his/their contempt for LIS education and serves up the myth that grads are unemployable or will fail. I am appalled. I see none of this as an informed and experienced observer. I see people working hard to steer the ship of LIS education while suffering under the burden of an antiquated and less than visionary or flexible accreditation system that limits innovation and experimentation.

NOT YOUR MOTHER'S UBRARY SCHOOL

"Library school" has changed mightily since I was a new grad in 1980. Indeed, so have the faculties of education that often train teacher-librarians. Many accredited LIS master's programs are part of the faculty of education. Then again, the worlds of librarianship and the associated information professions have also changed greatly. These changes have been driven by the environment we're in, and no profession has seen more change (and, I feel, change resistance) than libraries and education. The political framework of education has been quite difficult as economic and taxation cash flow woes increase governments' attention to the education envelope. Add to that threats and opportunities in technology and increased research results on educational strategies and we've seen a ton of change in a short span.

The worlds of librarianship and education have changed and, of necessity, there have been concomitant adaptations in the professional curricula. That said, perhaps we need to reframe the very idea of what a school librarian's role is. In my travels I worry that I see so many people who have grown from being professionals in school libraries at individual schools into roles that are much more complex and difficult. …

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