2017, some 68 percent of today's librarians will have retired, according
to recent estimates in the news (Lynch). President and Mrs. Bush have launched
an initiative through the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS)
to recruit "a generation of librarians." Since schools of library and information
science traditionally attract second or third career professionals, the
aging of the information professions is a cause for concern. In addition,
many new information-related jobs outside libraries now attract LIS graduates
and compete with libraries as employers.
This poses several
key challenges for the 56 ALA-accredited schools in North America. (For
a list, check out the ALISE site at http://www.alise.org.)
These schools must keep curricula vital for new professionals in a variety
of settings, attract enough young recruits to fill the vacancies caused
by retirements and to fill new types of jobs, and provide choices and flexibility
in scheduling that appeal to full- and part-time students, both those pursuing
a first career and those changing careers. It is a great time to enter
the information professions, but one that poses challenges for LIS schools
and employers, as a new generation of information professionals comes on
the scene and prepares to tackle jobs in a variety of environments.
Studies to Identify the Challenges
and schools of library and information science are concerned about the
challenges of recruitment and of keep-ing curricula relevant for new jobs
in new settings and new responsibilities in old settings. Since the mid-1990s,
librarian professional associations and the LIS schools have studied the
future need for information professionals, the state of LIS curricula now,
and how curricula should change in the future to meet new needs. In the
meantime, schools have made changes already. Recruiting more students into
revitalized programs has now become a bigger challenge with the need to
fill expected vacancies.
At the end of the
1990s, professional organizations (notably, the Special Libraries Association
and Medical Library Association) and the private company Outsell Inc. each
studied what roles information professionals will play in organizations
in the future. SLA and MLA identified essential competencies needed for
special librarians. These competencies, which can be translated into recommended
coursework, are knowledge of:
Schools have built
core curricula around these competencies, but SLA found that required coursework
still focuses mostly on the first three topic areas. LIS schools in the
late 1990s were very strong in teaching traditional skills, but strove
to add required courses or content that provided knowledge in the last
Outsell, Inc. found
that corporate information professionals still spend much of their time
providing research services, with an increased time spent evaluating and
selecting content, bringing information resources to the desktop, and organizing
information on intranets. But information skills, no matter how up-to-date,
are not enough in today's competitive corporate environment. The Outsell
report emphasized the need for corporate information professionals to keep
a user-focused attitude, establish a strong information services brand
within their organization, and build customer loyalty through quality services
that meet users' needs (Corcoran, Dagar, and Stratigos).
are easily and frequently taught in school. Positive attitudes about selling
yourself, recognizing the needs of the organization, and building customer
loyalty are not as common in LIS schools — nor as easily taught. Business
schools have traditionally been more successful in instilling these types
of attitudes, but not just because of a course or two. Instead, such attitudes
fit with a deep-seated philosophical base of business curricula and the
psychology of students attracted to business schools. Such attitudes appear
less often in LIS recruits and may even contradict the philosophical basis
of other parts of the LIS curriculum.
in coursework can help solve some of this conflict. Drexel, for example,
has a program in Competitive Intelligence in cooperation with the business
school. I teach electives that cover topics like the for-profit information
industry, information entrepreneurship, and business intelligence. The
values and viewpoints in these courses often differ from those taught in
our public library or school media courses.
Between 1998 and
2000, the W. K. Kellogg Foundation funded for the Association of Library
and Inform-ation Science Education (ALISE), an examination of curricula
of today and needs for tomorrow. This project, dubbed "KALIPER" for Kellogg-ALISE
Information Professions and Education Reform Project, examined about
half of the ALA-accredited schools, interviewing faculty, visiting some
schools, and studying a variety of documents supplied by each school (including
self-study reports, course syllabi, annual reports, etc.) [http://www.alise.org/nondiscuss/kaliper_main.htm].
Twenty educators from 13 schools conducted the research.
Unlike the ground-breaking
Will-iamson Report in the 1920s that found library education in America
to be a mess, the KALIPER scholars, in their own words, found "a vibrant,
dynamic, changing field that is undertaking an array of initiatives." Curricula
were changing to meet the types of needs identified by studies like those
conducted by SLA and MLA. But changes in course content were not enough.
KALIPER found that schools were changing when and how courses were offered
to provide more flexibility and choice.
The KALIPER report
identified six trends that are shaping curricular change [http://www.alise.org/nondiscuss/kaliper_final.pdf]:
1. LIS curricula
are addressing broad-based information environments and information problems.
Though jobs in libraries remain important in designing LIS education, most
schools now also offer education that prepare students for jobs in other
environments and other situations.
2. A distinct core
of skills and commitment has taken shape that is predominantly user-centered.
Faculty and approach may come from multidisciplinary areas, but a focus
on understanding users and meeting their needs distinguishes LIS curricula.
3. LIS schools
and programs are increasing the investment and infusion of information
technology into curricula. LIS schools integrate the use of information
technology into all aspects of the LIS curricula.
4. LIS schools
are experimenting with specialization within the curriculum. Since students
can't learn everything in a master's degree program, schools offer specializations
in areas such as archives, school media, medical librarianship, or records
is offered in different formats, providing students with flexibility, including
distance education, variant scheduling, and collaborative courses with
other departments or other universities.
6. Curricula are
expanding into related degrees at the undergraduate, master's, and doctoral
levels. New undergraduate programs are growing especially rapidly.
The KALIPER study
isn't above criticism. It can be criticized for navel gazing — by using
educators within the schools under examination as investigators — and for
examining only those programs that either received Kellogg funding earlier
for curricular initiatives (five schools) or those that volunteered to
participate. Skeptics can argue that the half of the North American schools
that did not volunteer for KALIPER examination may lie below the curve
or that it only reports on those institutions that have kept up with the
times. Although these may be valid criticisms, I think the positive aspects
of the KALIPER report far outweigh such critical concerns. It provides
a blueprint for success for those schools that may not be keeping up, a
picture of education in a vital profession, and is an important recruitment
The ALISE Viewpoint
for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) is the major professional
organization for educators in schools of LIS. The president of ALISE in
2002 is Dr. Elizabeth Aversa, director of the School of Information Sciences,
University of Tennessee. I interviewed Dr. Aversa to get her take on how
LIS programs must change to better meet the needs of the future. She had
just returned from an invitational meeting at IMLS to discuss Bush's new
initiative for recruiting and educating librarians in the 21st century.
Clearly, recruiting students to fill anticipated shortages was on her mind.
Shortages may become
even more acute than raw numbers indicate because she says "our students
are in such demand that many are working before they graduate and stay
in those organizations with an upgrade or a raise after they graduate."
A great way for employers to recruit information professionals is to pick
somebody with potential and support them through their education. This
works now because there are so many distance-education or evening and weekend
LIS programs. School districts have followed this model for several years
now to ensure sufficient numbers of school librarians.
"We are moving toward the top of the cycle in desirability of our graduates
in both library and non-library environments." Schools of LIS must work
to help fill the demand because there is "a danger we are in such demand
that employers (particularly in corporate settings) will start waiving
the requirement for a degree." This could have negative effects on both
schools of LIS and the profession.
Turning to new
opportunities for students and how revised curricula prepare students,
Aversa says that students will become much more "technologically astute
than in the past," particularly in the areas of networking, Internet issues,
design of information products and services, and electronic publishing.
She sees a big opportunity in intelligence arenas — both competitive/business
intelligence and homeland and international security. LIS graduates bring
skills in technology and searching along with knowledge of personal liberty
and privacy issues. Aversa points out that multiple language abilities
will be very useful in these jobs and in our global information economy.
The other hot area
right now may come as a surprise. Aversa points out there is "tremendous
demand for librarians who will provide services to children." School library
media specialists and children's librarians in public libraries are both
The Class of 2001
With the many
openings in school, academic, and public libraries, it is not surprising
that a majority of current LIS students hope to work in libraries. But
their career goals, even within library settings, are quite varied. Today's
LIS students are also quite diverse in their background and ages. New recruitment
efforts have brought in a higher percentage of students in their early
20s who have just gotten bachelor's degrees. Add to them the returning
student and second career students who have long typified LIS education
and you get a rich mixture of ages and backgrounds. A majority of students
in LIS programs are now part-time. Distance-education students in particular
are usually part-time students, many working while they pursue their master's
degree and who bring a wealth of experience to their education.
When I asked current
students to describe their career goals over the next 1, 5, and 10 years,
I heard from potential future school library media specia ists, university
librarians, corporate or government information specialists, and special
collections librarians. Within those environments, students hoped to achieve
much. One, who hopes to become a user instruction librarian in a college
or university, would like to "help patrons find their way through the digital
library." In addition, "I would like to play a part in helping a digital
library create search engines and user interfaces." Yet another "came to
love reference and instruction" while doing a student practicum in a library.
"However, I know that I will not be entirely satisfied until I have moved
up the career ladder.... I see myself in the next 5 years moving up into
a supervisory position in an academic library. I would like to be a coordinator
or manager of a unit or department.... In my tenth year in the field I
would like to be well on my way to becoming a director or dean of an academic
or public library."
Another plans to
keep her options open as she sees many possibilities. To her "the perfect
government library job would entail being a researcher for the CIA or the
FBI," but she is also attracted to news librarianship, with its opportunities
to do indexing, abstracting, archiving, online searching, and building
private databases. On the other hand, a job that offers traveling to train
people on hardware and software also "could be fun!"
The careers that
attract students to LIS programs aren't always what they end up pursuing.
In fact, many of them come into the program without realizing all the career
possibilities. One current student told me he started with an interest
in special libraries, but, "as I have progressed, I realized that the skills
that librarians have of analyzing information sources, or organizing information,
and in researching are vital not only in libraries but in government and
private business." His new goals are "to use the skills I have acquired
to begin a career in knowledge management or competitive intelligence,"
with the ultimate goal of being in a position that will "have an effect
on strategic planning."
the program with the idea of building knowledge that would enable me to
find ways to generate significant capital through information commerce."
A part-time distance-education student who will graduate this year after
6 years of study, this student brings 20 years of working with information
technology to the table. He hopes to start his own company to develop information
products and services or lead product development at a database company
or in a knowledge management application setting, although he admits, "I
may move into something entirely different."
Part-time and distance
students often pursue their degrees to upgrade their skills and knowledge
for advancement in their current workplace or area of employment. One theological
librarian in the distance program plans "to extend my library's ability
to provide information to distance- and continuing-education students who
are located on mission fields around the world through the Internet," while
building a "premier theological collection and reference collection." A
part-time student who works full time in a corporation wants to work in
a similar setting after graduation, doing more Web site and database development.
"These classes helped me grow in my current job, and I believe will lead
to other opportunities in the future." Another, with nearly 30 years as
a public human services employee, mostly in state government, hopes to
take responsibility "for assessing the effectiveness of how well information
is transferred and translated for maximum benefit of citizens and employees
alike," and she would like to develop better information training for state
employees. She admits that as she progresses in the program she has begun
considering other options "due in large part to a continuing skepticism
over just how innovative or open-minded government organizations can realistically
be expected to be."
In the long years
of part-time study, not all hold to their initial jobs or plans. One started
because she worked in a museum where "no one who knew how to develop, preserve,
record, or present a collection." In the meantime she changed jobs and
now is interested in "information architecture in digital and nondigital"
collections. "I would like to find myself in a job where I take a large
amount of information and synthesize and reduce it down to usable portions
for the users — whether that is in a Web site or a museum exhibit really
does not matter to me."
Variety and a world
of choices are the two common themes with current students. LIS students
today can pick from many different types of jobs and work environments.
Some students are 22-year-olds straight out of undergraduate school, while
others are middle-aged workers with a wealth of experiences. Their career
goals range from technology entrepreneurship to children's librarian. It
is this mix of ages, backgrounds, and career dreams that makes teaching
in this field so rewarding!
All Things for All Students?
Schools of library
and information science are working on keeping up with technology, planning
recruitment, and revising curricula, but I wonder how LIS programs can
continue to be all things for all people. How can programs provide sufficient
courses and educational opportunities for those who want to become competitive
intelligence specialists, children's librarians, electronic publishers,
and academic reference librarians? In particular, how can they do all this
while maintaining or growing doctoral and undergraduate programs and bringing
in new recruits for master's degrees programs?
This is the real
challenge for LIS education. When new recruits come back to school they
need to find a continually revitalized and diverse curriculum that will
prepare them for a vast variety of jobs. Cooperative initiatives with other
academic departments and with the work places through practica and other
programs help. In the old on-campus environment, each LIS program stood
on its own. In a distance-education environment, many opportunities emerge
for sharing specialties, faculty, and coursework between LIS programs in
different schools. Discussions of how this might work have just begun.
Statistics on librarian
shortages mostly focus on public, academic, and school librarians, and
a vast majority of LIS graduates still find employment in these or the
special library sector (Terrell & Gregory). Today, however, LIS graduates
also have many other choices as well, and even those going into a traditional
setting may find a different set of responsibilities than their predecessors.
I interviewed several alumni of the University of Tennessee who graduated
within the 5 years to find out what a new information professional in a
company or university might face and to get their insights and advice for
incoming students and for LIS faculty.
was a statistician at a government laboratory when she decided to switch
to librarianship. She got a position as Social Science Data Services Librarian
at the University of Tennessee as soon as she graduated. It was a perfect
job for Read, but one she had no idea existed in libraries. In addition
to stints on the reference desk and teaching user instruction classes,
she is responsible for helping faculty and students identify, locate, and
acquire machine-readable numeric data files for secondary analysis.
Read advises incoming
students to "do a practicum so you can test out your new skills and see
how they all come together in the real world." Courses that she found particularly
valuable included those that focused on database searching, specialized
reference, and Web design. The value of her LIS education goes beyond specific
courses or skills. Read counsels students that "as awful as they seem at
the time, make the most out of your opportunities to make presentations
in class or at a research forum" and to participate in the student organizations
to "help develop leadership, organizational, and public speaking skills."
attracted to the discipline, but not to libraries. She had done some work
as an independent information broker and the flexibility appealed to her.
On graduation she landed a job in San Francisco as a research librarian
for Kevin Kelly, founding editor of Wired magazine. She splits her
time among "doing research related to his personal writing interests, helping
him with self-publishing projects, and administrative tasks like keeping
It wasn't just
the challenge of finding, analyzing, and compiling information that attracted
McGinnis to this job, but also the working environment. She admits, "I
was also enticed by Kevin's tone and approach — he sounded laid back and
unconventional. I'm a bit unconventional too. In most jobs one is constrained
by dress codes, inflexible policies and procedures, micro-management, oppressing
chains of command." Her job allows her to work independently, have no dress
code, and set her own schedule — something she didn't even dare dream of
McGinnis says her
biggest challenges have come from not taking full advantage of the technological
opportunities in her LIS curriculum. She's had to learn much about trouble-shooting
computers and electronic publishing on the job. Of the courses she did
take, she says, "Classes in information retrieval, information industry,
and business intelligence were my favorites. Equally as valuable, however,
were the reference classes, indexing and abstracting, and, I can't even
believe I'm going to say it, the dreaded information theory class. These
classes were instrumental in teaching me how to ask the right questions
when faced with a query, to start with the best sources, and search efficiently
earned her degree part-time through distance education. She landed her
job as a business analyst with Ingram Book Group 2 months before graduation.
A career with the information industry wasn't what she planned when she
started her program. George had worked for 9 years in public libraries
and started the master's degree program so she could realize her dream
of becoming a public library director.
In her job, George
acts as a liaison between Ingram's business unit representatives and technical
developers to redesign and improve Ingram's public Web site. The job includes
research to identify user needs and working with people throughout the
company to identify, design, build, and test new functions. Although she
says she rarely ponders "the theory and philosophical aspects of libraries,"
she often uses knowledge gained from classes about "systems, database structures,
and how those structures interact with search and retrieval of information."
students to "embrace every course, particularly those dealing with computers,
searching, or any other technical subject." She cautions educators to "stay
cutting edge. Even cataloging is more exciting than it used to be!"
knew from the beginning what she wanted to do with her master's degree
— become an instruction librarian as a university. She had no trouble finding
exactly what she wanted and is now an Instruction Services Librarian at
Mississippi State University.
Grogg teaches about
40 sessions each semester, most of them course-specific instruction (best
sources for History 445, for example.) She also teaches workshops on a
variety of topics such as copyright and fair use, finding full text, Internet
job searching, and citing electronic resources. For many of these, she
creates online tutorials and Web pages.
The courses that
served her best "were ones including assignments that mirror functions
I am required to perform on the job. I work the reference desk; thus I
need to know about reference sources, reference interviewing, and information-seeking
behavior. I am required to publish research; thus, I need to know how to
conduct research and publish my findings." She believes that reading and
discussing theory are essential to understand "the very fabric of the profession."
She advises faculty to "give context to the profession by teaching the
history of it. The information profession did not spring full-blown from
the head of Zeus. It has a history, a past, and a theoretical base."
Ryland graduated in December of 2000 and took a job as a knowledge
associate with Deloitte Consulting. He says the combination of job description,
salary, and geographic location in Eastern Pennsylvania "were a perfect
fit for me." He works in knowledge management systems, including cataloging
and storing documents "within our knowledge portal for retrieval by employees
and our consultants in the field. I also assist with the development of
intranet spaces focusing on hot-button business issues, as well as with
the development of our KM function in general."
Chris didn't specifically
have knowledge management in mind when he started the LIS program, but
he was attracted to it "because opportunities for graduates had expanded"
and "the Internet boom was creating a new market for information skills."
He says his responsibilities
"are a combination of collection development, indexing, information retrieval,
cataloging, etc. While some of the library-oriented details are irrelevant,
the underlying principles of these practices can be adapted to multiple
situations." His most valuable courses were electives in IT networking,
database management, and information systems, though a knowledge management
course would have been helpful. Chris recommends students "take a course
load balanced between traditional courses and high-tech electives," because
even if students take jobs in traditional library positions, "skills learned
in these electives will only enhance their career options."
became the MLIS Consultant for Dialog this year after several years as
an information specialist/research analysis at Deloitte & Touche. The
Dialog job uses her searching skills plus her teaching skills (she was
a middle school teacher before library school) and lets her fulfill an
old dream to work in sales.
Allison found the
general management course especially helpful in communicating with senior
executives. In her first job she worked with senior partners at the global
level and synthesized and analyzed information from a variety of sources.
An elective course in business intelligence gave her experience working
with real clients in the business world and gave her an edge in job seeking.
Her advice to current
students is to "take a broad range of courses, include technical as well
as reference type" and take management. "Think broadly and don't worry
about the details so much — they'll work themselves out." Allison also
reminds us all that "learning is a lifelong experience" and the master's
degree just "gets you started in the right direction."
is the computer systems administrator and Webmaster for the American College
of Neuropsychopharmacology, a scientific organization of 600 leading brain
research experts. She is responsible for the computer network, including
two Web servers, an e-mail server, and multiple workstations. She also
maintains (and redesigned) the ACNP Web site and handles the technical
side of the organization's electronic publishing. This is Dybka's second
job — right after graduation she worked at a dot-com for 3 years as the
interactive publishing manager.
Dybka says that
courses in database design, graphic design, and information organization
were particularly valuable to her. She also values her experience working
in the school's computer labs, a practicum in electronic publishing, and
volunteering to help redesign the school's Web site. Good communication
skills "are also prized by any company, particularly if you can translate
complex technical information into something normal people can understand."
She picked electronic
publishing over her second choice, public librarianship, because she enjoys
it, but also because she could make more money this way and "there's less
of a pay disparity for women in this field."
Dybka advises students
to be adaptable, "use your time in school to find what work really interests
you," and take an "individualized approach to education." She found a job
she loves and cautions, "There are a lot of people who dread going to work
in the morning. Try not to become one of them."
Dagar, Lynn; and Stratigos, Anthea, "The Changing Roles of Information
Professionals: Excerpts from an Outsell, Inc. Study," ONLINE, vol.
24, no. 2, March/April 2000, pp. 28-34.
and Information Science Professionals for a New Century: The KALIPER Report,"
Executive Summary, July 2000. KALIPER Advisory Committee, ALISE, Reston,
Accessed March 1, 2001.
Lynch, Mary Jo,
"Reaching 65: Lots of Librarians Will Be There Soon," American Libraries,
March 2002, pp. 55-56.
"I Never Learned about That in Library School," ONLINE vol.
24, no. 2, March/April 2000, pp. 42-46.
Terrell, Tom and
Gregory, Vicki L., "Plenty of Jobs, Salaries Are Flat," Library Journal,
vol. 126, October 15, 2001, pp. 34-40.
e-mail address is email@example.com.