Recently on Hack Library School, Amy Frazier posted about her idea of the ideal library school with higher-level technology classes and require more tech skills for librarians-to-be.
The post generated quite a lot of comments including my own. It’s definitely an issue that I have seen discussed more often in the last year or two. When I was in school, a number of students (including myself) expressed the desire for more technology courses in our program.
Including More Technology Courses
One side of the discussion is getting MLIS programs to offer more tech courses. While personally, I could have used more tech courses, I don’t necessarily think that it’s viable for a lot of schools. It’s difficult enough for schools that librarianship is very broad, add to that that many MLIS type jobs are not in libraries, and you get the basic problem of “how do you offer courses to cover all topics of interest in a single library school?”
Basically, you can’t. It’s impossible. At my school, there is a PhD program, so at the Master’s level, it even needs to cover all the research side of things.
Option 1: Partner with the CS department
One way is to possibly have the faculty partner with the CS department to allow students to take lower level programming classes or recommend CS classes that aren’t programming heavy. Unfortunately, like at my school, universities will normally not allow credit to be given for lower level courses when in a master’s program.
Option 2: Partner with other LIS schools
There is always the option of partnering with other schools to offer classes (this includes non-technology related courses). This already happens in many schools, but due to different schedules and the difficulty of getting through other schools’ admissions for classes and such, it is traditionally not particularly convenient. Improving the shared courses system would definitely help though.
Option 3: Offer 2-3 introductory courses
I would say that, at the least, LIS schools should at least have introductory courses (again possibly in partnership). At my school, they offered a 1-credit class as an introductory course (a regular class is 3 credits). I think for its first time, it did quite well and a lot of students had signed up. What I would like to see is for additional 1-credit classes to be offered to introduce the basics of other languages or a 3-credit course, which can almost be a survey type course where you’re introduced to the basics of a couple of languages and taught the process in making decisions on which to use when. An existing class covers technology management and what we dubbed “systems 101”. Schools might consider partnering with professional associations to offer these sorts of classes.
But if you want tech…
In the end though, if students want a library program that is very tech heavy, then perhaps they should do more research into which schools already offer that sort of program before applying. Much like at the undergraduate level, different schools emphasize different things, so it’s up to a student to do the research and do their best to get in.
Requiring More Technology Skills
The other big idea that came up in the discussion is requiring the completion of a course which involves a higher level of technology skills. While I think library students need to graduate with at least a basic amount of technology skills, I think what’s more important is knowing how and when to integrate technology into library services to best support users.
Solution?: Technology Integration
Some of the commenters also proposed this idea, at least to a degree (I admit that I have not read every single answer though).
The biggest issue I had with my required technology class (other than the fact that we couldn’t be exempted even if you had a CS background) was that much of what we learnt was not put into a practical context.
If you want students to learn how to make a PowerPoint presentation, don’t make them do something that involves lots of different animations (no one does this, or at least should do this in a real presentation), but instead, tell them to make a presentation that pitches an idea or teaches a skill for example.
In an instructional class, have students make a video a la research minute for example. Get them to work with a real library and upload it to their YouTube channel when done.
My favourite classes were ones where we got a practical project that involved learning a new technology. For example, I took a class on digital collections, so we read all the usual papers, sat through all the lectures, and we learned how to use DBTextWorks and ContentDM. That means that I now can (with a bit of wrangling) build a digital collection should I see the need (or become responsible for that sort of thing).
More than anything, I think students need to learn the situations where it would be beneficial for them and patrons to integrate technology, and if they need help, then to go ask their systems team.