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Harvard University Library Notes / January 2006 / No. 1329
Librarians' Assembly: December 15, 2005
On Thursday, December 15, the Librarians' Assembly held its fall meeting, entitled "Back to Class: What are librarians learning, and is it what they need?" Held in the Lamont Forum Room from 3:30 to 5 pm, the Assembly featured a panel discussion with Harvard library staff speaking about their diverse experiences in library education as educators and students.
Following a welcome from Librarians' Assembly executive committee chair Alix Reiskind, assistant visual resources librarian in the Harvard Graduate School of Design's Frances Loeb Library, and brief state-of-the-library remarks from Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and Director of the University Library Sidney Verba, the Assembly turned its attentions to the panel discussion—a topic that reflects the strong interest of the University Library Council (ULC) in comparing the curricular offerings of our leading library schools with the present-day realities of today's research librarians.
The following remarks have been excerpted from a transcript of the panel discussion.
Head of Technical Services and Slides and Digital Imaging
Fine Arts Library
Harvard College Library
As we all know, the past 30 years have been rife with change, and the field of librarianship has seen many changes in terms of where, how, and with what our work is being done. Buildings have changed. Technology has certainly changed. Our patrons no longer flip through cards to find materials. During this time, what's been happening in library schools? Has the education of library and information professionals changed fast enough and far enough to keep up with the job market? Today, technology is everywhere. The question is, has this education changed enough? Are graduates finding jobs easily? Do they feel prepared? Are employers finding graduates? As professional librarians, what is or should be our role in making sure that the education that's offered meets the expectations of the job market?
Lucker, who holds an MSLIS from the Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science (GSLIS), joined the staff of HCL's Fine Arts Library in February 2002.
Data Loads Systems Librarian
Office for Information Systems
Harvard University Library
One of the problems [in Drexel University's online graduate program] arose because a component of your grade is participation. In an online class, this means posting messages on bulletin boards and responding to other posts. In an in-person class, there's a time limit because the class ends after a few hours, and the instructor can cut you off if you stray completely off-topic. That doesn't happen in an online discussion board, and you can end up trying to read hundreds of posts a week, many of which are incoherent and irrelevant. Your classmates, in thinking that quantity over quality will give them a better participation grade, go online and write as much as they can. . . .When I transferred to Simmons, I enjoyed the personal interaction with professors and classmates, [though I] was not always happy with the courses being offered.
Baksik received her MSLIS from the Simmons GSLIS in 2005. She has worked in the Harvard Libraries since July 2003.
Open Collections Program
Harvard University Library
The courses I took were very much about the basics of library science. I wasn't sure how I felt about that at the time, because I was in a job where we were digitizing 300,000 slides, and I really had to leave it to myself to make the connections between what I was learning in library school and what I was doing every day. They didn't really teach a lot of technology in my library program, but they also didn't teach things like visual resources, and here I was, a visual resources cataloger.
Looking back on it, I think if they had tried at the time, in the late '90s, to really talk about digitization, it all would have been outdated [quickly]. So I think it was far more important to give people the skills in understanding the basics of information organization and information retrieval. What I ended up with was a really good basic understanding of the organization of information.
Madsen received her MLIS from San Jose State University in 2001. She joined the Open Collections Program in April 2003.
Business Information Librarian
Harvard Business School
One of the questions proposed to me was "How has my course changed in the past few years?" What has changed, of course, is the format that information is coming in, and it's changing in all sorts of ways all the time. For example, the UN organization has been tracking commodities since 1948. But the platforms that you're getting that information from are evolving and shifting. When you walk away from the class, you should understand what these different organizations do. You're going to be in good stead, whether it's today in a book, tomorrow in a web page, the next day who knows what format it's going to be in. You're still going to be able to find the answer to that question.
Cullen has taught in the library science program at the Pratt Institute in New York City and at the Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science. See "Baker's Ann Cullen: Teaching Can Make You a Better Librarian" in Harvard University Library Notes for July 2003 (http://hul.harvard.edu/publications/hul_notes_1314/cullen.html). Cullen joined the Baker Library staff in August 2002.
Librarian of the Physics Research
Library, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
Head of Collection Development
Cabot Science Library
Harvard College Library
I've been teaching a variety of technology classes at Simmons for the last three to four years. Based on that experience, I'm going to give you a few insights in the way I think library education is going. The first is that there's a tremendous built-up need for professional development in our profession. I think most of us would agree that our profession is changing rather rapidly. Part of that change is that we are expected in many cases, through changes in our jobs, et cetera, to have new skills. Maybe they're with digital libraries. Maybe they're with metadata. Maybe they're with a new particular service. Maybe it's training, maybe it's teaching. Maybe it's with a way of going out and facilitating discussions on collection development with faculty and students. Or holding focus groups, doing user needs analysis. Or, for that matter, evaluating web sites. Are we putting up a good web site? How do we know it's a good web site? Et cetera. All of these are brand-new skills that we didn't have to know ten years ago. A lot of these skills are not being taught in the current curricula at library schools and at information schools.
Leach is currently an adjunct professor at Simmons GSLIS, teaching courses on digital publishing and database management. Affiliated with the Harvard Libraries since 1985, Leach received his MLIS from the University of Rhode Island in 2001. He is currently a PhD student in the information sciences program at Simmons GSLIS.
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