Friday, May 27, 2005

"What should I take?"

So, you've been accepted into library school. Now what? Since master's programs are typically shorter than undergraduate programs, each and every class you take counts. But if you're unsure what sort of library you would like to work in or simply unsure what courses to take, might I suggest a basic outline from an editorial written by American Library Association President-Elect Michael Gorman. He proposes the following:

Michael Gorman, "What Ails Library Education?" Journal of Academic Librarianship 30(2) (March 2004): 99-101.

One reason why Gorman came up with this list is because he's concerned that there is no national core library science curriculum. Yes, master's degree programs are accredited by the American Library Association, but library students often have great leeway in choosing their entire course schedule. Thus, employers are unsure what their hires know and don't know. Gorman's tentative list is based on his library experience and what he believes defines the professional librarian and what he or she should know.

His list is focused exclusively on libraries and librarians, and their operations and activities. Note that this list does not include things like "Web page design." While technology is important, it is not something that stands on its own. The best library science programs integrate "technology" (how-tos, planning aspects, etc.) into core library coursework.

To translate this list into a course schedule, I have matched it with courses from an actual course catalog (in this case, the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign):

Of course, if you do know what sort of library you would like to work in, you would take the relevant courses. For example, if you were interested in being a children's librarian, you would take courses in children's literature and storytelling.

If you're about to enter library school and are wondering what might be involved in some of these courses, I have provided links to the syllabi of some of these courses, all at the University of Illinois:


Barbara said...

Oi, I'm not sure how much I agree with Michael Gorman on the need for a core curriculum or (even more so) the call to limit research to what he thinks is most important. On the other hand, I would agree that there's too much attention paid to "information" in the field and not enough to what happens when people use libraries.

I focused on academic libraries when I was getting my MLS and, apart from a terrific collection development course, remember most clearly the five (!) reference courses I took, including ones on humanities, social sciences, sciences, and goverment publications. Though the resources we used are all lost in the past now, I got a lot of practice interpreting questions and matching them to sources. One of the teachers, Agnes Reagan, collected stumpers from practitioners all over the country - the hard ones were the best.


Alec said...
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Alec said...

Five reference courses! :) My professors discouraged students from taking more than two reference courses. They wanted us to be exposed to a little of everything, and not use all of our available coursework on one aspect of librarianship. But, I suppose it is a matter of philosophy.

A good source for stumpers (and their solutions) is a listserv with the very same name.