Library science used to be the realm of career changers. Bookish types, having put in some years in the work world, would enroll in a graduate program with dreams of one day making a living surrounded by the noble hush of book stacks, card catalogs, and shelf upon shelf of reference tomes.
Not so today. “More people today are coming straight out of college,’’ says Michèle Cloonan, dean of the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College. “The students are younger. Ten years ago, the vast majority of them had worked before coming here.’’
Tomorrow’s librarians face a two-year graduate school curriculum freighted with technology courses that didn’t exist 10 years ago, courses that will likely be replaced by others within a year or two. The future of libraries is a constantly evolving digital landscape, and technical literacy, as it is in so many other fields, is absolutely essential to find a job in a brutal job market.
“Get as many technology skills as you can,’’ advises Jamie Cantoni, 26, of Cornwall, Conn., who’s in her final semester at GSLIS and has already been out in the job market. “What’s most shocking is when you go to apply for jobs how much they value strong technology skills. A master’s in library science is not enough to get a job anymore. You need a second master’s.’’
The emphasis on technology begins early at the GSLIS. Every student must create a website and wiki page within the first six weeks. They cannot continue their studies until they complete these projects.
Linnea Johnson, manager of technology at GSLIS, also teaches the required hard-core course, Information for Technology for Information Professionals.
“It’s a confidence thing,’’ she says about technology literacy. “You can be overwhelmed by technology. We want our students to be able to talk comfortably about systems and talk to server and data base vendors.’’
I am very aware of the rumblings of change in our profession. This is further evidence of what’s needed to educate our future librarians – and where our focus should be. The landscape they work in will be decidedly different. Balancing our foundations and ethics with a healthy dose of technology is the best way to get there.