Category Archives: LIS Education in the 21st Century

Ranganathan Revisited Spring Semester 2008

In LIS70 this week, we looked at the foundations of the profession and at some LIS philosophers. It was once again that time to discuss Ranganathan and his five laws. Each semester I ask the classes to decide if they would rewrite the laws. Here’s what the Wednesday night group came up with:

Ranganathan’s 5 Laws-Edited to 4:

Information is for use and it’s for everyone.
Every piece of information is valuable and every user will find value in something.
Eliminate barriers between the user and the information.
The library is a growing and evolving organism.

What do you think?

Previous Semesters:

Education & Employers

Karl Fisch, at the Fischbowl (a staff development blog for high school teachers), summarizes the report “How Should Colleges Assess and Improve Student Learning?”

This stuff always intrigues because I want to make sure we are doing the right things in class. Fisch provides his summary via a multiple choice question:

So, let me summarize (bias alert! bias alert!) via a single multiple choice question:

1. According to this report:

a. Grades are pretty much a non-factor in the hiring process.

b. Multiple choice tests are an unreliable predictor of success.

c. Employers are pretty much satisfied with the content knowledge of their employees and think assessments that cover content are relatively meaningless.

d. Employers want their employees to be more globally oriented, to take charge of their own job, and they must be able to communicate effectively through writing.

e. Employers prefer meaningful, relevant, experiential learning over an isolated, content-focused-only approach.

f. All of the above.

I think it fits to ponder these conclusions in light of graduate library education. A wise librarian once told me during my masters work: “No one will ever look at grades in libraries.” I don’t think anyone ever did when I turned in my transcripts at SJCPL when I graduated. I think the report and Fisch are on the right track: maybe instead of a GPA and a series of 12 letter grades for the coursework, a history of guided and self-directed exploration as evidenced by projects, papers and critical thinking as well as siezed opportunities for experiential learning better tells the story of a an LIS student’s potential for library work. Maybe that multiple choice test is not the way to go. :-)

TTW Mailbox: Heretical Ideas in Library School

Dear TTW:

I’m taking a little one-credit class called “The Thoughtful Professional” in my library school. One of the requirements of the class is to send the professor a short email with a “Heretical Idea” about libraries. During the last 30-minutes of each class we discuss the idea. The author remains anonymous.I wanted to share mine with you because a photo you put in your Flickr stream inspired me. Here it is:

Throw away the library policy book; toss aside the library rules!

Most library rules and policies serve no one, except the ineffective managers who implement and administer them. Managers who aren’t trained to be effective leaders create rules to deal with difficult situations instead doing the tough work required to really solve them. Most rules create walls between people. Most rules establish an “us vs. them” situation. How do patrons/users/clients feel when they see a sign like the one attached?

Instead, hire the best people for the job. Train and empower them to provide the best customer service they can provide. Establish procedures and guidelines, including “these procedures and guidelines have been made to be broken or bent.” Hire people who are kind and compassionate. Hire people who are confident in themselves and their ability to make decisions. Hire people who are optimistic and who possess integrity. Give them the tools to do their job, and set them free to do the best job they can do. And then reward the creative solutions that will undoubtedly arise when they have been empowered to do something greater than fall back on weak-minded rules.

Signed, LIS Student

Wowza, LIS, that is heretical! You make some good points. I hope the class discussion went well. I like the format – it gets people thinking outside of their comfort zone to examine what at first might be heretical or forbidden thinking. Thanks for the note.

We know every library has its own unique circumstances, and certainly large libraries in big cities have a certain set of issues that others do not. How can even the biggest library evaluate the rules?

And, TTW readers, what is your heretical idea?

Oh My! How those LIS Jobs are a-changing!

Some synchronicity:

Kathryn Greenhill notes her new job title:

Emerging Technologies Specialist — Actually, the contract says “Librarian – Emerging Technologies” – but we’re still sorting that bit out… I’m still at Murdoch University and based in the library. The position is funded 50% by the library and 50% by central IT, and covers more than just the library.


I report to the chair of the Learning Technologies Steering Group . The LTSG is a University Committee that looks at existing systems like WebCt and Turnitin, but is also the group where Web2.0 types of technologies are examined for pedagogical use. They are the mob that supported our proposal to set up Murdoch University Island in Second Life. It’s made up of people from the Library, Teaching and Learning, the IT department, Academic staff and students.

I’m impressed – especially with the sense of campus-wide collaboration and planning.

Next, Brian Mathews notes that he and Amanda Etches-Johnson are not going to be the only User Experience Librarians out in library land, pointing to a couple of new job ads:

Position: Information Services Librarian, User Experience Librarian

Miami University Libraries, Oxford, OH, has an opening in the Information Services Department for a User Experience librarian. We seek a self-motivated, energetic, service-oriented, flexible team-player with a can-do attitude who is technology savvy, interested in enhancing the quality of the user experience using Web 2.0 technologies, and teaching about information technology; someone who can embrace an environment of continual improvement and change in an organization that strives to stay close to the cutting edge of technology. This position reports to the Head, Information Services, Interim Assistant Dean.

Responsibilities: The successful candidate will:
• Possess a clear understanding of current trends and new technologies for delivering research
assistance and instruction;
• Demonstrate skills, knowledge, interest in, and dedication in investigating, designing, developing,
adapting and integrating Web 2.0 applications such as social software, virtual worlds, and
handheld devices to improve delivery of research and other assistance as well as enhancing
communication with students and faculty;
• Work with the Libraries web site team to incorporate and deliver user-centered library services;
• Have familiarity with and an interest in usability testing;
• Develop and teach credit/non-credit courses and workshops for librarians, students, faculty and
• Participate with research help in-house and via email, chat, and IM (evenings and weekends
• Participate actively in the Libraries’ team organization.


A stellar opportunity to craft proactive changes for an already successful library exists at Agnes Scott College in Decatur/Atlanta, Georgia. McCain Library seeks a User Experience Librarian to provide leadership for digital initiatives and services in the user, reference, and instructional programs of the library. Responsibilities also include user education, research assistance, and some collection development.

The successful candidate for this position will develop innovative services for students and faculty; manage the library website (taking advantage of Library 2.0 tools where practical), enhancing pages that support reference and instructional activities; oversee the information literacy program with teaching assistance from two other librarians; assess users’ experiences for data-driven improvement; and collaborate on collection development.

Requirements: ALA-accredited Master’s degree. Minimum of 3 years post-Master’s experience required, including significant reference and instruction (group and one-on-one) experience in an academic library. Applied knowledge of emerging information technologies, including learning objects, web-authoring tools, and social networking software. Clear knowledge of current trends in library instruction/information literacy; and ease with teaching groups. Positive, enthusiastic approach to public service in an academic library. Initiative and ability to conceive and carry out projects on a deadline. Ability to collaborate and communicate effectively with faculty and with staff in all areas, particularly instructional technology, assessment, and student services.

Preferred: Programming experience (UNIX – for minor SFX work). Familiarity with liberal arts and sciences curricula. Experience with print and electronic collection development. Demonstrated ability to work both independently and in collaborative teams.

What interests me most these days is looking at the requirements and skills for these jobs and wondering if our program and LIS education in general is fitting the bill for these libraries to have a pool of possible candidates.

And don’t miss Amanda Etches-Johnson’s bio page at her library. I really appreciate the  glimpse into her worklife and the online CV. What a great way for folks to learn about their librarians.

John Berry on the Future

Excelent piece from John Berry at LJ. He mentions that he teaches at Dominican (!) and sums up very well what I’ve also observed in library school and in our realm here: 

Like those who came before them, the current cadre of librarians bring new tools for the job ahead, technologies that make access to information much easier but just as corruptible. They bring that vitality and spirit that, in themselves, are enough to force change and even shape its outcome. At first, those in power will hang on, as they did decades ago. Ultimately, if we remember the future we so enthusiastically envisioned, we’ll make sure the next generation are enlisted, well received, and take what little power there is to share in our chronically impoverished but permanently crusading profession.

We’ve begun to make it easier for change to come and for them to have a stronger voice in our march to freedom of information and enlightenment for all. We’d like to pick and choose among these new librarians, through our programs for “emerging” leaders and other institutionalized indoctrination. But they have already begun to organize themselves, singling out their own leaders and demanding of us only that same access to the profession that enabled us to make some of our future dreams into today’s realities.

Almost done with the semester!

Almost done with the semester!

Originally uploaded by leah the library student

Leah the Library Student posts a nice photo and update that she is almost done with the semester. And she links to a post about her survey concerning the perceptions of librarians:

And still, the best answers can even come from librarians themselves:

“Stuffy and boring, book-centric out-of-touch old lady with applique sweaters of teddy bears holding balloons. Sadly, I know this isn’t true, nonetheless it is the first thing that comes to mind. Mainly due to the root of the word “libr,” meaning book, and the oh so many Nancy Pearl connotations of a “shusher,” yet the term has come to not encapuslate the demands of the position. Viva la revolution.“

And checkout this picture she includes of the Information Commons at the University of Kentucky’s library:

Information Commons

There are so many good things going on here – wowza.

Happy end of the semester to Leah, all the Dominican University GSLIS students, faculty and staff, the Crown Library librarians, and library students and faculty everywhere!

Book Discussion: Student Orientation

Henry Jenkins posts about new CMS graduate student orientation at MIT, including a book discussion!

Another highlight of today’s events will be our book discussion. Each year, we choose a recent book in the field of media studies (or a sampler of recent articles) which we ask all of the students to read over the summer. The books are selected because they embody key themes or topics which shape our instructional and research efforts for the coming year. The books become a shared reference point for our community — in the weeks leading up to the student’s arrival and in the weeks that follow.

Great idea! I would love to see our students come to us ready to discuss a book — one that might lay a foundation for LIS in the 21st Century. Off the top of my head: The World is Flat, The Cluetrain Manifesto or A Whole New Mind might be good choices. What book would you choose?

SirsiDynix UpStream: Libraries Building Communities

“There are countless examples/case studies of libraries being the center of the communities in which they serve. What is the best example of “libraries building communities” that you have come across or experienced? What do you see happening in the future in empowering libraries to play even a greater role in their communities?”

Cover For fifteen years, I’ve worked in a public library, mostly in positions relating to the Web or technology training. It’s with that background and paradigm I address this question. I love the examples of libraries building community via physical space and through interactions between users and librarians, but for my example, I’d like to point to the communities being built online.

For the last few months, I’ve been touring various parts of the US with Jenny Levine, presenting what we call our “Social Software Roadshow.” The Roadshow highlights how libraries can create online conversations, collaborative spaces, and, yes, community with inexpensive tools. We no longer need static, one-way Web sites for libraries, when the Read/Write Web enables us to interact with each other and our users. We point to concrete examples of libraries that have found new ways to improve existing services or built new services. Large systems to small libraries are included as are public, academic, special libraries and school libraries.


This is not cool for the sake of cool, or a push for techno-worship or a plea for librarians to give in to technoloust. Simply, these online spaces are where our users are living and interacting, and according to the recent Newsweek cover story, sites like MySpace will only grow. Libraries need a presence in these social spaces.

I believe the best example is the innovative online presence created by the librarians and IT staff of the Ann Arbor District Library, Michigan. Through the use of an open source content management system, several Weblog mechanisms that allow easily updated content to display on the front page, and a dedication to interaction with library patrons, AADL has created a thriving community within the cyber walls of their online branch.

On July 5, 2005, AADL launched a new Web site and a new catalog system. Posting to the Director’s Blog, Director Josie Parker said: “The Website launch is providing an additional forum for public communication with the library. This blog is one of several. The intention is to make regular postings here from administration that will encourage discussion about library policies and services.” The blogs include the mechanism for registered users of the library to comment – to enter into a dialogue with the director and other librarians. Key word here: Transparency.

Scanning the AADL site, one finds both posts with a few comments and those with many. In the Teen area and gaming blogs, it is not unusual to see a thriving discussion with 200+ or 300+ comments. In sessions on Weblogs in libraries, Jenny and I have asked the audience: “How many of you can say you have a thriving teen presence inside your library Web site?”

How many libraries have actively engaged their users in this way? Many libraries have blogs, but the movement to turn on comments creates a whole different environment, that can scare some librarians or overwhelm others. Enabling comments, however, is one of the ways to utilize Web 2.0 technologies to create community. IM, wikis, and RSS feeds offer other opportunities to create community as well. This to me is the promise of Web 2.0 for libraries: creating new means to communicate, interact, collaborate and create inside library Web space as well as out in the community online spaces.

Libraries can play a greater role in their communities by building sites such as AADL’s, reaching out to users via instant messaging, feeding out content such as library holdings and library news to other community-based Web sites, and offering mechanisms for users to create or mash up library content. Before there will be success, however, there must be a commitment by the librarians to sustain successful services and participate in the ongoing conversation. A library’s Web presence can never be an afterthought or something that just one or two Web librarians contribute to. There should be a collective voice made up of the individual voices of the library staff. This involves a shift in thinking: can we let go of our most useful online services and information to actively be driven by our users through their comments, questions and input?

A trip through the technology blogs of the Biblioblogosphere and sites such as the LibSuccess wiki yield numerous case studies, advice and grassroots best practices for all of these technologies. We can explore how, for example, Butler University Library built a wiki of annotated reference resources for their librarians, faculty, and students, or the innovations by school media specialist Margaret Lincoln and the collaborative Weblog she set up to allow students at two different high schools the opportunity to discuss Elie Wiesel’s Night.


Browsing libraries’ and librarians’presence at the image hosting social site flickr yields a surprisingly thriving community of practitioners. We will find images of library programs, materials, buildings and the faces of this new breed of librarianship in 2006. Visit the grass roots READ posters initiative at flickr to see a mash up of librarians, library users and an effective use of 2.0 technologies.

We can examine Casey Bisson’s application of library catalog as Weblog, complete with user keyword tagging, comments enabled, and static URLs for every record. We can subscribe to RSS feeds of subject guides at Kansas City Public Library, or create our own RSS-enabled catalog search at Hennepin County Public Library that notifies us when our favorite authors or subjects are added to the library.

All of these examples point to the future of online community building in libraries: librarians will be able to enhance current systems or create new ones with Web 2.0 technologies to customize and build experiential environments. Library users will be able to meet within these systems and interact. They will have conversations. They will be human, as will the librarians – as they put a human face and give a human voice to the library via social software.


Ann Arbor District Library:

Butler Reference Wiki:

Flickr READ Posters:

Hennepin County Public Library:

Kansas City Public Library:

LibSuccess Wiki:


Night Blog:

Word Press OPAC:

This is a reprint from my article in the Spring 2006 SirsiDynix UpStream. I think it’s still holds up pretty well. Thanks to the folks there for letting me add it to my online portfolio. Please follow the link to read more from librarians discussing libraries and community, including Steven Cohen, Sarah Long and Jessamyn West:

Look for a new issue soon!