Category Archives: Office Hours

Office Hours Extra: Guide to Online LIS Programs?

An “Office Hours” reader writes:

Just finished reading your article Transparent Library School, where you spoke about my fears of signing up and having old information is my concern. The  only local (less than 2 hrs)  school closed up its local branch so I’m looking into the various online schools, and have not found a good comparison. 

Do you know of such a site?  The information on ALA on various programs I have found to be out of date. 
I have an obvious bias – but has anyone encountered a good comparison site of the online LIS programs?

Office Hours Extra: Digital Media & Learning Job at MacArthur

How cool is this recent ad for  the position of Program Officer, Digital Media & Learning at the MacArthur Foundation?: (bolding is mine)

Knowledge, Skills, and Experience:

The Program Officer role requires graduate training and experience as a researcher or designer, with a strong grasp of research and theoretical literature relating to learning, adolescent development and new media, and practical, “on-the-ground” experience with youth, in libraries and museums or schools. He or she must be familiar with significant thought leaders and national organizations in relevant fields, and to be a respectful, collaborative colleague who can build bridges and actively engage diverse staff members, designers, entrepreneurs, youth practitioners, policymakers, and researchers in productive, vigorous debate. The Program Officer must have strong interpersonal skills and be able to function as part of an interdisciplinary team, and to work across disciplines and sectors in a rigorous environment of thoughtful intellectual exchange. 

Excellent analytical and communications skills, including writing, presentations and public speaking, are required. Other essential skills include: effective interpersonal relations and an ability to organize and convey problems and issues clearly and succinctly; an ease with and openness to people who hold diverse views; and a good sense of organization and talent for managing multiple tasks with significant initiative. The Program Officer should be self-confident, collegial, and diplomatic, and have an appreciation of the role of a grantmaking institution. Computer literacy is a prerequisite for consideration, including a high level of comfort with “do-it-yourself media.”

It seems to me an LIS grad who specialized in the areas of learning, emerging technologies and research might be well-suited for the position. The emphasis on learning would have to go way beyond “User Instruction” style classes to a broader view though. Is this possible to do within the curriculum of our current LIS programs? How much customization can be expected.

This ad would make for an interesting discussion in curriculum planning sessions.

Office Hours Meets UX in Library Journal

I’m honored to have written a combined Office Hours column with User Experience author Aaron Schmidt in the new issue of Library Journal:

UX thinking doesn’t have to be limited to specific courses, however. Core parts of the LIS curriculum can and should change as we review and update classes to reflect the focus on our patrons’ experiences. Reference and resource-based study can easily morph when taught through a UX lens. Take collection development, for instance—wouldn’t classes about collection development be richer and more productive when combined with thinking about building design and library programming? When LIS classes encourage cross-departmental collaboration, we’ll have new librarians ready to tear down the departmental silos prevalent in many libraries. Weaving a thread of holistic UX thinking throughout all of an LIS program’s learning outcomes and coursework—from planning library programs to ILS design—will enhance graduates’ skill sets.

It amazes me that Aaron and I wrote “IM Me” in 2005!

Office Hours: Listening to Student Voices

My “Office Hours” column is out in the new LJ and online. This time I report from The Future of the Academic Library Symposium:

The age-old confusion about what a librarian does still exists. In fact, when Ridley asked the panel “What defines a professional librarian,” their comments weren’t surprising. One “had no idea” what a librarian was until it was explained to her in the car on the way to the symposium. Another stated what many students, and public library patrons, think as well: “it means everyone in the library to me….”

Ridley followed with, “Do you care if it’s a librarian, or not, helping you with your research?” The consensus was a simple, “No, we just want help,” and frankly librarians are mostly a “last resort.”

Read the whole column here:


Office Hours Extra: Transparency at Redlands by Mary Grace Maloney

Hi Michael,

I just read your recent LJ article, “The Transparent Library School”. It really resonated with me. I don’t know if I told you about my undergraduate experience at the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies, University of Redlands or not. Your article reminded me of the student-faculty collaborative practice at Johnston. For example, I co-created several classes there, designed my own major, and was a Community Assistant (Johnston’s version of a “RA”) on the living-learning complex. One of the things we did on a weekly basis was have community meetings. We (students and faculty) talked about everything in those meetings from brainstorming new courses, to voting on funds for student projects, and to re-painting the community kitchen, in a structured meeting format built on consensus. On some level, I think LIS programs could benefit from this practice. At least once a semester the LIS program could host a community meeting and pot luck dinner to build community and encourage conversation. There is more to be learned from established non-traditional higher education practices. If you’re interested in learning more about Johnston, here’s the link:
Mary Grace (M. G.) Maloney, Butler Children’s Literature Center, Graduate Assistant, GSLIS Dominican University

Office Hours Extra: The Transparent Dean

Daniel Stuhlman, Reference Librarian at Wright College, Chicago presents part one of an interview with the newly appointed dean of the University’s School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS).  Daniel notes, however, that “note this is just for your information and amusement. Any connection to a real university or dean is strictly coincidental.” The ideas ring true.

Q> You talked about teaching management skills as important for librarians.  Would you elaborate?  What is your philosophy of management?

A> One of the most common reasons for people to be dissatisfied with their jobs is they feel they are not supported by the administration. They feel that comments, suggestions, and complaints are ignored.  Before I was a manager I said, “Sometimes when you bang your head against the wall, you break down the wall and sometimes you just hurt your head.”  People with their experience and knowledge are the organization’s most valuable asset. Some schools with administrations who rule by decree are full of unhappy faculty and students. So far this School has a great history of collaborative planning and problem solving.  The corporate culture ingrained on the faculty is co-operate and work as a team or leave.  I would not have accepted a position in an organization that did not believe in trust, collaboration, and shared planning.  The president and board of trustees have made it clear that faultfinding, blame, and finger pointing have no place in this institution.  There is always room for improvement.  Cooperation requires lots of meetings.  I hate wasting time at meeting.  I hope to create paths and systems to share information and solve problems with a minimum amount of time in meetings. Everyone will be required to prepare for large group or formal meetings.
I hope that our way of dealing with planning and problem solving can be an example for the students.  I hope to be transparent when there are challenges and opportunities by telling students and faculty what is happening.  Social media and e-mail make this much easier today that when I was a student.  We must recognize that part of the education process is social. I’m talking about the opportunity to be near great minds. We need times for people exchange thoughts and learn from each other outside of the classroom.  We need to see each other experts and to meet each other.  This applies to distance learners, too.  I will encourage faculty to conduct on-line smooze sessions.  I plan to schedule a smooze session once a week using conferencing software.  The details have yet to be determined.
Basically my management philosophy is:  1) No one has a monopoly on the truth; 2) When I don’t know the answers I will seek to find them or someone who can help me find them; 3) To succeed together, we must learn to share, co-operate, set  good examples by our words and actions, and work as a team; 4) Dream for the best; 5) Make goals and plan for the future; 6) Have a backup plan;   7) Seek the truth; 8) Always find opportunities to learn; 9) Never stop learning; and 10) Never stop learning.

No fault, no blame methods of problem solving create an atmosphere of trust and help people avoid excuses and defensiveness. The emphasis is on solving problems, accepting responsibility and shared accountability.  At this time our problems and challenges are routine.  We always have to balance the demands of time, money, logistics and real estate.  I will have to keep reminding everyone of the”no fault” guidelines.  In a collaborative, teamwork environment, accountability rests with the individual(s) responsible rather than with the supervising authority. We try to do the right things for the good of the students, the School, and the University. We want everyone to look good.

Office Hours Extra: LIS edu in Germany – a Guest Post by Dale Askey

Back in late 2008, I received a phone call from a friend/colleague in Germany with a tantalizing offer: would I be interested in a three-semester teaching gig? The location was the University of Applied Sciences in Leipzig (Hochschule für Technik, Wirtschaft und Kultur – HTWK) [], and the job was a paternity leave replacement for their professor of electronic publishing and multimedia in the College of Media.

How could one say no? I was feeling a bit stale in my library work, and know from past experience that I enjoy teaching semester-length courses and possess some teaching skill. That I would be teaching in my second language was a bit daunting. In fact, that fear had led me to turn down an interview offer for a similar full-time position a number of years ago. There were also personal considerations, as it would mean doing a crazy bi-continental split family commuting thing. So of course I said yes.

It was a bit unclear before I started what and whom I would be teaching, but I thought it would be mostly in the LIS program. The HTWK’s College of Media has seven programs, and as it turned out, I taught only about 30% of my courses for LIS, with the rest divided between three other programs: two publishing programs (production and management) and museum studies. Teaching outside of my professional wheelhouse just upped the challenge ante, and in the end made the time richer and more personally rewarding.

The HTWK’s library program has a fairly traditionalist reputation. Students still learn cataloging principles, bibliography, etc., but the curriculum is modernizing. It also bears noting that in Germany, which has a two-tiered profession with two kinds of librarians—well, actually three now, just to spice things up—that the kind of librarians we were educating will be hired into line librarian positions and generally find the pathway to administration barred. As such, teaching basic library skills makes some sense, since the market is going to demand them for a while yet.

Another significant difference between North American and German library education is that Germany still has a bachelor’s level LIS degree, which is a professionally qualifying degree. As such, the majority of German librarians lack a graduate degree or a bachelor’s degree in another field. Needless to say, this affects LIS education and the profession in many ways, and is essential to understanding the core differences between German and North American libraries.

But what of the students? They’re a great lot for the most part: motivated, dedicated to libraries, keenly aware that the profession and institution are changing. Given that they choose to study library science without necessarily having any other post-secondary education, there are a few who seem confused about what is going in in libraries and just sort of drifted along, but that isn’t unheard of in any program anywhere. Even though their program’s curriculum does not support much in terms of new technology, many were quite curious and explored on their own.

Beyond what I was actually supposed to teach them, which for the library program centered around video production (see the often poignant and funny results here []) and electronic publishing (translation: designing Websites that don’t stink), students got an earful of other topics from me. I sensed hunger and interest, so I just rolled with it.

First and foremost, I dragged them into the social media realm. They knew of its existence, of course, but they had never blogged, none twittered, and they never touched things like Wikipedia editing or other such UGC sites. I built a lot of this exploration into my classes, and left behind a passel of social media mavens. This is something I did in all of the classes I taught, regardless of field, and it’s been gratifying to see it take off.

Beyond social media, they heard about the current state of technology in libraries: link resolvers, ERMs, catalog overlays a la VuFind, and so on. Libraries in Germany (well, some) are hip to these things, of course, but this hasn’t trickled up (down?) into the LIS programs, at least not in Leipzig. Most students heard of a link resolver for the first time from me—including those in higher semesters—even though one could suggest that the OpenURL was a disruptive technology. Students in the publishing programs could not escape learning about scholarly publishing and open access, areas their programs otherwise ignore, despite the presence of major publishers (and potential employers) such as Springer and Wiley.

For my part, teaching there was as challenging and rewarding as I could have dared to dream. When I look back on my career, this will remain a highlight. On the other hand, it was utterly exhausting, and after 18 months I was so happy to be done. At universities of this type, instructors carry what in North American terms would be a 5-5 load, meaning five courses per semester; in my first and third semesters, I had five preps to boot. It’s a harrowing load, and even though I’m about as fluent in German as a non-native speaker could be, doing this much teaching in a second language (where every conversation, lecture, question, joke, etc. is about 10% harder mentally), there were days when I arrived home (to my brave daughter who did third grade in Germany with me while mom and sis were in the U.S.) utterly incapable of forming further speech nor doing anything other than watching mindless TV.

I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the awesome colleagues I found in Leipzig. Truly dedicated professionals all, they welcomed me and my ideas openly and warmly, and I can only hope that our professional lives collide again down the road. Most importantly, the HTWK friend who made the original call supported me in word, deed, and with caffeine, and to him I owe a debt of gratitude that may take a lifetime to repay.

What saddens me as a librarian is how eager German librarians and library students are to experience and learn from North American libraries, but how little of that interest flows in the other direction. Language plays a role, of course, but it would be so beneficial for the profession on this side of the ocean to broaden its horizons beyond English-speaking nations. It can be done.


After serving libraries at Washington University, the University of Utah, Yale University, and Kansas State University, Dale Askey currently fills the role of Associate University Librarian for Library and Learning Technologies at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. Although firmly ensconced in the library information technology realm, his educational background is in the humanities, specifically German language and literature. This piece reflects on his experiences from March 2009-August 2010 as teaching faculty in Leipzig, Germany. He blogs semi-regularly/professionally at Eintauchen/Dive In

Office Hours Extra: Heretical Thoughts Sharing

At the Future of Academic Libraries Symposium, I had about 15 minutes to hear from the attendees about their own “heretical thoughts” about LIS education. Thanks to Dale Askey (@daskey) for capturing these while I lead the discussion:

Being more selective about who gets in to library school.

Cut down number of graduates; avoid overstocking the profession.

Deans/professors at conferences/forums, at thought leading/forming events. Where are they?

LIS schools need to manage expectations of profession; libraries are being unrealistic by demanding immediate gratification in the form of
perfectly fit graduates

Instructional design should be part of the mix

Internships integral? Yes, must be strong partnerships with host libraries and communities.

More critical thinking skills taught in library school. Crucial component.

Lighten up, be playful, take risks.

ALA accreditation? Enabler?

Teach MARC and cataloging as history course.

Reduce adjunctification, less online instruction by semi-skilled instructors, allow practitioners sans PhD into the teaching ranks as full-time faculty.

Create unflappable and intellectually curious self-starters.

Require work experience to enter library school (as support staff)


What would you add?

Office Hours: Comment on “Stuck in the Past”

This is intriguing – comment by “B” at :

Some of my former co-workers (who were also hiring managers) nixed applicants that responded “Because I love books” to the question “Why do you want to work in a library?” While such a black and white approach to hiring makes me a bit squeamish, I do strongly encourage job applicants to be a bit more creative in their response. Apparently “Because I like books” is such a common response (among the entry-level crowd, at least), that giving a different (thoughtful and honest) answer is a quick way to nail the question in an interview.

Office Hours Extra: “Get as many technology skills as you can…”

Thanks to Rich Allen, Technical Services Librarian at Winthrop Public Library in Massachusetts , for sending this link. The Boston Globe recently ran a story called “Checking Out the Future.” It highlights the Simmons program but also explores the increase in technology use and required skills for new grads. These lines echo some of the things I’ve written about in “Office Hours:” (emphasis mine)

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.’’

Later comes this about the Simmons program:

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.