Category Archives: Office Hours

Office Hours Extra: “…reliable data about current library programs…”

Do not miss this post at In the Library with a Lead Pipe:

Is the United States Training Too Many Librarians or Too Few? (Part 1)

Some questions from the essay:

Should library schools admit fewer students? Is the admissions process sufficiently selective? Are library school curricula and graduation requirements too similar or too distinct? Are they providing their students with the skills they need in order to get hired and do useful work? Should there be licensing exams for librarians? What data would we need to collect in order to come up with useful answers to these questions?

Here’s another snippet – please go read the whole thing and comment…

Figuring out how many people graduate each year from an American Library Association-accredited program with a Master’s degree in a library-related field is surprisingly difficult

I thought this would be the easy part of this essay. With the help of a Presidential Task Force on Library Education, ALA’s Committee on Accreditation updated its Standards for Accreditation of Master’s Programs in Library and Information Studies in 2008 and released a statement of Core Competencies in Librarianship in 2009; it also released a revised second edition of its Accreditation Process, Policies, and Procedures in 2011. As is demonstrated in aLibrary Journal article by Norman Oder on the Presidential Task Force on Library Educationand in the Committee on Accreditation’s own Standards Review blog, many within the information professions take the accreditation process seriously, and there can be significant debates surrounding accreditation policy.

ALA’s Office of Accreditation helps to vet applicants for the External Review Panelist pool, and also supports the accreditation process by maintaining a directory of currently accredited programs, as well as a list of all programs accredited since 1925. However, no one at ALA officially knows how many students graduate each year from the programs it accredits. When I asked for this information, I was directed to ALISE, the Association for Library and Information Science Education, which produces an annual Statistical Report.

The ALISE reports, which are compiled from questionnaires submitted annually by each accredited program, provide a great deal of data and analysis. However, I discovered a few problems when I tried to make use of ALISE data for this project:

  1. It is proprietary and accessible only to ALISE members. Though the University of North Carolina provides public access to the Statistical Reports for 1997-2004, several of ALISE’s more recent reports are inaccessible to me, despite my connections to Rutgers and Drexel. Fair use seems sufficient for me to share the data I most care about—the number of graduates from each of the accredited library programs for each of the past ten years—but there is no reason to assume most readers would be able to verify any claims I make about the data.
  2. It appears to be inaccurate. The individual number of graduates for each accredited program, when summed, does not equal the number given as the overall total for reports covering the 1999-2000 (off by 8), 2000-2001 (off by 13), 2001-2002 (off by 19), or 2002-2003 academic years (off by 9).
  3. It is incomplete. The 2007 report, covering the 2005-2006 academic year, is unedited and unreleased, while the data for the 2008 report has not yet been compiled from that year’s questionnaires. The ALISE web page for its Statistical Reports lists both as being “for future release.”
  4. It does not match the data the schools reported to the National Center for Education Statistics. Moreover, in some years it is higher and other years it is lower, so it does not seem to be differing in a predictable way (such as NCES including data from non-accredited programs).
  • 1999-2000: 4,877 (ALISE “total”) or 4,885 (ALISE sum) vs. 4,577 (NCES)
  • 2000-2001: 4,953 (ALISE “total”) or 4,940 (ALISE sum) vs. 4,727 (NCES)
  • 2001-2002: 4,923 (ALISE “total”) or 4,904 (ALISE sum) vs. 5,113 (NCES)
  • 2002-2003: 5,175 (ALISE “total”) or 5,184 (ALISE sum) vs. 5,295 (NCES)
I am looking forward to part two.

Office Hours: Finding Balance?

A cliche but one that rings true as I write: summer is flying by. We arrived in northern Michigan in late May and it felt as though I had unlimited weeks leading up to the beginning of my new position at SLIS at San Jose State University. Now I’m in California for a week to start the semester with orientation and my first faculty retreat. This summer I’ve made time for work on research, updating my participatory service and emerging technologies course, and have taken a bit of a breather – ending each night by a campfire. I’ve spent some time finding balance between all of these things.

I mention the concept of balance in many of my presentations and class lectures. It helps reinforce the idea that understanding emerging trends and experimenting with technology is important but it’s just one of many considerations when it comes to balancing life as a librarian, LIS student, professor, information professional or library staffer. But it’s also much broader than that one aspect and impacts how we do our jobs.

Balance can mean a few things. I urge librarians to find the balance between online pursuits and physical world pursuits. Both are important and necessary. I’m revisiting a charged statement from the first “Office Hours” column – “If the online world is not for you, then neither may be a career in librarianship” ( – and it still rings true. For one thing, no librarian is beyond benefitting from the online LIS professional commons – that meeting place that stretches across blogs, Twitter, Facebook and now Google+. I’ve been exploring this idea with Kyle Jones, my former graduate assistant and now a doctoral student at UW Madison. In the commons, you’ll find support, advice and sharing of ideas. I’m recognizing now how beneficial my own participation has been in the last few years and how it’s illuminated my teaching.

What I am not suggesting, however, is to focus all of your attention just on the Web, social networks and the next big thing. Being out in the world is equally important. The online and the physical should complement each other in a cyclical fashion. It troubles me to think some still see advocacy for online participation as an either or proposition: you can *only* be online “in the cloud” or on Facebook or you can *only* be performing your librarian duties in the building. Again, a balance between the two makes for a well-informed, capable library professional. These concepts should be part of every LIS student’s learning.

What of library school students deep in their coursework or just starting their LIS program? Many probably have full time jobs in the field or outside our world. How can they find balance while juggling one, two or more classes, work and family/friends. I advise them to schedule their papers, blogging, projects just as they schedule everything else. Leaving time for personal pursuits is a must – it informs one’s professional practice. Who we are as people directly influences who we are as librarians. The student who brings a passion for fan fiction, zines, indie music, Civil War history, vegetarian cooking, yoga, and any other interest may indeed find those pursuits figuring into their practice.

I am reminded of a student years ago who had registered for 5 classes at once moving like a ghost through the hallways of our school from morning class to afternoon study and then on to evening class. Was she actually having time for reflection on her chosen field or was it a matter of “just getting through?” Sometimes time is a factor, but I often advise students to balance coursework with life as best they can. I would be remiss if I didn’t also remind myself that some of the best advice I ever got about finishing my dissertation was this: “Just get it done!”

 Balance with our services is also a consideration. We can’t just focus on one group of constituents – especially if that group is easy to please and not very challenging. Other groups – teens, seniors, faculty, university staff, etc. – need us as well. We also can’t focus on one type of delivery – online, in person, out in the world should all be considered. The best balance in this case is one that expertly keeps emerging shiny technology in equilibrium with a well-executed plan for reaching everyone.

Another type of balance is the one between the library world and the outside world. In our tandem presentations, Jenny Levine urged our audiences to “look up from their desks” and see what’s happening outside libraries. Trends in business, studies of technology use amongst various populations, the ins and outs of pop culture all offer insights to what we do in our work.

Finally, a most important type of balance is the one between our professional lives and everything else. I lived and breathed library blogging, library conferences and library everything for a few years. I logged a lot of miles and spent a lot of nights in hotels. I loved every trip I took and every talk I gave. O’Hare International Airport became a second home. I was very glad to swing the scales back into alignment – finding balance between my teaching, research and service to the profession and time for personal pursuits and recreation. For many it might be family, friends, exercise, a hobby, or spiritual endeavors. I believe all of these things help us be better professionals. Taking time too unplug, or clear your head, or do something silly is just as important as monitoring Twitter chats or Facebook groups day in and day out. The social media library world will continue to turn with or without you.

Summer is indeed flying by! Next week, school will be back in session for our students. Have you relaxed? Have you recharged?  I hope so.


Some other posts you may enjoy:

Thoughts on the Fall Semester:

How to Find the Right Fit:

 Special Thanks to Francine Fialkoff at Library Journal for editing this piece as a special online only edition of “Office Hours” for August 2011.





Office Hours Extra: Great Advice from Mr. Library Dude & Graham Lavender

Graham Lavender points to a post by Mr. Library Dude concerning the realities of libraries school and the job market. Mr. Library Dude offers a few points to be considered:

  1. I don’t really care what library school course grades/GPA you have. Just get your degree and focus on getting some experience.
  2. Get a mentor! Someone who is a working librarian. Not a library school professor who hasn’t worked in libraries for 20 years.
  3. Geographic flexibility: I understand that not everyone can (or wants) to move across country for a job. Just be aware that you may be severely limiting your options. Again, you need to decide if the expense of library school is worth it, if you are not geographically mobile.
  4. You need to market yourself. Librarians/librarians-to-be need to stop thinking of marketing as an “icky” term. You need a web presence 
Graham offers his own advice as well in a well-thought post:

I hope no one believes that earning an MLIS is the most challenging part of starting a library career; on graduation day, there will be no line-up of employers begging you to work for them. This is not your school’s fault. It is simply the way the job market works (as is the case with most careers). But I also hope no one is discouraged from starting an MLIS because of what they’ve heard about the library job market. As long as you’re willing to put in the extra effort (and often patience), you will find an appropriate job eventually.

In fact, many of Mr. Dude’s points are the same ones I’ve made before (don’t neglect to read the comments on his post for even more tips). Gain experience while studying, find a mentor, and don’t be shy about marketing yourself.

These words ring true. I do believe having an LIS educator as a mentor can be useful though for both the student and the faculty member. I’ve been lucky to mentor a few students over the years who have taught me a lot about the current state of things in libraries and I hope I’ve helped them too find their way. It does concern me that I haven’t worked in libraries for a while – Remember – my SJCPL days are over five years ago! I try my hardest to stay in touch with practicing librarians as I speak here and there and participate in various conferences. A good LIS educator will actively seek ways to remain current. My advice would be for students to seek not only a practicing mentor but that “up to date” prof as well.

What are your thoughts about these important topics?

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