Office Hours: Looking Forward

This column explores the future of LIS education as part of Library Journal’s 40th Anniversary celebration.

LIS programs have moved online quickly since my own program went 100 percent online in 2009 with varying degrees of success, some relying on “read and respond” pedagogy while others embrace new technologies. (See The Transparent Library School and Our Common Purpose.) A couple of decades from now, online graduate education may mean something different than a web-based learning management system. Logging in might involve a version of virtual reality that replicates the “face-to-face” classroom so closely the technology involved falls away. Class experience, either synchronous or asynchronous, might take place all over the world, with link-ups to great libraries or “field trips” to visit all types of information centers from the Outback in Australia to supercities in Europe.

I also spoke to a couple of fine folks from the field on this topic as part of the writing process but alas word count disallowed inclusion. Honored to include the thoughts here. First from Judy O’Connell, Senior Lecturer, Quality Learning and Teaching Leader | Online Faculty of Science, uImagine Digital Learning Innovation Laboratory, Charles Sturt University, Australia:

LIS education needs to be grounded in a good measure of ‘future thinking’ which incorporates current technologies, participatory learning, and social media practices.  I see a lot of LIS education that might canvas these topics, but seems to be delivered using content management systems that don’t leverage ‘future think’.  What does future think mean?  It means using current professionals in digital colloquium to push the LIS student’s thinking (that is particularly relevant for distance education modes).  I’d like to see more active hands-on with current and emerging technologies. I’d like to see that assessment is organic and drives LIS learning. AND I’d like to see LIS education even having an international conference that feeds future thinking!

And from Ben Himmlefarb, Local History Librarian, White Plains Public Library, NY:

Library school should connect students with the reality of working in the libraries they see themselves in. Rather than teaching a set of canonized ideas, LIS programs could teach students how to think critically about the environments they work in. Flexibility and adaptability are key parts of librarianship–students should be mentored in these crucial, yet often overlooked, traits. Rather than producing librarians ready to fit into yesterday’s libraries, LIS programs could be turning out people ready to meet the challenge of making sure libraries evolve as quickly the economies and communities they exist in. Libraries need to get better at foreseeing fundamental changes in information systems and (at least in the case of public libraries) making sure staff is ready to lead people toward successful engagement with new systems.