Framework of a Core LIS Class: An Opinion Piece.


Published: October 28, 2012 by Dr. Linda Main

Library science is both a discipline and a profession. It differs from many other academic disciplines because the focus is not a subject, but an activity or maybe even a process, which implies that the discipline changes when the profession evolves and changes. The curriculum must therefore reinforce the student’s capacity to solve problems and use skills in constantly changing real-world environments.

The following is a suggested framework for a required class for all LIS students irrespective of geographical location. All full time faculty should participate and also a group of practitioners who will act as advisors or consultants.

Class Framework

Students are divided into teams. Each team works with a faculty member and a practitioner who will act as an advisor or consultant. Each team will be assigned a geographic area of the United States and a country elsewhere in the world. Each team will be expected to undertake and report on several analyses.

The analyses will focus on:

Local culture, customs, and any indigenous religions

Political institutions and the local political climate

Regional economic climate and projections, not forgetting the impact of the global economic climate

Existing library and information services

User analysis and information needs analysis

Telecommunications infrastructure and existing networks

Assignments should involve a mixture of virtual group work and individual work. This mix is very important.

“A major advantage that a group has over an individual is in its diversity of resources and ideas. Groups have been used throughout history to accomplish many goals; groups of soldiers have waged and won wars; groups of legislators have led and repressed nations; groups of scholars have made great discoveries; and groups of entrepreneurs have created commercial giants” [1]

Of course groups of lemmings also rush over cliffs. Groups can hinder innovation by requiring compromise. This was brought home in the 9/11 Commission report which criticized “collective group think” with its emphasis on consensus and conformity to group norms rather than on better ideas or enlightened perspectives. Thus students must also show what they can do as individuals. As Henry David Thoreau said:

It is the luxurious and dissipated who set the fashions which the herd so diligently follows.

Students will:

Experience technologically based course work and develop proficiency with a variety of social media tools

Gain practical experience in data collection and analysis

Learn how to be self disciplined, self motivated, and how to manage time effectively

Develop the tolerance for ambiguity that working in a real world brings. The practical competency and confidence that they acquire will also help them to learn tomorrow’stechnologies.

Develop the cognitive knowledge and the skill necessary to effectively evaluate and /or design information products for culturally diverse populations within the United States and beyond. Librarians must understand that culture, language, and national identity are barriers that must be overcome in order to ensure that all users can access information services.

This approach will involve practitioners with academics; it will help to ensure that the curriculum is relevant; and it will help with faculty research as real problems will get identified and investigated.

Herbert A. Simon summarized it best when he said:

Human beings are at their best when they interact with the real world and draw lessons from the bumps and bruises they get [2]

[1] Winter, J. K., & Neal, J. C. (1995). Group writing: Student perceptions of the dynamics and efficiency of groups. Business Communications Quarterly, 1.

[2] Simon, H. A. (1994). Interview. Omni, 16(9), 71-89.


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