Library and Information Studies Education, Technology, and Professional Identity

Library and Information Studies Education, Technology, and Professional Identity

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4735-0.ch005
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Librarians start to form their professional identities during their Master’s of Library and Information Science/Studies programs. With this in mind, this chapter explores how technology is taught in Library and Information Studies (LIS) programs by examining the core course offerings at 51 of the 57 American Library Association’s accredited programs. Technology-focused courses are the sixth most commonly offered core courses by LIS programs, and an examination of their content using course descriptions and available syllabi indicated that the content taught in these courses matched with expectations as described in competency standards from professional organizations. This indicated that LIS programs are teaching an understanding of technology that agrees with how practising librarians understand technology. The recent iSchool movement has led some professional librarians to claim that LIS programs are no longer offering an education that is relevant for today’s information world. This chapter finds that this claim is false and that the LIS education offered by both iSchools and non-iSchools appears to meet professional expectations for technology education. What the iSchool movement offers LIS education, however, is an expanded understanding of how information users interact with technology in all information settings, not just the library. This provides librarians with a broader understanding of patrons’ information needs. Finally, there is a brief examination of international LIS education, with specific attention to how it is emerging in developing countries.
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So far, how librarians have historically reacted to technology has been the focus of this book; however, what has not been explored is how librarians may acquire their professional identity. They do not enter their Master’s of Library and Information Studies (MLIS) programs with a fully formed professional identity. It is their professional education that provides the foundation for the attainment of a professional identity. Professions have their own worldviews, embodied identities, tastes, and emotional orientations. But, simply having the qualifying degree is not enough to ensure that someone identifies with a chosen profession. These characteristics must be internalized by students in professional schools (Costello, 2005). Earlier, the example of a new graduate at a job interview was used to illustrate this point: The graduate must be able to demonstrate to a potential employer that she or he is a member of the profession through demeanour and dress. A person must want to internalize the identity offered to them by their chosen profession. By choosing to join a profession, one internalizes the professional norms and ethics that form their identity. Therefore, a new librarian who arrives for an interview at an academic library dressed more like an undergraduate student is not demonstrating that she or he has fully internalized the norms of the profession.

The same process of internalization holds true for how a professional is taught, formally and informally, to interact with and understand the tools and techniques of her or his profession. Since the advent of computers and the Internet, libraries have been trying to navigate the best ways to include information technology in a manner that maintains, and perhaps even improves, the profession’s core values of access to information, intellectual freedom, confidentiality and privacy, and service (American Library Association, 2004). Librarians are first inducted into the profession’s understanding of its relationship with information technology during their MLIS, or MLS (Master’s of Library Studies/Science), degree. Although the curricula for each accredited MLIS program are designed to meet the accreditation standards set out by the ALA (American Library Association), there is not yet a standard program of study for each school. Instead, each program can meet the accreditation requirement to integrate “the theory, application, and use of technology” (Office for Accreditation, 2008, p. 7) as best suits the needs of students and the local professional community. Given this context, this chapter will seek to answer two questions: How is technology taught in LIS schools? And, how does the way technology is taught affect the development of professional identity?

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