Noting her own bias as a library educator, the Loon finds herself in agreement with Fiona Bradley on the essential bankruptcy of the “what I didn’t learn in library school” whinge.
Library school can’t teach you everything you’ll need to know, not in a mere two full-time years (at most; many schools require less). Cope. Indeed, the mere existence of this whinge is a troubling indicator of the tunnel vision and passivity with respect to lifelong learning that vastly too many librarians possess. The Loon, cruel creature that she is, wouldn’t entirely be against the notion of drumming librarians who utter this whinge too often and too loudly out of the profession altogether.
The Loon adds to Bradley’s remarks that many skills useful in libraries are also useful in many other contexts, meaning that they’re also taught in many other contexts. In her estimation, library schools should think twice, thrice, many more times about teaching these skills inside the curriculum.
Part of this has to do with the peculiarities of the library environment being sometimes rather extreme, making shoving library-specific material aside to make room for more generic lessons an arguable waste of student time and money. Students are in library school, not tech school, not management school, not design school, not education school.
Part of it is simple money and human-resources math. For example: the Loon teaches introductory library technology. The Loon does not teach computer programming. No one would want the Loon to teach computer programming, because the Loon is the first to admit she’s a wretchedly bad computer programmer. Does this mean the Loon is a bad teacher of library technology? No; the Loon is aces at teaching library-specific technologies and technology contexts, if she does say so herself. She knows her way around metadata, digital preservation, digitization, librarian use of social media, ILSes and related library technology infrastructure, information and technology standards, ebooks, privacy concerns around technology, open-source library software (and why open source matters to libraries), and so on. Quite intentionally, the Loon puts the “library” in “library technology.” That’s her job.
Students who want to learn to program (which the Loon thinks both laudable and worthwhile) will do better and pay far less by taking a course or two from the local community college. They’ll receive better tutelage than they’d ever get from the Loon, and what they learn will (by and large, pace the overemphasis on mathematical algorithms in too many programming courses) be just as applicable in the library as anywhere else.
Now, this isn’t to say that no library school anywhere should ever teach a programming course. A school with a gifted programmer on the faculty absolutely should take advantage of that! That’s the flipside of the human-resources equation: playing to faculty strengths. This means that all library schools have certain gaps, certain areas where their pedagogy isn’t as strong because they don’t happen to have hired someone with those areas as a strength. Given (as Bradley points out) the immense breadth of the totality of skillsets in librarianship, that’s inevitable—and it’s silly to fault library schools for it.
That said, if that gifted faculty programmer is any good, she won’t teach a generic programming course; she’ll teach a library programming course. There’s a difference! The same goes for management, design and usability, teaching, research methods, and similarly generic topics: if they’re not being taught with a library angle, library schools shouldn’t be teaching them, and good library-school advisors will gently nudge students to go elsewhere for tutelage.
(By-the-bye, the Loon is using “library” in this post to mean something closer to “information agency.” She apologizes to archivists, knowledge managers, and other information professionals who justifiably feel a bit “disappeared” by this word choice.)
The Loon invites current and former library-school students who feel hard done by because they haven’t been spoonfed everything imaginable to put on their adult undergarments, go out there, and learn. The real failure of too many library schools (the Loon’s sometimes included, sadly) is not rubbing students’ noses in the need for lifelong learning, and not equipping them with sufficient experiential and information-source awareness to do so.
Postscriptum: Do any library schools, anywhere, not offer courses in electronic-resource licensing and management, as Bradley suggests? The Loon’s school has for some years, at least since the Loon herself was a student here, and it’s mentioned in quite a few other courses (the Loon’s hardly least). So much curriculum whinging from working librarians seems so clueless about modern curricula…
- Well. How curious.
- The C-word