What If We Had Nine Required Courses and Six Electives?

In a recent post on “My Perfect Program“, I mentioned that our library school apparently used to have nine required courses (and presumably six electives) which is the exact opposite of what we have now. 

I don't know what the required courses used to be – I think collections development and a technology one called “systems” were two of them.  I'm not sure what the other one was but that got me thinking about which courses I would want to be required if all students had to take nine classes instead of six.

Here are the six required classes we currently have:
501 – Perspectives on Library Science
502 – Cataloguing
503 – Reference
504 – Research
505 – Technology
506 – Management

Most of the classes I'm suggesting as other courses that should be required are already offered as electives with their own numbers but for convenience, I'm just going to continue the existing numbering scheme:

507 – Collection Development
508 – “Library Skills” (as Jess Nevins defines this course)
509 – History of Libraries

Oh and why not?  Here's a suggestion for a tenth required course.  Why not have a companion to 501 – Perspectives on Library Science called 510 – Issues in Library Science.  To be really different, the department could require this to be a course you take at the end of your program instead of the start and it could cover topics such as Advocacy, Leadership, Information Ethics and Social Justice. 

While I'm at it, I would also substantially revise the 505 course to be more of a technology issues/current technologies course than the fundamentals course that it is right now.  Someone talking about the the problems with this courses compared it to when library schools took “typing” off their list of requirements.  I think today, students should be expected to come in to library school with a certain basic level of computer skills and if they don't have them, the onus should be on them to obtain those skills before they arrive.  (Is this a barrier to access?  Am I being elitist?) 

(Off-topic but Go Democrats Go!)

Comments 14

  1. Anonymous wrote:

    didn't 501 cover stuff like “510” issues? and history too? I can't imagine spending an entire course on the history of libraries!!! I read one book and that was more than what most folks get!
    I totally agree with your view on 505.

    Posted 08 Nov 2006 at 3:57 am
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    Ac ekusa abze fisoba.
    Ac ekusa abze fisoba!

    Posted 08 Nov 2006 at 4:05 pm
  3. Anonymous wrote:

    Dal's library school requires 16 courses instead of 15 (4 per semestre for 4 semestres) and has 8 required and 8 electives. There's a schedule of electives that sees an increasing number each semestre, from none in first semestre to four in the final.
    This seems very reasonable for a four semestre programme, but for those taking the three semestre boot-camp at Western it really doesn't give the student much opportunity to either explore various nooks of the profession or to snag keenly desired but intermittantly offered courses. Even with four electives in second semestre I had to grit my teeth at the courses that I would never be able to take because they wouldn't be offered in the next semestre.
    It sort of strikes me that if you add Collection Development, then almost all of Nevin's “library skills” could be covered by the existing required courses — assuming that they are taught well. The ones that wouldn't be covered by the required courses would be covered in other courses for those who are interested in that area of librarianship (we did pathfinders in Children's Lit).
    I'm not sure that basic office skills should be taught at the Master's level, if we don't know them by now we had better be able to pick that stuff up fairly quickly on the job. And the last thing I want is a credit course in hygiene and sensitivity training. Both are life-lessons, not library lessons.

    Posted 09 Nov 2006 at 1:27 am
  4. Anonymous wrote:

    Having been a bit of a techie, I was always comfortable tinkering with tools when they broke down – for me, the idea of instruction on how to fix a photocopier as part of a master's degree seems a bit silly. The required “technology” course when I was at Library School was typically nap time for me.
    However, with that said, when I started my library career, I did struggle for a few weeks on how to put that nasty plastic adhesive material on book covers – and just covering hard cover books in general. While, I'm not sure about a course on “Library Skills”, maybe it is as simple as ongoing workshops conducted as part of the program – sort of an “interdisciplinary” course/continuing ed program covering:
    -book processing (binding, stamping, etc.)
    -basic library operations (fixing the photocopier, learning how to scan)
    -business practices (how to dress, how to behave)
    -marketing library services (how to design an awareness campaign)
    -Sources and services (what companies exist, what products do they sell)
    (To contradict myself) Maybe Nevins has something here. A course that uses his book as the key resource. hmmm…

    Posted 09 Nov 2006 at 7:20 pm
  5. Anonymous wrote:

    A lot of the practical things that we won't realize we should have learned until we're IN the work force are probably best learned on-the-job, and couldn't or shouldn't be taught theoretically anyway. And, while I believe that for consistency's sake there should be core courses, I wonder if there is truly any subject which is universally applicable, and which does not become outdated. (Other than a 501-style course, I guess).
    I base that comment on something my professional mentor recently wrote in an email: “The one thing I can guarantee you is that the library world will continue to evolve and your MLIS education will become outdated in the not too distant future, as it has for the rest of us.”
    Yikes! Scary, but true. I'm not sure what it means as far as core courses go. Maybe it's that it's less important WHAT we learn in MLIS, and more important that we learn HOW to learn?

    Posted 09 Nov 2006 at 8:05 pm
  6. Anonymous wrote:

    I have to admit that this entry wasn't as strong of a “I really think we should do this!” post like some of my other ones – it was more of an exercise in trying to come up with what other required classes we should have *if* we did have to have more.
    So with that said, I'll try to explain my half-formed thoughts on the topic a bit better. This program continually struggles between the practical and the theoretical so I was thinking that a 510 might be a way to split some of the topics covered in 501 and give much time to each of them – make 501 more of an overview of constant library topics like copyright, “the profession”, different library types, etc. and make 510 more of a “hot topics” course on things like digital copyright, world trade agreements, social justice issues, etc.
    As for the library history course, Elisabeth Davies did an excellent job of giving us a bit of background as part of our cataloguing course but I'm not sure if everybody who teaches that course includes that. And coincidentally, I thought that cataloguing would be boring but she made it interesting and I think the history of libraries could be the same – it's important for people coming out of library school to not only know about current issues but to know where we come from – right back to Alexandria, Dewey, Ranganathan up to current leaders like Michael Gorman.
    (Was the book you read _The Book on the Bookshelf_ by any chance? That's a great history of libraries-type book. Another called _Library: An Unquiet History_ wasn't nearly as good as I thought it would be.)

    Posted 10 Nov 2006 at 6:03 am
  7. Anonymous wrote:

    Translation, please?

    Posted 10 Nov 2006 at 6:04 am
  8. Anonymous wrote:

    Thanks for the thoughts. Yeah, I think even having that one extra course that some other library schools require, whether an elective or required, would be nice. That's sort of an interesting system at Dal that you describe – moving from all required at the start to all electives in the final semester.
    All the skills mentioned by Nevins are indeed either offered in electives here or should be life lessons as you say. But it's hard to know which classes will offer the skills sometimes (ie. did you know you would be doing a pathfinder in Children's Lit? Maybe Lynne mentioned it at the course presentation meeting but I don't remember. Plus not everybody shows up with that information.)
    Maybe a solution is to have syllabii released at the same time that the course offerings are posted so students can see exactly what they'll be learning/what types of assignments they'll be completing?
    I'll agree with you on hygiene being a life lesson (although maybe it could be framed as part of the importance of projecting a professional image if it was taught in library school?) but both it and sensitivity training (which is even more important that hygiene I'd argue) are unfortunately, life lessons people may never learn so giving us some advance basis might be a good idea before we get out in the real world.
    For sensitivity training, a good analogy might be my issues with all the group presentations we're asked to do – we don't get training in that either (other than a single 503 class mid-way through term on the topic) and are expected to figure out how to do it ourselves. But, just like sensitivity training, if you don't have a good foundation on how to deal with it, you're just going to continue bad habits you already have. And I think people should have some of that awareness before they get in the workplace rather than learning something that important on the job.
    Thanks for the comments!

    Posted 10 Nov 2006 at 6:18 am
  9. Anonymous wrote:

    I'm not saying we should have a full course in photocopier repair but if there *was* to be a “Grab Bag Library Skills” course, you could spend an hour of class time on photocopier repair and that would be a lot more useful than some of the things we spend an hour covering in some of our classes. I don't know – it just bugs me because I've been in the GRC and somebody has a paper jam and they run to the GRC staff rather than even spending two minutes trying to fix it themselves (which would usually mean “open latch, pull out jammed paper”)
    Your idea of a series of “Continuing Ed” workshops is a good one that could cover some of these non-professional skills.
    Or another idea – maybe the Department chould offer “Library Skills” as an elective instead of as part of a hypothetical new required course load and see what the response from students is?
    Thanks for the post!

    Posted 10 Nov 2006 at 6:26 am
  10. Anonymous wrote:

    Man, I got a lot of response to what I thought was just a goofy “what if?” post. And here I am defending myself again for what, the fourth time in the comments? Wow – I never know what'll catch people's attention!
    Anyhew, another good point. Learning how to learn is what professional programs are all about and probably the main thing that separates us from the library technician courses (or for Shea, what separated her education from that gained by an LPN.)
    As I think I said above, this program struggles between the practical and theoretical, the professional and the academic all the time.
    If I can take your idea to its logical conclusion, I wonder if the department had no required courses? How that would make this program different? I probably wouldn't have taken 502 or 504 because I would have thought they were boring and too hard respectively. And I would've been much worse off if that were the case.
    In the end, after a bit more contemplation than when I wrote the original post, I think the only required course I'd like to see added to the list is collection development – I think it's that important and that core to all of us, no matter what type of library we end up in. (But since most people end up taking it as an elective, then again, maybe not… Hmmm, do you want syrup with your waffle, Mr. Hammond?)

    Posted 10 Nov 2006 at 6:33 am
  11. Anonymous wrote:

    Interestingly, there was an incident in my first semestre where a student (no names, not a close friend of mine) was criticized or critiqued (not sure which) for his hair length and style. There was a small but noticeable wave of indignation that a prof would even comment on this, regardless of how private and confidential the feedback session.
    It seemed like a fair thing to point out, but unfair if it factored into the marking. (I tend to think that it's beside the point, but I can imagine that this particular professor wasn't terribly, er, sensitive in her presentation.) In any case, few people seemed to take the comment as valuable in any way. I suspect that this would be the general reaction to specific instruction on professionalism. The older students are set in their ways (for good or ill) and you can't tell the young anything without causing offense.

    Posted 10 Nov 2006 at 3:46 pm
  12. Anonymous wrote:

    Wow. Just to make sure i've got you…a prof criticized a student for his hair length? Was this in front of the whole class? You mention a feedback session – was this said after the prof had their mid-term feedback session? I don't know if this is a fair thing to point out but again, depends on how it's done I guess.
    Stories like that show why teaching hygiene would probably require its own sensitivity training beforehand! Doing this would obviously run into the problem of what one person finds appropriate being another person's “dirty hippie”. Maybe you don't even mention hygiene – call it “professional presentation” aand just do an hour during one class where the instructor mentions things like how long hair on males may offend some patrons so you probably don't need to get a haircut but you might want to tie it up while at work. Same with earrings and nose rings. In my own case, scraggly beards and barely combed hair probably don't look great.
    Interesting subject anyhow – man, that story's still bugging me. I think there needs to be a “Secret History of FIMS” written that captures all of these weird, crazy, outrageous stories.

    Posted 10 Nov 2006 at 7:07 pm
  13. Anonymous wrote:

    It wasn't in front of the class, and given my experience in the same class (different section, same prof), it was likely intended as constructive criticism and didn't factor into the mark. The assignment was a presentation and it was made clear in advance that delivery and presentation were as important as content. You probably know the one.
    In my debriefing (and how often do you get a personal debriefing on your assignments) I lost one per cent because I lost my focus near the end and let slip my vocal tic of “um” a bunch of times in a few minute span. She offered this as an explaination as to why a group mate got 1% higher than me. That seems fair, given the assignment.
    Again, I wasn't in the room and only heard about this “haircut” incident through the rumour mill. The context was appropriate for that sort of feedback — assuming that personal style didn't affect the mark, only effectiveness at workin' that style — but it does illustrate that all of those issues that might fall under the aegis of professionalism are probably best left out of the classroom.

    Posted 11 Nov 2006 at 1:14 am
  14. Anonymous wrote:

    And the sign says, long-haired freaky people, need not apply…
    I don't know. I guess I've lost marks for equally stupid reasons as having long hair. (Giving the right answer but using the wrong method being a personal favourite.)
    In the end, it's up the prof and if they want to focus on hair length as much as content or delivery, that's their perogative. Even though I started this thread implying that we should get a bit about hygiene (professionalism) in a “Library Skills” course, I find myself thinking that maybe it's too subjective of a subject. As you say, maybe it needs to be left outside of the classroom.
    If someone is dressing inappropriately or has bad breath or doesn't comb their hair or often has crumbs of food in the corner of their mouth after lunch, maybe it's just up to the manager to let them know…

    Posted 12 Nov 2006 at 1:43 am
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