In Beverly Lynch’s article Library Education: Its Past, Its Present, Its Future, Lynch discusses the history of librarianship from 1853-2008, including issues of education – in terms of students and faculty – and the changes to and expansion of the field of librarianship. Until the late nineteenth century, an apprenticeship was, oftentimes, how a person trained to become a librarian. As the number of public libraries increased and the need to have well organized, informed, and educated librarians grew, libraries moved away from employing apprenticeship-trained librarians and towards those who acquired a university education in the field. While universities trained librarians in research, organization, and clerical and administrative tasks, there was no organizational body that accredited these university programs. The absence of an accreditation organization led to inconsistencies in training, which led to the 1923 Charles C. Williamson report – sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation – which suggested that the ALA (American Library Association) should take up the task. Williamson’s report also suggested that librarians should acquire a bachelor’s degree and further their studies in graduate school before taking up the career (Lynch, 2008, p. 938). While both of Williamson’s suggestions were accepted into practice, the changes and expansion of the field of librarianship, since Williamson’s report, requires a new assessment to ensure that current university programs are operating efficiently, benefiting the current needs of libraries, and appear attractive to prospective students.
Although current university programs employ both full-time PhD professors and part-time practicing librarians to teach librarianship courses, the latter appear to be those making the largest educational footprint. These practicing librarians are introducing post-graduate certifications and continuing education into the field. A LIS (Library and Information Science) student can earn a discipline specific LIS degree in disciplines such as archive management, research, among many others. A post-graduate certification then allows LIS graduates to expand their knowledge and apply the current information of their field. Many other professions employ continuing education as a requirement, such as teachers and doctors; continuing education ensures that individuals in these professions are up-to-date with procedures, changes, laws, and expansions. As libraries are changing often and expanding, the need for continuing education and post-graduate certification is apparent. According to Lynch (2008), increasing enrollment in these programs provide evidence “that there is a need for such courses and a market for them” (p. 949). Ever expanding and shifting technology illustrates the need for continuing education. Consider the changes in libraries since the 1980s: technology was minimal in libraries until the 1980s when the information age began; since then libraries have gotten rid of the card catalog and instituted a digital catalog – complete with access to journal articles, periodicals, films, and electronic books. As this part-time practicing librarian faculty is on the front line of the very changes and expansions that libraries frequently see, it is arguable that they have the greatest impact on LIS students.
Discipline based LIS programs have permeated the university librarianship community, which begs the question of whether a return to an apprenticeship degree program would not be better suited to the changing role of librarians. The apprenticeship program was abandoned due to the lack of a university education, but current professional and research-based programs leave LIS students with little or no experience in the field. Columbia University has created a program that, while still professional and research based, is taught completely by practicing librarians. While this is not the same as an apprenticeship or a residency, it does provide a university education enriched by present-day knowledge, and taught by librarians who currently work in the field. A similar program with a required residency or apprenticeship would not only expand LIS students’ knowledge of current library practices, but also allow them to feel more comfortable about post-graduate job prospects. An apprenticeship or residency may also make LIS graduates appear more attractive to potential employers. In order for librarianship programs to flourish and continue to provide exceptional librarians, they will need to follow the needs of both the current demand of libraries and those of potential students. According to Lynch (2008), this combination is exactly why a reassessment of LIS programs is needed: “the continuation of any educational program is influenced by whether there are students interested in undertaking the program of study” (p. 951).
While the history of librarianship shows a change from apprenticeship programs to professional and research based programs, the current changes and expansion of librarianship disciplines may benefit from graduates of LIS programs that incorporate apprenticeships or residencies into the curriculum. There does not appear to be enough evidence supporting either program, but considering the increased enrollment of post-graduate and continuing education courses the future of a more hands on LIS degree approach seems promising. Libraries are no longer only sources of research, but have expanded to incorporate many technological and information fields. These fields develop and transform frequently, and as they do librarians will need to continue their education and have a more hands-on approach.
Lynch, B. P. (2008). Library Education: Its Past, Its Present, Its Future. Library Trends, 56(4), 931-953. doi: 10.1353/lib.0.0016