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On the 2.0 Job Description (Part 2): LIS Students in a 2.0 World

Submitted by Michael Stephens on April 25, 2006 - 12:20pm

Michael Stephens head shotI've just finished my semester at Dominican as an adjunct—the version of LIS 753 Internet Fundamentals & Design I teach is taught over three fun-filled and information-packed weekends—and turning the students in the class on to online social tools and the bigger picture of what's happening online was a highlight for me. We ended the class with group presentations, a discussion of the Newsweek cover story on the Social Web, and a look at three 2.0 job descriptions as a wrap up.

Last month, I wrote about that handful of 2.0 Job Descriptions posted here and there on job sites. One of them is even called Librarian 2.0. I found this interesting and proposed: "Library schools should evaluate the technology-focused courses they offer and make sure they are aligned with what is soon to be expected of recent graduates" if they hadn't already. I asked LIS students and others to comment. I received a few replies and wanted to share them here.

Caroline Brown, a recent graduate from San Jose State University, commented on the original post:

It's entirely possible for a student to complete an MLIS at SJSU without engaging with the issues surrounding emerging Web technologies. I'd like to see more emphasis on making technology-oriented courses approachable to people who enter the program with very basic computer skills, and I'd like to see user created content and social software addressed as more than a sidenote. SJSU is very good at teaching its students to use traditional digital resources, but the program would be improved by including active student participation in Web 2.0 projects.Fascinating. Where does a "user-created content" class fall into coursework for library schools these days? Possibly in a User-Based Planning class, or a class devoted to new technologies and libraries? Or could we fold user-created content into the core courses, i.e., how do we catalog or access podcasts?; or how do we use sites such as Flickr or YouTube for reference?; or what might MySpace accounts afford managers in the library-administration class?

I also heard from some students at other LIS schools. Heidi Hansen, for example, is finding just what she needs at Wayne State University:

I'm only in my first semester at Wayne State, but I'm really pleased with the curriculum so far. I already had a technology and information architecture background before coming to Wayne State and I stated that I wanted to continue my interests in library technology in my cover letter. They paired me with a fairly new information science professor as my advisor, but I think she's a wonderful addition to the University, she was even eager to present me a list of future classes WSU will be offering around my specialization (Information Science).

My current class is Information Technology, a required class, but my observations from the other students in the class have made me realize that some of my classmates are indeed interested in how technology is shaping the career.

On the other hand, some of my most valuable experience has come from actually doing these things. At the library system that I do work for, it's no secret that I'm interested in library technology, I'm pretty lucky to work for people that are eager to let me try new things and throw out ideas at my job. It's the combination of class and work that's the most beneficial to me.

I don't know if my experiences are typical, but I know that Wayne State is often overshadowed by Michigan's program. I've been really pleased with WSU so far and I'm quite happy with my choice, I have no doubt that I'll feel prepared for the "L2 World" upon graduation. Heidi blogs at, and from the look of her use of flickr, Google calendar, and her recent trip to Ann Arbor's Library Camp, she is indeed on her way.

What strikes me most about her response is that she cites the most valuable experience is "from actually doing these things."

Recently, I've been considering the role of training and instruction in our discussions of new or changed services in libraries. For social software and building library services, such as the wiki-based innovations at my former employer, the St. Joseph County Public Library, I think students and librarians are getting their most valuable learning by doing. Doing, making mistakes, learning from those mistakes, and doing it again. I think some librarians might find this type of experience a bit daunting. What I say in workshops is this: "Go for it! You can't break the wiki [or whatever tool]—play! Have fun!"

Experiential instruction, such as building a weblog, IMing with another student, messing around in the virtual sandbox of wiki pages, or engaging in group tagging exercises, not only can immerse learners in the tool, but these experiences also can get them thinking about applications in libraries, new services, and the impact they have on their individual lives. For example, a MySpace seminar might really get librarians thinking about what presence they might establish in this relatively new frontier. Also, for the librarians that have heard "scary stories" about such social sites, they can checkout the landscape themselves. I did just that: I recently got a MySpace and Facebook account to test the waters and see what all the discussion is about—and because of Robert Lackie's post at Library Garden:

As a librarian and professor, I joined Facebook last year when I found out that the students in my public speaking class were communicating with each other via that tool, instead of our university's email system. It was amazing how much more open and willing the students were to sharing information about each other and their individual and group projects in our class, via Facebook. They were thrilled that I was willing to join Facebook, and they loved that I used it to find out and celebrate their birthdays, for instance, as they came up during the semester.In a recent workshop, one librarian reported she activated a MySpace account because she knew all of her shelvers hung out there and were talking about work. We know libraries are getting accounts, and maybe more and more librarians are too!

Candy Schwartz, co-editor, Library & Information Science Research at Simmons College GSLIS, wrote to say the GSLIS students are teaching social software and more "for the whole student community, not just one class." She urged me to visit the course listings at Classes are co-sponsored by the Tech Lab and the student chapter of the American Society of Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T). Each is an hour of hands-on experience in the lab, with discussion and a resource list takeaway. "If this flies," Candy said, "they will probably do it every semester."

As I mentioned last time, Steven L. MacCall, associate professor at the School of Library and Information Studies, University of Alabama, formally incorporated Web 2.0 and Library 2.0 discussions into his medical librarianship class

"I incorporated Library 2.0 applications in this course in order to provide additional tools for the students' professional problem solving toolkit," he said, answering a quick e-mail query from me. "These tools will not only provide additional ways for students to assist their future library users, but they will also provide a platform and a set of techniques to help students to efficiently meet their future personal and professional information management and environmental scanning needs."

MacCall's students studied the use of Library 2.0 tools in professional LIS and in health-sciences contexts, and they had the opportunity to become comfortable with a variety of these tools via class assignments requiring hands-on experience. Demystification and the development of an understanding of Library 2.0 tools' strengths and weaknesses are stressed.

Peer training and instruction played a role as well, MacCall explained in his message back to me. "I also required each student to teach his or her fellow students about their assigned tool, thus facilitating the opportunity for each student to think about Library 2.0 applications from the perspective of an information teacher/expert rather than simply from the perspective of someone who is learning about these tools as a future user."

Heidi Dolamore, MLIS candidate at the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies, University of British Columbia and blogger at, wrote to say that she looked for classes outside of her comfort level, to push herself to learn new things— great advice in my book:

One of the best classes I took was in the electrical and computer engineering department on computer supported collaborative work—meaning blogs, wikis, IM, and groupware. I think collaboration with other departments and taking electives outside of the library program should be encouraged.She also described her ideal LIS world:

There would be more integrated opportunities for that sort of learning, rather than a whole class devoted to new technology—assignments would be designed to incorporate opportunities for you to develop your tech skills and play with new tools. I think staying current with technology has a lot to do with library schools teaching students how to engage in professional development...and encouraging students to get involved before they graduate. You're going to have to spend some of your own time finding out about stuff while you're working, good to get in the habit as a student.So, we see students carving out their individual paths toward technology curricula, and we observe that professors are incorporating discussions of these new tools into foundational materials. Let's dream a second and imagine LIS education in 2015...

Courses would be experiential, collaborative, and they would take place in the physical world as well as in 3D-online environments. The fifth generation of Facebook/MySpace would allow students to seamlessly connect to other students and professors, as well as practioners all over the world, via new iterations of Weblogs, wikis, IM, and RSS (maybe by then what we know as RSS will be called something else). Resources would grow, from students' efforts across the globe, which libraries could tap into... and, of course, we'd all be talking about the whole Library 8.0 kerfuffle! :-)

Next time... 2.0 Job Descriptions: Authors Speak!Technorati tags: Blog, Blogging, instant messaging, library education, library information science, library job descriptions, library schools, Library 2.0, social software, Web 2.0, weblogs, wiki

Comments (7)

I think ChiLibrarian hit the

I think ChiLibrarian hit the nail on the head when writing, 'The important thing is to think about how libraries can use technology in a meaningful and useful way.' After all, the point isn't to use all the shiny new technology we can, the point is to empower library users (or potential users) to access and use information. That said, it's awesome to find a job description that actually addresses both of these issues. Check out this recruitment for an Electronic Services Specialist at Redwood City Public Library:

I have read this article and

I have read this article and comments with great interest. I am an evolving systems librarian - accidental even. I work in a small government library. I am currently in charge of implementing a new LMS ERM and reference query management system in addition to my usual work. So I am pretty busy!
We have a new library manager who is keen to expoloit new technoligies - RSS podcasting wikis etc - and shw wants to use them now! As the systems librarian I am of course the person she looks to to develop them.
While I absolutely agree that it is essential to train new librarians to be IT savvy, I find myself asking what about us early models - what are good options for the time-poor working librarian who is expected to become an instant expert. Don't get me wrong - I'm really keen to embrace new technology and I enjoy it - I just don't get much time to explore it and I am looking for ways to develop my understanding quickly.
I don't have an IT background (but I have started a software development course to extend my general IT skills and understanding). I'd really welcome any suggestions or tips people have on developing understanding and confidence with these new technologies.

Just finished learning new

Just finished learning new ideas at the MICCA conference here in Maryland last week. One of the best presentations was made by Will Richardson, author of 'Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and other powerful web tools for Classrooms'. It opened my mind to the possibilities that the new communication technologies create for staff and students. Like ChiLibrarian, I agree that as a librarian or a media specialist, we need to be open to new ideas. We don't need to be recent grads of a program to 'get it'!

I think the important thing

I think the important thing is not for students to learn to use Flickr or to start a blog. The important thing is to think about how libraries can use technology in a meaningful and useful way. I think my library school education more than a decade ago more than prepared me to deal with blogs, social tagging, RSS feeds, etc. Not because it taught me to be proficient in any particular programming or search technique, but because I had one class in particular that emphasized thinking about how technology effects users and library staff. It wasn't about learning to use the shiny new thing, it was learning about being open to how the shiny new thing might be useful - or not.

Wow! What a great post . . .

Wow! What a great post . . . and then to come to the part where my advisor (Candy Schwartz) plugs a workshop series that I helped to develop! It's gone well so far -- we've got a couple of left before the semester ends.

As far as what sort of things LIS students learn, it is possible at Simmons to avoid learning much about technology. There is a required class, but from what I understand (I haven't taken it yet) not a whole lot of time is spent covering why librarians should care about these emerging technologies. I find this stuff fascinating, and I'm convinced that everyone should at least know about things like wikis and RSS. That was part of the inspiration for the workshop series: we're promoting them by saying 'Hey, you've heard these terms flying around library school, come find out what the deal is. It's a painless hour of your time.' They've been very well-recieved by my classmates who've attended, and I've been contacted by other students who can't make the sessions. Together, I think that's a good indication that there's at least some interest from people in learning what's going on, and how, as a librarian, you can put these technologies to work at your library, for your patrons.

Wow, thanks for including me

Wow, thanks for including me here :) I mentioned that I may not be a typical library student and I feel that way because I don't think we can learn everything we need to know in a classroom...especially where technology is concerned. That's why I'm 'doing things' all the time. I also love what I do and I love applying the things I know in creative ways to my job.

School for me is filling in the gaps of what I haven't picked up already from my job...terms, history, common practices in librarianship. Even if a modern world we can learn a lot from the experiences of people who came before us. We can even learn a lot from our peers through collaboration in classes. I enjoy talking to other classmates about things that the libraries they work at do that are different from what the library I work at does.

Work is getting me comfortable with public service. I know that at some point I might not be doing library work in a face to face public service setting. It's important to me that even if we're dealing with patrons on websites or IM or digitally that we make sure that we're talking to them like they're standing in front of us.

When I come home I'm trying out the cool web 2.0 tools, reading library blogs, checking email, or checking up on a whole lot of interesting things. I don't feel like I stop working when I come home but I don't feel like it's work either. I enjoy myself all around :)

I really enjoyed this post

I really enjoyed this post about Librarians/Libraries and technologies. I come from a different point of view as I have worked in technology (crisscrossed the country doing consulting) and had wanted to change course to become a librarian.

Unfortunately I see dangerous pitfalls in the combination of libraries and technology. While libraries should be on the cutting edge, I see many crazy ideas tossed around, useful or not. These ideas also come from politically savy people, who want to push things not so much for new services, but a notch on their belt and CV. Many times, I've seen needs assessments and even entire steering committees push to the side by these individuals resulting in an under/non-utilized service wasting a lot time and money. (well this is also hard to escape in government in general)

As a student at SJSU, I have come to realize that MLIS program is completely incompetent in providing effective technology instruction. Don't get me wrong, the programming classes are fine and are good classes for what they are. However, those programming classes are just those. You learn 'hello world' and such no all too different when I first took CS as an undergraduate. There is almost no integration at all between tools/skills and implementation. Many of these classes only scratch the service of the depth that might be needed by librarians in the future such as a data and database structures, crypto, or even simpler things such as content management frameworks and user interfaces. This doesn't even include using technology in the library back office. I wonder how many library use Business Intelligence tools to analyze their statistics. As a consequence, I've decided to shelve my studies there, and apply to different programs down the road.

The brave new world of Web 2.0 isn't so new either. Before Myspace there was Friendster, before that there was there was Six Degrees. Before Blogs there were just plain home pages, and before that, there were plan files. Wiki's came from HyperCard. People have been posting their bookmarks to the web for many years. The web was always social. Now it just has fancy marketing.

Don't get me wrong, the future for libraries and librarians is quite bright. I see more and more patrons using computers. Literacy self study using the computers. People actually using the online databases we subscribe to. I just also see many would be kings without clothes, and a very very long journey ahead.