Library instruction in MLS programs

Last week at the ACRLog, StevenB shared results of a survey of what librarians might like to see in an LS Academic Libraries class. Instruction was high on the list. According to StevenB,

Those items that received the highest percentage of “essential” ranking were information literacy, instruction and higher education industry.

I’m not surprised, and commented as such in response to StevenB’s post. I suspect other librarians feel the same was as I do: it’s not so much that we think instruction should be included in a class on Academic Libraries, but that it should be included somewhere, anywhere in the MLS curriculum. (It is in some programs, I know.)

I attended the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It’s a great program according to the rankings, and I loved being in library school at my undergraduate alma mater. But that program is not keeping pace with what today’s librarians are doing at work.

When I was at SILS a few years ago, most students were LS and interested in academic libraries and archives, especially public services, but about half the faculty were IS. Perhaps that explains why user education was relegated to summer school, and taught by faculty for whom it wasn’t a primary interest. But aside from the particular quirks of SILS, I suspect library instruction isn’t getting proper emphasis in MLS programs across the country.

LS programs typically teach core issues of librarianship: reference, cataloging, management, and collection development, and then students may focus by taking specialized reference classes, archives, children’s literature, or databases and web design, for example.

But, I would argue that instruction itself is becoming a core area (and certainly not one to teach only in the summer). Just as every librarian should know something about the catalog, every librarian also should know something about teaching patrons to use library resources. Search tools are becoming more complex and bad information is everywhere. A good librarian can not only organize or retrieve this information, but can teach a patron how to weed through it herself.

As it stands now, libraries are full of very competent people and some pretty awful teachers.

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4 Responses

  1. my MLS is from UNCG, 1996 & we thought our program didn’t offer as many techie courses as we wanted; of course, UNCG was known for it’s school library/”kiddie lit” emphasis, then. it’s interesting that you say that UNC’s “program is not keeping pace with what today’s librarians are doing at work,” because I think that is the case with library/SIS schools across the nation, now and in the past. i’m surprised though, because i always thought UNC was at the top in teaching the trends.

  2. Rebecca, I think UNC does well in some areas–I definitely could have taken more techie classes if I had been clever enough to do so. But I think the lack of classes on instruction is a problem. I did just hear from a professor there that they’ll be offering User Education during the fall semester, so perhaps they’ve gotten the message.

  3. good to hear. i don’t recall any LI/BI user ed courses offered at UNCG while i was there. or maybe i was just unaware, too focused on my own area of concentration, which was reference.

  4. [...] Nor were we taught the breadth or depth of technology we yearned for. And apparently more recent grad aren’t taught how to give BI/LI, either. Consider whether it’s really worth it. Could you just as easily learn the tricks and [...]

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