If you couldn’t attend the open forum, click here to access a recording through Adobe Connect.
Our note-taker has also provided a summary of the forum for you to read below:
Introduction by Dean Marek:
The story begins 2-2.5 years ago, as faculty were looking at MLIS enrollment trends at Dominican and on a national level. The GSLIS strategic plan was ending, and they were starting to talk about a new one in addition to preparing for ALA accreditation. As a private institution, Dominican is tuition-driven, so they were looking at new strategies that would enable them to stay healthy and perpetuate the program. Part of this process involved thinking about what to keep and what to leave behind when innovating with respect to our core values and functions. They are not leaving behind the MLIS degree, or the core values of librarianship in a democracy, even if individual functions change. They wanted to make sure that the MLIS degree remains the heart of what they do, and that it is recognized by a standards organization: ALA.
In the past 12 months the faculty formed a strategic plan. The first priority is program growth and innovation, resulting in two new programs launching Fall semester 2016: an undergraduate informatics program and a Master of Science in Information Management (MSIM) program. With these programs, we are no longer just a graduate school, and we are no longer educating just librarians, so the need for a name change arose. This led to many conversations about the name change among faculty and stakeholders, including advisory board members, trustees, alumni, students, and faculty from other library schools. In December 2015 the faculty voted to narrow down the possible names to two options: School of Information or School of Information Studies.
As one way to ensure that the MLIS stays at the heart of the program, Dr. R. David Lankes has been brought in as Follett Chair. He is the author of The Atlas of New Librarianship, which is based in the concept of community service and responding to community needs. He also received the Haycock Award for promoting library services. This is a good opportunity to launch our new name concurrently with visible emphasis on library services.
Dr. Hamerly’s comments:
He has also gone through a name change once before with the University of Texas at Austin School of Information. The shift in names is not new, and in fact we are part of the third wave among ALA-accredited schools. UT-Austin was one of the original founding members of the iSchool caucus, which has grown to 50-60 universities internationally now. Many other schools are also currently considering a name change, including UIUC and University of Kentucky.
iSchool proponents recognized the need to shift perspective away from the dichotomy between libraries and information science, and show instead how they are interrelated disciplines, structuring curriculum around that relationship.
With the shift came the recognition that there is knowledge that should go beyond traditional library and information science silos (public, academic, archives, etc.), such as the need to make the Web a more usable place for its users.
Q: I’ve talked to someone at my job in a public library who is in the UIUC LEEP (online) program, and she commented that it’s really information-based. People might worry about whether a program is too information-based, and whether they’re in the right place. How do you plan to keep focus on the community?
Dean Marek: The curriculum, and the faculty. When faculty talked to Joe Janes from the University of Washington iSchool, he said, “it makes a difference what faculty you hire.” So when hiring faculty, the faculty member needs to have an understanding of and affinity for librarianship. Our MLIS curriculum is not changing and will still have same core MLIS courses, although the MSIM curriculum will overlap.
Dr. Hamerly: Librarianship has always been about information. Thought tends to be bifurcated about what we do: library vs. information, when there shouldn’t be a distinction. We want to focus on the user and how people use and access information, and this is what we do and will continue to do. This is an opportunity to get out of a sense of complacency, and rethink how to go about what we do, and how we market ourselves. The profession and academia at large is facing tough realities, but libraries are front and center on many academic institutions’ websites. Libraries are still important, just growing to meet the needs of a changing information landscape.
Follow-up Q: Speaking of curriculum, will there be any changes in what we’re used to in the electives we can take, like children’s services or readers’ advisory?
A: I don’t see any changes in those areas. Changes that will happen will relate to trying to make the MLIS more efficient, such as scrutinizing how often we offer specific courses and raising the minimum registered students required for a class to take place. We may offer specialized opportunities (practicums, etc.) to students, even if we can’t offer a full course on a certain topic.
Q: You brought up the idea of melding the library and information aspects, but the word “library” gets knocked off name while “information” stays. Also, it seems to be that the MLIS would change and take on more from the information side, with cross-pollination between the library and information sides.
Dr. Hamerly: This cross-pollination is already happening, and you can tell by additions of newer faculty such as Dr. Gao and Dr. Snow and their classes. However, this been happening since the 1970s, and the idea of merging or cross-pollination just feeds that idea that they are two completely different things, which they are not.
Dean Marek: The word “library” not being in the school name wouldn’t prevent people from finding us. People search for “ALA acredited library schools”, or “library schools in Chicago”. We want to expand our reach to people who don’t know that we are what they want.
People have also asked about our online forums and feedback – there is the LISSA padlet URL (link), but we also distributed an open form on Off the Shelf (link) where pro-name change people have pulled ahead, though there are also negative and neutral comments as well.
Q: Does this mean that some classes currently coded as LIS in the catalog will be changed?
A: Some MLIS courses will be part of the MSIM degree, but courses specifically part of the MSIM degree will have the prefix code IM. LIS courses will still have the LIS prefix.
Q: Do you know what the new MSIM courses will be?
A: Some are already being offered: Digital Curation and Prof. Kowalczyk’s systems course. We have some courses outlined on the Web (link), and some are designated as in the information management or cyber security tracks. We expect both MSIM and MLIS students will often be sitting in the same course.
Q: Could students receive a certificate in information management, and could MSIM courses be counted as courses for the MLIS?
A: Will be looking at how MSIM courses could be applied to current certificates. We will be looking at growth in MSIM and undergrad informatics courses to see market demand.
Q: Does the undergrad degree open up the possibility for graduate assistantships?
A: Yes, from a PhD perspective, and looking at Masters students probably yes as well.
Q: Will faculty have an increased teaching load due to new degrees?
A: No, and this has to do with standard academic policy and accreditation. The standard courseload is 3 in fall and 3 in spring, and that won’t change.
Please let the Dean or Dr. Hamerly know of any additional questions/concerns/comments. The final vote as faculty will be at the March faculty meeting, March 16. Send feedback using the Padlet URL (link) or the URL (link) for open comments on the Off the Shelf issue. Try and do this by March 14th.