Librarians are very good at making lists, especially of all the things that we did not learn at library school.
LIS curricula is a special interest for me – I work on projects in a number of countries where LIS is dated or simply non-existent, and I am interested in how they can develop researchers and modern curricula. Earlier this year, I met with groups of LIS students at two different schools in the US to hear more about their hopes and fears as they were about to join our profession. And I have also been in library school more times than most, graduating with three LIS qualifications. This year I’ve also been on the other side, doing some sessional work at my alma mater.
I’ve seen a number of trends come and go already in my time in the profession. Remember when we were all encouraged to learn how to code, or get MBAs to learn marketing and how to make libraries leaner and more entrepreneurial? Or when academic librarians were required to have a second degree? (Although this still mostly applies at some universities in the US).
The issue with library school, as I see it, is that there is such an endless combination of topics and specialisms that could be offered, if only for time, money, student numbers, and hindsight. There will always be more to learn. There will always be content that while in school, seemed relevant – but then times change, or you move into a different aspect of library work and you need something different.
Librarianship is the ultimate extensible profession. We have been given the knowledge and tools to learn for ourselves throughout our career. Whatever you are doing now, you may not be doing in 5 years time.
This is not to say that I think library school doesn’t need updating or to adapt regularly – it does. Make the most of your time while you are there, but once you graduate, the rest is up to you, with some help from your employer. Learn from other disciplines if the topic you want is not offered in library school. Attend short courses. Go to conferences. Follow research in different disciplines. Listen to podcasts or iTunesU. Make your own learning.
A caveat. There is one topic that is becoming central to the way libraries operate, and which I would like to see more curricula devoted to: licensing and its impact on access to information in libraries. Will libraries continue to purchase content in the future, or just license? How can librarians at every level advocate for equitable access when acquiring materials? How can we improve our understanding of licenses and develop stronger negotiation skills? While licensing is the ‘now’ topic, underneath this are fundamentals critical to being a successful librarian at any time: advocacy, negotiation, equitable access.
So long as you have grounding in the fundamentals, everything else can be built from there. We have a great, flexible profession. Make it yours.