It seems as though every 4th or 5th library blog post or column I read is a discussion on the relevancy of current LIS graduate education, or a what-I-wish-I-would-have-learned-in-grad-school lament. I am hesitant to write about something I think others have covered more extensively and eloquently, but it’s difficult for me to stay silent after reading over Michael Stephen’s draft syllabus for a class on Participatory Service and Emerging Technologies.
It’s a wonderful idea for a class, one I wish had been available when I was in grad school. The course is not just about technology for technology’s sake. Instead it frames emerging social technologies within the context of engaging library users and visitors and creating a meaningful community. It’s this second piece, the application and meaningful use of technology, that to me is so important is often lost when teaching library students (or anyone for that matter) about new technologies. I think it’s easy for librarians (especially new librarians) to get caught up in the amazing variety of online social tools and technology without really thinking about how to use them to create a meaningful library experience for others. I think its a responsibility of graduate school instructors to not just teach librarians about technological and technical practice, but to engage students in discussions and assignments that lead them to think about the implications these practices will have on relationships within the larger library community of librarians, staff, and users.
My web development courses in library school were wonderful in terms of acquiring the coding skills necessary to create dynamic websites with clean code, but in taking these courses just a little bit further, my classmates and I could have learned about website usability testing or creating effective focus groups to gather feedback for website creation. In research methods and statistics, I wish that I had actually carried out the task of proposing a research project and determining which methods would be best to carry out my study, as well as learning about proper survey design. Instead much of the education that would have been beneficial to attain in graduate school has been gathered through on-the-job failures (which can be a good thing!), learning from people much smarter than I am, and lots and lots of reading.
I realize that beefing up LIS courses requires more work for both students and faculty, but I think that incorporating a more critical, thoughtful approach to our profession, one based in user-study and solid research, would be well worth the time and effort.