Forum on Education for Librarianship

There were roughly 300 people in attendance for ALA President Michael Gorman’s Forum on Education for Librarianship, a show of hands indicating that more than half were library educators. I heard some apprehension voiced at this week’s ALISE Conference that Gorman was trying to push an old-fashioned, conservative agenda on library schools. After three and a half hours (sorry but I left before the facilitated roundtable discussions) of presenters, reactors, and comments from attendees I can say that did not happen.

The afternoon was divided into three sessions, each with its own presenter and panel of reactors. Audience comments were heard after each session. Questions addressed were:
1st session: What is librarianship and what does a librarian need to know?
2nd session: How do we translate the field of librarianship into curricular terms?
3rd session: What is ALA’s role in library education?

Gorman began by voicing his concern that faculty are not adhering to ALA accreditation standards, which has resulted in a diminution of library education and research. He believes that librarians should be educating librarians and that LIS curriculums that do have that orientation are a disservice to the profession. Later, a number of prominent librarians and library school faculty countered that the universe of information professionals has broadened, and that non-library employers offer interesting and lucrative job opportunities.

Common themes were repeated throughout the afternoon: the idea that students should be required to take a core curriculum that reflects library practice in a changing world; the importance for instilling in students a commitment to and passion for the profession and its values; the criticality of students, faculty and library practitioners appreciating that they serve their communities and a broader society. Carol Brey-Casiano, spoke of the connection between literacy and economic and workforce development and the role that libraries can play in increasing literacy in a multilingual, multicultural country. Note: in spite of the presence of many Canadians on the podium there was a definite focus on the United States.

Madeleine Lefebvre and others talked about the need for educating students with basic management skills (e.g. research and data analysis, advocacy, fundraising, community-building) as well as skills and qualities such as creativity, collaboration, communication, responsiveness, decision-making, problem-solving, leadership, and risk-taking. Richard AmRhein called for a better understanding of intellectual property issues because they confront all librarians in all types of libraries today

Recruitment into library schools and the profession was highlighted by reactor Karen Adams and affirmed by many in the audience who spoke of the need for diversity on many levels, including librarians of color and those with disabilities.

This forum is just the beginning of an important discussion for our profession. Already there is an announcement of another Library Education Forum (http://libraryeducationforum.info/) to be held in New York City on Saturday, March 11. Let the forums begin.