WILL UNWOUND #117: “Would you hire someone with an M.L.S. from Laptop U?” by Will ManleyMay 20, 2010
A few months ago I took a journey into the future.
I boarded a commuter train in my town of residence, Livermore, CA (about 30 miles east of San Francisco) and took the 40 minute ride to downtown San Jose, the heart of Silicon Valley. My destination was the annual meeting of the advisory board of the School of Library and Information Science at San Jose State University. It was my first meeting as a new member of the board.
Talk about an education! I quickly learned that all of San Jose’s library school courses are offered solely on an on-line basis. They have no traditional, face-to-face, in person classes. All communication is electronic. The face of the school is basically a computer screen.
To set the record straight, in the last 20 years I have not totally been wandering around in the lost world of hand stamps and card catalogs. I am aware of the fact that “distance” education and on-line learning are increasingly popular options for library school students, but I was shocked that a leading library school like San Jose had abandoned face to face, classroom education altogether.
My first reaction was one of immediate revulsion. The very word education conjures up for me an idyllic picture of students sitting in a classroom interacting with each other and with an instructor. Then there are the breaks between classes when you hang out in the coffee shop and shoot the breeze by talking about professors, grades, and homework assignments. Then you go to some more classes, possibly bump into one or two of your professors in the hallway and chat them up about today’s lecture, and then at the end of the day after you have spent several hours poring over cataloging manuals and classic reference books in the university library, it’s Miller time and the opportunity to have even more give and take with classmates and professors.
The library school I went to was a pretty tight knit group of students and teachers. We cared about each other and our individual goals, objectives, and dreams. Our professors cared about us too and helped us in any way possible. It was a special time…that last year of our young lives before we had to face the real world of work. Okay, maybe my experience was idyllic but from the many comments that you posted yesterday I don’t think it was atypical. Many of you shared similar experiences. Comment after comment makes reference to being exposed to dedicated professors who changed lives.
My second shocker of the day in San Jose was that this on-line approach is wildly successful. They have 3,000 students enrolled. Let me repeat…they have 3,000 students studying to get an MLS degree. 3,000! Are you kidding me?
Okay, after thinking about it for awhile I can understand the allure of this on-line program. There’s the financial end of it. You save a ton of money on room, board, and commuting. There is also the distance aspect. Many people are shut out of the library profession because they are not anywhere near an ALA accredited library school. On-line changes all that. You can live in Singapore and be a student or a teacher in San Jose without leaving your house.
But that still begs the question. Do you really want to go to Computer Screen U? Actually in the not too distant future, you might not have a choice. Given the success of the San Jose program it seems to me to be just a matter of time before all the other library schools go completely online. How can you compete with San Jose if you don’t? For all I know, net generation kids might even prefer an on-line approach.
If graduate library schools continue to build upon the on-line model, our profession will soon be infused with hundreds and then thousands of new librarians who will fully understand the conveniences and economies of providing informational and educational resources solely online, and this my good unwinding friends, is going to have earth shattering ramifications for the future of the library.
Will the library continue to be a place? Well… we all thought library school was a place, didn’t we?
Today, ye merry band of unwinders, we have much to discuss and debate about the future of librarianship. The basic question is what impact will the rise of on-line MLS degrees have on libraries. Please consider these questions as you formulate your comments:
Would you want to go to an on-line university MLS degree program?
If you were hiring a librarian in the electronic resources area wouldn’t you prefer someone with an on-line degree simply because that person directly understands what’s involved in delivering and receiving on-line services?
Do you think that the rise of the on-line MLS degree will result in a new librarian paradigm, one that is more technically than humanistically oriented?
Would you hire someone with an on-line degree for a children’s librarian position?
Without face to face classroom experiences, won’t on-line students lack sufficient preparation in the area of human relations skills? Is this an important issue for the formation of future library leaders?
Will on-line graduates be more insistent in being given telecommuting opportunities on the job?
Was your library school experience similar to mine in that I learned as much in the coffee shop with my classmates and professors as in the classroom?
Is the on-line degree development a good thing for the future of librarianship?
Anything else you want to talk about in this subject area?
UNWINDERS: REMEMBER…THIS BLOG IS A GROUP EFFORT. THANKS FOR YOUR HELP. ON-LINE COMMUNICATION IS FUN, IS IT NOT? WHO NEEDS A CLASSROOM…REALLY!