Sunday, July 28, 2013

Changing library education with the times

This post follows my previous on Repurposing library education to prepare students for library consultancy, which is basically an introduction followed by a narrative telling of the history of library education and where we are at that new crossroads in library education. In that post, I begin to introduce my thoughts that library education needs to adjust with the times and environment in which governments are reducing library staff positions, and prepare graduates for new opportunities in library consultancy. I now acknowledge that what I have discussed may only be relevant to North American and European library education at the moment, based on their political situation where governments are trying to contain their spending on public services and respond to the force of neoliberalism and the perception that government is corrupt. What I describe here may also be important for large developing states like Nigeria, where there has been recent articles complaining about the library consultancy services in that nation ("Nigeria threatens to blacklist library projects consultant").

That said, I want to build the case for the need for library education to expand its options from just offering a Masters in Library and Information Science/Studies, to new degree options that will prepare graduates for the new opportunities in library management/administration and in library consultancy. I propose a new degree option to be named:

  • Masters in Library & Information Management (MLIM) or just the Masters in Library Management (MLM)
  • OR Masters in Library Administration (MLA)
My argument for these new options is that currently, an MLIS is very good at preparing our students for careers in academic librarianship and corporate or special libraries. However, the degree has less value preparing our students for a career in the public libraries. This is evident in a recent blog posting by the Canadian Library Association's Government Library & Information Management Professionals Network (2013) that reports statistical data of steady decline in the number of library science positions in the Government of Canada, between 1990 to 2012. Further, school libraries and children librarianship and other positions in public libraries are also struggling according to the 2012 Library Journal report on salaries and placement of library school graduates indicate (Maatta, 2012).  However, on the contrary, there are growing vacancies in public libraries for the more administrative and managerial positions (Maatta, 2012). However to be frank, I perceive that recent MLIS graduates may not be considered qualified for such positions and may be excluded due to an expectation that they must have a certain number of years of experience.

As such, I feel that in order to prepare mainly North American library students for their new environment, there must be an introduction of the additional degree speciality of a Masters in Library Management or Administration to prepare them to effectively manage libraries or act in administrative capacities, or to be able to provide consultancy services to existing library managers. Such a new option in the degree programme would focus more on issues of library management, rather than just exposing students to only one course on managing libraries and information organizations/centres.

This is in keeping with what I believe was the original intent of library education in the first place. On reading Rubin's (2010) discussion on the origin of professional library education, it is clear to me that Melvil Dewey was of the view that libraries are institutions to be managed like businesses, and operated efficiently and effectively. Further, it seems from reading Rubin (2010) that the Andrew Carnegie Foundation that also funded library education had a similar goal of producing graduates that would be able to effectively and efficiently manage the new libraries that were built by the foundation. As such, I believe my recommendations here are aligned with the original foundation of library education. What do you think?


Canadian Library Association (CLA) Government Library & Information Management Professionals Network. (2013, July 8). Library Science (LS) Positions in the Government of Canada, 1990 to 2012 [blog post]. Retrieved from

Maatta, S. L. (2012, October 15).  Placements & salaries 2012: Types of placements. Library Journal [blog post]. Retrieved from

Nigeria threatens to blacklist library projects consultant. (2013, June 7). Premium Times

Rubin, R. (2010). Foundations of library and information science (3rd ed.). New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Repurposing library education to prepare students for library consultancy


I am coming to a conclusion about the path that library schools need to take for the transformation of library education. However, to make that argument, I want to take my time and build a case using several blog posts. This is perhaps my first prelude to the argument, in a story or narrative form.

This story comes as a result of my concern that while libraries will or may continue to exist for a long time to come, library schools may not (or at least not in the form that they currently exist or existed as in the past). There are a number of systemic problems with library schools, which have not sufficiently adapted to the changing environment of librarianship in practice. The main problem:

 •Library schools are producing graduates who may be unable to find employment in libraries as they are overqualified for the shrinking quantity of positions that are available in existing public and government-sponsored libraries.

In an era where governments and municipalities are cutting budgets, contracting out services and looking towards privatization, employment in libraries is problematic. This problem is primarily documented in a number of professional blogs. A recent blog post by the Canadian Library Association's Government Library & Information Management Professionals Network (2013) recently reported statistical data showing that library science positions in the Government of Canada, 1990 to 2012 have been steadily declining. In addition, as the Library Journal report on salaries and placement of library school graduates indicate, there are challenges with getting jobs in government-funded public and school libraries, with growing vacancies in libraries for the more administrative and managerial positions (Maatta, 2012).

However, within these challenges, I perceive new opportunities for library schools to reinvent library education and prepare existing and new graduates for entrepreneurial opportunities within the current library employment situation, without removing an emphasis on libraries. As such, I present a tale to introduce this idea, that draws primarily on a retelling of Rubin's (2010) chapter 3 that discusses historical events that have shaped library professional education.

The tale

Once upon a time, there were no library schools. Persons coming to librarianship were scholars, who previously gained experience in managing libraries from managing their own personal library collections. These scholars in turn trained the next generation of librarians through apprenticeship.

Then came Dewey, an entrepreneurial American librarian. And he said: "let there be a standard system for organizing global human knowledge in libraries". And there was the Dewey Decimal classification and the card catalogue.

Dewey looked at his system and saw that it was good. Then he thought to himself, why not share this system with the world and train librarians to use it. So Dewey said: "let there be library schools at universities to offer professional education for those who want to be librarians and let them be trained in the Dewey Decimal system." And then there was the first library school.

Decades passed, and then came Andrew Carnegie, another American entrepreneur. And he said: "Let there be free public libraries." And there were public libraries, built by philanthropy, but maintained by the public purse.

However, Carnegie realized that many of these libraries were not being properly managed and maintained. As such, he decided to investigate the situation and concluded that these new institutions needed professionally trained persons who could manage them well. After investigating the education situation of librarians he then said: "Let every free public library be staffed and managed by a librarian that has attained professional education at university level."

And there was funding to universities for establishing library schools and the establishment of more library schools and library degree programmes.

Decades passed and as governments assumed control of the continued funding and maintenance of public libraries, then came a great recession. And governments began to cut their spending on libraries and on universities.

Then came the Internet and people began to question the need for libraries and library buildings.

Then some library schools were closed. And others transformed into I-schools or information schools. And a gulf began to separate scholars and researchers at library schools from the practitioners of librarianship.

While all this was going on, a small group of librarians became entrepreneurs, offering their expertise to other librarians. At the same time governments began to reduce library services, restructure libraries, lay-off expensive professionally educated librarians, outsourcing or contracting out work to cheaper labour sources and even privatizing some services. And in time, some of these government-run public libraries began to employ these consultants on a contractual basis to help restructure libraries or solve problems or provide advice on solving certain library organizational problems. Since then, this new group of library consultants have been growing, similar to how business students undertaking MBAs later enter the workforce as consultants.

And I wonder if perhaps this growing library consultancy industry provides an opportunity for library schools to repurpose library education and provide library school students with the skills and knowledge to become library consultants.


Canadian Library Asssociation (CLA) Government Library & Information Management Professionals Network. (2013, July 8). Library Science (LS) Positions in the Government of Canada, 1990 to 2012 [blog post]. Retrieved from

Maatta, S. L. (2012, October 15).  Placements & salaries 2012: Types of placements. Library Journal [blog post]. Retrieved from

Rubin, R. (2010). Foundations of library and information science (3rd ed.). New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Applying my narrative information source framework to Twitter: Preliminary findings

Following from my previous blog post, I want to now demonstrate how my narrative information source framework is seemingly operational. After using Twitter to locate tweets on library consultants and library consulting, through the following queries, I began to see data that fit within the pattern of my theoretical framework:

Twitter query for library consultants:

Twitter query for library consulting:

Guide narrative information sources
Based on my preliminary results, many sources on Twitter functioned as guide or referral based information sources, pointing me to other types of narrative information sources. I would argue that Twitter can function as a type of search engine or reference tool to locating various types of narrative information sources. However, unlike Google, Twitter is updated by users or crowdsourcing, rather than a crawling spider program.

To show one example of how tweets located in Twitter function as a reference information source, pointing me to other sources is the tweet of a URL link to a blog commentary or review of

When accessed, the URL from this tweet, functioned as a commentary on or guide to  library consultant blog - This blog appears to be a narrative information source, narrating a specific library consultant's personal experience in her work of library consulting. This is just one of the many examples of  how tweets in my query lead me to other documents or types of narrative information sources.

Personal Narratives,  eulogies, biographies, memoirs (or mixed narrative/life-writing information sources)
Tweets can also lead one to the narrative information sources conveying personal reflections, reports of  personal experience or to information about the lives of library consultants. Blog postings directly retrieved from tweets included the following:

By Cindy Bajema:You Can’t Stop the Librarian in Action

from the tweet;

  • death and obituary of library consultant

  • First Project as Library Consultant

    I have even been directed to vlog posting (or a YouTube video) where a library consultant tells her narrative or personal story of her work and what it involves from the following tweet:

    Non-fiction information sources (Events & Documents)
    Tweets in my Twitter queries have also led me to discovering non-fiction narrative information sources such as:
    • the retirement of a library consultant (which in a sense is also a life-writing type of narrative information source)
    • and job information or job advertisement
    One tweet even led me to another guide or referral based narrative information source, specifically a directory of over 41 library consultants: from the tweet:
    Event information and press releases are also popular in Twitter. One event tweet was:
    Tweets like the above tweet discussing an event usually point to a document such as a press release.

    My Twitter search on library consulting also lead me to  documents that related to the work of library consultants such as Pelham Public Library's  25th of March 2013 posting of "The report put together by BPC Library Consulting for Performance Concepts..."from the tweet:

    Or to Springfield City Library's June 22, 2013 posting of this tweet

    Tweets in my search results also pointed to information about places that used or needed consultant services. A church (Bethel Seventh-day Adventist church) is mentioned in one tweet by librarian Amy Patrick ‏@mom2sadie in 4 December, 2012:

    Or this tweet by the Telluride Planet reports on a public library making use of a library consultant to gather information from the public about their priorities for the library:
    Conclusion and viewpoint

    Hence, as you can see, my preliminary conceptual framework of narrative information sources is able to from preliminary selective observation to explain the types of narrative information and information sources that one can access via Twitter.

    Finally, while I did not deliberately set out to show you that Twitter is useful for finding or locating business information, you can perhaps obviously see this from the data I present. Twitter in my view has thus proved a useful business reference tool for finding/locating current business information, particularly in the library and information industry. Industry events, competitors and market information are all available and can be easily monitored with a saved Twitter query. This is due to the fact that people and organizations are posting and referring to content/information online through tweets. Hopefully in my next blog post, I can expand upon the idea of Twitter as a business information source or resource. Or should I more accurately say that Twitter can function as/like a business information search engine?