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.

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