Congress on Professional Education

Librarian Career Development

ISSN: 0968-0810

Article publication date: 1 November 1999



(1999), "Congress on Professional Education", Librarian Career Development, Vol. 7 No. 11.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 1999, MCB UP Limited

Congress on Professional Education

Congress on Professional Education

More than 100 delegates from national and international associations of library and information studies educators and professionals convened in Washington, DC for a two-day Congress on Professional Education, April 30-May 1, 1999 sponsored by the American Library Association. The Congress aimed to reach consensus among stakeholder groups on the values and core competencies of the profession and on strategies for action to address common issues and concerns. The impetus for the Congress arose from changes in name of some programs of graduate education, the seeming lack of attention to core competencies, and the national shortage of professionals to work with young people and diverse and underserved populations.

The Congress began with an overview of current issues. Theodore Marchese, Vice President for the American Association for Higher Education, assessed the state of higher education ­ "these are the good times" ­ and compared library and information studies with programs in nursing, education, and social work. He noted that other professions are moving to more student- and problem-centered education based on evidence and clear outcomes. Barbara Moran, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, reviewed the previous 20 years of Library and Information Studies in the academy and the changes implemented to ensure that programs not only survived but thrived. Marilyn Mason, Cleveland Public Library, articulated professional issues, including recruitment, diversity, compensation, continuing education, specific shortages in youth services and marketing a more accurate image of the profession. In this context delegates worked to clarify guiding principles and values, core competencies and barriers to improved education.

Susan Martin, Georgetown University, later addressed the structure and process of accreditation comparing ALA accreditation with education (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education), engineering (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology), and social work (Council on Social Work Education). Marion Reid, California State University, San Marcos, provided her viewpoint of the ALA accreditation process from the perspective of a site visitor. Janet Swan Hill, University of Colorado, Boulder, commented on the perceived weaknesses of the accreditation system.

A panel comprising Marcia Bates (UCLA), Toni Carbo (University of Pittsburgh), Mary K. Chelton (Queen's University), and Brian Schottlaender (UCLA) illuminated a range of issues arising from concerns about the current curriculum of programs. Bates suggested that our traditional focus on text was inappropriate for a culture that is increasingly multimedia-oriented, and urged that we consider the term "information" to be a broad rubric encompassing all formats for recording and transmitting knowledge. Carbo stressed that most LIS programs, even those in schools lacking "library" in their names, provide a solid grounding in traditional topics such as cataloging (perhaps called "organization of information"), recognize the need to prepare librarians to serve specific user populations like children and make extensive efforts to meet those needs. Chelton noted that, as 60 percent of public library users are children or young adults, every librarian working in a public library should be prepared to respond appropriately to the needs of that population such that "audience" for courses does matter. She stressed that a "kid friendly" orientation needed to be woven throughout the curriculum in addition to specific courses. Schottlaender reinforced the distinction between education and training and stressed that graduates need to understand management and change, communicate effectively and take practical risks: the tools of the trade are only a means to an end.

Additionally, panelists from a variety of libraries addressed the top professional concerns that had surfaced during consensus-building exercises. This reaction panel generated lines of delegates at two microphones with their comments and questions. The panelists were Carolyn Caywood (Virginia Beach Public Library), Rick Forsman (University of Colorado), Sheila Intner (Simmons College), Brenda Johnson (District of Columbia Public Library), Joel Shoemaker (Southeast Junior High School, Iowa) and Barbara Spiegelman (Westinghouse).

The full text of presentations and commentary is on the Congress Web site (

Recommendations will be developed based on the deliberations of delegates. These recommendations will propose strategies to address:

  • core values and explicit competencies for the profession;

  • recruitment, including marketing librarianship as the twenty-first century profession, salaries and working conditions;

  • accreditation, including a process for the ongoing revision of standards, their rigorous application and resulting consumer information, mainstreaming within ALA, the ALA/NCATE process for school librarians who choose that route, access to programs and specializations, areas of critical shortages, alternate methods for teaching and learning, education and training for different categories of personnel, foreign credentialing;

  • clarification of the roles of educators and employers, continuing education, mentoring;

  • a clear and funded research agenda for the profession with appropriate dissemination of results; and

  • diversity, broadly defined, across all of these areas of concern.

A structure for continuing dialog will also be recommended.

The Congress was organized by an 18-member steering committee representative of the major associations and groups within the library and information profession.

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