Re-envisioning the MLS: Perspectives on the Future of Library and Information Science Education: Volume 44A

Cover of Re-envisioning the MLS: Perspectives on the Future of Library and Information Science Education

Table of contents

(15 chapters)

Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to provide an introductory exploration of how the modern Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) may contribute to the effect of imposter phenomenon (IP) in graduate students and early career librarians and to offer solutions to mitigate the effect.

Design/Methodology/Approach – Six university American Library Association-accredited library master’s programs in North America were identified and compared based on publicly available information on program websites. The authors pose questions about the modern MLIS and identify potential solutions to the issues raised about IP in graduate school and the workplace. Ideas in the chapter are supported by best practices suggested by academic literature on organizational behavior and Library and Information Studies (LIS) scholarship as well as invaluable personal reflections found on blogs and other gray literature sources.

Findings – The modern MLIS produces graduates who can vary greatly in their knowledge of LIS topics and career preparedness. MLIS programs and employers can mitigate the effects of nervousness, burn out, and isolation for high-achieving individuals through career preparedness and continuing education courses and opportunities for positive onboarding and mentorship.

Originality/Value – To date, there is a gap in the LIS literature about IP, especially the connection between the modern MLIS and IP. This chapter provides an exploratory look and asks questions to further the conversation on this topic.


Purpose – Drawing on a survey of over 1,000 Library and Information Science (LIS) professionals and over a dozen interviews, this chapter explores the student loan crisis from an LIS perspective and offers practical solutions for the field to decrease debt from LIS graduate programs, which has ballooned in recent years.

Design/Methodology/Approach – In April 2016, I sent a survey via email to approximately 10 library-affiliated listservs ranging from Code4Lib to the UMD iSchool discussion list. While I attempted to keep the reach small and controlled to only library-affiliated listservs, the survey link quickly spread to Twitter and other social media. The survey attracted 1,630 qualified responses and ran for two weeks in total. Using skip logic, all potential respondents who did not attend a library school (26 in total) were automatically disqualified. Email addresses were provided by 497 participants for interview post-survey. I received 215 partial responses. In September 2016, I conducted qualitative interviews with participants. Thirty-two telephone interviews were conducted extending for 15–20 minutes and I received 38 written questionnaires in response to my questions.

Findings – The findings are outlined in sub-chapter headings, including increased tuition does not equal increased aid, older students borrow less and take longer in programs tailored to their needs, new graduates unlikely to pay off their loans soon, and students with high undergraduate debt: a divided loan burden. Other findings include interview results, which are embedded within the chapter.

The final section offers recommendations for LIS programs to lessen the burden for students. These recommendations include better financing information and counseling for students; shorter, more flexible degree programs; apprenticeship model, more pathways for a paraprofessional to professional track; and expand public service loan forgiveness programs.

Originality/Value – This is the first comprehensive qualitative/quantitative study of the cost of library school as well as the debt burden for students. It provides actionable outcomes as well as an analytic framework through which to view the academic debt crisis. It features the voices of librarians from around the country as they struggle through a changing job market and increased monetary burden.


Purpose – There is a dichotomy within library and information science (LIS) education today. It has been a long time coming, and the rise of information schools (iSchools) in LIS education, with their focus on skill sets that complement libraries and their mission but ultimately prepare students for careers and jobs outside of librarianship, is one of many contributing factors. Many accredited library programs that used to focus on preparing students for work in libraries are now expanding their courses and degrees more toward “information” rather than “libraries.” This is understandable given that many library science programs have been subsumed into other departments and colleges such as business, education, and information technology, where their expertise in educating and training students toward graduate degrees is highly regarded and where the available jobs and salaries outside of libraries are much more numerous and desirable. This chapter hopes to frame the current challenges from the perspective of one member of the ALA Committee on Accreditation (COA).

Design/Methodology/Approach – This is an opinion piece, based on the author’s current membership on COA and focus on the library profession.

Findings – As an opinion piece, there are no findings.

Originality/Value – This chapter tries to show the value of the library profession and its curriculum in today’s society.


Purpose – Canadian library workforce data were used to explore recent graduates’ perceptions of their MLS programs: their ratings of the competencies acquired, satisfaction with the overall quality of education, and suggested improvements.

Design/Methodology/Approach – Surveys of libraries and practitioners were conducted from 2003 to 2006. These data were used as a baseline in replicating the survey with the staff of Canadian research libraries in 2013/2014. Recent graduate librarian data were extracted from the two data sets and comparatively analyzed.

Findings – The profile of recent graduates did not change appreciably between 2004 and 2014. Graduates surveyed in 2014 more favorably rated generalist skills and were more likely than the 2004 sample to indicate that they were provided with the range of skills and abilities required to effectively perform their jobs. Management, leadership, and business skills continued to rank lowest. Roughly half of 2004 and 2014 graduates continued to indicate satisfaction with the quality of education received overall. Similarly, half of 2004 and 2014 graduates felt that they could apply what they learned to their current jobs and fewer agreed that they were provided with a realistic depiction of what it is like to work as an academic librarian. Suggestions for program improvement were mostly stable over time, with greatest importance attached to making programs more practical/practice-oriented and improvements to the relevance and currency of the curriculum.

Originality/Value – Studies of the Canadian library workforce had not been conducted previously. This study should be of interest to MLS schools who are re-envisioning their programs with the experiences of recent graduates/new professionals in mind.


Purpose – In January 2015, a diverse group of stakeholders engaged in a planning forum on “Envisioning our Information Future and How to Educate for It.” Focused on shaping a future by design, not by default, information educators, professionals, technologists, futurists, and others proposed proofs of concepts for larger-scale implementations. This chapter reports on four pilot projects using steps in the design-thinking process to frame the discussion.

Design/Methodology/Approach – The stages of (1) empathize, (2) define, (3) ideate, (4) prototype, and (5) test in the design-thinking process facilitate moving beyond what is and breaking fixedness to build a representation of what might be. Applied to library and information science (LIS) education, design thinking can lead to transformative change.

Findings – Creative collaborations yielded actionable outcomes from projects that identified the following: (1) the knowledge, skills, and abilities that employers seek in graduates of LIS programs, (2) curriculum options for developing and launching artist-in-residence programs, (3) how a Library Test Kitchen course enables students to apply design thinking, and (4) how a short-term faculty residency in a particular institution connects LIS educators with trends in the field and informs curriculum design.

Originality/Value – The value of tangible outcomes from pilot projects informing future innovation in LIS education is augmented by the originality of their framing within design-thinking processes.


Purpose – Research shows that new graduates of Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) programs often fail to understand and appreciate the connection between library science theory and practice. In other fields, culminating experiences often serve the function of combining theory and praxis for students. While notably different from the current structure of the MLIS curriculum, other disciplines provide a model for how the culminating experience component of a degree program can be facilitated successfully. This chapter examines the culminating experiences of other fields in order to provide guidance for how American Library Association-accredited MLIS programs could adopt or integrate similar programs.

Approach – The study explores four culminating experiences commonly used in other fields: fieldwork, apprenticeships and residencies, service-learning, and creative exhibitions. For each culminating experience, recommendations for potential applications to MLIS curricula are provided.

Findings – Culminating MLIS experiences that bring students into the communities they will serve – for example, fieldwork, residencies, and service-learning – may better prepare them for the new world they will face as LIS professionals and may better introduce them to the experiences of their patrons. Exploration of these alternative culminating experiences may help students bridge the gap between theory and practice during and beyond their MLIS degree programs.

Originality/Value – A thorough literature review revealed no similar examination of culminating experiences in MLIS programs’ curricula in particular. Combined with other studies that make recommendations for updating the MLIS curriculum, this exploratory study can serve as a useful resource for MLIS programs hoping to redesign their curricula.


Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to identify and discuss the need to inculturate the skills necessary to maintain and expand funding resources for libraries through training at Master of Library Science (MLS) and Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) programs in political literacy. Political literacy is positioned here as a necessary skill for two key reasons: professionals with better interpersonal and organizational communications skills will be better equipped to lead libraries, and the significant external threats to library funding need to be addressed in a political dialog that requires fluency in political negotiation that is acquired through use.

Approach – Recent trends in civil society and party politics, including the rise of the Tea Party and other organized anti-tax groups, can and do impact the future fundability of libraries. In addition, a reinvigorated form of federalism is taking hold at all levels of government, and the implications of a diminished policy and funding role for state and federal aid is discussed in relation to libraries as tax-supported entities.

Findings – A recent practical example of an elective in political literacy at San Jose State University is discussed. Examples on how to add political literacy training to the curriculum that reference the way intellectual freedom and access have been taught for generations are held up as viable models, including ways to address the values-based conflicts that are inherent in the topics.

Value/Originality – This chapter will be useful to anyone evaluating or designing curriculum for MLS/MLIS and iSchool programs who is considering ways to improve management skills and professional preparation. The chapter concludes with a call to action for leaders in the academy to swiftly and comprehensively integrate both political and economic theory as well as the practical skills of activism and community organizing into the MLS/MLIS core curriculum.


Purpose – This chapter examines the use of high-impact student engagement practices in library and information science (LIS) education programs.

Approach – This chapter opens with an overview of systematic planning, an outcomes-based process used to support the continuous development and improvement of higher education programs. It then details the essential contributions that students can make in systematic planning through high-impact student engagement practices, and summarizes the core competencies that students develop through these practices. A synthesis of the extant research on high-impact student engagement practices in LIS education and the results of a content analysis of select accreditation self-study reports were used to identify how these practices are utilized in LIS programs.

Findings – Five high-impact student engagement practices were used by LIS education programs: student advisory boards, student-organized meetings, student-run surveys, student-led course evaluations, and student-led curriculum development programs. These practices may be used as pedagogical tools to support mutually beneficial outcomes for LIS students and their educational programs.

Originality/Value – Student leadership in systematic program planning promotes positive student and programmatic outcomes. Broader adoption of these practices across LIS education programs will help promote student learning, prepare students for professional practice, and improve the quality and relevance of LIS education programs.


Purpose – The authors of this chapter, through exploratory survey research, asked several simple questions about what library workers wish they had learned during graduate school and what they would focus on now if they were just beginning their library and information science (LIS) education.

Methodology – The authors designed and distributed a simple pilot survey with multiple-choice and open-ended questions.

Findings – The survey results identify several key subjects and skills that library professionals wished they had focused more directly on during their LIS education. These included management, technology, pedagogy, and others. The authors suggest collaborating with other departments within the traditional university to deliver these skills so as to prepare future librarians for the dynamic and collaborative settings of modern libraries. Moreover, the authors also suggest using this information, and similar information from your own organizations, to guide future professional development opportunities in your libraries.


Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to examine the changing talent practices in academic libraries, the environment in which they occur, and the ways in which library and information science (LIS) programs can prepare new librarians to work with the variety of professionals they will be encountering as they enter the workforce.

Design/Approach – The chapter draws on research about hiring and management practices in academic libraries, disruption theory, and the current state of higher education. Observations made by commentators in the library science field about professionalism are considered, and opportunities and threats to the profession posed by professional nonlibrarians are discussed.

Findings – Academic libraries are increasingly hiring professionals from disciplines outside of LIS to fill current and emerging knowledge and skill gaps. LIS schools cannot expect to fill all of these gaps, as programs would become unwieldy. Therefore, the professional nonlibrarian provides unique opportunities for librarians that enable them to focus on areas where their knowledge and expertise can best move the profession forward and augments and complements the work librarians are doing.

Originality/Value – This chapter provides a more nuanced viewpoint about what constitutes professionalism in academic libraries and encourages LIS programs to prepare students for the changing talent landscape by embracing the skills that other professionals bring to accomplish the library mission.

Purpose – This chapter provides a historical overview of libraries and library and information science/studies (LIS) education in Australia, charting the changing nature of the LIS academy and the profession. The chapter then examines the knowledge, skills, and qualifications required for current and emerging LIS professionals, discussing how we embrace new knowledge and analyzing whether there are aspects of current LIS education that we need to hold on to or let go of in order to re-envision LIS education in the future.

Design/Methodology/Approach – A brief historical analysis of Australian librarianship, library associations, and LIS education, dating from European colonization in 1788 to the present, 2017, sets the context and informs the discussion.

Findings – This chapter demonstrates how social, political, technological, and educational forces have influenced libraries, librarianship, and LIS education. Within this context, we propose ways forward, such as partnering with broader information communities, adopting emerging specialties, building closer relationships between academia and practice, and considering “letting go” of some of the old as we add the new.

Originality/Value – By providing an original historical overview of librarianship in Australia with a particular focus on LIS education and how the goals and focus of both librarianship and LIS education have evolved over the centuries, this chapter contributes to an informed discussion designed to assist in re-envisioning the information professions and disciplines in the future.


Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to explore the ways in which bachelor’s degree programs in library and information studies can support and enhance Master of Library Science (MLS) and Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) programs.

Approach – The history of undergraduate library degrees is examined, followed by a brief discussion of the current landscape of library education. Finally, five ways in which library and information science (LIS) undergraduate programs can revitalize the MLS/MLIS are addressed and analyzed.

Findings – Bachelor of Science in Library Science degrees can impact the MLS/MLIS degree in five discrete ways. Undergraduate programs can interest student in future information work, allow for more specialization in graduate programs, allow paraprofessionals to advance their library education, support rural libraries, and can lead to more rigorous MLS/MLIS curricula.

Value – As libraries and library education are in transition, undergraduate LIS degree programs have the potential to transform LIS education as a whole.


Purpose – As change creates more uncertainty for library practitioners, graduate library education needs to explore how best to prepare students to manage ambiguity through new approaches to identifying and solving challenging problems. We advocate for incorporating design into graduate library education.

Design/Methodology/Approach – First, we discuss the need for a design approach to librarianship. We then introduce the nature of design thinking and philosophy and discuss the ways in which it is already present in librarianship. We review past developments and recent trends with a special focus on the ways in which design thinking, methods, and philosophies are (or are not) incorporated into library and information science (LIS) education.

Findings – We synthesize these findings to propose recommendations and suggestions for an alternative degree program to the traditional Master of Library Science (MLS): the Master of Library Design (MLD). This includes the presentation of a new model of library education that blends design philosophy with traditional library science content.

Originality/Value – This is the first compilation in the library literature to propose the development of a new type of library degree that we refer to as the MLD; hence, it has a high level of originality. While the library literature has examples of practitioners applying design thinking to improve library services, this chapter’s value is that it promotes the integration of design thinking and philosophy more broadly in order to better equip future library professionals for a rapidly changing information landscape.

Cover of Re-envisioning the MLS: Perspectives on the Future of Library and Information Science Education
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Advances in Librarianship
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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