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

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

Table of contents

(13 chapters)

Purpose – This chapter explains how the library profession is well-suited to developing and delivering library services that target the growing opportunity gap in the United States and identifies barriers to advancing this professional objective more widely in public libraries. The chapter identifies leadership and organizational development, enhanced graduate training and continuing education, and the need to overcome excessive modesty and passivity as fundamental to advancing this role.

Approach – This chapter documents declining opportunity in the United States. It summarizes the history of librarians’ professional accomplishments and services, and recent public library projects that illustrate the aptitude, expertise, values, and culture necessary to address declining opportunity. Reviewing pertinent literature and the authors’ observations, this chapter identifies barriers librarians face in rising to this challenge and offers solutions.

Findings – Factors limiting public librarians’ ability to address declining opportunity include too few leaders with a vision for librarianship rising to pivotal challenges, such as declining opportunity, and the management skills or training necessary to develop librarians’ potential to target such objectives; professional modesty and passivity rooted in gender bias; absence of graduate training and continuing education in quantitative and qualitative analyses as applied to decision-making, basic evaluation, and advocacy; and inadequate understanding of research and its application to services that target declining opportunity.

Originality/Value – The chapter elucidates the underdeveloped capacity of professional librarians to apply their aptitude, expertise, and professional values to one of the greatest challenges of our era – the decline of opportunity in the United States – and outlines steps that will support that goal.


Purpose – This chapter argues that more opportunities for diversity-related content should be purposefully included in library and information science (LIS) graduate curricula.

Design/Methodology/Approach – Nine semi-structured interviews were conducted with LIS graduates and current LIS graduate students. The data were analyzed for patterns and themes, and a narrative developed that expounds on the experiences and insights of practicing LIS professionals.

Findings – The data emphasize that more work needs to be done to incorporate, de-tokenize, and normalize meaningful conversations about diversity and social justice and incorporate them across LIS curricula. Reframing and re-centering the curriculum to foster critical, inclusive, and culturally competent professional engagement is greatly needed in LIS programs and in the profession at large.

Originality/Value – This chapter details and analyzes a set of original interviews in which both current and aspiring librarians discuss their experiences with diversity and social justice content in their graduate programs.


Purpose – We examine the reading lists for required foundational library and information science (LIS) courses at the top 20 American Library Association-accredited LIS programs in North America; explore the extent to which critical race theory (CRT) and other critical literatures, methods, and approaches were engaged; and discuss the implications of the findings for LIS education.

Methodological Approach – We conducted quantitative and qualitative content analyses of foundational required readings for the top 20 Master of Library Science/Master of Library and Information Science programs (as ranked by U.S. News & World Report). The sampling process was twofold. The initial sampling included development of the foundational course sample, and the secondary sampling included development of the sample of required readings.

Findings – The vast majority of the required foundational courses examined provided students with little to no exposure to CRT or critical theory.

Originality/Value – CRT and its related concepts provide a structural framework for preparing LIS students and graduates to recognize and address racism, to understand “how power and privilege shape LIS institutions and professional practice” (Cooke, Sweeney, & Noble, 2016, p. 107), and to embrace social justice as an LIS value. Incorporating CRT into existing courses is the first step in pushing the profession in this direction.


Purpose – The United States has and will continue to experience increasing levels of diversity in all segments of the population. To address the information needs of diverse students, it is important for school library certification programs to offer a curriculum that addresses such topics as the role of culturally competent library service for diverse K-12 student patrons as well as teaching future school librarians how to provide services and programs that include all members of the school community, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) students.

Design – We use a combination of a literature review, an explanation of the tenets of cultural competence, and relevant descriptions of experiences of LGBT youth to generate practical solutions for transforming the curriculum and culture in Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) programs with the goal of better serving LGBT patrons in secondary schools.

Findings – Twelve specific solutions were identified that focus on transforming the curricular and cultural landscape of MLIS programs as they relate to promoting diversity and inclusivity in preparing school librarians to serve LGBT students.

Value – The chapter ultimately emphasizes the unfortunate outcome resulting from MLIS programs failing to prepare school librarians who are aware of the importance of embracing and demonstrating culturally competent and inclusive services for LGBT students. It also shares strategies for improving curricular practices that affect the culture of MLIS programs and, by extension, the atmosphere in school library programs.


Purpose – In this chapter, I present a systematic discussion of the relationship between social work (SW) and library and information science (LIS) and explore how SW can contribute to the education of LIS practitioners so that they become more than information facilitators and grow professionally to be true agents of change.

Design/Methodology/Approach – Using engagement with immigrant communities as a case in point and building on the empirical comparative study of public librarians in the Greater Toronto Area and New York City, I outline the current gaps and deficiencies of LIS curricula that can be rectified through blended education. I also integrate the potential contributions of SW into LIS through the case study of an immigrant member of a library community.

Findings – Building on the case study, I introduce a four-tiered model that can be applied to a wide array of courses in LIS programs and conclude with suggestions for taking steps toward blending SW perspectives into the LIS curriculum.

Originality/Value – I position the potential fusion of SW and LIS as “professional blendedness,” which serves as a catalyst for change, and also examine the concept of the blended professional as a change agent. I introduce the rationale for adopting theoretical, practical, and pedagogical approaches from SW in the field of LIS and focus on four specific contributions that can most benefit LIS:

  • the person-in-environment approach;

  • the strengths perspective and empowerment;

  • the interrelated notions of cultural competence, diversity, and intersectionality; and

  • the theory-mindedness approach (including theory and practice models).

the person-in-environment approach;

the strengths perspective and empowerment;

the interrelated notions of cultural competence, diversity, and intersectionality; and

the theory-mindedness approach (including theory and practice models).


Purpose – This chapter will utilize the apprenticeship model developed by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in their Preparation for the Professions series to study how American Library Association (ALA)-accredited Master of Library Science (MLS) programs could be reformed to better integrate the interests of educators with those of the practicing profession and the public they serve.

Design/Methodology/Approach – The Carnegie model uses three “apprenticeships” to distinguish the three areas professional education must address, labeled in this chapter as knowledge, practice, and identity. Each of these three areas is explored as it relates to the education of librarians, with an emphasis on what constitutes the general knowledge, skills, and identity of librarianship. Examples of how these three components could be integrated into an MLS program are given.

Findings – Current ALA-accredited MLS programs differ widely on the number and content of required courses. Applying the model developed in the other Carnegie studies to the field of library education yields a clearer vision for the professional education of librarians and to a reorienting of the educational experience students encounter in their MLS studies.

Originality/Value – Using examples from other professional education programs allows library educators to see the means by which a holistic education is achieved in other professions. The novelty of this approach is in the breakdown of the various components of a professional education program. The tripartite approach to professional education also provides a useful framework around which to build an MLS program.


Purpose – As the role of technology in libraries has broadened and expanded, tech-savvy librarians and non-librarian technologists are increasingly working side by side in complex digital environments. Little research has explored the key differences between these roles and the implications for the future of the Master of Library Science (MLS) and its variant degrees, particularly as technologists from various backgrounds increasingly enter the information field. This chapter contrasts the technological responsibilities of the two groups to build an understanding of the necessity of the MLS in library-oriented technology work.

Design/Methodology/Approach – Qualitative coding and text mining techniques were used to analyze technology-oriented librarian and non-librarian job advertisements, technology curriculum changes, and surveyed technology interests of current information professionals.

Findings – Findings indicate a clear distinction between librarian and non-librarian technology responsibilities. Librarian positions emphasize web design, data and metadata, technology troubleshooting, and usage of library-oriented software. Non-librarian technologists require programming, database development, and systems administration, with deeper software and systems knowledge. Overlap was noted in the areas of user experience, linked data, and metadata. Several newer trends that information professionals expressed a desire to learn – such as makerspace technologies – were observed to be poorly covered in the technology curriculum, though the MLS curriculum generally covered the tech-savvy librarians’ responsibilities.

Originality/Value – This chapter builds understanding of the current necessity of the MLS in library-oriented technology work, as contrasted against the role of non-librarian technologists, through analysis of a triangulated set of data sources covering employment opportunities, technology curriculum, and librarians’ technology interests.


Purpose – For decades, archivists have been appraising, preserving, and providing access to digital records by using archival theories and methods developed for paper records. However, production and consumption of digital records are informed by social and industrial trends and by computer and data methods that show little or no connection to archival methods. The purpose of this chapter is to reexamine the theories and methods that dominate records practices. The authors believe that this situation calls for a formal articulation of a new transdiscipline, which they call computational archival science (CAS).

Design/Methodology/Approach – After making a case for CAS, the authors present motivating case studies: (1) evolutionary prototyping and computational linguistics; (2) graph analytics, digital humanities, and archival representation; (3) computational finding aids; (4) digital curation; (5) public engagement with (archival) content; (6) authenticity; (7) confluences between archival theory and computational methods: cyberinfrastructure and the records continuum; and (8) spatial and temporal analytics.

Findings – Each case study includes suggestions for incorporating CAS into Master of Library Science (MLS) education in order to better address the needs of today’s MLS graduates looking to employ “traditional” archival principles in conjunction with computational methods. A CAS agenda will require transdisciplinary iSchools and extensive hands-on experience working with cyberinfrastructure to implement archival functions.

Originality/Value – We expect that archival practice will benefit from the development of new tools and techniques that support records and archives professionals in managing and preserving records at scale and that, conversely, computational science will benefit from the consideration and application of archival principles.


Purpose – This chapter argues that graduate-level library science should develop a robust teaching curriculum.

Approach – This chapter is an argumentative paper relying on secondary research.

Findings – Teaching is a significant component of the modern library profession.

Originality – This chapter calls for librarians not only to acknowledge the centrality of teaching in their profession but also to anchor graduate-level library science curriculum to it.


Purpose – This chapter serves to address the need for teaching/instruction courses in Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) programs.

Design/Methodology/Approach – This chapter includes testimony from current Library and Information Science (LIS) professionals, an analysis of the myriad types of job postings for information professionals, and a review of specializations and course offerings at the 59 American Library Association-accredited programs in the United States.

Findings – This chapter shows a gross lack of opportunity for library school students to learn and practice teaching, course or program design, and assessment of user behavior or response, even though those working and hiring in the field of information are expected to plan lessons or programs, teach or train others, and assess or evaluate those programs and fellow practitioners.


Purpose – The purpose of this chapter is to provide a conceptual exploration of cataloging and metadata education. Historically and currently, cataloging and metadata are an essential part of master’s-level library and information science (LIS) education.

Design/Methodology/Approach – We review LIS literature and provide evidence from their own experiences to support their argument.

Findings – Cataloging education, far from going the way of the dodo, is still a very important part of LIS education. Even though general information organization courses are still required by most LIS programs, cataloging and metadata courses that include a balance of theory and practice are often buried as electives within LIS school curricula. Information organization principles and techniques (both theory and practice) are highly relevant in today’s information environment.

Originality/Value – This chapter was written by four cataloging educators, who have extensive cataloging knowledge and experience and who have seen firsthand the benefits of cataloging education for all LIS students. As library professionals adapt, and given the increasing focus on users and their needs, the relevance and necessity of a robust understanding of cataloging and metadata creation principles is key going forward.

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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