iSchool and iPAC release Re-Envisioning the MLS Report

Friday, August 7, 2015

In August 2014, the University of Maryland’s iSchool and the Information Policy & Access Center (iPAC) launched the Re-Envisioning the MLS initiative to address significant changes in the information landscape, our communities, information organizations, technology, the economy, workforce needs and trends, and other factors that impact Library and Information Science (LIS) education in general, and the Master of Library Science (MLS) degree (and its variants) in particular.

A three-year effort in all, the first year focused on engagement and included a speaker’s series, engagement events, regional visits, discussions with a range of leaders in the information professions, extensive work with the iSchool’s MLS Advisory Board, environmental analysis and scanning, a published white paper that identified trends and issues, and more. Summaries and archives of these events, and documents, are available at hackmls.umd.edu.

The iSchool is pleased to share its Re-Envisioning the MLS: Findings, Issues, and Considerations report. The findings have a number of implications for LIS education and MLS programs, including:

  • Attributes of Successful Information Professionals. Successful information professionals are not those who wish to seek a quiet refuge out of the public’s view. They need to be collaborative, problem solvers, creative, socially innovative, flexible and adaptable, and have a strong desire to work with the public.
  • Ensure a Balance of Competencies and Abilities. MLS programs need to ensure that students have a range of competencies, but that aptitude needs to be balanced with a progressive attitude (“can do,” “change agent,” “public service”).
  • Re-Thinking the MLS Begins with Recruitment. Neither a love of books or libraries is enough for the next generation of information professionals. Instead they must thrive on change, embrace public service, and seek challenges that require creative solutions. Attracting students with a strong desire to serve the public is critical.
  • Be Disruptive, Savvy, and Fearless. Through creativity, collaboration, innovation, and entrepreneurship, information professionals have the opportunity to disrupt current approaches and practices to existing social challenges. The future belongs to those who are socially innovative, entrepreneurial, and change agents who are bold, fearless, willing to take risks, go “big,” and go against convention.

As noted by then-MLS Program Director (and iPAC Co-Director) Dr. John Bertot, the initiative serves as a complement to current discussions regarding the future of libraries, “As we rethink our information institutions and the roles that they serve in their communities, we also need to consider who the future information professionals are, their abilities and competencies, and how we prepare them for dynamic and evolving careers as community change agents.” Ms. Lindsay Sarin, MLS Program Manager, further commented that, “Our libraries, archives, and other information organizations are central to their communities, and we need our future information professionals who are ready and eager to take risks and support their communities in new and exciting ways.”

Over the next two years, the iSchool will focus on curriculum redesign, continued engagement, and implementation. Dr. Paul Jaeger, newly appointed MLS Program Director (and iPAC Co-Director), stated that, “The report provides a clearly articulated set of issues that we will use as we rethink and redesign our MLS curriculum and further engage the LIS community.”

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