Plus ça change, plus c'est different: a report from the KALIPER Project on six case studies in LIS education

Victoria Marshall (University of Western Ontario & Memorial University of Newfoundland), Thomas D. Wilson (University of Sheffield), Joanne Gard Marshall (University of North Carolina), Roma Harris (University of Western Ontario)


Reported here are preliminary results of a study undertaken for the KALIPER (Kellogg-ALISE Information Professions and Education Renewal) Project based on the findings of one of the five participating research teams.[1] Under the leadership of Professor Joan Durrance, University of Michigan, KALIPER was designed to analyze the nature and extent of major curricular changes in library and information science education. A full account of the project will be presented as part of a separate session at the ALISE 2000 Conference.

Participating Schools

Of the eight LIS schools assigned to the team, in-depth analyses were possible for six: University of Michigan, University of Pittsburgh, University of Puerto Rico, University of South Carolina, Syracuse University, and the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. Although the sample of schools covered by these case studies is small, the mix is a rich one. The schools include a range from relatively small to large enrolments, from one degree to many, from traditional to high-tech. The team would like to acknowledge the generous contributions of these schools, and especially the many contacts and interviewees, to the study.


The team received the results of a Deans and Directors' Survey which had been distributed and collected by the project's Principal Investigator, Karen Pettigrew. The Dean/Director at each school was asked to assess the degree of change his or her school had experienced in the past three years, or expected to experience in the next three, in specified areas.

The first school assigned to the team, Michigan, was used as a test case on which to base further data collection activities. Their website, including the School's last COA self study report, was examined for course and faculty information, and for descriptions of the change process. Extensive information was requested from the School, including teaching load and course registration data. Five faculty members were interviewed by telephone.

Seven more programs were assigned to the team between November 1998 and January 1999. An in-depth analysis was possible for five of these. For most programs, the procedure for data gathering consisted of: (1) examination of the website, (2) analysis of a 3 year ALISE statistical report supplied by Evelyn Daniel and Jerry Saye, (3) analysis of statistical data supplied by schools concerning admissions and enrolment, (4) examination of annual and/or other relevant reports supplied by the schools, (5) analysis of the results of the Deans and Directors' Survey, and (6) responses of questionnaires sent to faculty. In all, eight responses were received from four schools. In addition, two phone interviews were conducted with administrative heads at two schools. One program, the University of South Carolina, was handled separately due to the proximity of one of the team members to the site, Professor Joanne Gard Marshall. In that case, a site visit and face-to-face interviews with various faculty were possible. Professors Marshall and Carolyn Lipscomb submitted a separate report to the team for inclusion in the results.

The interview/questionnaire data on change agents and outcomes was classified and entered into a text analysis program, Atlas.ti, by Professor Tom Wilson. The resulting pictures of the change process at Michigan and Puerto Rico, Figure 1 and Figure 2, and will be discussed in association with this paper at the ALISE 2000 Conference.[2]


The combined results of the Deans and Directors Survey indicate that, overall, schools are undertaking significant revisions to their programs, although some schools are in periods of greater flux than others and the areas targeted for change vary from school to school. Summary results of the Survey have been reported in the 1999 Bowker Annual. Both Michigan and Syracuse report having come through a period of major change overall in the past three years. North Carolina - Greensboro, Pittsburgh, Puerto Rico, and Syracuse (again) anticipate major change in several areas in the coming three. At South Carolina they have had a steady form of evolutionary change that has affected both their program and their delivery mode.

Overall, the areas of greatest change reported by the Deans and Directors from the case study schools were: relationships with other campus departments, major funding changes/shifts, market repositioning, faculty changes, new course content, core requirements, and modes of delivery.

The study sought to identify the forces that motivate change and affect its direction. However, it soon became clear that those factors which promote change can, in some situations, also be the ones which inhibit it. mso-bidi-font-size: 10.0pt'>The most common instigators (and sometimes inhibitors) of change are: the growth and expense of emerging technology, the availability and/or presence of faculty with new subject expertise, competition from other LIS programs, availability of financial support for innovation and, above all, the demands of students, employers, graduates, and professional associations for graduate competencies.

The Intellectual Domain

The most common impetus for change identified in all the schools covered by this report is their ever-expanding intellectual domain: Information. Schools have been seriously affected by the growth in the breadth and depth of their knowledge base, which has coincided with the growth in emerging information technologies. The expansion of the discipline has drawn a variety of structural responses from the schools. Strategies adopted, or maintained, by schools for their program structures at the masters level include:

  • offering a range of specialized degrees which, taken altogether, attempt to cover the intellectual terrain (Syracuse, Pittsburgh);
  • offering one all-encompassing degree with a range of internal specializations (Michigan);
  • offering one generalist degree with a variety of postgraduate, certification, and/or post-masters options (Puerto Rico, South Carolina);
  • i
  • dentifying a niche and determining the intellectual grounding necessary to serve that niche (North Carolina - Greensboro).

The efforts of the schools to address the expanding intellectual terrain are evident in almost all aspects of their operations.

One of the most obvious results of the expansion of the intellectual domain is that librarianship has moved from being the embodiment of the field to a specialization within it. Especially among the more technology-oriented schools, the websites show a tendency to position librarianship as one among several specializations and to stress the growth of the information industry and its associated technology as driving forces in professional education and employment. The extent of each school's response is reflected in the new, especially the experimental, courses being offered, in the teaching specializations of new faculty, in the research problems addressed, and in the resource concerns of the schools.

On the other hand, it is worth noting that no school was prepared or preparing to scrap their ALA-accredited degree and that all schools included in this report continue to offer state-certified school media programs.

School and Degree Names

Not surprisingly, there has been some activity in renaming schools to remove the "L" word. The most common explanation given by schools for the name change is the need to reflect the expanding content of the field. Furthermore, the inclusion of the term "Information" in the name of the degree has become almost universal. The names given to new degrees also denote membership in the academic science community. At Michigan, the name of the professional degree has been recently changed to Master of Science in Information. At Pittsburgh and Syracuse, the name of the professional degree has stayed with the more standard MLIS and MLS respectively but the non-ALA-accredited degrees are Masters of Science programs.

Of the schools covered by this report, only Syracuse continues to offer a Masters of Library Science degree. At the school, no discontinuity is perceived between its image as an innovative school and the name of its library degree since the audience, purpose, and skill set are all built around librarianship. The multiple degree structure is seen as having advantages, including the reduction of confusion over the competencies of graduates in the minds of employers and students and the opportunity for greater concentration on relevant core material in the curriculum.

On a related matter, ALA-accreditation continues to be important to all schools for those degree programs which prepare students for careers in librarianship although some uncertainty was expressed about (1) the future effectiveness and shape of the process and (2) the suitability of ALA for the accreditation of the Masters of Science programs.

The diversity of degrees being offered by the schools under review initially suggested that an increase in the number and type of degrees might be underway. In fact, the number of masters degrees offered by the schools has indeed increased over time, but only gradually. The response to the Deans and Directors' Survey indicated that no new masters degrees were being planned, although combined degrees, undergraduate degrees, and alternative programming seem to be increasing in popularity.

Increased Involvement on Campus

Only at one school was there any indication that the spate of closures in the 1980s had any bearing on their decision to review and revise a program. However, it appears that the recommendations of Paris' Library School Closings (1988) have been noted by the LIS schools covered by this report. Schools are actively pursuing closer interdisciplinary links within their universities as well as, in some cases, partnerships outside them.

All schools wished to project an image within their parent institution of being an integral and productive part of the graduate and, in some cases, research programs. Central to the new image is an association with the innovative and expert use of information technology. Most felt that the image of their school has been heightened in recent years, especially in the fields of education, communication, and business. Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Michigan have created further alliances with departments such as engineering, computer science, and public policy. This heightened visibility on campus has had its rewards. Syracuse now reports that it is perceived as "the information school - the hot field” on campus, generating a "high demand among students." At Michigan, the recognition of the School's authority in the area of information has been demonstrated, according to faculty reports, by the support of the deans of other professional schools for the new vision, by the dropping of information courses from the curricula of other professional schools, and by the enthusiasm of these schools for joint enterprises. At North Carolina - Greensboro, the involvement of faculty in university affairs has been a contributing factor in the increased visibility of the school and paid off in terms of new resources (especially facilities and equipment).

There is a reported increase in interest on campus in joint or dual degree programs with LIS schools. At Michigan and Syracuse, combined degree programs have been developed with Law. (Significantly, approval for this enterprise at Michigan was given by the law school even before being approved by the School of Information.) Dual degree programs are being created with schools of business and public policy at Michigan and Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is also offering a dual degree with the Center for Biomedical Informatics and a Ph.D. in partnership with computer science, electrical engineering, communication, and business. At Syracuse, a series of dual BS degrees have been developed with the schools of management and public communications and they share a Certificate in Project Software Management with engineering and computer science.Along more traditional lines, South Carolina offers two joint masters programs with english and applied history but it also plans to lead campus discussion of an interdisciplinary undergraduate minor in information studies.<

The schools also reported an increase in the number of cross-listed or “service” courses. The alliances forged with other departments include traditional partners (e.g. Education, with which many LIS schools cooperate to capture the school library certification market). However, the number of cross-listed courses with new disciplines is also increasing, and not only at the more diversified schools. At Puerto Rico, for example, the program includes courses offered by other faculties such as the School of Administration, the School of Planning, and the School of Communication. Several of the certificate programs being developed at Puerto Rico will also include courses taught in other faculties. South Carolina regularly teaches courses on information retrieval for journalism students, children's literature and information technology for education students, and plans to develop a sequence of integrated information technology courses for students throughout the university.North Carolina - Greensboro is being used by their education department for service courses in how to do research. They also note increasing interest from other departments in cooperation on technology and Internet material.


The growing recognition of LIS as a multidisciplinary field seems to be increasing the recruitment of faculty from other disciplines into joint appointments. For example, Pittsburgh lists faculty members with joint or visiting appointments from a wide range of fields including computer science, medicine, engineering, psychology, business, and women’s studies. At Puerto Rico, joint appointments are anticipated with business, planning, and communications. At Michigan, the school has recently increased its faculty through joint faculty appointments with public policy, art and design, electrical engineering and computer science, business, psychology, and economics.

Michigan provides a case in point of what may be happening more gradually at other schools as joint appointments increase. Many of the new joint appointees to that school were already members of an informal research network in the university interested in information behaviour and the political issues surrounding information. To this group, the creation of a school which would give them a formal organizational base from which to pursue their interests was an attractive idea. Their presence has had a strong influence on the development of the new curriculum.

Successful promotion of LIS programs has strained faculty teaching loads to the limits in some schools. Both Syracuse and the Department of Information and Science and Telecommunications at Pittsburgh reported that the shortage of faculty to meet demand has placed serious limits on their abilities to expand. According to its 1997/98 Annual Report, Syracuse has recently had to rely on adjuncts and teaching assistants for over 50% of the credits taught at the School. This state of affairs has been caused by the fact that the school has grown by 278% in credit hours production in the past 10 years while the faculty has grown by 75%. As a result, Syracuse has had to place limits on enrolment. Similarly, a representative of the DIST at Pittsburgh estimated that the present demand for their programs could occupy twice the number of faculty members now employed there.

In spite of financial constraints, schools included in this study have been generally successful in maintaining their faculty levels and even increasing them slightly. The one exception is Michigan which has more than doubled its faculty base in the past three years. More frequently, faculty attrition is being used as an opportunity for building depth in areas of specialization such as medical informatics and archives and records management, and especially in information technology. In keeping with Syracuse’s integrated “faculty of one” philosophy, there has been some attempt there to encourage “synergy” by hiring “boundary spanners” or faculty who can teach in more than one program. An important way in which schools are able to expand their curriculum is through building on available faculty expertise but, as some schools pointed out, that expertise is not always to be had.


Major shifts in funding were observed in three areas: revenues from expanding distance education programs, increases in undergraduate enrolment, and research. The new funds are being channelled into expanding distance delivery, hiring new faculty, and upgrading the technology infrastructure.

In the ALISE 1998 Statistical Report, Howard D. White reports that, of all the variables tested, income is the best predictor of perceived quality of programs as indicated by inclusion in the U.S. News and World Report's Top 10 List. Three programs included in the Top 10 List are covered in this study: Michigan, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse. In fact, Michigan and Pittsburgh have the highest incomes reported for 1997/98 in the 1999 Statistical Report and Syracuse ranks fourth after Illinois. Grants and contracts from government and funding from large corporate sponsors comprise much of these schools' additional income. The schools report that their research programs have an impact on faculty recruitment, student recruitment, and the curriculum. In turn, faculty recruitment has an impact on research funding as new faculty, such as those recently joining Michigan, bring research contacts and sponsors with them.

According to representatives from Michigan, the additional funds from a number of sources, including the University of Michigan and the Kellogg Foundation, gave them the flexibility they needed to experiment with change.

A survey of the projects undertaken at the research oriented schools show a combination of research foci, from corporate profit to public good. However, the greatest proportion of funding is for the development of technological advances. The other programs covered by this report continue to rely heavily or exclusively on funding from parent institutions.


The presence and proximity of competition affect large and small schools. For example, the scope of the North Carolina - Greensboro program is obviously affected not only by the fact that, administratively, it is part of the School of Education but that their competition includes two other accredited library schools in the same university system. The DLIS at Pittsburgh is facing new regional competition from Clarion University which is establishing a segment of its program at a near-by satellite campus. The growth of distance delivery is also increasing the probability of competition.

The non-ALA accredited masters programs at Syracuse and the DIST at Pittsburgh face competition not only on a national level but from outside the ALISE cohort of schools. Similar IT programs being developed at, for example, Penn State and the University of Washington, and especially in business schools, are challenging Syracuse which has enjoyed limited competition from within LIS education. Syracuse is now advertising itself as the "Original School for the Information Age". The competition for the DIST program at Pittsburgh is also at a national rather than local level. With the possible exception of Michigan's School of Information, the department does not look to other schools in the ALISE cohort for comparisons. Rather, it places itself in the company of Colorado (telecommunications), Georgia Tech, Maryland (HCI), Massachusetts (computer science), Penn State, and DePaul which also have Information Science and Technology programs.

On the other hand, Puerto Rico has virtually no competition in the region and occupies a unique international niche. There are other programs in librarianship in Latin America but they are neither at the same level nor as extensive. The mission of the school reflects the university's mission, to contribute to local economic and social development. Beyond that focus, the School also aims to improve the practice of LIS in neighbouring countries which do not have the proper educational facilities, e.g. El Salvador and Costa Rica.

Curriculum Content

The changing content of the curriculum, especially the core curriculum, has been studied in some depth by other KALIPER teams. The brief review of course titles in this study indicated that the majority of new offerings centre on emerging technology, although that is not always the case, especially in the more traditional programs. An extensive qualitative analysis of syllabi, assigned readings, and class assignments (many of which are regrettably not retained) would be necessary to measure the depth of course revision.

Distance Delivery

There has been an increase in remote delivery of courses in programs covered by this review. In fact, in the Deans and Directors Survey, changes in modes of course delivery scored highest as a location of change in the schools covered by this report. The courses offered are, for the most part, the traditional ones. To varying degrees, schools are taking advantage of, or are planning to take advantage of, advances in electronic course delivery to increase their enrolments and revenues.

South Carolina, for example, has taken a leading role in offering instruction by distance learning among LIS programs and on its campus. Building on a program to reach place-bound students launched in 1976, South Carolina began cycles of televised courses in 1992 to enable students to pursue the accredited masters degree in LIS while remaining in their own communities in the states of Georgia, West Virginia and Maine. This was the first time that an entire MLS degree program had been offered through a combination of live interactive satellite transmission and on-site delivery. A program for a second cohort of MLIS students is underway in West Virginia and a post-masters specialist degree program in Georgia is beginning in fall 1999. In 1997/98, 34 sections of courses were taught through distance education.

Distance delivery seems to provide smaller programs with a means to expansion which is both affordable and popular. North Carolina - Greensboro has a well-established distance program in school library media for students at Charlotte and Asheville (approximately 120 students). Courses are delivered through the Telelearning Center, on-site, and over the Internet. New revenues from the distance program will allow for further expansion. Puerto Rico intends to offer a new School Librarian Certificate program through distance learning but concentrates on continuing education for its market.

Of the research-oriented schools, Syracuse has been the most ambitious in its development of distance delivery. In addition to all its degree programs, Syracuse has begun offering specialized programs to specific locales, including a certificate program in telecommunications in partnership with a Canadian university. In fact, the Internet-based MS/IRM Specialization in Government is only available to distance students based in Washington. Syracuse combines intensive residency requirements with its distance programs.

Continuing Education and Alternative Programming

New continuing education programs, workshops, and other alternative programs also allow some schools to tap into expanded markets and provide another potential source of revenue. Puerto Rico, for example, plans to offer postgraduate degree certificates in school librarianship, archives, and information technology. Three post-masters certificates are also planned in library administration, information consulting, and legal specialization. It is the view in this school that the number of new skills and specialities has become too large to be accommodated in a general program.

South Carolina offers two post-masters programs: the Certificate of Graduate Study in Library and Information Science and the Specialist in Library and Information Science. Syracuse is offering a Summer College for high-school students Information Management and Technology. It has increased its number of Graduate Certificates to include Telecommunications Management and Software Project Management with a possible addition of Interactive Multimedia.

Most schools covered by this study have also been active in offering non-credit continuing education events. The average attendance numbers per event indicates that the activities offered by the generalist programs continue to attract significant interest. In South Carolina, for example, the service to the local teaching community is extended into the continuing education program. Over the past two years, 4,613 educators have enrolled in the course Taming the Information Technology Jungle.

By comparison, class sizes at the continuing education events offered by Michigan and Pittsburgh are small. This circumstance may be accounted for by the type of courses being offered by these two programs. At Michigan, for example, the Digital Tool Kit courses are small specialized courses open to both students and professionals. Many of the courses centre on individual software packages or topics of interest to a smaller number of professionals such as Geographical Information Systems or Starting and Operating an Information Brokerage. DIST at Pittsburgh has done some training for industry, e.g. corporations like Digital, and may do more in the way of specialized certificates in Java programming and networks. Their courses are not generally geared towards the broader continuing education needs of LIS professionals.


In addition to growth in the number of specialized degree and certificate programs, some LIS schools covered by this report have increased the opportunities for specialization in their masters programs. These specializations are more formal than "suggested" groupings of courses, and may lead to certificates, but do not constitute separate degree programs.

Following its recent restructuring, Michigan now offers four clearly defined specializations within its MSI degree program: archives and records management; human-computer interaction; information economics, management, and policy; and library and information services. A specialization in information technology is also reported to be in the early stages of development. As part of its MLIS program, Pittsburgh's Department of Library and Information Science offers specializations in archives and records management, school library certification, medical informatics/medical librarianship, and services to children and young adults. Pittsburgh anticipates further emphasis on specialization. The specializations have obvious implications for faculty hiring and the proportion of required courses in the curriculum.

Curriculum Structure

Of particular interest is the degree of structure imposed on course choice in the alternative non-ALA accredited programs and specializations. In addition to the four required courses for the MSIS degree at Pittsburgh, for example, students are required to choose a set number of credits from specific subject areas. Similarly, at Syracuse, both the IRM and TNM degrees require selection of courses from within a "secondary core", including at least two courses from each of three tracks or streams. In addition, in the TNM program, students must take at least one of the designated core courses from each stream and a capstone course is required at the end of the program.

The trend towards specializations within the more generic masters programs is also producing a more structured curriculum. At Michigan, 15 out of the 21 "additional" credit hours required for the specializations must be selected from within courses offered in that area. At Pittsburgh, nine courses are required in the Archives specialization and students are "strongly urged" to select their three remaining courses from preservation, research, and technology areas. The medical specialization is equally well structured.


Although numbers fluctuate in the schools covered by this report, there has been no dramatic change in the number of students enrolled in the ALA-accredited masters programs in recent years. Pittsburgh and Syracuse report significantly increased demand in other degree programs. Two programs at Pittsburgh have seen an upswing in popularity, the bachelors program and the MSIS program in the Department of Information Science and Telecommunications. According to the Department's calculations, both of these programs have doubled in size in the past three years. Syracuse's Bachelor of Science program has grown in size (from 253 in 1991/92 to 467 in 1996/97) but the growth in demand continues to outstrip the resources of the School to accommodate it. There has been a similarly dramatic increase in numbers in the Other Masters programs due to the increased popularity of the MS/IRM program and the institution of the MS/TNM program which is rapidly gaining ground. The School’s inability to accommodate the demand for their programs has caused them to increase their de facto entrance requirements rather than increase enrolment to its full potential.

Gender Divisions

There has been virtually no change indicated in the division of the sexes in the masters programs covered by this review. The gender pattern generally reflects that of the ALISE statistics where the median is still roughly 80% female enrolment in the ALA-accredited masters programs.

The ALISE statistics indicate moderately less imbalance in the non-ALA accredited masters programs with female enrolment at about 38% at Pittsburgh and 42% at Syracuse. However, the fact that these figures are combined under the heading "Other Masters" programs may be disguising a greater division. By its own calculations, in the Fall term of 1998, the MLS program at Syracuse was 84% female, its MS/IRM program was 48% female, its Ph.D. program 42% female, and its MS/TNM program was 30% female. As a response to this situation, Syracuse has created a target for female enrolment in its BS program of 1.5 Male: 1 Female (currently 2.4 Male: 1 Female). Furthermore, in its 1997/98 Annual Report to the Vice Chancellor, the goal of promoting intellectual and gender diversity in its masters programs was given as the primary reason for the restructuring of the cores to include 2-3 shared courses.

Entrance Requirements

Most of the schools covered by this report continue to have, as a base, the traditional entrance requirements, including a BA with a GPA of 3 (or a B average), GRE scores, letters of recommendation and, for some, a written statement. However, Pittsburgh, Puerto Rico, and Syracuse are changing their entrance requirements, especially with regard to computer literacy. Syracuse has also instituted requirements for previous related industry or library experience in some of its non-ALA accredited programs.

Graduation Requirements

Schools continue to require the completion of a set number of credits which include a group of required core courses. However, several programs have raised the bar for graduation. The purpose of these additional requirements is to better prepare students unfamiliar with the field for future employment and, in some cases, for future academic work. Michigan requires that students amass a set number of practical engagement points earned through field experience or special coursework. North Carolina - Greensboro has implemented a "capstone" requirement in which students must chose 2 of 3 options: a comprehensive examination, a master's project (formal research proposal), or student portfolio (independent study). The masters programs at Syracuse include an exit requirement consisting of an internship, co-op, or an independent study.

The number of credit hours required for program completion has typically been 36 hours for the schools covered in this report. Michigan has recently increased the number of credit hours to 48. The MSIS program at Pittsburgh requires 36 but its MST program requires 48. Syracuse's IRM and TNM programs each requires 42. These figures suggest that there is an association between increased technology content and increased credit hours. The exception is the University of Puerto Rico which is in the process of reducing the number required from 42 to 38. However, the basic MIST is being supplemented by several certificate program offerings ranging from 16 to 22 credits.


The possibilities and challenges facing LIS schools grow with the broadening intellectual boundaries, the emerging technology, and the dissolving geographical limits for delivery. When these factors are addressed in the context of the local culture, academic setting, and employment environment of the schools, however, the resulting emphases are often quite different. In this section, we attempt to draw out some of the dissimilarities as well as significant similarities in program development.

Although there are several common patterns in the responses of the case study schools to change, the emphasis placed on any one area varies from school to school. In some cases, distance delivery has been the primary focus for expansion. In others, building partnerships across campus and strengthening the research program have taken precedence. In the wider KALIPER discussions, it became clear that each school is at a different point in its development and that the six year time span for investigation caught some schools, and some programs within schools, at the end of a cycle, others in the midst of one, still others between cycles.

The capacity of any school to institute change is, of course, constrained by its financial resources. However, the existing structures and cultures of the schools also have a strong influence. For example, schools of roughly similar means, such as Pittsburgh with its choice of degrees and Michigan with its choice of specializations within one degree, have adopted different structures to support the training of information professionals. Even those schools which have adopted similar structures diverge philosophically on some basic issues. For example, the programs at Syracuse and Pittsburgh have a history of expanding their degree offerings along with the field. On the surface, they appear to have adopted a common strategy to accommodate the widening intellectual terrain. However, the philosophies of the schools differ in some very significant ways, especially the proper degree of program integration. Syracuse’s “faculty of one” philosophy sets a very different direction from Pittsburgh’s separate departments. The centrality and size of the ALA-accredited masters program are other factors which might be expected to produce similar responses. However, Michigan and South Carolina, with their concentration on large ALA-accredited programs, are very dissimilar in their visions. While South Carolina views its program as traditional and its mode of change as evolutionary, Michigan sees its new program as cutting edge and revolutionary.

Although ALA-accredited programs remain intact, the presentation of the profession of librarianship to students varies from school to school. There is little indication of consensus on the issue of the proper relationship between librarianship and information science and technology, even among faculty members within the same school. The point is illustrated by the answers received from faculty members in one institution about the place of librarianship in the school's mission. One faculty member sees the role of librarianship as providing a base of human-centred values and experience which can be usefully applied in the new environments. Another feels that all current controversy surrounding status of the "L" word is due to a natural tendency to over-emphasize in order to make room for anything new, and that the relationship between librarianship and information science will settle down over time. A third feels that library science is dead at the school and that something totally new is in the making. In spite of the consensual adoption of new missions, it seems likely that the different disciplinary backgrounds of faculty members will continue to produce different interpretations of how the fuzzy concepts of librarianship and information can constructively co-exist.

Most of the schools covered by this report have been developing relationships with powerful partners on campus and building a multidisciplinary approach into their programs. The broadening of the field is increasing the amount of specialization in the programs offered by these schools and splintering was identified as matter for concern. Promoting a team approach to problem solving among students is viewed as necessary in the schools with stronger disciplinary divisions since, as information professionals, groups of experts in various areas will need to work together to solve problems. Different schools have adopted different approaches to reducing fragmentation. Michigan did not take the separate degree route, fearing “balkanization”. At Syracuse, the emphasis has most recently been on creating opportunities for “synergy” between its various programs. This goal has had an obvious impact on Syracuse’s core but also in its creation of new faculty positions which are described as "boundary-spanners". The rationale for cross-disciplinary learning was expressed by a faculty member from one school who wrote:

Many of the boundaries between professions are eroding: e.g. librarians may need to know something about networking, networkers need to know something about information representation and retrieval; policy issues such as intellectual property and universal service bring together telecommunications, information management, and library management.

On the other hand, this same faculty member made it clear that he does not see the information field as a unitary discipline. In a similar vein, a faculty member from another school with a strong technical program advised that it is time for ALA and ALISE to recognize that there are too many specializations in the information field for any one organization to represent them all. Acceptance of the multiplicity of information professions and specializations is also increasingly evident in the less technically focussed programs. The growth in the number of specializations within some masters degree programs, and the introduction of NCATE certification for media specialist programs, provide evidence of increasing fragmentation.

The non-ALA accredited masters programs have instituted a more scientific model of curriculum structure with greater restrictions placed on the course choices students can make. A tendency towards course sequencing and prerequisite structures was also observed. In the specializations within the ALA-accredited programs, the number of courses required to satisfy specialization requirements, when added the core required courses, also limit the number of electives students can accommodate. This structuring is, of course, unavoidable since it guarantees the systematic assimilation of a set body of knowledge. However, there was a certain tension noted between the desire to reduce the core to allow more flexibility and the increase in the number of required courses to fulfil requirements. Strategies which serve to maximize the exposure of students to the practices and concerns of other specializations are seen as needed.

The more technically oriented programs foresee their graduates being asked to manage “new knowledge work environments” in business and industry employed in jobs which "have yet to be defined". In a post-Fordist workplace, graduates will make use of an array of information technology tools to produce customized products. As one faculty member characterized it, schools now offer “principle-oriented” training which will allow graduates to formulate solutions to novel problems on their feet, moving away from (although not totally) a curriculum which "presents well-understood things". These programs are relegating courses which provide training in the use of individual software packages to the level of workshops and are increasingly expecting students to enter the programs already equipped with the basics (intellectual and material) in information technology.

In contrast, however, programs such as North Carolina - Greensboro, South Carolina, and Puerto Rico have a strong relationship with their local library communities which constitute their strongest markets for graduates. One school reported that the local librarians who were consulted on curriculum changes were very concerned about the new directions being taken by the school and questioned the continuing ability of the school to produce professionals who could meet local needs. These programs are even more challenged to maintain an instructional balance between the leading (if not bleeding) edge of technology and the best of their traditional teachings.


This exploratory survey of six case study schools provides evidence that, in spite of some common trends, the broadening of the field and the increase in possibilities for program delivery are also creating more room for diversity. In addition, the results suggest directions in LIS education worth exploring: What impact will the strengthening of multidisciplinary contacts have on the speed and direction of change? Can the perceptions of increased recognition of LIS schools on campus be substantiated ? How will the tension between between new cultures and traditional ones be resolved in the curriculum? What are the bases of the relationship between income, prestige, and change? What are the negative effects of (program and gender) separation and how can they be overcome?


  • Daniel, Evelyn and Saye, Jerry D. (Ed.) (1999). ALISE Library and Information Science Education Statistical Report. Arlington, VA: Association of Library and Information Science Education.
  • Paris, Marion (1988). Library school closings: four case studies. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow.
  • White, Howard D. (1998). "Summary and comparative analysis", in: Daniel, Evelyn H. and Saye, Jerry D. (Eds.). ALISE Library and Information Science Statistical Report 1998. Washington, DC: Association of Library and Information Science Education, p.310.

[1]The KALIPER Research Team: The Senior Researchers of this KALIPER team are Roma Harris, Professor, Faculty of Information and Media Studies, and Vice Provost, University of Western Ontario; Joanne Gard Marshall, Dean, School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; and Tom Wilson, Professor, University of Sheffield. The Junior Researcher on the team is Victoria Marshall, Ph.D. student, University of Western Ontario. The assistance of Carolyn Lipscomb, Adjunct Professor, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill is also gratefully acknowledged.

[2] In the attached figures, the following codes apply:

== "is associated with"
=> "is cause of"
[ ] "is part of"
<> "contradicts"

Paper delivered by Victoria Marshall to 2000 ALISE Annual Conference January 11 - 14, 2000 Gunter Hotel, San Antonio, Texas, USA

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