ASIS&T 2008 – Whither LIS Education

ASIS&T 2008 – Whither LIS Education


  • Clifford Lynch, Coalition for Networked Information
  • Ann Prentice, University of Maryland

The basis for this presentation was generated by the Information Science Education Committee and some results published in a white paper on the committee’s page on the ASIS&T Website.  As an IS student it was an interesting topic, and I really enjoyed listening to Clifford Lynch speak about the topic.

A large part of the discussion here are the different disciplines that Information Science touches, and how to find commonalities between them.  Clifford mostly spoke by way of experience but he had some interesting thoughts that I’ll just summarize here.

  • There are more people now interested in information science that are also narrowly interested in computer science.
  • He thinks there should be undergraduate programs in IS because too many people don’t hear about the field until they wonder what to do with themselves.
  • IS isn’t out there as a profession to a vast part of the population.
  • Clifford is seeing a more systematic use of information in society including advertising, propaganda, and information literacy.  There’s money being spent and commercial activity is being shaped, he believes this is sort of unclaimed and unexplained territory.
  • He talked about a sort of "bag of skills" to Master’s Students (not so much PhD students because he believes that they should be well set in what they are researching).  He says what they need to teach us is how to build prototypes and work under time pressures, what they don’t teach us is how to live with the results of building prototypes under time pressures.  They’re not teaching enough how to do analysis.
  • We need to think deeply about how to address scale; social scale technology, how technology has an impact on information, ramifications of RFID, and understanding everything from impact to the analysis.
  • He discussed some how it is difficult to do research in our field in an academic setting because of limitations we’ve set up, things like data analysis using human subjects, and access to research is locked up in vendor databases.  He mentioned that there is a lot of parallel research outside of the academic setting because they’re not locked inside the same restraints.  Researchers at companies like Microsoft or Yahoo! often tell him that they can’t do the research they’re doing in a university.  He feels that we need to reach out to this other research and do large scale simulation.
  • Clifford talked some about personal identity in Library & Information science, and how librarians have historically had a strong and proud professional identity.  They have always been strongly tied to a set of values that they defend, and librarians have historically been tied to libraries.
  • During the 60s and 70s the profession became diffused with information science.  One question he pondered, but doesn’t really know the answer is whether information professionals should have a strong professional identity or do they need to?  He’s never had one himself, or rather doesn’t get excited about having one… he started as a computer scientist though.
  • I think one of my favorite points from his remarks was when he said, "Maybe we need people who are less worried and willing to roam widely."
  • He finds the word "competence" scary, and worries that we try to design programs for Master’s students that "teach you enough."  He noted that "we can’t possibly teach you everything you need to know."  There’s just not enough time, and my other favorite point he brought up was the best thing we can do (as LIS Students) is to leave with a professional mind set to continue learning.  He said the "key roles" is to get people to think like information professions; "you never know enough" and it is "necessary to keep learning."

I didn’t take much notes on Ann’s presentation, she talked a lot about some of the observations and results from the white paper, but there were some good things there too.  The white paper is available on the ASIS&T website, as I mentioned.

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