March 16, 2016

Award for Ongoing Doctoral Dissertation Research in the Philosophy of Information

Award for Ongoing Doctoral Dissertation Research in the Philosophy of Information

1. Nature of the Award
1.1 The award shall consist of $1,000, given annually to a graduate student who is working on a dissertation on the philosophy of information (broadly construed). As we see it, the range of philosophical questions relating to information is broad, and approachable through a variety of philosophical traditions (philosophy of mind, logic, philosophy of information so-called, philosophy of science, etc.).

2. Purpose of the Award
2.1 The purpose of this award is to encourage and support scholarship in the philosophy of information.

3. Eligibility
3.1 The scholarship recipient must meet the following qualifications:
(a) Be an active doctoral student whose primary area of research is directly philosophical, whether the institutional setting is philosophy or another discipline; that is to say, the mode of dissertation research must be philosophical as opposed to empirical or literary study;
(b) Have completed all course work; and
(c) Have had a dissertation proposal accepted by the institution.
3.2 Recipients may receive the award not more than once.

4. Administration
4.1 The Litwin Books Award for Ongoing Doctoral Dissertation Research in the Philosophy of Information is sponsored and administered by Litwin Books, LLC, an independent scholarly publisher.

5. Nominations
5.1 Nominations should be submitted via email by June 1, to award@litwinbooks.com.
5.2 The submission package should include the following:
(a) The accepted dissertation proposal;
(b) A description of the work done to date;
(c) A letter of recommendation from a dissertation committee member;
(d) An up-to-date curriculum vitae with current contact information.

6. Selection of the Awardee
6.1 Submissions will be judged on merit with emphasis on the following:
(a) Clarity of thought;
(b) Originality;
(c) Relevance to our time;
(d) Evidence of good progress toward completion.

7. Notification
7.1 The winner and any honorable mentions will be notified via letter by July 1.

Advisory Board
Jonathan Furner, Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, UCLA
Ron Day, School of Library and Information Science, Indiana University
Melissa Adler, College of Communication and Information, University of Kentucky

Past Winners

2015: Quinn DuPont, of the University of Toronto Faculty of Information, for his dissertation précis, titled, “Plaintext, Encryption, and Ciphertext: A History of Cryptography and its Influence on Contemporary Society.”

2014: Patrick Gavin, of the University of Western Ontario FIMS, for his dissertation propsoal, titled, “On Informationalized Borderzones: A Study in the Politics and Ethics of Emerging Border Architectures.”

2013: Steve McKinlay, of Charles Sturt University, New South Wales, Australia, for his dissertation proposal, titled, “Information Ethics and the Problem of Reference.”

December 20, 2014

Statement from Information Studies Academics and Professionals on Documentary Evidence and Social Justice

There is a new open statement circulating, written by UCLA Information Studies faculty, led by Safiya Noble. Written in response to the events in Ferguson and the crisis that it has opened up, it expresses the political orientation of members of the LIS field. It is titled, “Statement from Information Studies Academics and Professionals on Documentary Evidence and Social Justice,” and it is the first item on the new #critinfo blog. Here’s the blog’s self-description:

This blog was inspired by working on a statement that “Black Lives Matter” to the LIS community by a majority of the faculty at the UCLA Department of Information Studies. Because there is a lack of clarity about whether UCLA resources can be used to promote such a statement, we are posting our statement here, and asking our colleagues to link to us and promote more signatures and affirmation about the importance of social justice to the LIS community.

We invite other statements to be sent to this site, which is currently maintained by Safiya Noble in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA. For more information: contact criticalinfostudies (at) gmail *dot* com

Read More

October 2, 2012

So who exactly is ruling that “reference is dead”?

I liked this post from Hack Library School, written by Amy Frasier: “Whither Reference?” Amy notes with alarm that reference isn’t being taught as a standalone class at her library school. I want to note for the benefit of more senior and cynical readers that this is a current library student who is concerned about the lack of a reference course at her institution…

July 11, 2012

St. Kate’s MLIS program is going under the business school

The following is an email that was sent to current MLIS students at St. Catherine’s University in St. Paul, MN, announcing a reorganization of the department so that it will now be a part of the business school. I don’t know if there is any precedent for something like that. In other places where the library school has been folded into another department, the move signaled something about interdisciplinary connections. At UCLA that library school is linked to the education department. At Rutgers it is linked to communication and media studies. In both of those cases, the reorganization felt like it may have weakened the library school, because there was a loss of autonomy based on flagging institutional support for the independent program. But at least in those cases the implications of the cross-disciplinary connection held promise and suggested interesting possibilities for collaborative work. Going under the business school suggests a full commitment to the “business model” of library management, where public service in the interest of democracy and public good is hard to justify on a cost basis. I have always felt that when libraries are just another business, there is no point to them anymore. I will be very interested to see how the MLIS program at St. Kate’s will be affected by this reorganization, and if it will manage to maintain something of the integrity of a real library school.

From: IM Dept
Date: Wed, Jul 11, 2012 at 4:18 PM
Subject: 2012 Academic Reorganization Memo to MLIS Students
To:

To: Current MLIS Students:

Two weeks ago Colleen Hegranes, Senior Vice President announced a restructuring of the St. Catherine University academic programs. The School of Professional Studies is being eliminated and the professional programs in MLIS and Education are being moved into the School of Business and Leadership under the leadership of Dean Paula King. Social Work and the graduate programs will be overseen by Dean Penelope Moyers. The decision to restructure was made after careful deliberation by the upper administration of St. Catherine University and was based on evidence compiled through ongoing annual assessment and strategic planning activities.

Although organizational change and shifts in leadership are always disconcerting, moving into the Business School has much to offer the Master of Library and Information Science Program. The School’s entrepreneurial bent, along with its focus on digital education and technology, can offer us many opportunities that a more traditionally academic organization might not afford. At the same time it is essential that we maintain our academic focus and identity–consistent with the expectations of the American Library Association and the ALA Office for Accreditation. The rigor of our teaching, the relevance of our curriculum to the LIS profession, and our compliance with ALA Standards for Accreditation cannot be called into question, as ALA will be looking at this summer’s reorganization with concern. Although our Biennial Narrative Report for AY 2011-2012 was accepted without question or revision and no subsequent report for AY 2012-2013 is required, we will be expected to file a report detailing the recent reorganization and its implications for MLIS. This report will be written collaboratively early this fall, and will be shared with our new Dean and the MLIS faculty and the MLIS Advisory Council for input before being sent to the ALA.

We were not consulted about the recent restructuring, but our role in making it work for us, the University, and the ALA cannot be underestimated. This is an opportunity for us all to look for ways to incorporate the resources and strengths of both the School of Business and Leadership and the other graduate programs on our campuses into our own high quality library and information educational programs. Dean King, in a conversation earlier today, indicated that she was pleased and proud to have had MLIS added to her portfolio. Central to this process are the creativity and dedication of our faculty, staff, and students. I know that we can all work together to make this transition an opportunity for positive change.

Deborah S. Grealy, Ph.D., Associate Dean & Program Director MLIS
St. Catherine University
2004 Randolph Ave., #4125
Coeur de Catherine 045
St. Paul, MN 55105
651-690-8633

May 18, 2011

Libri best student paper award

Best Libri Student Paper

Announcement from Libri:

Since 1950, through 61 volumes, Libri: International Journal of Libraries and Information Services has been a leader among scholarly journals in the international library world. As part of its strategy to remain one of the premier library journals, Libri is issuing a call for “Best Student Paper of 2011.” This competition supports Libri’s goal of publishing the best articles from the next generation of library and information science professionals. We are proud once again to recognize the very best article with this special award.

Students at all levels are invited to submit articles with clarity and authority. There is no stated theme. Research papers should address one of the significant issues facing today’s librarians and information professionals. Case studies, best practices, and pure research papers are all welcome.

Length: approx. 5000 words
Language: English
Deadline: May 31, 2011

The best paper will be selected by an independent panel consisting of selected members of the Editorial Board, the Advisory Board and other international experts. Submissions will be judged on the basis of

– originality of thought and observation

– depth of research and scholarship

– topicality of problems addressed

– the international readership of the journal

The article will be published in the 2011:4 issue. The author of the winning article will be honoured with an award of 500.00 € and with a complementary subscription to Libri for 2012. If the quality of competition warrants, some papers may be designated as honourable mention and the authors will receive complementary subscriptions to Libri for 2012. The normal provision to the author of e-prints applies to all winners.

Manuscripts should be sent to the Libri Editorial Office, K. G. Saur Verlag, An Imprint of Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Mies-van-der-Rohe Straße 1, 80807 München, Germany. Electronic submissions are encouraged and may be submitted to libri@degruyter.com. Author instructions and further indications of the scope of papers suitable for publication in Libri are available at the Libri site at http://www.librijournal.org/authorinst.html

All submissions should include a cover sheet confirming:

– the name of the institution where the student is or was enrolled
– the dates when the student is or was enrolled
– the date when the paper was written and the course for which it was prepared if no longer a student

More information…

May 13, 2011

Library student on why librarians need a master’s degree

I find this quite a good statement of the reason librarianship should require a master’s degree. I also found the video interesting in the way that it mixes media together.

March 5, 2011

Miriam Braverman Memorial Prize – Call for Submissions (student paper contest)

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS

Are you an LIS student interested in activism and the struggle for social justice? Do you stay awake at night thinking about how your politics might inform your professional practice?

The MIRIAM BRAVERMAN MEMORIAL PRIZE, a presentation of the Progressive Librarians Guild (PLG), is awarded each year for the best paper about some aspect of the social responsibilities of librarians, libraries, or librarianship. Papers related to archivists, archives, and archival work are also eligible.

The winning paper will be published in the Summer 2011 issue of Progressive Librarian. The winner of the contest will also receive a $300 stipend to help offset the cost of travel to and from the 2011 American Library Association (ALA)annual conference in New Orleans, LA. The award will be presented at the annual PLG dinner at ALA.

Think you might be interested? Here’s the fine print.

1. Contestants must be library and/or information science students attending a graduate-level program in the United States or Canada.

2. Entries must be the original, unpublished work of the contestant, and must be written in English. Entries may not exceed 3,000 words, and must conform to MLA in-text citation style.

3. To facilitate the blind review process, each entry must include a cover sheet providing the contestant’s name, full contact information (address, phone number, e-mail address), name of the institution where the contestant is enrolled, and the title of the paper. No identifying information, other than the title, should appear on the paper itself.

4. Entries must be submitted electronically, in Microsoft Word or RTF format, to bravermansubmissions@gmail.com. Entries must be received no later than 5:00 p.m. CST on May 1, 2011.

5. The $300 stipend is available only to help defray the cost of ALA conference attendance in 2011; if the winner of the contest is unable to attend, the money will remain in the Braverman Prize endowment fund and may be donated to a progressive cause at the discretion of the selection committee.

Any questions regarding the contest or the selection process can be directed to the co-chair of the selection committee, Steve Lorenz at stevelorz@gmail.com or Sarah Clark at sclark@windwardschool.org. More information about Miriam Braverman and about the Progressive Librarians Guild is available at http://libr.org/plg.

February 26, 2011

Some objections to our use of library statistics

The use of certain library statistics, mainly related to circulation and its electronic semi-equivalents, has taken on a high degree of importance in library management since 1979, when Charlie Robinson introduced the “give ’em what they want” philosophy of collection development at Baltimore County Public Library. Circulation statistics provide an easy way present an argument to higher level administrators that you are moving in the right direction, if you can take steps to increase them. But there are a number of problems in the way that we often use these statistics. I would like to talk briefly about some of the problems that I have observed in an academic library setting.

1. A download does not imply relevance.

From the perspective of a reference librarian who works with students and faculty who are conducting various types of research, it is important to keep in mind that the circulation of a book or the download of an article is not the end point of our concern. Especially in an educational institution, it is important not only that the resources the students walk away with will help satisfy the formal requirements of their assignment (which may include instructions to “use five articles from scholarly journals”), but that they will help them learn. Sometimes students who haven’t yet figured out how to weed through search results to find what is relevant to the needs of their argument will download numerous articles that they will not read. That boosts circulation stats, but also represents a failure on our part. Policies that are geared toward boosting stats will not address that problem and will not promote learning.

2. Some usage counts for more than other usage.

While it may go against the grain for many democratic-minded librarians, not all usage of library materials is equal. When a lower division undergraduate reads a book that introduces them to a topic, their use of that book is very different from the way a professional scholar uses a book in her own field. This is not to say that the scholar’s use should count for more, necessarily, but to acknowledge that it counts differently and may be more expensive due to being specialized. It is a difference that should affect our use of statistics to draw conclusions. Some might look at patterns of use and argue that resources should be shifted toward whatever is used more. It is important to see that if a library goes in that direction, it is not simply a shift of resources toward “what users want,” but a shift of resources toward what one group of users want (lower division undergrads) and away from what another group of users want (researchers). The proportion of the budgets for resources in each of these areas should be determined differently at each institution according to its own educational policies and the type of place that it is, rather according to a simple market calculus that says “give ’em what they want,” which would tend automatically to hurt users of more specialized resources.

3. Incompatible data.

Because of the perceived need for statistics in reporting to entities outside the library, it is tempting to compare data that is collected differently or simply represents different things. A play of a track in a music database does not represent the same thing as a download of an article in JSTOR, yet they are stats that exist side-by-side in the context of electronic resource statistics. While a person will likely leaf through a book in the stacks before deciding to check it out, an electronic book needs to be “checked out” (counted as a circulation) in order to leaf through it to decide whether or not to use it, yet these stats exist side-by-side in the context of circulation statistics. COUNTER-complaint statistics aim to solve this problem, but they still only measure interactions with the interface rather than use of the material. (If we were to gather information about actual use of our information resources, there could be multiple dimensions to the data.)

4. Patterns of use differ across scholarly communities.

The ways that people use information resources in different disciplines and sub-disciplines, and for different purposes in general, can create distortions in our interpretation of the data if the potential for these differences is not kept in mind. We may calculate a “cost per download” for a given database and compare it to the cost per download for a database used by another department, in order to determine where our money is being spent most effectively, without realizing that a single download of an article may be more or less significant as a part of the overall research for a given project. One scholar may need to download 50 “articles” (which, according to what resource is being used, may not be an actual journal article) in order to get 50 facts, while a researcher in another discipline will download a few texts for the purpose of close reading. The first database might seem to have a much lower “cost per download” than the second (if these scholars’ use of the resource was typical) while the “cost per project” or “cost per research hour” may be the same.

5. The problem of accurately identifying causes of change over time.

The answer to many of these sorts of objections is sometimes to say, “We can still use these stats to identify changes over time,” and that is true, but drawing operational conclusions from those observations requires correctly identifying the causes. For example, when undergraduates began turning to Google to do research for writing assignments, librarians and vendors concluded that in order to compete with Google they needed to implement simplified, Google-like search interfaces to multiple databases. But these simple-to-use federated search products have not done anything to boost download statistics in full text databases of scholarly articles. This means the reason for students’ preference for Google may have been something else. I think it may have been because lower division undergraduates found more content that they could make sense of through Google than in the high-level original research in scholarly journals (which librarians, most of the time, to our great discredit, described to them simply as “more reliable”). If that turned out to be the true cause, the implications for planning would be different (not to mention not automatically clear).

To take another example, I think it’s not uncommon for library administrators to have the attitude that declining book circulation stats indicate a need to shift funds to electronic resources, while declining download stats indicate underutilization and a need to better promote those resources. The unstated assumptions are with respect to the cause of the change in the numbers – on the one hand obsolescence of the format and on the other hand insufficient publicity. It is important to realize that while the stats (these hypothetical ones) give us some information, they do not tell us that this common interpretation of the data is correct. Another possible explanation could be a decline in the amount of reading done by students, regardless of format.

6. Even if the cause of a change in the statistics is correctly understood, the response may be a question of philosophy and little else.

Let’s say that through some research done internally at a university, it is learned that undergraduates are arriving as first year students less well prepared, are spending less time studying, and have fewer and easier writing assignments than ten years ago, and faculty have less time to carefully evaluate their work. That finding would provide a good explanation for a decline in overall circulation. And let’s say that a healthy demand for DVDs for entertainment purposes had grown, that service to university staff members had increased as a proportion of the total, and that students viewed the library increasingly as a study space and decreasingly as an information resource. Is an obvious response implicit in these findings? I think not. I think there are many ways that a library administrator could respond to these changes, and the response would depend greatly on his own philosophy and the prevailing philosophy at the university. The data provide essential information, but they do not say a) it is imperative that the library boost circulation, or that b) circulation should be boosted by following a particular strategy.

7. Steps taken to boost statistics may have unintended pedagogical consequences.

A further potential error in the thinking that says that every use of a resource is equivalent lies in the potential pedagogical effects as well as the potential content implications of formats. If we shift funding from monographs to academic journals or from physical to electronic formats on the basis of perceived demand or future demand, we should not do it without acknowledging that the choice may have an impact beyond “serving more users” (assuming that we are even correct about the direction of demand). There are general differences in the content of monographs and academic journals, and collection development should attend to the question of what those formats contain in relation to the curriculum, aside from what may be suggested by data about use patterns. (It is commonly said that students “want articles that they can use from home and that aren’t too lengthy to deal with,” but seldom acknowledged that the original research in scholarly journals is mostly out of reach of lower division undergrads in terms of the expected background knowledge. One of the most common requests at academic library reference desks is for a “scholarly journal article” that provides an introductory overview to a major topic; such things are rare.) Likewise, as EDUCAUSE recognizes but tells us not to worry about, technologies affect the way that people learn, and these effects should be considered in terms of the educational objectives of the institution, and not taken for granted or taken as a market imperative.

8. Inherent conflict between pedagogy and markets.

The use of circulation and download statistics to guide decision making in libraries reflects a broader trend in higher education and in public institutions to orient themselves as a part of the market economy. (See John E. Buschman’s Dismantling the Public Sphere: Situating and Sustaining Librarianship in the Age of the New Public Philosophy for a thorough treatment of this problem.) In higher education in particular, there is a sharpening conflict between the logic of the market (what students demand) and pedagogical needs that stem from the institution’s desired educational outcomes. Simply stated, the conflict is brought to us by students whose educational aims only somewhat overlap their teachers’. Educators can rightly say that students don’t yet know enough to direct the curriculum (and in a very relevant sense, in terms of information literacy, our own bailiwick, they do not yet know how to separate themselves from the influence of advertising and commercial propaganda, which to a great extent shapes their demand for our resources). And students can rightly say that their tuition is paying for most of the show, and that the piper has a right to call the tune.

In real terms, the economic shift away from subsidized higher education to a more tuition-based model puts educators in a weaker position in terms of the conflict between pedagogy and markets. But it does not change the fact that the conflict is inherent to the educational project as long as professors profess to have something to teach and students have their own reasons for going to college, which are more and more about class anxiety. (Collection development librarians, to the extent that we claim relevant expertise, are caught in the same conflict between pedagogy and markets.)

9. Internal qualitative research.

A way forward for administrators who are stuck in a market situation may be to use more internal qualitative research about library users and use. In-depth profiles of a variety of users and focus groups designed to elicit unanticipated information are approaches to qualitative research that can provide both ideas for new directions for growth and useful talking points for reporting purposes. These techniques allow data collection to preserve important differences among types of use and types of users, and also allow for the generation of insights regarding the causes of change over time that circulation and download statistics are not able to do. Some qualitative data is already collected as part of many libraries’ assessment programs. What I am advocating here is a shift of emphasis, as a way of better capturing the connection between library collections and services and the mission of the university.

My philosophy about this.

Regarding the role of philosophy in interpreting library statistics and acting on them, I will be up-front and say that I favor an an alternative to chasing after the majority of users or potential users. I start with the assumption that educators are not there to educate students (transitive verb), but to to provide opportunities and assistance to students who want to educate themselves. If I worry about all of the students who don’t use the library or who use it poorly, I will die of depression, because the more we dumb down the collection or our interaction with our users, the more we will find ourselves competition with mass media. I prefer to make a range of serious resources available to students who have the motivation to make use of them. Their numbers may be small at times, but when a student who is motivated downloads an article from one of our databases and actually reads it and thinks about it, that download is worth immeasurably more to me, as a librarian, than the more numerous downloads of articles by uninterested students who are doing the minimum amount of work required to pass a class. The university is responsible to provide the best educational opportunities possible to its students, but students are responsible for their own education. Our use of circulation statistics should consider the fact that what we provide are opportunities for intellectual growth. The students have to meet us halfway.

January 15, 2011

Toni Samek reviews R. J. Cox’s The Demise of the Library School

Toni Samek (winner of Library Journal‘s first annual teaching award in 2007) has a review of R. J. Cox’s The Demise of the Library School: Personal Reflections on Professional Education in the Modern Corporate University in the new issue of the CAUT Bulletin (Canadian Association of University Teachers).

Her review begins:

Library and information education has had an evolving relationship with the university for more than a century. The Demise of the Library School by Professor Richard J. Cox, lead educator in the University of Pittsburgh school of information sciences’ archives, preservation, and records management specialization, is a well-written volume of personal and professional thoughts on the state of professional graduate library and archives programs in higher education today.

While there is an abundance of published commentary about the traditional library school’s transition to the information school or iSchool of the 21st century, Cox’s work is fresh because he anchors it in the changing tides of higher education and provides a sophisticated context for the variation. Much of his treatment is rooted in economic explorations such as decision making based on corporatist efficiencies. While the book is billed as “personal reflections,” those contemplations are based on years of experience in the academic trenches and so the content is more universal than the book’s label suggests.

…more…

August 18, 2010

Our niche and how to get back into it

More and more, I find that the library profession’s efforts to stay relevant in the age of information technology are in fact eroding our relevance. As a result of these efforts, it is becoming less and less clear what we offer that is different from what everybody else offers in the information economy. The reason is that our response to change around us has mostly been to repress those aspects of librarianship that are not directly reflected in new technological tools that other people claim as their domain more securely than we do. We keep saying that as librarians we are web designers, information architects, web searchers, information scientists, user experience experts, and on and on, when each of those things is already a profession filled with people who make a stronger claim to it than we do. What we can claim is librarianship, yet most people – not only outside but within the profession – have forgotten what that consists of other than “books.”

In ALA, accreditation standards for masters degree programs in library science still refer to areas of competency that can be taken to define the profession. Yet in nearly all other ways, ALA is attempting to sell libraries and librarians on the basis of skills that everybody knows other people offer more distinctly, and so, it seems, are most library bloggers and magazine commentators.

Despite the relative consistency in accreditation standards over time, it is presently a challenge to point to practicing librarians in order to demonstrate to people what it is that librarians do that others can’t do so well, simply because, and I hate to say it, most of us are not so exemplary. There has been intense pressure on librarians for decades to focus on technology at the expense of something that is now difficult even to remember, that being a set of intellectual components to what we do that concern our knowledge of what is IN our libraries (physical and digital) and a well-practiced insight regarding the connections to be made between that information and our users.

Consider the great and not-so-great librarians you have known. In my experience, the great ones are great (I am thinking about reference librarians here, just to be clear, because that is who I have worked with) because of a combination of an enthusiastic desire to help, good communication skills, insight, general knowledge (not to be underestimated in its importance), and a compound of skills at connecting the dots between the particularities of users, their needs, the clues, the relevant bits of knowledge in memory, the access points, the information structure, and the hermeneutics and heuristics of helping. A library school curriculum providing a mix of traditional librarianship and intellectually challenging multidisciplinary studies (instead of the busywork that is challenging mainly for the physical stamina it requires) can support these defining skills. (Even if there is no strong case to be made for the existence of a tested knowledge base that we can called “library science,” it is still necessary to support the work of librarians on the basis of relevant theory and research, and to teach it in master’s degree programs. Because of librarianship’s theoretical foundations, multidisciplinary though they may be, we are able to make a claim to professional status, and we are able to claim a degree of autonomy in institutions that allows us to do work that matters.)

Now, we all have good days and bad days, but how many of us know as much as we really should to be good at the “librarian” part of our jobs? I have a good idea of how I use my knowledge of our resources, and I know that I wish I knew more. I don’t wish I knew more about our search tools – those are designed to be easy to use for librarians and the public alike, and I don’t regard our ability to use them as anything special. Where I feel that greater knowledge would help me to be a better librarian is across the board – within my assigned subject areas, yes, but in all subjects, and particularly about things like scholarly communities, the research into reading behavior, learning theory, media studies, and all of those fields that are connected to what we do. I think that improving my general knowledge and working to improve my insight into people are the most effective ways I can work to become a better librarian.

The place I return to for an idea of librarianship that is singular yet multidisciplinary, and humanistic yet technological, is Jesse Shera’s work in the field, specifically his text from the early 70s, The Foundations of Education for Librarianship. Shera had his greatest impact as an early developer of library automation systems in the 50s and 60s, but following that he worked to define librarianship per se in its new technological context. His view of librarianship was in part based on the idea that automation should give librarians time to focus our attention on the problems of communities and their information needs, and how to connect to them, freeing us from technical busywork. He lived long enough, however, to see the profession become machine-oriented and dedicated to refining these tools of efficiency. As he wrote in the decade before his death, “Librarians would do well to remember Moses or Pieta and think somewhat less frequently of Shannon and Weaver,” and “Librarians persist in sublimating librarianship to the lure of the machine.” (From “Librarianship and Information Science,” in The Study of Information: Interdisciplinary Messages, ed. by Fritz Machlup and Una Mansfield. Published by Wiley, 1983.)

There is no Jesse Shera for our time, but I can echo Juris Dilevko’s call to “re-intellectualize the profession” (The Politics of Professionalism: A Retro-Progressive Proposal for Librarianship) and recommend Richard J. Cox’s thorough diagnosis of contemporary library education (The Demise of the Library School: Personal Reflections on Professional Education in the Modern Corporate University). I recognize that librarianship should be different from what it used to be, but I think it ought to be more than what it has recently become.

July 23, 2010

Question for readers

If Library Juice Press were to set up a symposium for reflections on Jesse Shera’s 1972 book Foundations of Education for Librarianship, who would you like to see participating? The end product would be a published book.

Please comment if you have any ideas concerning this.

June 28, 2010

New Book: The Demise of the Library School: Personal Reflections on Professional Education in the Modern Corporate University

The Demise of the Library School: Personal Reflections on Professional Education in the Modern Corporate University

Author: Richard J. Cox
Price: $35.00
Published: June 2010
ISBN: 978-1-936117-18-5
Printed on acid-free paper

In The Demise of the Library School, Richard J. Cox places the present and future of professional education for librarianship in the debate on the modern corporate university. The book is a series of meditations on critical themes relating to the education of librarians, archivists, and other information professionals, playing off of other commentators analyzing the nature of higher education and its problems and promises.

February 21, 2010

Podcast of Alberta Talk: Disintermediation 2.0

The talk I gave in Alberta on February 5th was recorded. The recording is now on the web in mp3 form. Toni Samek’s introduction feels a bit grand, but the real me will be on the mic shortly. The recording itself came out all right. Not all of the audience questions are audible, but as a whole I think it works well enough to post:

December 10, 2009

New book: Humanism and libraries: An essay on the philosophy of librarianship

Humanism and Libraries: An Essay on the Philosophy of Librarianship

Author: André Cossette
Translator and Editor: Rory Litwin
Price: $15.00
Published: December 2009
ISBN: 978-1-936117-17-8
Printed on acid-free paper

André Cossette’s Humanism and Libraries is a concise but rigorous investigation into the foundations of librarianship—its definition and its aims. Philosophical and logical in its approach, it is intended to provide solid ground and unity for professional practice.

Though the work was originally published in French in 1976 in Quebec by ASTED, Library Juice Press has found it to have enduring relevance and value, and has therefore made this English translation. The book includes a preface that makes the case for reading a work from the 1970s on library philosophy, and a set of “questions for reflection” following the text.

November 10, 2009

New from Library Juice Press: The Politics of Professionalism: A Retro-Progressive Proposal for Librarianship

The Politics of Professionalism: A Retro-Progressive Proposal for Librarianship

Author: Juris Dilevko
Price: $32.00
Published: November 2009
ISBN: 978-1-936117-04-8
6″ by 9″
242 Pages
Printed on acid-free paper

This book presents a retro-progressive proposal for the education of librarians: the removal of library education from the jurisdiction of universities, which in recent decades have become increasingly corporatized, internalizing market-based concepts such as performance metrics and “audit culture” to the extent that, ideologically speaking, they are indistinguishable from corporations. Accordingly, education for librarianship should reject the science- and technology-based information model that is associated with university-based library education and whose origins can be traced back to Charles C. Williamson, especially his article “The Place of Research in Library Service” in the early 1930s. Instead, building on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “professor of books” model, Dilevko suggests that anyone wishing to work in an academic, research, or public library must independently pass a series of essay-type subject-specific examinations in about ten to fifteen fields or areas of the arts, social sciences, and sciences. In addition, he or she must be able to read and speak at least one non-English language fluently, as well as attend courses about various aspects of the operation of libraries at regional summer institutes.

With its emphasis on subject-specific knowledge, this proposal would reintellectualize librarianship, allowing librarians to deliver meaningful educational opportunities to users in venues that function as bulwarks against what Susan Jacoby labels as the “culture of distraction.” Libraries would become, in the words of David Levy, oases and sanctuaries conducive to “sustained reflection and contemplation.” Because aspiring librarians would not be required to earn university-level professional degrees, they would no longer be obsessed with being thought of as professionals, nor with enhancing their professional standing. This would be a positive development because the notion of professionalism has devolved to a point where it is more about credentialism, careerism, and the accumulation of power and prestige than about the possession of meaningful knowledge that can be turned toward social good.

Juris Dilevko is an associate professor at the Faculty of Information, University of Toronto. He is a co-author of Readers’ Advisory Service in North American Public Libraries, 1870-2005 (McFarland, 2007); The Evolution of Library and Museum Partnerships: Historical Antecedents, Contemporary Manifestations, and Future Directions (Libraries Unlimited, 2004); and Reading and the Reference Librarian: The Importance to Library Service of Staff Reading Habits (McFarland, 2004).