Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A New Degree?

As the 21st century chugs along and we contend with issues about our economy, our health, and our planet, we also tend to grumble about how busy we are and how we all seem so overloaded with obligations and responsibilities. Part of this overload seems to stem from our "connectedness" through technology. With cell phones, email, products like twitter, rss feeds, television and even the old-fashioned land line phone system, our lives are filled with keeping up to what is going on around us. Most of us would agree that despite its usefulness, being informed is exhausting.

This is because the process of becoming "informed" is complex and constant. This is due to the fact that our world, whether we like it or not, is continually changing. Change is not new but our need, our compulsion to keep up with it, is. Of course, this is intrinsically tied to the availability of information. Since the creation of the printing press, the human desire to learn more about the world has increased. Now we have created a world where libraries are not repositories of information that can not be found elsewhere. Rather, they have become the "vetters" of the multitudes of information that is out there.

Recent studies are showing changes in the way children and young adults process information and look for information. Indeed, the general attitudes towards information, how it is collected and used, is changing. Although libraries have never been the stale, static relics that the media often portrays, they have had to change substantially in the last 15 to 20 years as technology has evolved. Not only has the technology changed library client expectations but it has also presented incredible opportunities for streamlining functions, sharing resources and developing new ways of managing knowledge.

Library technician diplomas were developed in an era where technological change was in its infancy. In North America, the old Bachelor of Library Science was eliminated to make way for an American Library Association accredited masters degree. This served the industry well, for a time. However, the need to share our perspectives on knowledge management, the changing uses and implications of technology on our behaviours, and the diversity of information formats and resources necessitates a deeper examination of the field. Here lies an opportunity to introduce a bachelors degree that focuses on information studies. Students can investigate the issues around information use and management to an extent that reaches beyond the diploma (which has little room for more in-depth enquiry).

Such a degree, or even a minor, could be a wonderful complement to other fields of study, particularly those with an applied focus. For example, a business major may see value in looking at the issues around business intelligence, human search behaviours and managing information. How people search, examine and process information may relate nicely to marketing, for instance.

And so, the LIBIT program is beginning its investigation of the viability of a degree.


the_badger said...

"...libraries are not repositories of information that cannot be found elsewhere. Rather, they have become the vetters of the multitudes of information that is out there." That rings true with me, according to how I use the library as a patron/customer, and what I feel I/we have to offer going into the field. It also seems, somehow, a lot more honest to be the door that opens into a world of information and not necessarily claiming this as our own - we just know how to get there.

Christina Neigel said...

It does seem foolhardy to assume that we can claim ownership over most information in a library, considering we are moving away from owning materials. Yet, I wonder where the balance lies between buying information in a permanent form (like books) and merely paying for access. What risks do we take as we make this transition? Could we be better leaders in the information field? What might this look like?