Thursday, August 02, 2007

Can LIS education learn something from CS?

It seems the discussion about what can and cannot, and what should and should not be taught as part of an LIS Master's degree has a life all its own. From time to time, the same issues boil up over and over - often centering around this one: how do we give students the experience they need during the course of a professional degree to actually get a job? I'm a big believer in practical experience as the best teacher, and in the past have thought internships and other practicum-type setups were really the only way to get that experience.

But seeing some discussion recently about whether or not some of the more technical positions in libraries should require an MLS, I'm wondering if there's something we can learn from the CS community. Technical jobs commonly require a BS in Computer Science (note: NOT a graduate degree, whether it be research-based or professional), or demonstrated expertise in the task at hand, say, programming. That expertise can be demonstrated through that degree, through various certification programs, or by showing code one has written. While I suspect some would argue that the MLS is equivalent to those certification programs, I'm not so sure. A certification program for, say, Windows server administration, would be based on many practical tasks, and we don't see many of those in our library schools.

While I do agree we should be teaching the theory of things and then apply the practice on top of it, I see our library schools failing our students by ONLY teaching the former and providing no opportunity for the latter. Even single undergraduate programming classes manage to teach both. Can't we learn something from that?