National Dialogue on the Curriculum of Readiness for the 21st Century Librarian
ALA Annual Conference - Chicago, Illinois - Tuesday June 28, 2005
Jose Aponte: Good morning, and welcome everyone! My name is Jose Aponte. I'm the Director of the San Diego County Library, and it truly a pleasure to be here this morning. Myself, and Clara Chu will try to keep this together over the course of the day. I'll let Clara introduce herself, and then we'll start kicking this thing right off here.
Clara Chu: Good morning and it's wonderful to be here! I'm Clara Chu, an Associate Professor of the UCLA Department of Information Studies. I hope you're here to work and learn, and get ready to act and make things happen in our library schools, as well as out there in the profession.
Jose Aponte: I'm intrigued by my involvement as a practitioner, and now having been in a library school over 30 years. I'm glad I'm here, and I know that the insight that it will bring, will be a little different. I want to start with what I've been studying lately is, "Urban Theory."
Richard Florida talks about three tenants to successful urban development. He talks about talent, which we'll spend a lot of time on today. The people, the most important part of any organization, and of course any of our governmental organizations. He talks about technology. We should spend some time on that; it's three "T's" and finally tolerance, active inclusion in the workplace.
I think it's paramount that while our education systems put together these schools for the future, our professionals for the future, that they keep in mind what it is that we're trying to do when they get out, and that is to create a place where we respect talent. We let talent nurture; we open, we release it, active inclusion in our environment, for both the staff and the public.
Then finally, technology, the key, the key to a more efficient and effective workforce, and multiplicity of challenges that we have in front of us, in terms of service.
Without further adieu, let me introduce Carol Brey-Casiano, the ALA President. She has done an outstanding job. She's been busy. I've seen her from the beginning, and now I'm closing the conference with her, Carol Brey-Casiano, our President.
Carol Brey-Casiano: Good morning everyone, it's such a pleasure to be with you today! I wish I could stay for the whole program, it looks like just a dynamite day that you have ahead of you. Unfortunately, I have to go and lead the council meeting this morning, I'm sure you feel for me. I will be doing that, while you are enjoying some wonderful speakers today.
I just wanted to make a few remarks, based on what it is I know you'll be discussing. I'm so excited about this topic, because I have taught as an Adjunct Professor for several library programs. It's so interesting to me, the comments that students make sometimes.
Particularly, one of my more recent jobs as an Adjunct Professor, I had someone come up to me and say, "It's so wonderful that you're a real librarian," and I thought about that. I said, "Well, what do you mean?" The student said, "Well, because you're out there in the field. You bring us stories about what's happening everyday, and that is really important to us to understand, where libraries are going today."
I think that is probably the thing that I would want to keep in mind throughout this day, is how do we make ourselves appear to be real librarians to library school and information professionals, to students today in this field? So that they know that we too are connected to our profession, and we care as much as they do about helping them to be successful in the future.
The other thing I have been very conscious of, I think particularly during my year as President, is the rapid graying of our profession -- I cover mine up. [laughs] Only my hairdresser knows for sure. The fact that our statistics are showing right now, that 50% of our librarians are due to retire within the next 15 years. I'm certainly thinking about that -- I don't know about the rest of you.
Although, of course most of us don't really retire, we just go on to other things. That's the other thing that we learned from the futurist at my President's Program on Sunday. I do think that we need to be conscious of continually recruiting people to our profession, mentoring them, and helping them to be effective librarians.
Not only that, but the other issue that was raised for me during my Presidential year, and one I've been aware of for some time of course, is the importance of creating a diverse group of students. That we have people of color reflected in our libraries and in our schools. That we have a diverse workforce, and that we reflect our communities in our libraries.
It was so tragic for me when the Clark Atlanta University Library School was threatened with closure. You all probably know that story. We went there and I actually did get the opportunity to talk to the President of the University. If you've heard this story before, forgive me. I'll try to make it as quick as I can.
I was nose to nose with this President. We were exactly the same height, and I kept kind of trying to make myself taller, so I could look down at him. He said, "We've already said our piece to ALA, and we don't really have any reason for you to appear before the Board and state your case."
I said, "You have not heard from me, and I really believe I should have the opportunity, as the President of Ala, to address the Board of the Clark Atlanta University." So we weren't allowed to do that. I had already been talking with Laura Clark, our Press Officer about what we would do if we were told, "No, we can't go to the Board meeting."
I said "Laura," I want to be standing outside the door of the Board meeting with a TV camera on me saying, "I'm out here to speak to the Board, and they will not allow me in. We want to talk about the importance of this school to our profession," and that's exactly what happened.
Not only that, but we had students and faculty picketing outside. We had television cameras from all over Atlanta, as well as newspaper and other reporters. It really did draw a lot of attention to the school, and to the plight of that library school.
Of course, as you know one of the reasons why that was so tragic is that library school was one of only two in historically Black universities, and graduated I believe at that time the highest level of African American librarians. So that is a tragic thing for us as a profession.
However, I do understand that there's a bright spot on the horizon. Dr. [indecipherable], who has been working so hard to keep that school open, and keep that presence going, has been talking with, I believe it's North Carolina State, which is another historically Black university that has an accredited library school program.
They are working to see if they can bring a presence to Atlanta, some sort of extension program to Atlanta. So there will continue to be that Atlanta presence, because you know that many library school students go where they can geographically, where it's convenient for them.
We're doing more and more with distance learning, but still many want to go to a school that's close to them. So I think that is turning into hopefully a success story, a difficult situation that we're turning around.
So, all of these issues have made me realize how critical it is that we think about the future of our profession; what is it that we're teaching our students? How are we preparing them for our profession? How are we recruiting them, so that we know that our profession will remain vital? Libraries our vital to our society, and will continue to be so, and it is so important that the people who work in our libraries are also able to meet the challenges of the future.
So I applaud you in what you are doing today. I wish you the very best, and again, I apologize for not being able to be with you, but I know that you will have a successful day. Thank you so much for inviting me to be with you this morning.
Jose Aponte: Thank you, Carol. Carol, you have been on the road. That is for sure, I tell you. She's one of the few people that makes me look like I'm standing still.
Our next invitee is Mary Chute. Mary is the deputy director of the Institute of Museums and Library Services, and I've had the pleasure to work with her in the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science. And Mary and the whole crew at the IMLS has brought forth the whole notion of values, creating public value, the idea that yes, we need to look at outcomes, that we are not here to serve ourselves, we are here to serve the other, the citizens, the residents of our communities.
And Mary, what they've done at IMLS, this whole outcomes-based evaluation is, I think, critical to our success going forward in the real world of municipalities and county. Mary Chute, welcome.
Mary Chute: Thank you, and good morning. This is just a brief welcome on behalf of Dr. Robert Martin, and the rest of the staff at IMLS. We're going to have at least one, if not two participants throughout the day. Stephanie Clark, who's one of our program officers for the Librarians for the Twenty-First Century, is already here, and I believe that Elena Norrland will also be joining you a little later.
It is a great pleasure to be here. I love this kind of dialog and conversation that really gets at the heart of what are people getting on the receiving end. And I, like Carol, wish I could stay for the whole day, but I'm not going to be able to -- just for awhile this morning. So thanks so much. It is a pleasure and an honor to be here as one of the welcomers.
I'm sure that everybody in this room knows that Librarians for the Twenty-First Century is probably the newest major program at IMLS, and it's one that we have gotten so much energy from in the process of shaping it. Those early discussions, the key message that came through was one of diversity, of how we shape who are going to be the right people to be in this profession, meeting the needs of our increasingly diverse populations.
And no matter what we talked about, whether it was that on-ramp to the profession, whether it was the doctoral students, whether it was the master's level students, that need for a vast diversity in the people on the one side of the desk meeting the needs of the others was always a key topic.
When Stephanie and I were talking yesterday, I said, "Well, I'm going to make brief welcoming remarks. What do I need to say?" And she said, "I'm not sure exactly how much we're supposed to talk about the peer review process," but there was a comment that came out when we looked at this proposal that I think is meaningful as I listened to the energy in the room this morning.
She said the comment was made by one of the reviewers that for this particular proposal, the passion came through, and that the proposal for this project was a shining example. There was a passion behind it, a belief in what it was all about, and real seed for a dialog that I know will continue today, and I wish you all luck. I'm really eager to hear the outcomes of today's conversation, and thanks again for having me here.
Clara Chu: It's my pleasure to introduce the next speaker, and Louise Robbins is going to give us a welcome. She's the president of the Association for Library and Information Science Education, and also dean of the program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Louise?
Louise Robbins: Actually, Clara, I am relieved to say I am now the past president of ALISE. Though having been president for two years, I thought perhaps I might be president forever.
But I greet you today on behalf of library educators, especially the Association for Library and Information Science Education. And I would encourage you, if you do have any time during whatever breaks we have today, to sprint upstairs and see the brand new library education pavilion.
This is the first time there's ever been such in the exhibits. It was a project of ALISE, and you will see more than, I would say, probably about forty of the schools represented, either in a joint booth or an individual booth. And this has been a really good experience for us, and I think you will find that it will continue. I certainly hope so.
In the last several years, there's been considerable controversy -- or perhaps I should say concern -- surrounding the kind of preparation that your future colleagues are receiving. The concerns have ranged from a perceived slighting of the library in favor of the information science side of library and information science, to the shortage of cataloguers and children's and young adult librarians, to anguish over the closing of the historic Clark Atlanta University program.
Some of the concerns pertain to an apparent failure of programs to turn out enough people with up-to-date political skills, among others needed, to fill more traditional public library positions as librarians retire.
Others pertain to the availability of programs to satisfy the need for subject specialists and research libraries, as those librarians retire, or for digital librarians with new skill-sets, or rare books librarians with any background in book history, or who can instruct, or especially librarians whose diversity reflects a population we serve. And the list goes on, and on, and on.
Change in the library world has been rapid and dramatic, and change in the LIS education world -- although sometimes people say change in the university is kind of like turning a battleship -- so it takes a long time, and it's really hard to do, but change in the LIS education world has been rapid and dramatic as well, although at some times in different ways.
I became director of the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1997. During that less than ten year period, every other ALA-accredited program that I can think of has changed leadership at least once, and sometimes twice. That's a different kind of picture, a different kind of landscape than the previous ten years, where there was a great deal of stability.
LIS educators, like librarians, have retired or are retiring in large numbers, leaving programs like libraries looking for faculty members with appropriate skill-sets and research and teaching orientations. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, just maybe some of you remember these names. If names like Charles Bunge, and Douglas Zweizig, and Diane Hopkins mean anything to you, you'll understand the kind of gaps we've been trying to fill.
We lost something like 300 years of teaching in less than ten years' time -- and research, I should add. But we've been trying to fill these kinds of gaps, and we've been trying to fill those kinds of gaps in a different kind of fiscal climate; a climate in which we have needed to seek funding beyond our universities.
So this has changed the pool of faculty from which we draw and has made hiring faculty to match the needs of the profession and the academy challenging. Somebody commented that we were competing with Henry Winkler. And if I'd thought about that, I'd have done, I'd have acted out sort of what this is like.
It's kind of like...you know, in the circus? There is that person that has one foot on the back of one horse and a foot on the back of the other horse and they are galloping around the ring juggling.
Well, that's what the role of library educators, at least leadership, is like now. You ride with one foot on the back of the academy horse and one foot on the back of the practice horse and then you try to do funding and employment and distance ed and in-person ed and doctoral education; do I offer them and undergraduate degree? And...
...at the same time. I am not Henry Winkler, but I'm practicing.
There was a recent email discussion in which I participated centered on whose responsibility it is to see that we, LIS educators have a curriculum of readiness for the 21st century. Is it the committee on accreditations? LES's? The universities? The practitioners?
My answer is that it is all of us and we better get to work. COA must comply with its mandate which has legal limits and important procedural safeguards. LESs is a membership organization which has only bully-pulpit power and the ability to issue statements and resolutions and the highlight issues through conference themes. Those are all good things. But, they lack whip power.
It can also address leadership issues to a certain extent. The universities have many different relationships with the programs within their purviews. Witness the remarkable growth of the University of Washington under Mike Eisenberg and the terrible closing of Clark Atlanta's Universities programs. Situations vary and investments vary.
In my opinion, practitioners can have a significant influence on that investment by the university and at the same time help insure that the program nearest and dearest to your heart prepares colleagues with whom you would be proud to work. I don't necessarily mean the program from which you graduated. Though [cough] those of you who graduated from Wisconsin, I certainly assume that we are the one nearest and dearest to your heart. If we aren't, you better see me after this meeting so I can change that.
You can do that by providing feedback and prodding to your program through hosting fieldwork, volunteering to guest lecture and as Carol mentioned lecturing as an adjunct if you feel that you have an interest in and a gift for teaching. Find out what is going on. Drop in. Come even if you are not invited. If you are not invited, maybe you especially ought to come.
Tell people what you think about the last graduate you hired. Be a goad. And if you don't see the director and at least some of the members of the faculty of your program at the venues you think are important, invite them. Challenge them to attend and participate. Insist that they take their roles as leaders seriously and be visible champions of the cause.
Today, I hope you will create a message to that leadership that I can carry with other faculty and members that I see here to ALES.
Thank you very much.
Clara Chu: Talk about leadership, inspiration and passion and that is Tracie Hall. She has created that seed that brought us all here today and it's my pleasure to have her come and give a welcome.
Tracie Hall: I was the one that gave you a horse yell for the University of Washington because that's my alma mater and I was leaving just as Mike Eisenberg was coming. I think he was there for probably a semester or so. He really has just catalyzed that school and makes many of us who graduated feel very proud to be alumni. I really want to commend him.
For me, real need must and should inform right practice. Right practice must be informed by right and resonant pedagogy. It's very simple. That is why we needed you all here today.
As we work to insure that we can build and that we do build a curriculum of readiness for the 21st century and a program that the Office for Diversity hosted yesterday with the International Relations Office. Bob Mackey of Phillips said that a committee or a group of 60 is the exact number of people needed to change the world and move the world in a particular direction. There are more than 60 people in this room and I for one expect nothing less of this group.
I have a lot of things written down here but I think the most important thing is when we propose the grant that Mary alluded to, Fry-Moless, which also should be commended for their tremendous work in this area. Really, I knew that the grant would be hollow if we did not build in a place for us all to come together. So much has changed and so much is changing. And change is not the enemy.
But schisms and violence, lack of communication; those are things that are not friends to change; to real and good and right change I should say. So, all I can say, and those of you who know me, know that my biggest, biggest area of weakness, and I admit to everybody that I am not very interested in just talk. I am not at all process oriented. I think I learned that I needed to be at ALA to learn that.
So, I'm hoping that our conversation today and I'm hoping that everyone came here actually to work and not just to listen to what people are saying because the real way this will really happen is at the tables, at the people; when we all begin to talk together.
But I hope, I don't know, I entreat each of us; please. Let's not look at this as just a white paper that is produced. Please, let's not. We can't afford it. We really can't afford it. Let's please make something real happen out of this. All the right people are in the room.
So I just want to thank the planning committee, Jose Aponte, Carlene Barnett, Clara Chu, Martha Hill, Michael Havener, Rhea Brown Lawson, Bharat Mehra, Louise Robbins and Allison Sutton. Because from our initial conversation, and of course the staff of the Office for Diversity, Wendy Prellwitz and Lee McQueen, because in our conversation there was so much electricity and I hope that each of you knows that when you entered this room, it was already charged with hope.
And so we are here today. Thank you.