Sunday, 23 November 2008

Understanding the Value of an Information Qualification

Meredith Farkas [via Andrew Eynon's Library Blog] has posted the results of a brief survey into how prepared people felt by their academic Library School courses (and her own analysis). The results make for interesting reading - and it's interesting to see the sheer number of times that a lack of technical skills preparation appears. In many ways the information community places an almost iconic focus on the ideal of the (academically qualified) 'professional' but it's clear from even this small survey that there is a gap between the theory and practice.

Although I agree that there's always a need to keep these kinds of courses current and relevant I'm not sure that equating the idea of a 'professional' librarian with a trained librarian is all that useful - experience is an essential part of building an engaged career and (at least in the UK) lots of library studies students undertake their course whilst employed. 

If librarians are signing up for courses to extend their practical knowledge with theory then surely course coordinators can, at the same time, learn practice from the students? I dubious of the suggestion that study can make anyone 'professional', a qualification is one thing but professionalism is a heady cocktail of study and practical experience. 

Where is library2.0 'happening' except in libraries? One of the challenges for academia is that it has to engage with practice whilst also maintaining enough of a distance to allow far-sighted theory and research patterns to develop. To expect that, at the end of a course (never mind an undergraduate one), a student is equipped to move into the leading-edge of any field is unreasonable - for most, study is about learning key skills which can be applied to a work environment in order to expand and extend their capacity.

[Photo from Andrew Schwegler]

No comments: