Thursday, January 10, 2008

PAR, Future LIS Faculty, and, of course, Information Seeking

More good sessions today at the ALISE conference. This morning's guest speaker was Jean Schensul from The Institute for Community Research. She described some of the methods she and the staff at ICR use to conduct what she calls community based research but which is essentially participatory action research. Not surprising that she was the second key note speaker since the theme of the conference is fairly PAR oriented and no disrespect but PAR or CBR just isn't my thing. It's interesting from a methodological standpoint but just not really up my alley. 'Nuf said.

By far the best session I attended today was about recruiting and training the next generation of library and information school faculty (there's an emphasis here that there is a difference between the two). The first part of the presentation was a report on a program called Project Athena which is an IMLS funded project designed to identify, recruit, and prepare LIS faculty. The second part was a report on a program with a similar vision but no grant funding.

Project Athena is well staffed and funded and focuses on preparing teaching faculty by partnering with LIS programs at other institutions and giving their fellows the opportunity to teach. Results of research conducted on the program include recommendations that existing networks and campus resources as well as cross institutional collaboration be used to increase the pool of potential LIS faculty, that new networks and role models/mentors be used to increase the diversity of the pool, and that doctoral students whose intention it is to teach be better prepared to navigate the organizational culture of various institutions, balance teaching and service commitments, and disseminate their research post-dissertation.

Elizabeth Figa at the University of North Texas School of Library and Information Science has implemented a mentoring program for doctoral students in their interdisciplinary doctoral program that is unfunded (at least formally, she solicits funding as needed for particular students from her dean and provides some of it herself) and seems a bit less structured and more information than Project Athena but certainly no less ambitious.

I find it interesting that none of the four "example" graduate students from these programs who spoke about their experiences in the programs had backgrounds in academic librarianship so I asked about it during the q&a session at the end of the program. The UNT SLIS program was (and remains as far as I can tell) focused purposefully on students with backgrounds in public libraries and as school library media specialists as does Project Athena since neither school's masters level programs are focused on academic librarianship (and so, presumably, they are directing their recruiting efforts predominantly at students graduating from their programs).

Personally, I think that it may also have to do with the fact that many academic librarians have experience with promotion and tenure and the academic culture having already had to learn to navigate it as librarians.

I did find very interesting comments by both speakers about the "graying of the profession" leading not only to the need to recruit librarians but also to recruit library school faculty. One of them went so far as to point out that there are currently more faculty positions than PhDs to fill them.

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