Last summer, the iSchool at the University of Maryland launched the Re-Envisioning the MLS initiative. The premise is that future professionals in library and library-related fields will likely need fundamentally different educational preparation than what is provided by current curricula. Based on an extensive body of research, outreach, and analysis, yesterday the iSchool released its report Re-Envisioning the MLS: Findings, Issues, and Considerations.
The Maryland initiative is important to our work in public policy—particularly through ALA’s Policy Revolution initiative and ALA’s Libraries Transform campaign—as the field needs more professionals with an outward orientation. Fundamentally, the focus of library work is evolving from internal optimization of information resources and systems within a library to collaborative efforts across libraries and with non-library entities. Thus, the role of “policy advocate” becomes a greater part of a librarian’s job, whether that advocacy occurs at the community/local level, regional level, state level, or with a national focus. The Maryland initiative is important enough to me that I’ve served on the iSchool’s MLS Advisory Board during the past year to provide input into the process and this report.
As summarized in the report release:
The findings have a number of implications for LIS education and MLS programs, including:
• Attributes of Successful Information Professionals. Successful information professionals are not those who wish to seek a quiet refuge out of the public’s view. They need to be collaborative, problem solvers, creative, socially innovative, flexible and adaptable, and have a strong desire to work with the public.
• Ensure a Balance of Competencies and Abilities. MLS programs need to ensure that students have a range of competencies, but that aptitude needs to be balanced with a progressive attitude (“can do,” “change agent,” “public service”).
• Re-Thinking the MLS Begins with Recruitment. Neither a love of books or libraries is enough for the next generation of information professionals. Instead they must thrive on change, embrace public service, and seek challenges that require creative solutions. Attracting students with a strong desire to serve the public is critical.
• Be Disruptive, Savvy, and Fearless. Through creativity, collaboration, innovation, and entrepreneurship, information professionals have the opportunity to disrupt current approaches and practices to existing social challenges. The future belongs to those who are socially innovative, entrepreneurial, and change agents who are bold, fearless, willing to take risks, go “big,” and go against convention.
The report is far from the end point of the initiative, as the next stage focuses on redesign of the curriculum with continued stakeholder engagement and ultimately implementation. And, of course, there is much more in the report than described here; I urge you to take a look. Background materials and other research used to produce the report are available at hackmls.umd.edu. Feel free to provide comments, either to the University of Maryland folks or to me. I look forward to my continuing collaboration on this excellent initiative.