What Matters In An Academic Librarianship Course

A few weeks ago I questioned the value of a semester-long course on trend technologies along the lines of web 2.0 applications. I appreciated the comments to this post. ACRLog readers shared the value they received from LIS technology courses. More than a few people acknowledged the importance of technology courses for LIS students but made distinctions about the nature of the technology taught in those courses. Now what about LIS academic librarianship courses? Hopefully we all are in agreement that a course in academic librarianship is important for a future academic librarian.

I struggle with deciding what to include in the academic librarianship course I teach. At the Drexel LIS program the courses are only 10 weeks long (they are on the quarter system), so with a limited timeframe the content must be carefully selected. Though human resource management, budgeting and other administrative subjects are valuable to cover I find them necessary to skip; there just isn’t sufficient time. I think it’s more essential to focus on the critical subject areas my students will be likely to encounter as entry-level librarians. From my perspective, becoming well versed in the structure and operations of a higher education institution is critical; you need to understand the industry not just the library. To contribute to their employment prospects I also equip them to knowledgeably discuss the issues of the day.

Major topics covered in my course, and other academic library courses I’ve looked at, include higher education history, organizations and key concepts, library organizational structure, accreditation, tenure status, public services, technical services, information literacy, instruction, e-resource management, collection management, scholarly communications, library as place, community colleges, academic library futures, and then a variety of “hot” topics are scattered throughout and one session is devoted to the latest issues. That sounds like a good amount of content but I don’t doubt some important topics are missed. The overall goal is to prepare the student for the academic library setting, with the ability to keep learning as they enter that environment (thus additional attention is paid to “keeping up” in higher education and academic librarianship).

But I’d like to know what you think are the most important topics to cover in an academic library course. I’ve prepared a brief survey for those who’d like to share their priorities. There are four questions. The first two are simple background information queries. The third question asks you to rate 30 topics/activities as either essential, important, marginal or unnecessary. With the fourth open-ended question you can add additional topics that you think are important. I hope you will take a few moments to complete the survey. I’ll report the results in a week or two.

8 thoughts on “What Matters In An Academic Librarianship Course

  1. Since you can’t include everything in 10-weeks, what about making it a two-quarter course? These topics (“human resource management, budgeting and other administrative subjects”) are quite important, and were among the most valuable parts of my graduate program (Southern Connecticut).

  2. GPS wanted to know if specific learning outcomes are developed for this academic librarianship course. Yes, there are learning outcomes. They are actually required for ALA accreditation and I’m required to review and update them (as needed) once a year. Here are the recently revised learning outcomes:

    Upon successful completion of this course:

    · The learner will be able to recall significant events and landmark changes in the history, development and structure of higher education in Europe and America
    · The learner will recognize those ways in which the American higher education system is unique.
    · The learner will be able to express why concepts such as academic freedom, tenure, and shared governance are important to librarians working in academic institutions.
    · The learner will be able to explain how standards for academic libraries can better inform actual field practices.
    · The learner will identify how the basic practice of institutional accreditation is conducted in higher education at the regional level.
    · The learner will recognize changes taking place in attitudes and practices towards the assessment of learning and academic success in higher education institutions and their libraries.
    · The learner will describe the role and responsibilities of academic libraries and practicing academic librarians
    · The learner will differentiate the values and purpose of the academic library from libraries that operate in other sectors of librarianship.
    · The learner will be able to practice in higher education as a partner in the teaching and learning process, and argue that their contributions help students to achive academic success.
    · The learner will be able to plan and design instructional programming, and relate how their instruction fits into the academic library’s information literacy initiative.
    · The learner will be able to identify the prominent organizational structures used in academic libraries, and describe the relative merits of each.
    · The learner will differentiate between the roles of academic librarians working in public and technical services, and be able to demonstrate how these units must work cooperatively towards the success of the academic library.
    · The learner will identify and analyze how rapid technology change impacts on teaching and learning in higher education, and demonstrate how the academic library incorporates technology for service delivery.
    · The learner will identify specific resources and techniques that provide the ability to keep up with changes and trends occurring in academic libraries and the higher education industry, and establish the practice of keeping up for personal professional development.
    · The learner will apply skills learned in this course for the successful practice of librarianship in an academic environment.
    · The learner will be able to formulate an evaluation of the practices of an academic library.

    If anyone has thoughts about learning outcomes that should be a part of an academic librarianship course but are not found here, please share your thoughts.

  3. Ironically, one of the most valuable courses I took in my MLS program was an administration of technical services course. Admittedly, that was a LONG time ago :) I don’t work in technical services any more (I’m head of a library instruction program and serve as associate director of the campus center for teaching and learning.) What made the course so valuable was the emphasis on professional development—learning how to develop a system for reviewing the literature in my field, learning how to make substantive notes on articles read, and the importance of keeping up with the important issues in higher education. After all these years, it’s one of the two courses that I still draw upon (the other was a library marketing course.)

  4. #1 thing that I wish I’d learned in library school PERIOD is how to market library services to faculty and students. Faculty especially. Marketing it something that was not covered in any way when I was in library school. It’s like the assumption was “if you build it/buy it, they will come.” Not so and I think marketing is a very valuable skill that should be taught in an academic librarianship course.

  5. It seems to me that human resource management and budgeting would be extremely valuable courses for when students enter the business world.

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