You probably heard by now that U.S. News & World Report recently issued its latest graduate school rankings. The big news was that for the first time in quite a few years U.S. News & World Report updated the library and information science program rankings. At their site, U.S News & World Report provides only the top three rankings in a variety of categories. Through the friend of a friend affiliated with a library school I was able to get access to the full top ten rankings. Truth be told, there were few surprises. Most of the top programs back in 1999, when the rankings were last done, were still the top programs with perhaps some spot shifting.
What I found more surprising was the choice of the specializations selected for rankings. They included archives, digital preservation, health, information systems, law librarianship, school library media, and services for children and youth. Those are useful specializations to rank, but why law, medical and school, and no academic specialty? After all, there are plenty of prospective students interested in academic librarianship who might like to know which schools have the top-ranked programs – for what itâ€™s worth. Or can it be there is a perception that there is little interest in academic librarianship when compared to these other specialty areas? Iâ€™m not sure what explains the omission of academic library specialties, but I suspect the real reason is that the majority of the library schools donâ€™t really have much in the way of academic library programs. My guess, is that like the graduate school where I teach a course, there is little more than a single course on academic librarianship – and little faculty recognition or support for academic librarianship. Since the rankings are based on votes from Deans, directors, and faculty, and academic librarianship is hardly on their radar screens, itâ€™s perhaps no surprise that academic librarianship gets little respect in these rankings.
Do we care? If we do, and we want to promote academic librarianship – or at least give those expressing an interest in our field a better idea of which LIS programs offer the most support and educational opportunity for careers in academic librarianship – perhaps an ACRL section or committee can take on the task of developing rankings – or at least more information about educational opportunities for academic librarians at the LIS schools. Possible ranking criteria? Is there a dedicated course in academic librarianship? What are the qualifications of the instructor? Is there an advisor with academic experience (within the last 5 years or so) for students interested in academic librarianship? Are there specialized internship opportunities in academic libraries? What are past employment rates for grads in academic librarianship? How do recent grads of each program rate the schools on academic librarianship? Is there an ACRL student chapter? Does the school work with the regional ACRL chapter on programming? Thatâ€™s just a start. Why wait another five or six years to see if U.S News & World Report adds an academic librarianship specialty next time they decide to rank LIS programs. Heck, we can do this on our own.