Degrees of Difference

Columbia University is offering a new Master’s Degree in Information and Archives Management through its School of Continuing Education – and we were curious what that means. Martha Zebrowski, Academic Director of the program, kindly answered my questions about it.

bf: Do you see this program as appealing to librarians or allied professionals working in libraries, or are you primarily reaching out to another audience?

mz: The CU MS in Information and Archive Management is oriented toward people in business, government, and non-profit organizations. The MS is not a library-oriented program, but does address information concerns that grow out of the core activities of such organizations. We think of the sort of individual who is interested in the MS as the “humanist in the middle.” This individual has discretionary and decision-making responsibilities in the organization and works, on the one hand, with the business and policy principals of the organization, whose responsibility it is to further the core objectives of the organization, and, on the other hand, with the IT professionals, whose responsibility it is to design, implement, and manage the technological systems that support the core mission of the organization.

Applicants to the MS program come from various backgrounds. Most are already working in information environments where they work with organization principals and IT staff . . . Among the current applicants are several who own their own businesses and see the program as relating specifically to concerns they have in those businesses.

bf: I notice from the Website that the faculty are primarily Columbia librarians. Is there a formal relationship between this program and the Columbia University Libraries? Do you see a role for academic librarians in continuing education in general?

mz: There is no formal relationship between the MS in Information and Archive Management and the libraries, though [University Librarian] James Neal has been very helpful all along. My own degree is in political science, and I teach in the pol sci department. The man who teaches the legal issues course is an attorney and specialist in that field, though he is also a reference librarian in the law library. Other faculty members have similar multiple specialties in addition to their being librarians or systems analysts. The faculty who will be teaching the advanced archives courses are practicing archivists outside of the university, one in the NYC municipal archives, another as in independent consultant to business. There will be new additions as we introduce more courses.

bf: Columbia housed the first library school. Has anyone spotted Dewey’s ghost yet?

mz: Dewey’s ghost is regularly spotted in the stacks, where it is responsible for locating missing books. This is a big job.

bf: All kidding aside, why did Columbia decide to offer this program?

mz: The program is one of a growing number of practically-oriented MS degrees offered by CU, and the impetus for all of the MS degrees comes from the university president’s and provost’s offices. These programs are all housed in the School of Continuing Education.

Before we began the program, we conducted an extensive questionnaire/survey of individuals working in business, government, and non-profit organizations. We surveyed individuals who had CU library degrees from the days when CU had its library program, and we surveyed individuals who had other sorts of degrees, as well. We particularly wanted to reach individuals who were working in business, government, and non-profit organizations. Respondents were encouraging as to the utility of the MS in Information and Archive Management, and strongly suggested that we include opportunities for MS students to take courses beyond the required core courses, that is, elsewhere in the university. In addition, they recommended that the program include strong practical/applied components. We have drawn on each of these suggestions in designing the program.

bf: Final thoughts?

mz: In my experience, most students in colleges and universities do not intend to spend their careers in those institutions, so I would say that the more academic librarians know about the worlds students at all levels plan to enter when they leave school, the more everyone will benefit.

Thanks to Dr. Zebrowski for answering my questions, even the silly one. You can find more questions and answers at the program’s brand-newFAQ.

Author: Barbara Fister

I'm an academic librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. Like all librarians at our small, liberal arts institution I am involved in reference, collection development, and shared management of the library. My area of specialization is instruction, with research interests also in media literacy, popular literacy, publishing, and assessment.

One thought on “Degrees of Difference”

  1. I believe Columbia discontinued its library school several years ago because salaries of their alum. were not as supportive of the program as some other offerings. This “new” program appears to be librarianship reincarted, but, from the administration’s viewpoint, only the upper end (higher paying) libraryland jobs need apply.

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