I had the good fortune of attending the 2011 InfoCamp Berkeley. People there were talking about and coming up with crazy new ways to discuss, think about, and present information. However, I also saw some examples of reinventing the wheel. There were topics where information science seemed to be struggling with some of the same problems library science had already dealt with. Being around these occasional redundancies sparked the realization that for almost ten years people have been discussing library school and the problems involved with library science programs. While we have a good idea or should at this point about library schools problems, many of these complaints have increased, in large part correlating to the rise of distance programs. Don’t believe me? Go back and read the essays on library school in Revolting Librarian Redux, published in 2003. It contains almost the exact same concerns as we face today. I also contend that due to the problems in the still nascent field of distance education many of these problems have been compounded. We feel those impacts keenly due to the tight job market we face upon graduation. Though top rated schools with a campus based program feel them less than others do, the same types of complaints are almost universal. The fact is that institutions haven’t changed in response to these problems for whatever reason.
So how do we fix it? We hack library school. We turned Micha’s idea into an InfoCamp session. Alumni ,students, and other interested parties got together and discussed the problems in library school, and how we can hack our education to get out of it. As Andy Szydlowski said in the session, “InfoCamp is a platform to get you from point A to point B.” Whatever the problems are in our education systems we can patch our system with “hacks” which can make the platform function as we intended it to, whether the point B is employment, promotion, or scholarship. We discussed the various hacks we can use to overcome the problems in challenges. It a very empowering discussion.
For me the most powerful lesson learned was for me was from Jeremy Snell who emphasized the need to create “apps” out of your “hacks.” For Jeremy did this through planning his internship and assistantships so that each one created products that could be integrated into a portfolio, which not only made him more hirable but also opened a diverse job pool. From the practical side of what we do, it seems like an immensely wise idea to me to approach our work flows in library school.
The other major theme that came out of the session was the need to develop communities that can provide support. This is especially difficult in the context of online programs where physical meeting can be difficult at best. However even in all online programs students who make the effort to get together have felt a major improvement in their educational drive if nothing else from these meet ups. Building a community seems to be an essential hack for any library student.
Library students have to stick together. My experiences at InfoCamp have made me believe more in the idea that we ultimately have to hack our library schools. Many of our institutions have adopted practices, however good intentioned, that don’t meet our needs. It’s up to us to communicate with our institutions honestly, so that they can understand our concerns. We however must not forget that ultimately our education is our responsibility, and much of it will exist out of our program. Taking up that responsibility means becoming a hacker. Hack Library School.