EDUCATION FOR LIBRARIANSHIP AND INFORMATION SCIENCE: A RETROSPECT AND A REVALUATION

DOIhttps://doi.org/10.1108/eb026743
Pages95-122
Publication Date01 Feb 1983
AuthorKEVIN MCGARRY
SubjectInformation & knowledge management,Library & information science
PROGRESS IN DOCUMENTATION
EDUCATION FOR LIBRARIANSHIP AND INFORMATION SCIENCE:
A RETROSPECT AND A REVALUATION
KEVIN MCGARRY
Head,
School of Librarianship and Information Studies,
Polytechnic of North London
INTRODUCTION
THIS PROGRESS REPORT attempts to chart the main trends in professional
education during the 1970s and to identify the major problems facing curriculum
planners for the rest of
this
decade—and beyond. Although the work is based on
United Kingdom educational practice, developments in other countries are noted
whenever it is felt that a helpful comparison may be made. The citations do not
represent
a
bibliography of professional education: such a compilation has already
been accomplished in the researches of Burrell,1 and to
a
lesser extent in Clough.2
Writings on professional education in librarianship and information science tend
to date rather quickly; especially if they deal with information technology or
technical services. Theoretical problems remain more durable and usually re-
appear in different guises. Both information science and librarianship are
bracketed together whenever they interrelate or overlap, or whenever logic and
common sense dictate. In no way
is
it implied that they are both one and the same
thing; the terms denote different areas of professional application and activity.
1.
THE YEARS OF EXPANSION
The starting point is Jason Farradane' s3 survey for 1970: a brief updating on
events in information science teaching to that
date.
Seen from the vantage point of
twelve years the intervening period spans two epochs: one full of optimism and
plans for expansion; the other characterized by contraction and uncertainty.
There is
a
triumphalist note in Farradane's survey—a note that cannot but inspire
twinges of envy and vain regrets in the hearts of teachers of librarianship and infor-
mation science. Would it not be marvellous to have the resources of the post-
Robbins era, knowing what we know
now!
When Farradane wrote the auguries
were favourable; information science (as then conceived) was a star in the ascen-
dent. The subject had achieved recognition in two major schools in the United
Kingdom and the very term information science had an authoritative resonance
derived, most probably, from the prestige of the 'hard' sciences with which it was
associated. Ten years later 'information studies' would appear in the titles of most
professional schools. The contemporary professional information scientist was
chiefly occupied in staking out the domain of this embryonic discipline and in
designing and perfecting appropriate methodologies. The boundaries were uncer-
tain—especially with librarianship. At most it might be conceded that there was
an overlap with the more technically advanced areas of librarianship which was
Journal
of
Documentation,
Vol. 39, No.
2,
June 1983, pp. 95-122
95
JOURNAL OF DOCUMENTATION Vol. 39, no. 2
itself still thought of as a collection of techniques centred round documents in
which the book was prime exemplar of the craft. The post-Robbins philosophy of
access to higher education was manifested in the building of new educational
establishments and in the planning and implementation of new courses. The
Library Association was slowly relinquishing its control over the professional
examination system4 and in the United States plans were afoot for the initiation
of the Conant Report5 which
was
to investigate the short-fall
in
the supply of libra-
rians. The City University had
a
flourishing
MSc
in information science; Sheffield
was developing separate masters degrees in librarianship, and in information
science. At
Leeds and
at Newcastle there were undergraduate
degrees
leading
to
the
qualifications of the Council for National Academic Awards. Two small clouds
on the blue horizon:
a
shortage of textbooks and
a
shortage of competent teachers.
Six years later
(1976),
when Saunders6 surveyed current progress in the pattern of
professional education in librarianship and information science, he could only
claim that it compensated in its variety for what it lacked in coherence.
2.
THE STRUCTURE OF COURSES
In 1968 the University of Strathclyde School of Librarianship had pioneered the
idea of undergraduate degrees in librarianship, and in addition to Strathclyde the
Loughborough University of Technology and the University of Wales were both
offering bachelors degrees in librarianship, the latter taught by the College of
Librarianship Wales. Most of the remaining schools were in polytechnics, for
which degrees were validated by the Council for National Academic Awards.
Even more difficult to explain to non-UK colleagues is the extent and variety of
courses at Masters degree level. There are at least three types of qualification.
There is a Masters degree which is a first basic qualification—examples are the
City University's MSc in Information Science or the three Sheffield University
Masters degrees in librarianship, in information science and information studies.
These courses are of longer duration that the postgraduate diplomas: a full calen-
dar year instead of eight or nine months. In addition there are Master's degrees by
research; and there are Masters degrees at post qualification level, for experienced
and professionally qualified librarians, often made up of an advanced study ele-
ment combined with a dissertation of specified length. University College Lon-
don's MA; the Queen's University Belfast's MLS, and Sheffield's post qualifica-
tion MA and MSc come into this category. The M.Lib of the University of Wales
may be taken by research culminating in
the^
presentation of a thesis; or by
supervised course work and the presentation of
a
dissertation of not more than
20,000 words. The doctorate which came comparatively late into British profes-
sional education may be taken at the university schools, and in most of the poly-
technic schools under the aegis of the CNAA.
What is especially significant in these developments is the impetus given to
research in librarianship and information science; the provision of a part-time
route to graduate status for practising qualified librarians and information wor-
kers.
There is considerable scope for some sociologist to examine the clash and
conflict of values that took place as professionals were increasingly drawn into an
academic sphere of influence which placed little or no esteem on hard-won profes-
sional qualifications. The practitioners for their part deplored what they saw as
' the academic drift' of courses originally designed to teach the craft skills of
a
prac-
tical profession.
96

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