Core and More: Identifying Key Skills and Qualifications for LIS

by Eileen Abels and Laura Saunders

The LIS field is changing rapidly, and encompasses a wide range of career paths and directions, all of which must be considered when preparing new LIS professionals. In addition to more traditional skills related to information organization and soft skills like customer service orientation and interpersonal skills, employers are also looking skills and qualifications in areas like emerging technologies, preservation of print and non-print materials, design thinking, and cultural competency. It is incumbent on LIS schools to ensure that their curricula are meeting the needs of the field. But which skills are core—meaning that all students should have a foundation in those skills, regardless of their area of focus or ultimate career path—and which are specialized, meaning that only professionals in specific positions are likely to need those skills?

In spring 2017, Simmons SLIS undertook a survey to address these questions. The survey went out to area employers, internship and practicum supervisors, faculty, and alums. Respondents were asked to rank 53 skills on a scale of “core” to “specialized,” and were also given an opportunity to identify additional skills that they did not see represented in the original list. We received over 1100 responses, which we will be analyzing and using to inform our curriculum.

Attached is the executive summary of the survey. We would like to thank everyone who participated, and we look forward to continued conversations about how best to prepare our LIS graduates for success. Click this link to access the Executive Summary of the Survey: Executive Summary

Design Thinking and Doing Design, part 2

Revisiting design thinking and the Library Test Kitchen course at Simmons from the student perspective.

“Who has heard of design thinking?” asked my 438 (Introduction to Archival Methods and Services) professor. I eagerly raised my hand, along with two other students who half-raised their hands, half shrugged their shoulders. After watching a section of the documentary film, Design & Thinking, our class collectively brainstormed a series of challenges associated with the finding aid, such as lack of accessible formats or that they are too often veiled by archival jargon. Then, we divided into groups and were tasked to “redesign the finding aid” by choosing one of the problems and come up with possible solutions. My professor encouraged us to push past the idea of the finding aid as an archivists’ tool and imagine it as something completely different. Our class didn’t reach this point, which makes complete sense and adds further proof to the notion that design thinking is truly a holistic process and even more importantly, a mindset that one needs to adopt. It takes time to settle into a completely new concept, especially one that comes out of the design world, which many students and LIS professionals may feel very far removed from.  

LTK@Simmons 2016 Open House and Project Fair.

I only knew about design thinking because of my research of and work with the team behind the Library Test Kitchen at Simmons School of Library Information Science course, which was offered during the 2016 summer session and is coming back for Summer 2017. I feel privileged to have had knowledge of design thinking swirling around in my mind since September. It is a valuable framework to have access to and a way to approach problems in new ways. If you want to read more about some of the history and fundamentals of design thinking, please see my previous post on the topic.

The original Library Test Kitchen team from Harvard University and Olin College, LTK@Simmons instructor, Candy Schwartz, and Simmons’ Dean Eileen Abels along with Lynne Howarth and Linda Smith, were invested in producing some sort of synthesis of the LTK@Simmons experience from both the student and instructors perspective. This is how my first article about design thinking came to be and this second article incorporates more direct feedback from students. In addition to these written pieces, everyone came together to help produce a short movie about the Library Test Kitchen course at Simmons. Abels, Schwartz, Howarth and Smith, gave a workshop on teaching design thinking at ALISE 2017. Abels, Howarth and Smith are the leaders of a project dedicated to future-focused LIS education and you can read more about that project at this websiteI am excited to see that LTK@Simmons is being offered again this summer and only wish that I could take it! My friend and fellow SLIS student Lindsay Deal told me she is taking Library Test Kitchen and when I asked why she signed up for this course, she said:

“I am curious about the design aspect of everything, particularly of libraries…I am also interested in the design of organizing space and information in general. I’m in the IS&T (Information Science and Technology) track and I haven’t taken a library centric class yet, so I’m very excited that this course will be more library focused.”

I also asked her if she had heard of design thinking and if she knew what it meant. She answered that she was not too familiar with the concept but when prompted to come up with a definition, she said that it is about “making things, making something better…making things the most optimal that they can be and making the most efficient use of space.” I’m excited to compare and contrast the first iteration of LTK@Simmons to this summer’s upcoming course. But for now, let’s dive deeper into the experience of LTK@Simmons 2016.

Continue reading Design Thinking and Doing Design, part 2

Libraries as Sanctuary Spaces

Essay by SLIS Asst. Professor Laura Saunders

Mayor Marty Walsh of Boston (home to Simmons College School of Library and Information Science), and Joe Curtatone of Somerville (my home town) have both reaffirmed their commitment to remain sanctuary cities despite two executive orders signed by President Donald Trump threatening to cut off federal funding to those cities.

In an open letter, Mayor Curtatone asserted “Our city-Somerville, Massachusetts-will not waver… Somerville will stand with you regardless of your race, creed, color, sex, nationality, legal status, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation.” In this letter, Curtatone also acknowledged that Somerville stands to lose a lot in terms of loss of federal funds. Somerville receives about $6 million per year in federal funds, or about 3% of its annual budget. He pointed out that those funds go to support important services including the schools’ free and reduced lunch program, substance abuse programs, and homeland security services.

Continue reading Libraries as Sanctuary Spaces

Thoughts on Access & Information

Hello and welcome back to UNBOUND! I went on a short hiatus because I was working on the (now finished!) Library Test Kitchen video, which was mentioned in my previous blog post. Plus, I went on winter break for a few weeks.

This week of transition, and especially today, are historically significant for many reasons. I will not go into those reasons as that is not the purpose of this blog. However, no matter how, or if, you voted in the 2016 election, no one can deny that there are bound to be some quite drastic and sweeping changes with the new Trump administration. Among these impending changes are issues that hit close to home for many members of the library and information science community, such as education, privacy, and access to information.  One of these changes has already happened; any mention of “global warming” or “climate change” has been removed from the White House website.  Again, regardless of personal thoughts on this issue, it is exactly that, an issue. What I mean is that climate change (or the lack thereof) is an issue with multiple arguments, theories, and proposed solutions. To remove this information from the public domain is scary and in direct violation of the American Library Association’s (ALA) Core Values of Librarianship which include social responsibility, intellectual freedom, and access.

Continue reading Thoughts on Access & Information

What MAKES A Library?, Issue No. 1 – Design Thinking

Design Thinking and Doing Design, part 1

Diagram of design thinking. Orange and white.

Design Thinking. Backward Design. Accessibility. SAMR. Universal Design for Learning (UDL). These days, in discussions of the future of librarianship, pedagogy or education in general, there are so many terms and acronyms thrown around but what do they all mean? Many of these terms are borrowed from engineering, urban planning, and design, to name a few. Are people in the library and information sciences field using them properly? You also may read those terms and think, “These don’t belong together!” I’m here to make the claim that they do and that they should be studied together in order to be the most successful. “What MAKES a Library” is a series of articles for UNBOUND in which I will define these terms and explore how these concepts are being put into action in libraries while showing where the intersections of these ideas can be ways to utilize them in library spaces. This article’s focus is on design thinking.

Before I go any further, allow me to introduce myself as the 2016-2017 Dean’s Fellow for SLIS Initiatives and your resident UNBOUND blogger. Just this fall, I began my quest to earn my Dual Degree Masters in Archives/History aka goodbye social life, hello manuscripts. I fulfill many librarian stereotypes; for example, I have a cat (named Gabriel, Gabe for short), I went to an all women’s college (Anassa Kata Bryn Mawr), I’m listening to classical music as I write this and I absolutely love to read. When you hear the word, “librarian”, I’m willing to bet (unless you are a past or current MLIS student) that an image of an old, crotchety grey-haired lady with a tight bun and cat-eyed glasses whisper-yelling “Shhhh!” comes to mind.
Continue reading What MAKES A Library?, Issue No. 1 – Design Thinking