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Required courses–good or bad? December 18, 2006

Posted by L Wolfe in Class Stuff.
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As you probably know, the list of core courses for an MA, emphasis in Library Science, has changed.  No longer required is the dreaded Research in Information Science & Learning Technologies.  Instead, instructors plan to incorporate research studies into other classes.  Also, students may take Organization of Information in lieu of Principles of Cataloging and Classification.  How do those of you that have taken these classes feel about this?  For me, Research Methods class was a painful experience, not all due to the subject matter. In spite of this, I can now differentiate between a reputable scientific study and “bad” research. I am also grateful for my cataloging class. Familiarizing yourself with LCSH lays a good foundation for successful catalog searching.

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1. heyheypaula - December 18, 2006

As librarianship has changed, so has the available class base broadened. I think research should be incorporated somewhere in the cirriculum; however, having it included in other classes is only good if there is a set of guidelines for inclusion. I have found some inconsistencies with this program in terms of what instructors deemed to be graduate level work, what the grading scale was like, how much work should be required, etc.
I think that some parts of cataloging are good core material. I agree that LCSH is a great way to learn about library organization, but in my career, I won’t ever use it. Still, the familiarity makes me think about how I can organize my own library at work, and helps me develop a system good for my organization. I know that a lot of library schools are moving away from requiring cataloging, so it seems to be the trend. But in a program that is so focused on public librarianship, as MU’s is, this is a good question to explore.

2. Ed - December 19, 2006

I wonder how it compares to other programs throughout the country. Obiviously the research methods course needed more work and better instructors. (So Lisa will attest). Cataloging should, in my opinion, still be a core course but with a little more information with electronic cataloging maybe even a visit to a cataloger would help.

It is in our interest as alums and soon to be alums that the reputation of the program be kept as high as possible. Personally I’ve started a second masters at Webster University and the work load is much more than any class I took from Mizzou. (of course everything is crammed into a 9 week semester so it may end up the same).

3. Jenny - December 19, 2006

Count me in with those people who say that cataloging should remain core (and this is from someone who just finished 7312!). Advances in organization of information and searching capabilities have lead some librarians to say that cataloging and classification should be rethought and reformed. It is necessary to know what the status quo of this is– if for no other reason than that we’ll know just WHAT we’re reforming.

Just because we’re in a hurry to get to the new stuff (and I can’t blame anyone for that!) doesn’t mean we should discard the old ways.

4. heyheypaula - December 20, 2006

I really like the idea of a visit to a cataloger as a part of this class. I think that sort of real world contact makes a huge difference for students (just look at the impact a class like Special Libraries has on us). Even a cataloger guest speaker would be neat.
It would be nice to have a program where there were established “tracks”, but with room for personal interest. Even if the “track” wasn’t a set of required courses, maybe just a suggestion of what path to take if your librarian interests are X. I guess that goes hand in hand with a good advising core, which is one other element that varies by advisor and student location.

5. Phil - December 20, 2006

More than just a requirement, I think the cataloging class should be a prerequisite for many other classes — Reference Services for example. I am currently reading T. Mann’s “Oxford Guide to Library Research”, and the introduction (at least) should be required reading in the cataloging class. It reinforces why this stuff is important even for those (like Paula) whose careers may not be in a traditional library. It helps you realize how you _do_ “use it” (cataloging knowledge)!
I could seriously have done without the research class. The ability to make sense of different types of studies and reports could be covered in a “Reference II” class, which could go more deeply into material types and research methods.

6. Phil - December 20, 2006

To Ed: I already have a subject master’s degree, and I second your comment about the workload. The difference is, the MLS is a practical degree, whereas most MAs are academic degrees. An academic degree is, by definition, more intellectually challenging.

7. lcwk86 - December 21, 2006

To Ed: I felt our instructor went above and beyond to compensate for the book and the online format of the class by meeting us face to face in St. Louis several times. I just think the material was a lot to cover and not well suited for distance learning. I have to admit one of my “problems” with the Research class was my lack of familiarity with the subject. There was no question that students with previous experience did better in the class than I. But in a graduate program and 9000 level class, shouldn’t the subject matter be difficult? Aren’t we supposed to feel challenged? Ok, I admit at times it felt impossible, but I am glad for the experience. I like the idea of incorporating research method concepts into other classes, and then students may be more prepared for an advanced class on the subject. For instance, in my Adult Services class, Denice Adkins assigned a lit review. It was good for me, since I had absolutely no idea what a lit review was. Yes, I know, that’s a shocker! 🙂

8. heyheypaula - December 21, 2006

A good point was made above about the difference between an academic graduate degree and a practical graduate degree. Thanks, Phil, for that comment. The only post-graduate work I can compare this program to is law school, and that’s not a very good comparison. It’s not just apples and oranges, it’s apples and a hot fudge sundae. On another note, one of the most useful classes I had was Reference. I came into this program with no library experience (except that I hang out there a lot) and that did more for my personal development than almost anything else I took (although there were other great classes, too!).


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