Recent American Library School Graduate Disciplinary Backgrounds are Predominantly English and History
A Review of:
Clarke, R. I., & Kim, Y.-I. (2018). The more things change, the more they stay the same: educational and disciplinary backgrounds of American librarians, 1950-2015. School of Information Studies: Faculty Scholarship, 178. https://surface.syr.edu/istpub/178
Objective – To determine the educational and disciplinary backgrounds of recent library school graduates and compare them to librarians of the past and to the general population.
Design – Cross-sectional.
Setting – 7 library schools in North America.
Subjects – 3,191 students and their 4,380 associated degrees.
Methods – Data was solicited from every ALA-accredited Master of Library Science (MLS) program in the United States of America, Canada, and Puerto Rico on students enrolled between 2012-2016 about their undergraduate and graduate degrees and areas of study. Data was coded and summarized quantitatively. Undergraduate degree data were recoded and compared to the undergraduate degree areas of study for the college-educated American population for 2012-2015 using the IPEDS Classification of Instructional Programs taxonomic scheme. Data were compared to previous studies investigating librarian disciplinary backgrounds.
Main Results – 12% of schools provided data. Recent North American library school graduates have undergraduate and graduate degrees with disciplinary backgrounds in humanities (41%), social sciences (22%), professions (17%), Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) (11%), arts (6%), and miscellaneous/interdisciplinary (3%). Of the humanities, English (14.68%) and history (10.43%) predominate. Comparing undergraduate degrees with the college-educated American population using the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) classification schema, recent library school graduates have a higher percentage of degrees in social sciences and history (21.37% vs. 9.24%), English language and literature/letters (20.33% vs. 2.65%), computer and information science (6.54% vs. 2.96%), and foreign languages, literatures, and linguistics (6.25% vs. 1.1%). Compared to librarians in the past, there has been a decline in recent library school graduates with English language and literature/letters, education, biological and physical sciences, and library science undergraduate degrees. There has been an increase in visual and performing arts undergraduate degrees in recent library school graduates.
Conclusion – English and history disciplinary backgrounds still predominate in recent library school graduates. This could pose problems for library school students unfamiliar with social science methodologies, both in school and later when doing evidence-based practice in the work place. The disciplinary backgrounds of recent library school graduates were very different from the college-educated American population. An increase in librarians with STEM backgrounds may help serve a need for STEM support and provide more diverse perspectives. More recent library school graduates have an arts disciplinary background than was seen in previous generations. The creativity and innovation skills that an arts background provides could be an important skill in librarianship.
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