What We’ve Learning So Far

We’re now some eight months into our Re-Envisioning the MLS initiative. Now seems like a good time to reflect on what we’ve heard so far from you, library leaders, our advisory board, and others regarding what a future MLS degree should be — and the characteristics and skills of future librarians.

As part of this initiative we’ve hosted engagement events, thought leader speakers, and published white papers and blog postings to further flesh out our discussion of what the iSchool’s next generation MLS degree program should be. You can find more details about this initiative at mls.umd.edu using the #HackMLS tag.

To recap – Why are we doing this? To answer these key questions:

  • What is the value of an MLS degree?
  • What does the future MLS degree look like?
  • What should the future MLS degree look like?
  • For what should the iSchool’s MLS prepare students (e.g., skills, careers, settings)?
  • What distinguishes the iSchool’s MLS program from other MLS degree programs?
  • What distinguishes our graduates from other MLS program graduates?—

This is a three-year process, with a re-envisioned MLS taking effect four years from now. Note that the findings discussed below are presented as key themes that have emerged to date — we have more work to do (including a number of listening sessions around Maryland to seek more input from key constituencies) and more input we need to gather before we will move into our “what does this all mean for the MLS?” conversation. We welcome your feedback as we continue this process. Please join the conversation here and consider joining us for one of our remaining events.

Key Findings to Date
Here are some selected findings from our initiative to date.

Core Values
However the MLS degree might change, participants have indicated the need for us to ensure certain core values remain. These include:

  • —Access
  • Equity
  • —Intellectual Freedom
  • Privacy
  • —Community
  • —Inclusion
  • Human —Rights
  • Learning
  • Social —Justice
  • —Preservation
  • Open government
  • Community

What are we missing?

Key Attributes and Traits of Graduates
We’ve heard extensively about the traits and characteristics of next generation information professionals should have. These include:

  • Adaptable. —Willing and eager to continually learn and adapt to who is using the information, how they use information, and the kinds of services that they need.
  • Creative. Willing to try new techniques, programs, and services; including a willingness to take risks, to fail, to learn, and to try again. They must actively seek information about trends and best practices.
  • Leader. Strong ability to communicate and adapt their leadership style to their environment, as well as effectively navigate the changing needs of organizations. They are self-reflective enough to know when to be constructively aggressive and when to provide others with the opportunity to lead. They are strategic thinkers who understand that what’s important to an organization changes, sometimes rapidly.
  • Tech-Savvy. Comfortable with technology and have a desire to continually adapt and update their skills. They should be eager to learn how to use new devices, be comfortable with social media platforms, apps, analyzing data, and developing coding skills – and should approach technology through the lens of usability, accessibility, and inclusiveness.
  • Marketer. Need to know how to advocate on the behalf of their organizations and communities. They also need to anticipate and know how to articulate a vision for access, inclusion, services, technologies, and other key community needs. This requires a willingness to engage in continual and ongoing analysis and change. It also requires, not just a willingness, but a desire to speak up and speak out when necessary.
  • Service-Oriented. Focus on the community that they serve, individual needs, and inclusion. They need to ensure that services – whether they be programming, literacy instruction, data analysis, or records management – are designed and implemented based on the actual needs of their users and communities and not based on arcane information practices of our professional past.
  • Innovator.  Willing to push the boundaries of technologies, information, services, and how to transform communities. They should continually consider new services, ways to serve their communities, and rethink existing services and resources.
  • Partner.  Willing to engage community organizations, volunteers, government agencies, colleagues, and others to provide innovative services, meet community needs, enhance existing services, and place the information professions at the center of their communities.

Are there other traits we overlooked? How might we refine the above?

Skills, Skill Sets, and Abilities
When asked about the types of skills and skill sets new information professionals will need to be successful, participants provided a great deal of insights. Some of the below will depend on the type of information setting one might enter, but we offer them all for you to see:

  • —Information management
  • —Knowledge creation and preservation—Virtual and physical spaces
  • —Integration across the institution and community
  • —Community activists
  • —Community transformers
  • —Social innovators
  • —Makers
  • —Facilitators of learning
  • —Data and information stewards
  • Assessment and evaluation
  • —Incubators
  • —Entrepreneurs
  • —Case workers
  • Instructional designers
  • Collaborators
  • Educators

Are there other skill sets that you would consider critical?