LIS education: impressions of the 2016 ALISE conference

One of our committee members, Deborah Lee, was recently lucky enough to attend two major conferences: ALISE and ALA Midwinter. In the first of two blog posts Deborah reflects on her experience at ALISE.

Thanks to the generosity of the John Campbell Trust, I attended the 2016 ALISE [Association for Library and Information Science Educators] and ALA [American Library Association] Midwinter conferences.  In this blog post I am going to share some of my thoughts about the ALISE conference – watch this space for a later blog post about ALA Midwinter.  ALISE is a membership organization based in North America for those involved with Library and Information Science (LIS) research and teaching.

As a PhD student in knowledge organization (City University) and a cataloguing educator (City University and the Courtauld Institute of Art), the concept of a conference entirely devoted to LIS education was extremely exciting.  ALISE 2016 took place at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel in Central Boston, over three-and-a-bit days in a remarkably mild Boston January.  As well as the conference itself, I also elected to attend a (free) pre-conference workshop focusing on managing change in LIS.

One of my most valued experiences of attending ALISE was the opportunity to engage with other cataloguing educators, through a number of different channels.  ALISE has special interest groups (SIGs), and one of these is devoted to technical services education.  This SIG organized a themed session about teaching the ethics of information organization, which consisted of a series of four papers followed by discussion.  Karen Snow (Dominican University), Maurine McCourry (Dominican University), Gretchen Hoffman (Texas Woman’s University) and Heather Moulaison Sandy (University of Missouri) spoke about subjects including key readings for teaching ethics in information organization and pedagogical techniques to encourage  discussion about ethical issues within information organization modules.  One idea I found to be particularly interesting was the breadth of ethics in this context: for instance, positioning the cataloguing backlog as an ethical issue.

I also had the opportunity to share my own research about cataloguing education, through my paper entitled “FRBR, conceptual knowledge and Harry Potter: radical change and innovative solutions in cataloging education”.  It was extremely useful to get comments and questions about my paper, and encouraging to hear the audience’s interest in the pedagogical tools I was discussing (FRBR, Harry Potter and string, anybody?). Furthermore, a “Birds of a Feather” session organized by the Technical Services Education SIG as well as conversations with other attendees provided really insightful opportunities to discuss some of the pertinent issues of the day in terms of cataloguing education – for instance, discussions about the position of teaching BIBFRAME within information organization courses.

However, ALISE also provided opportunities to learn about LIS education more broadly.  I chose to attend sessions in the pedagogy track, so for instance I heard about innovations in assessment and group work.  One of the prolific themes at the conference was innovations and issues concerning online teaching.  A key point was the growing presence of online teaching of LIS in North America: for instance, at one particular session, a quick poll of attendees showed that 2/3 taught their courses entirely online.  Both formal papers and informal conversations with those experienced in delivering online training was a particularly thought-provoking, especially discussions about how to translate teaching methods from in-person to an online environment.

Curricula and the future shape of LIS education was another interesting strand, with leaders of particular LIS programmes discussing how their courses had changed and were going to change in the future.  While the innovative methods used to determine the shape and scope of future curricula were fascinating, I was perturbed to see how little cataloguing and knowledge organization featured in this next generation of LIS curricula.

Attending ALISE was a wonderful opportunity, and I returned to the U.K. armed with many exciting new pedagogical tools to utilize and contemplate, and a deeper understanding of LIS education.


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