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end of term thoughts

December 12, 2007

this week at Library Student Journal i posed a question about the focus of MLIS programs: too much theory or too much practice? last night in Second Life i was speaking with a group of librarians – some were newly minted, others were old pros – asking what they thought was most important. everyone seemed to agree that theory was important (“that’s why you’re at university – to use your brain”) but that the hands-on was also essential. “two sides to the same coin.” but i’m concerned about this dichotomy – or maybe it’s a continuum?

there is a divide between theory and practice in the LIS discipline, and i fear this has an impact on students, one that will see the discipline offically split down the middle – where only those interested in theory will get an MLIS (a two year program) and those interested in practice will get library tech degrees (also a two year program). (and i am by no means denegrating library tech degrees, but the supposed difference between that and an MLIS is the inclusion of theory for MLIS students). this split will hurt both the creation of theory and the advancement of the profession. if the LIS field continues to be presented as either “you can do a PhD” or “you can work in a library” then there’s no wonder the divide exists!

so i have been thinking about theory and practice as part of a continuous cycle. one must fuel the other. the two are part of each other, and push each other re-evaluate their parts.

if web 2.0 is concerned with collaboration, constant re-evaluation and the (web) user, and library 2.0 is concerned with collaboration, constant re-evaluation and the (library) user, then why can’t we have LIS 2.0, concerned with collaboration, constant re-evaluation and the (LIS-lover) user?

so as i sit here trying to get a move on, and finish these two assignments, i’m determined to figure out the best way to apply some theory to these two very practice-related papers (meeting report recommendations in a hospital library, and addressing the knowledge management needs of a military organization). the LIS city of practice was built on theory.

(my city, naturally, was built on rock n’roll.)

someday soon i’ll be a librarian and i want to make sure that i’m not thinking in terms of the theory-practice dichotomy, because it doesn’t really exist.

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