A recent trend in graduate programs for librarianship is to take out the word “librarian.” Leaving just the “ship.” Jk jk. What universities are actually doing is transitioning to “iSchools:” Information Schools (for those of you who prefer less trendy jargon). The title of the degree once was Library Science, then was Library and Information Science, and it seems now to be morphing towards just Information Science.
I, thankfully, could choose what I wanted my degree to be called. Since I don’t think “Library” is a dirty word, I named my degree Master Library [and] Information Science. My degree is almost two years old, knows its ABCs through A-L, loves avocado, and is cute as a button.
iSchool is a stupid name for a school.*
First and foremost, iSchool looks like it is trying to be an Apple product. Jump off that corporate bandwagon, universities! Though we love iPhones and iWatches and iWhateverElses, you as an institution of higher learning should be better than that!
Second, no one outside our profession understands what being a professional of information means. Libraries, yes, are changing–as are the skills librarian has, and how people are interacting with information–but leave the degree alone. If you are a database programmer, a medical/law librarian, a data manager or anything else where your relationship to information is a wrangler, organizer, streamliner or finder/retriever… you’re using those librarian skills.
Here is a TRUE, not-too-brief narrative about what I think of when I hear the term information professional:
At the orientation for our program, AKA first interaction I would have with my future classmates, representatives from library school clubs stood up and made pitches for interested parties to attend a meeting/ join their ranks. A joiner by nature, this new pool of groups to join excited me, but I didn’t know how to balance that with the questionably-less-healthy skepticism (cynicism masquerading as skepticism) also in my nature wherein I threw shade at everything and everyone in grad school on a whim. In one case, this disdain was justified.
One middle-aged career-changer began his pitch by saying, AND I QUOTE: “If you frequently find yourself the smartest person in the room, this is the club for you.”
I won’t even address the multitude of ways you could convey the same principles (intelligence, presumed love of Jeopardy) in a non-asshole series of words. But this dude had clearly thought this exact series of words in many a room. And he did not feel the need to disguise his assholeishness.
Dear reader, I wish I could say I stood up in front of the seminar room of my new peers and told him how smug and obnoxious this sounded.
In real life, however, I did not call him out on this ridiculousness. My mouth gaped open for far too long, in disbelief. After all, I was in the same room with him right now; did this man therefore believe he was smarter than everyone else?
In a practiced and particular mode of Librarian Acceptance (which I do not yet possess), however, this was more or less waved away with a “well, that’s Lester** for ya.”
Unclear whether anyone joined his club, nor whether they did so because of this statement or in spite of it.
Lester’s business cards probably identify him as an “Information Professional.”
In my [the real] world, I try to avoid thinking I am better than other people because I am smart. (Note: this has become increasingly hard since November 2016. But, I would argue that the prominent draw pulling many people toward political views diametrically opposed to mine is actually the lack of empathy, rather than intelligence–or a combination of the two.)
At any rate, I know I did next to nothing to earn the gift of my brain, though I appreciate and constantly try to stimulate and expand it. I try to withhold judgment and act with empathy and genuine (not condescending) kindness.
Because there have been plenty enough times where I have a migraine and stutter my words, or can’t make a decision whether to buy the proposed reusable bag at checkout, or just generally act uncomfortable and awkward around people I don’t know. Some people judge and condescend, and some are patient and don’t look for ways to look down on people. I aim to be the former, but occasionally I don’t catch my skeptic instincts in time.
All I’m saying is call a spade a spade, call a library degree a library degree, and don’t call yourself a [very stable] genius!
*I don’t mean ‘stupid’ in a lacking intelligence way…. I apologize to the Political Correctness police, and acknowledge that this is slang and suggests I act in the direct opposite way of what I claim in this blog. I just mean it’s trendy and tedious and silly, not what universities should be about.
**Lester is not his real name. He will likely show up in a future blog for his role in the worst road trip of my life.