Information Management & Systems
Previously School of Library & Information Studies
"Liberal arts" and schools of LIS.
Michael K. Buckland.
The "liberal arts" of Library and Information Science and the
research university environment. In:
Second International Conference on Conceptions of Library
and Information Science: Integration in Perspective, 1996.
Ed: P. Ingwersen, N. O. Pors. Copenhagen: Royal School of Librarianship,
1996, pp. 75-84.
Each different conception of LIS can be expected to have its
advantages, disadvantages, and consequences, good and bad.
The conception adopted by the famous Graduate Library School
of the University of Chicago can be seen in retrospect as having
had both positive and
negative long-term consequences.
"Liberal arts" means a focus on what in interesting and enlightening,
rather than on professional education, on Chemistry rather than on
Chemical Engineering, and on Sociology rather than on Social Work.
We examine a "liberal arts" conception of Library and Information Science
in relation to the research university environment.
Teaching what would be technically useful for professionals can establish
the identity of a school of LIS as being useful, but what does the
teaching of useful professional technical skills do for it
as an academic department?
Change and Challenge in Library and Information Science
Education, by M. F. Stieg (American Library Association, 1992)
provides a conception of LIS (primarily library science) that emphasizes
the teaching of professional and technical skills, but ordinary academic
inquiry is absent. Any school of LIS that followed the conception of
LIS of this book ought not to stay in a university.
Exclusive emphasis on what is professionally useful tends excludes
the rest of the campus. For two examples of courses but are
LIS courses, are open to anyone and are not professional education are
Information systems and
Access to American cultural
Exclusive emphasis on what is professionally useful
discourages interest in the field of LIS itself, in the nature of
information and information technology, and in the intellectual
history of LIS -- because there are always more apparently
useful agenda to work on instead.
If your university president asked for a book that was a general
introduction to the scope and nature of LIS, what would you provide?
Not many have been published since Pierce Butler's thin polemic
Introduction to Library Science of 1933.
If society is being transformed as we move into an "Information
Age", then these developments are important. They deserve
of attention and they should be of interest to large numbers
of students. It needs an academic department whose central
concern is the study of information and the production, distribution,
and utilization of information in society. What better for this
undertaking than a school of LIS?
Imagine that the President of a university believed that we are
moving into an Information Society and mandated that an
existing LIS school should transform itself to undertake this role,
with one condition: It would discontinue professional
Would a liberal arts department of LIS be possible?
Any view of LIS is incomplete and lacking in coherence if
it could not include a liberal arts program.
The real reason not to create a "liberal arts" department of LIS
is that an even more powerful option at hand: A conception of LIS in which professional education in
LIS is positioned within a liberal arts conception of LIS.
Development of Information Management
or to Buckland's
Rev. July 22, 1997.