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Frequently Asked Questions about SIMS and ALA Accreditation

Hal R. Varian, Dean of SIMS

December 1998

Question. What was decided about ALA accreditation of the SIMS program?

Answer. It was decided to delay consideration of accreditation of SIMS (by the ALA or any other organization) until the school has been fully constituted.

Question. How and when was the decision made and who made it?

Answer. The ALA Accreditation committee sent me a letter dated October 1, which arrived here October 6; I looked at it a few days later. The letter said that if we wanted accreditation the Chancellor (and only the Chancellor) had to request it by November 1. I raised this matter with the Vice Chancellor, who in turn discussed it with the Chancellor. The Vice Chancellor reported back to me that they did not believe it was appropriate for SIMS to seek ALA accreditation at this time.

Question. What are the reasons for the decision not to seek accreditation?

Answer. I was given two reasons. The first is that SIMS is still a very new program; we have only hired 2/3 of the number of faculty slots allocated to the school, and we haven't even graduated our first class of students. In the administration's view it made sense to wait a few years to see how faculty, student, and employer interests develop before considering accreditation by any organization.

The second reason was that the administration is not enthused with accreditation for professional schools in general since it tends to be expensive and time-consuming. They are not encouraging programs to get accreditation of any sort unless it is absolutely necessary.

Question. Is this decision permanent or is there a possibility that the school will seek accreditation at a later date?

Answer. The Chancellor suggested that the question of accreditation could be discussed 5 years after the graduation of the first class.

Question. Is this a change in policy for SIMS?

Answer. The Information Planning Group Report, the document that chartered SIMS over 5 years ago, said:

The School will offer a new professional master's program. The degree to be awarded by this program will be substantially different from the current MLIS degree, reflecting the broader mission of the new School. In particular, it is not designed to meet American Library Association requirements; rather, it will serve as a model for the development of accreditation criteria for the emerging discipline upon which the School is focused.

Question. What impact will this have on current SIMS students?

Answer. The ALA accreditation process takes over 2 years and is retroactive only to the students graduating in the year the accreditation is granted. Apparently this is due to the fact that most library schools have one-year programs. Since we have a two-year program, it is unlikely that any of our current students will be affected by the decision to delay consideration of accreditation.

One of our students has already accepted a job as law librarian at a major law school. Other students worked last summer in jobs involving library automation and at the UC Berkeley Graduate Library. I would expect that most serious employers would evaluate students on their merits, not on a label.

Question. What kind of jobs will SIMS students get?

Answer. SIMS students have many of employment possibilities. Several organizations, including Ernst & Young, Arthur Andersen, Hewlett-Packard, Ford Motor Company, Yahoo, the World Bank, and others have been recruiting our students heavily. Several of the students currently have offers in hand. Our students are smart and well-trained; I have no worries about lack of job opportunities for them.

Question. What are SIMS students being educated to do?

Answer. Every organization has to manage information. Some of this information is generated externally, some of it is generated internally. All of it has to be stored, organized, retrieved, manipulated, displayed, searched, and archived. More and more of this information is becoming available in digital form, and we believe that there will be lots of good jobs for people who know how to managed digital information effectively.

Some of the coursework necessary to manage digital information is part of the traditional library school curriculum: cataloging, information retrieval, archiving, reference, and authority control. Some of the names have changed and some of the content has changed--we now talk about organization of information, backup, needs assessment, and so on-but the underlying functions are similar and many of the classic principles apply.

But other courses are new: human-computer interface, visualization, data mining, security, and project management are also necessary skills for people who want to manage information effectively. Our curriculum is geared to provide both the classic curriculum and the new curriculum necessary to manage digital information effectively in both non-profit and for-profit organizations.

See the Masters Program FAQ on Career Planning for more information about job titles, and see the SIMS Web page for curriculum description.

Question. Will SIMS students work in libraries?

Answer. The School of Information Management and Systems is educating people to manage information. Libraries certainly play a major role in managing information, and I would expect that they would be very interested in the skills that our students possess. As the Information Planning Group Report said, ``Libraries are among the employers, but are not dominant.'' Right now it looks like about 3-5 of the 30 students in the first-year graduating class will take library jobs, but this is only a guess.

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Hal Varian