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Cooperative Organizations for Schools of Library and Information Science Cooperative Organizations for Schools of Library and Information Science

Abstract: A number of options and possible functions for LISNET–ECS are presented. There are several European, North American, UNESCO, and transnational initiatives of direct or tangential importance to LIS associational development. Several of these are discussed here. After briefly reviewing exiting practice, the author concludes that the decisions to establish a LISNET–ECS and to define its mandate need to be based on past experiences, knowledge of the existing support infrastructure, and the willingness and ability of participants to cooperate.

This paper was first presented at the Standing Conference of Eastern, Central and Southern African Library and Information Associations Pre–Conference Workshop: Library and Information Schools Network in Eastern, Central and Southern African Region (LISNET–ECS), July 4, 2004.

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floral design Introduction

The academic field of library and information science (LIS) research and education is, as academic professions go, relatively a small but growing one. The qualification for professional librarians varies widely around the world, and includes the “terminal” certificate, diploma, bachelors degree, and masters degree. LIS educators recognize the need not only for national standards for the preparation of professional librarians, but also a need for regional and international standards or equivalencies.

In July 2004, the schools of library and information science of Eastern, Central, and Southern Africa formed a professional organization to further the interests of LIS education in the region. This organization of LIS programs in the Eastern, Central, and Southern African Region or LISNET–ECS is considering promoting standardization among programs leading potentially to course, student, and faculty exchanges among the member schools and perhaps more.

Lessons can be derived from the experiences of others that may prove useful to LISNET–ECS. There have been several international, national, and regional organizations formed by schools of library and information science. This paper describes several different institutional responses that promote cooperative solutions for education generally and LIS education specifically.

Other cooperative responses include general inter–university exchanges that include LIS students and faculty and programs specific to LIS education. The advent of digital distance education also offers the possibility of cooperation at the national, intra–regional, and international levels.

floral design Professional Organizations

There are several professional organizations for LIS education. These include the Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE), the European Association for Library and Information Education and Research (EUCLID), and the Association Internationale des Écoles des Sciences de l’Information (AIESI). There are also national organizations, among them the Brazilian Library Education and Schools Association.

ALISE (http://www.alise.org) is a North American organization and has as members both schools of library and information science and LIS educators in Canada and the United States.

EUCLID (http://www.jbi.hio.no/bibin/euclid/) is a European organization that has as members schools of library and information science. EUCLID has membership at three levels: full, affiliate, and corresponding. Full membership is limited to tertiary level programs in Council of Europe member countries, affiliates are secondary level programs, and corresponding members include all others. There are full members from Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. Affiliate members are from France and the United Kingdom. Corresponding members are from Australia, Brazil, Malta, and the United Kingdom.

AIESI membership consists primarily of schools but also includes associations and a limited number of individuals. Members are found in Belgium, Benin, France, Ivory Coast, Libya, Morocco, Romania, Senegal, Switzerland, and Tunisia.

Each of these organizations provide a somewhat different array of services to their membership. Neither ALISE nor EUCLID accredits LIS programs. The American Library Association (ALA) is the primary accrediting agency in North America, although the American Association of School Librarians (AASL, a division of the American Library Association) and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) accredit school media programs, that is, primary and secondary school librarian training programs. Similarly, in Europe, either national governments or the more general library associations accredit LIS schools, where they are accredited. In response to the Bologna Process, EUCLID seeks to rationalize the LIS education process and may, at some point, serve as an accrediting or vetting organization.

The EUCLID mission [1] is to:

  • facilitate exchange of students among the members
  • facilitate exchange of staff among members
  • encourage mutual recognition of curricula or parts of curricula
  • develop cooperation on research projects
  • develop cooperation with other international organisation
  • exchange mutual information about development in curricula and research
  • arrange meetings about the topics of organisation
  • encourage support from stronger to weaker members
  • represent the membership in relation to European and international bodies
  • undertake other activities of interest the Association
  • maintain an archive of the Associations documentation and publishing a newsletter

The ALISE mission [2]:

The Mission of this Association shall be to promote excellence in research, teaching, and service for library and information science education.

In addition, ALISE publishes a peer–reviewed journal (Journal of Education for Library and Information ScienceJELIS), collects and disseminates statistical data on its institutional members, convenes an annual meeting, and provides an employment venue for its institutional and individual members.

ALISE is governed by its Board with support from its committees. ALISE officers and board are elected by the membership. EUCLID is also governed by its Board, which is elected by its Council. EUCLID Council consists of one representative from each of the member institutions (Harbo, 1994).

EUCLID and ALISE have held one joint conference in Potsdam in 2003, prior to the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) conference in Berlin. Other meetings between the two organizations have not yet occurred.

AEISI is an international organization of francophone schools of information science and communication. It is headquartered in Geneva and was founded in 1977 (http://www.aiesi.refer.org/). Its mandate is to facilitate North–South cooperation, promote research and projects among the members, organize cooperative ties, and review various means to support the discipline and related disciplines. Membership is open to information and communications programs.

floral design SLISNET

SLISNET was a UNESCO initiative begun in 1995. SLISNET (http://www.enssib.fr/autres-sites/SLISNET/) is now largely moribund. It was designed to provide linkages among a select group of LIS programs worldwide responsible for the training of information professionals at the tertiary level. The list of professionals includes archivists, librarians and information scientists.

According to Ian Johnson (2001), SLISNET got off to a shaky beginning that it could not overcome because of linguistic and cultural differences. He further notes that UNESCO lacked both adequate funds and the political will to sustain the organization.

SLISNET member institutions included:

  • Africa Regional Centre for Information Science (Nigeria)
  • Comenius University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Library and Information Science Fakulta (Slovakia)
  • Documentation Research and Training Centre, Indian Statistical Institute
  • École de Bibliothéconomie et des Sciences de l’Information (Canada)
  • École des Sciences de l’Information (Morocco)
  • École nationale supérieure des sciences de l’information et des bibliothèques (France)
  • Institute of Scientific and Technical Information of China
  • Royal School of Librarianship (Denmark)
  • School of Information Studies for Africa (Ethiopia)
  • Robert Gordon University, School of Information and Media (United Kingdom)
  • Universidade de Brasilia, Departamento de Ciência da Informação e Documentação
  • University of Botswana, Department of Library and Information Studies
  • University of Pittsburgh, School of Information Science (United States)
  • University of the Philippines, Institute of Library Science
  • University of the West Indies, Department of Library & Information Studies (Jamaica)

Several projects were undertaken under SLISNET auspices. An online list was created to facilitate communication among researchers and institutions.

floral design Inter–university Exchanges

In both Europe and North America there are a number of programs and consortia designed to support inter–university student and/or faculty exchanges. These include SOCRATES, NORSLIS in Europe, and various scholarships and fellowships available to North American students to study abroad or to bring foreign students to the United States or Canada. Thus there are formal models to support general student and faculty exchanges in higher education and significantly fewer that are specific to the library and information sciences.

SOCRATES is a European Union initiative to promote and facilite education. The ERASMUS program, a part of SOCRATES, initally adopted in 1995, is the higher education component and permits the exchange of students among member universities. Academic credit is facilitated under the European Credit Transfer System, or ECTS. The SOCRATES–ERASMUS program applies to but is not limited to library and information science education. SOCRATES II, covering the period 2000–2006, is expected to have paticipation from the fifteen EU countres, three EFTA countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway), and ten associated countries (Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia) as well as Cyprus, Malta and, later, Turkey.

NORSLIS or the Nordic Research School in Library and Information Science is an agreement among fifteen Nordic and Baltic European schools of library and information science to support doctoral programs at relatively small member of northern European institutions. NORSLIS functions by leveraging the research and teaching talents of LIS faculty in the Nordic and Baltic countries through a series of “road show” courses and seminars delivered at various member institutions by participating faculty (see http://www.norslis.net/). Student travel, fees, and other expenses can be met through the award of stipends underwritten by the research universities. The program is funded through 2008 by the Nordic Academy for Advanced Study.

No such formal agreement like SOCRATES exists for North America. North American students have a somewhat more limited set of options. Undergraduate students may participate in a program called “Junior Year Abroad.” Students in their third of a four year course of undergraduate study may elect to study elsewhere and receive credit for that work. Typically, these opportunities result from bilateral or collective understandings among universities. Most North American graduate or professional students will not elect to take courses from a university other than their home school, and if they do so, for no more than one semester. This is a function of course credit transfer rules established by regional accrediting bodies and by the schools themselves. Typically, a graduate student cannot tranfer more than six credit hours — two courses — from one school to another.

The Institute for International Education administers Fulbright Fellowships for graduate and undergraduate students. Fulbright Fellowships are also available to underwrite U.S. faculty travel for research and teaching in other countries and for scholars in other countries to conduct research and teaching in the United States (http://www.iie.org). In the United Kingdom, the British Council provides support for foreign student study in the U.K. (http://www.britishcouncil.org/).

The Academic Common Market is an agreement among several U.S. state systems of higher education administered by the Southern Regional Education Board (see http://www.sreb.org/programs/acm/acmindex.asp). The Academic Common Market (ACM) allows students in those states where the state university systems do not offer a given program to enter that program in another member state and to pay the prevailing in–state tuition in the state where the course is offered. Examples includes veterinary medicine and library and information science. The state of Georgia participates in the ACM. The LIS program at Valdosta State University (VSU) is a new program and seeking accreditation. It is not yet accredited, and Georgia will remain in the ACM until the VSU program is accreditted.

The Bologna Process is a Council of Europe initiative to rationalize and standardize the system of higher education the member states. Its major goals are to implement by 2010:

  • a system of easily readable and comparable degrees, including the implementation of the Diploma Supplement;
    • a system essentially based on two main cycles:
    • a first cycle relevant to the labour market;
    • a second cycle requiring the completion of the first cycle;
  • a system of accumulation and transfer of credits;
  • the mobility of students, teachers, researchers, etc.;
  • cooperation in quality assurance;
  • the European dimension of higher education.

The European Network of Information Centres (ENIC Network) and the National Academic Recognition Information Centres (NARIC Network) are associated with the Bologna Process. Both facilitate the transnational recognition of foreign academic credentials and qualifications in Europe (see http://www.enic-naric.net/index.asp?display=About).

UNESCO has a concern for higher education, support for distance education initiatives, and for transnational “... quality assurance, accreditation, and recognition of quaifications.” (UNESCO, 2004). The European Centre for Higher Education/Centre Européen pour l’Enseignement Supérieur (UNESCO–CEPES) was established in 1971 with a mandate to promote higher education coordination, recognition, and credential qualification with European and North American countries and Israel. It is also expected to promote the exchange of faculty and students among the member states (see http://www.cepes.ro/).

floral design Transnational Distance Education

Distance education (DE) has been a part of higher education for well more than a century. In its first incarnation, DE was conducted through the post — for the most part by independent, free standing correspondence schools or by correspondence departments of colleges and universities. The advent of electronic communication, first the telephone, then radio, television, and now the Internet has brought distance education from the periphery to a central curricular service provided by many institutions of higher education.

In the United States, schools of library and information science have been in the forefront in the adoption, use, and delivery of the LIS curriculum. Both asynchronous and synchronous delivery systems as well as “hybrid” or mixed distance and traditional classroom models have been developed.

As a general rule, distance education courses are limited to those students enrolled in the program offering the course. Because of the flexibility of DE and because not all states and provinces have “indigenous” LIS programs [3], a number of LIS programs in the United States and Canada offer courses across state or provincial boundaries. For example, Emporia State University’s School of Library and Information Management in Kansas serves a twelve–state region from Kansas to Oregon and New Mexico. The School of Library and Information Science at the University of South Carolina reaches as far north as Maine. Schools with fully articulated online programs often matriculate students no matter where they may be located, applying their “in–state” rather than “out–of–state” tuition rates [4].

The African Virtual University (http://www.avu.org/) offers courses and degree programs in business administration and computer science as well as a number of diploma and certificate programs. These courses are offered by faculties typically outside of Africa working jointly with local universities and colleges.

There are relatively few programs that cross international boundaries although there are some. The University of Oklahoma provides DE courses to U.S. armed forces personnel stationed throughout the world. Another example is Charles Sturt University’s School of Information Studies in Australia. It has offered courses in Hong Kong and Mauritius.

floral design Conclusions

Professional organizations can be extemely useful in the development of a sense of professionalism and cohesion, particularly at the national level. International organizations can and do serve similar roles, although they are sometimes more limited by organizational, cultural, and financial concerns. International professional organizations formed to serve a limited rather than a broad range of purposes tend to have a greater impact over their limited mandate than do the more general organizations. The more general organizations, for example IFLA, tend to have a greater profile than the more limited ones.

The creation or recreation of a regional professional organization such as LISNET–ECS should be done with careful planning and definition of its mandate. The establisment of LISNET–ECS at least initially for the anglophone southern, central and eastern regions of Africa should encounter less of a language and cultural clash than the global SLISNET. But LISNET–ECS and SLISNET may well share similar financial difficulties.

What functions should or could LISNET–ECS perform for its constituency? The following are some roles such an organization could play.

  1. LISNET–ECS could emulate SLISNET. SLISNET was created to facilitate linkages among educators and to facilitate research and exchanges. At a minimum, LISNET–ECS should maintain an archived Internet list. SLISNET was limited in in its membership. LISNET–ECS ought not to be so selective, and should be open to all regional LIS educators and other designees.
  2. LISNET–ECS might become a vehicle for promoting the information professions in the region. To achieve that, the organization should consider a plan to rationalize and standardize, where appropriate, LIS education within the region. It could serve as a major participant in determination of the “terminal” professional credential — do the BLS, MLS, certificate, or diploma programs offer adequate training? What are the core curricular requirements? What are the basic skills LIS students should acquire? Should these concerns be held specific to the LIS community or should they be a part of a larger Bologna Process like reevaluation of higher education in the region?
  3. LISNET–ECS could become an accrediting agency. As we have seen elsewhere, the accreditation function is usually carried out by national governments, often through ministries of education, or by national level professional organizations. Would the creation of an accreditation board within LISNET–ECS create an inherent conflict of interest? In North America, the professional organization of LIS educators, ALISE, does not perform this role. Instead it is the American Library Association that does so. Similarly, EUCLID is not an accreditation body, although there are those who propose that it should become one.
  4. LISNET–ECS could facilitate the exchange of students and faculty.
  5. LISNET–ECS could facilitate the acquisition or use of DE and other courses. Faculties and courses are always in limited supply. Member schools could follow the Academic Common Market model and permit students from one program to attend courses in others. If LISNET–ECS were to have accreditation and standardization authority, it might develop a system whereby students in one country could matriculate in another country’s program at favorable tuition or take the occasional course at another member institution.

Programs that offer Internet–based courses could permit students at other member institutions to take those courses. LISNET–ECS might serve to facilitate exchanges of tuition fees and academic credits.

Although the African Internet backbone is growing and improving, asynchronous DE courses need not necessarily be distributed from the producer to the consumer via the Internet. Courses can be copied to CD–ROM or DVD. These courses could then be uploaded to a local server or distributed to students directly in the CD–ROM or DVD formats.

Thinking more widely, there is no technical reason why students in LISNET member schools could not attend courses in ALISE or EUCLID member programs and vice versa, particularly if institutional, cultural, and legal barriers could be be managed. While it is not likely that individual universities would abdicate their prerogative to regulate their own curricula and courses, and to determine who might participate in them, a network among the major professional organizations might provide an institutional backdrop against which these agreements are made and facilitate the process.

If LISNET–ECS (or another organization) were to provide an accrediting function, LISNET–ECS accredited programs and the courses offered within those programs would be considered to meet appropriate professional standards. Difficulties in vetting courses and faculty for participation in cross-institutional programs could thereby be greatly reduced.

A number of options and possible functions for LISNET–ECS have been developed. The decisions to establish a LISNET–ECS and to define its mandate need to be based on past experiences, knowledge of the existing support infrastructure, and the willingness and ability of participants to cooperate. There must be a dedicated cadre of participants from each of the member institutions. Moreover, lessons from the past must be taken into account. Regional LIS efforts have been undertaken in the past, with mixed success.

Finally, sufficient financial support must be secured to insure the functionality of the proposed organization. Put simply, the more complex the organization and its goals, the more it will cost in human and financial terms. That said, however, to propose to do too little to avoid these costs is to propose an organization doomed to trivialization and stagnation.

As a first step, one should assess the varying perceived needs of the LIS programs seeking to participate in a LISNET–ECS. These needs range from accreditation through cooperative research as well as faculty and student exchanges. The recognition of credentials and degree programs is also important. The organization could hold conferences, perhaps associated with the SCECSAL schedule. It could publish a professional peer–reviewed journal and it could coordinate activities with other professional organizations world–wide.

Second, one should assess existing institutional ties among the parent universities and programs. These ties might exist as informal or formal documents, contracts, or memoranda of understanding. Where an adequate infrastructure does not now exist, the partner programs will need to forge them.

In my view, a professional association representing African library schools and/or library educators could be an important resource to further library and information in the region.

floral design Notes

1. http://www.jbi.hio.no/bibin/euclid/eumis.htm.

2. http://www.alise.org/about/bylaws.shtml.

3. There are 55 American Library Association accredited programs in North America. A number of states and provinces do not have an LIS program and rely on programs in other states and provinces to train their residents.

4. In the U.S., government–funded “state” universities have two–tier tuitions. Resident student tuition is far lower than non–resident student tuition. Tuition costs vary widely from state to state.

floral design References

Ole Harbo, 1994, “Library and Information Science (LIS) Education in Europe. The Role of EUCLID in Curriculum Development and Equivalence of Qualifications,” 60th IFLA General Conference — Conference Proceedings — August 21–27, at http://www.ifla.org/IV/ifla60/60-haro.htm.

Ian Johnson, 2001. “Research and International Technical Cooperation Programmes,” 67th IFLA Council and General Conference, at http://www.ifla.org/IV/ifla67/papers/055-165e.pdf.

UNESCO Higher Education Portal, 2004. http://portal.unesco.org/education/en/ev.php-URL_ID=22969&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html.

Resource Documents

Code of Good Practice in the Provision of Transnational Education — Riga, 6 June 2001, at http://www.cepes.ro/hed/recogn/groups/transnat/code.htm.

Quality Assurance and Accreditation: A Glossary of Basic Terms and Definitions (2004), at http://www.cepes.ro/publications/pdf/QA&A%20Glossary.pdf.

About the Author

Wallace Koehler is Director & Professor of the MLIS Program at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Georgia.
E–mail: wkoehler [at] valdosta [dot] edu

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