I was so overwhelmed by the sheer mediocrity of the August American Libraries and its "Manifesto for Our Times" that I missed some of the other oddities, and I thank a kind reader for bringing this one to my attention. When trying to find something to blog about, the AL often relies on the kindness of strangers.
On page 8 of the August issue of that august monthly I like to think of at the "other AL," one will find a letter to the editor from one Thomas W. Leonhardt, who serves on the ALA Committee on Accreditation. He's not happy with any talk about library school being an intellectual joke, or at least not any talk about it being inadequate in any way. He begins his letter:
"Exploring LIS Education the notion that lis education and ALA's Committee on Accreditation (COA) somehow fail to meet the needs of students and employers is unfortunate and I can find no evidence to support that view. The anecdotes about ill-prepared graduates that have been shared at education forums and elsewhere to support the notion that lis education is in crisis indicate instead faulty hiring practices or insufficient employee-development practices."
As a member of COA, he'd probably have to write something like that. That's one reason I write under a pseudonym. If everyone found out I'm really an ALA councilor or toil away in the Washington office of the ALA, then it wouldn't be nearly as much fun.
To reverse his statement, I wonder if he can find much evidence that LIS education is in fact meeting the needs of students and employers, but that's another issue. LIS education is certainly meeting one need -- the need of library schools to suck a lot of money out of people for a tedious degree whose intellectual content could often probably be conveyed with a longish email. But that's neither here nor there. The good news is that all the anecdotal evidence, conveniently for Leonhardt, doesn't really count as evidence at all, except as evidence of the "faulty hiring practices" and other flaws of the folks complaining about LIS education.
Fortunately, we have Mr. Leonhardt to set us straight and give us hope for the future. "As I move toward retirement, I am optimistic about the future of the profession I have worked in for more than 30 years. We are not in danger of running out of good librarians and we are not in danger of running out of library schools. " I guess I'd have to agree with him on both points. At least he acknowledges that there is no librarian shortage. Only the ALA and the administrations of prospective library schools seem to think we're running out of library schools. Do we really need any more of these things? My goodness, the low quality of many of the ones in existence would indicate that if anything we have too many.
Because of Mr. Leonhardt's optimism not only can we be sanguine about the future, but also about the present. When I survey the offerings of library schools, I'm always impressed by the incoherence of what passes for education in the profession, an incoherence shared by the profession itself. What a jumble of inanities. But Leonhardt thinks differently: "We may actually be in a new golden age of library education but are too close to the issue to recognize it."
A "new golden age of library education." Wow! Now I'm excited. But before I wet my pants with enthusiasm, let's examine this statement carefully. A new golden age implies that there was some previous golden age of library education. Do we have any evidence at all for that? Even if we eliminate the "new," we still have the odd notion that this is a golden age of library education. If for some reason this statement is true, and I seriously doubt it, then the fact that library education is in a Golden Age is only true relative to the Dung and Mold Ages which preceded it. But we're certainly in a golden age of library propaganda.