Practical Experience

I recently sat in on a discussion in which it was suggested that a practicum be required in all graduate library science programs. Now, I certainly understand the benefits of practical experience to emergent librarians and library managers alike. However, a father of two and a full-time text editor, I know how such a requirement is simply not possible for many students. Furthermore, can the school and participating libraries really be expected to facilitate so many students in practicum? Not likely. I have heard stories from Chicago-area students who applied for a practicum program but were turned away. Some savvy students locate libraries with a steady need for volunteers and strike a deal between the library and the graduate department. Others resolve themselves to graduating with no practical experience.

I suggest library schools do require a minimal number of practicum hours for students with no library experience. Students who work or have worked in libraries, museums, archives, or some other area of LIS may claim exemption from the requirement. Students might complete hours at one or multiple locations and, to some extent, at their convenience. Still, I suspect that, in some areas, the inadequate number of facilities available will continue to leave some otherwise diligent students out in the cold.


About Steven V. Kaszynski
librarian, editor, contributor

10 Responses to Practical Experience

  1. Sean says:

    I concur, in fact, that idea sounds familiar….

  2. Mitch Turitz says:

    Good luck getting any library schools to agree to that. We could not even get library schools to agree to make cataloging a required course. What’s your strategy?

    • svkaszynski says:

      no strategy here. i’ll leave that to the library schools to figure out.

      your comment about required cataloguing is just as interesting. many library schools, such as those at Wisconsin and Dominican University, still require a cataloguing course. many people in LIS now question the necessity of that requirement. i’ll have to look into that.


      • Mitch Turitz says:

        So, if you are not willing to do the work/research, why should anyone else? You just supply the ideas and someone else has to do the work? What kind of job do you have?

      • svkaszynski says:

        each library school’s administration is capable of evaluating and modulating its curriculum and programs. that, in part, is what they are paid to do. as for me, i’m just another library blogger trying to clear his head.

  3. doh286 says:

    I am continuing what I have said on Twitter in this comment. There would have to be a certain number of hours required per week or month. The only problem I see with requiring everyone to fulfill practicum hours is the oversight of the students. I guess a certain number of students would have to complete their hours during one semester while another group would complete their hours in another semester.

    Another idea I have is that GSLIS programs should offer more opportunities for students in their programs to get library experience, specifically academic library experience, by offering more student positions. At Dominican, there were a limited number of opportunities for GSLIS students to work in the Crown Library. Some of these opportunities were not fully advertised to GSLIS students.

  4. Brian says:

    I have never heard of a student being upset for not finding a practicum, but I have heard of many libraries offering practicum possibilities than local students available.

  5. Erica O says:

    Having just completed my own 100-hour practicum, I could not agree with you more regarding practicum-exemption for students with experience in the field. However, I would not agree with idea that there are too many students and not enough hosting practicum sites; it depends on where you are in the country.
    We’ve no end to the practicum sites here along the Colorado Front Range and they’re varied; there’s something for every concentration.
    One of the problems I ran into, though, was that many of the sites don’t know what to do with a practicum student and the student often winds up spending 100 hours (or 160 for school library students) weeding and shelving, which does not create a well-rounded experience.
    I would like to suggest LIS programs require practicum for students who have no prior experience in the information profession but allow choices for students who have worked in the information profession for more than X years. I would also like to suggest that practicum sites create their own programs that help facilitate the most complete learning experience possible for their practicum students.

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