Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Re-Envisioning the MLS

On August 1, 2015, the University of Maryland iSchool released Re-Envisioning the MLS: findings, issues, and considerations, an attempt to predict the future of the MLS. Reading through the document, it is hard to see where those of us working with traditional metadata- MARC catalogers - fit into this vision of the future. The report is a product of the iSchool's Re-Envisioning the MLS initiative, launched in August 2014, and is intended to answer questions such as "What is the value of an MLS degree?", "What should the future MLS degree look like?" and "What are the competencies, attitudes, and abilities that future library and information professionals need?"

Key findings listed in the executive summary are listed:
  • The shift in focus to people and communities
  • Core values remain essential
  • Competencies for future information professionals
  • The MLS may not be relevant/necessary in all cases
  • Access for all
  • Social innovation and change
  • Working with data and engaging in assessment
  • Knowing and leveraging the community
  • Learning/learning sciences, education and youth
  • Digital assets and archival thinking

The "core competencies" for future information professionals include, "the ability to lead and manage projects and people; to facilitate learning and education ...  Additionally, information professionals need marketing and advocacy skills; strong public speaking and written communication skills; a strong desire to work with the public; problem-solving and the ability to think and adapt instantaneously; knowledge of the principles and applications of fundraising, budgeting, and policymaking; and relationship building among staff, patrons, community partners, and fundraisers."

Perhaps our work is described in a deeper level of the report. Reading through the detail under "core values remain essential", one finds, among others, the concept of "Preservation and Heritage". This is described as "providing current and future access to records, both analog and digital." Another piece of our work seems to be categorized under "Working with Data and Engaging in Assessment", with a stated need for professionals who can "manage data assets and understand digital curation techniques." Under "Digital assets and archival thinking", the importance of information professionals who can help communities manage, curate  and preserve their digital assets is mentioned.

Finally, in a table intended to summarize key topical areas of a future MLS curriculum, one of nine suggested content areas is "Digital Asset Management", described as the "ability to create, store, and access digital assets." Skills listed in this area are metadata, information organization, data storage and access/retrieval systems. It is interesting to note that the skills we think of as "cataloging" are only seen as applying to digital resources. Although this document is focused on the future, one feels a need to say "I'm not dead yet!" on behalf of more traditional metadata and resources.

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