Esprit de Core

by John Glover, MLIS Day


"I hate the core!"
"Core classes suck!"
"If only it were all electives…"

These and similar sentiments about the MLIS core have been noised about the iSchool environs quite a bit lately in computer labs, bars, the iSalon, and other places too numerous to mention. Heck, I've complained about the core myself! But people… this has got to stop. If I hear one more snotty comment about how "I haven't learned anything in core classes" or "that was, like, the worst class I've ever taken," I'm going to scream.

The iSchool provides a quality LIS education across the board to people from diverse backgrounds. We all have different strengths coming into this program and all benefit from core classes at different levels. Experienced web designers have to take 540, veteran teachers have to take 560, and hardened project leaders have to take 580. I wish more exceptions were granted to people in these situations, or that more students could substitute classes in the relevant decade for the core class, but that's simply not the way it works right now. The iSchool doesn't have the faculty or the money to teach infinite varieties of courses tailored to our personal specifications.

When was the last time you looked at other information schools' curricula? Maybe you've forgotten that we have one of the best spreads of core classes available in American LIS education. Now, one can argue that a beginning cataloguer, for instance, doesn't need to know anything about management or teaching. If one holds that view, one can go to a school where a cataloguer doesn't have to learn those things. Such programs do exist. That's not the iSchool, though, and if you came here expecting that, you probably didn't spend enough time reading the program description.

Our school seems to have a good reputation and be well respected generally (from what I can tell right now - ask me again in a few years). This respect stems from a number of things, but I think a large part comes from the fundamental differences between our curriculum and that of a traditional library school, particularly in the breadth of our education. While we may wind up bored in or frustrated by individual classes, when we emerge from this program we are, so to speak, certified. We receive training in every major area of the discipline, which not all LIS students can say. The iSchool teaches us to see the Big Picture.

Plenty of students have grievances with the MLIS program, which is natural. Everyone sees things differently, the iSchool is still comparatively young and figuring out what works, and no program anywhere is perfect. Some grievances are more legitimate than others, however, and these are gradually being addressed. 540 and 530 are now split into different quarters. 540 is being restructured. Other problems are under discussion right now. Even in my cohort's brief time here, we are seeing substantial changes being implemented in the curriculum - changes driven by student critiques. The iSchool does, in fact, listen to what its students have to say.

That the faculty and administration here are willing even to consider fundamental alterations to the curriculum based on student opinion is nothing short of a miracle. In case you didn't get the memo, academe is not traditionally responsive to graduate student concerns along these lines. Many other disciplines still operate on a master-apprentice model, and students learn exactly what their advisors tell them to learn, when they tell them to learn it, the way they tell them to learn it. In many other schools, the kinds of complaints that faculty and administrators here regularly listen to and subsequently address are met with indifference at best. We are not getting the short end of the stick in this program, folks.

So please, next time you start to complain about how bad the core is, how you wish you didn't have to take so many classes that aren't relevant to you, or how the pain and agony of 5X0 couldn't possibly get any worse… just stop and think for a second. We're all here to learn different things, and the iSchool has to provide for us all. Instead of getting mad at the size of the core, why not take pride in the breadth of our education? Given the diversity of our research and professional interests, we should be grateful that we all fit under the same tent and have the opportunity to learn from one another.



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Page last updated: February 10, 2004