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What classes at the iSchool are not to be missed?


This summer, the Silverfish staff posed this question about must-take classes to continuing iSchool students and alumni. Thirty-eight individuals responded, and here is the advice they offered. Of course, it all depends on what your professional and personal interests are, but we hope these tips will help you plan an appropriate and interesting schedule for the next two or more years.

Please note that what makes the iSchool program wonderful is the ability to customize a curriculum that fits your needs and interests. While these recommended classes are mostly within the MLIS program (probably because of respondent demographics), remember that classes outside of your program and beyond the iSchool are also valuable options! Several students recommended taking classes on computer programming for information systems, web development, usability, user-centered design, and technical communication.

PS - If you are a returning student or alumnus, you are more than welcome to fill out the survey and I will include the updated tips on the Silverfish blog. Be sure to write your name if you’d like your tips to be credited.

To view the complete list of course offerings for iSchool programs, visit


Engaging Electives

Catalogs, Cataloging, and Classification (LIS 531) was by far the most recommended class—it was mentioned by a fourth of the survey respondents! People emphasized that understanding the foundations of information organization is crucial, and also noted it is especially helpful for public reference librarians.

Government Publications (LIS 526) and Directed Fieldwork (LIS 590) were also frequently mentioned as recommended courses. For Government Publications, look for Cass Hartnett, who is “friendly, engaging and supportive.” Expect a lot of meaningful work from this class.

Directed Fieldwork requires a significant time commitment, but is almost necessary for job hunting because employers are looking for practical experience. This class provides you an opportunity to further customize your program and meet people who are experts in your area of interest.

Book Lust (LIS 569) is “the best way to spend a Saturday…it’s like a book group with passionate readers. It is taught by Nancy Pearl, who founded the program “If all Seattle read the same book” and who one student said is like “your favorite aunt who just happens to be a book goddess.”

Principles of Information Services (LIS 521) is another one of the “basic advanced courses” (take a core class number and add one) that are recommended, especially for public reference librarians. According to one student, “Joe Janes is a terrific lecturer, and the work you will do will expose you to a number of useful (and occasionally wacky) sources.”

Otherwise, watch for these choice electives (in number order):

  • LIS 508 History of Recorded Information—provides years of interesting reading
  • LIS 512 Community Analysis
  • LIS 515 Ecological Information Systems
  • LIS 522 Collection Development
  • LIS 537 Construction of Indexing Languages
  • LIS 538 Metadata: Evolving Principles and Practices
  • LIS 542 Conceptual Database Design
  • LIS 561 Storytelling: Art and Techniques—useful even if you’re not planning to be a children’s librarian
  • LIS 586 Public Libraries and Advocacy
  • LIS 587 Library Technology Systems
  • LIS 588 Special Librarianship
  • LIS 598 Special Topics in Information and Library Science (Art and Design of Web Pages w/ Terry Brooks)—if you don’t know HTML and CSS, you will have a lot of extra work trying to learn these languages!

While some students mentioned specific courses, others wanted you to know about some of the peachiest professors in the iSchool. I agree that it’s important to go with a professor you connect with—sometimes a person with expertise and passion can surprise you by turning you on to an area you hadn’t considered before.

A few students also urged you to take classes taught by currently practicing librarians so that you can bridge theory with reality.

Commence name dropping:

  • Nancy Gershenfeld (LIS 580, core class on management)
  • Allyson Carlyle (cataloging)
  • Joe Janes (LIS 521, reference services)
  • Terry Brooks
  • E. Efthimiadis
  • Deborah Jacobs (library advocacy)
  • Cass Mabbott
  • Trent Hill (LIS 530, core class on information organization)
  • Adam Moore—this philosopher is a “great lecturer”
  • Cheryl Metoyer

Back to the New Student Guide >>



Thanks to Sonya Sutherland, Jamie Hancock, Bo Kinney, Kate Stockert, Lisa Fraser, Mark Bardsley, Joshua Daniel Franklin, Zola Maddison, John Larson, Chelle Batchelor, and Joel Pierce for volunteering to share their wisdom.

September 24, 2007
Vol. XII Issue 1

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