Several factors have contributed to shaping the library and information science field into is current state. It is a marriage of innovation with the challenge of funding cuts, as more libraries face slimmer budgets. New technologies grant access to greater resources and more information than ever before. With both these remaining as constant conditions, library science graduate programs are also shifting to prepare matriculants for these realities and to stay ahead of the curve.
Budgetary Challenges and Technology Have Reshaped the Field
Public libraries and museums have long been forced to contend with slashed-down operating resources. One recent example is a $1 million reduction in state library funding in the federal budget in 2016, as reported by the Library Journal. At the same time, tax levies have been harnessed as a vehicle to keep these vital organizations going. For example, the Ohio Library Council reported that 797 tax levies appeared on ballots across the state between 1980 and 2012. Thankfully, Ohio citizens continue to recognize their value, passing 74 percent of these initiatives during that 22-year period.
With these conditions, public libraries focus on new technologies to aid them in providing valuable services. The most common approaches include offering a mix of printed materials with vast collections of digital databases and materials. Additionally, some municipal systems have merged to offer improved access to their combined constituencies. One example is the MidPointe Library System in southwest Ohio, which serves the cities of Middletown, Trenton and Monroe along with several local townships.
Moreover, educational information and research centers have adopted a similar strategy of mixing printed and electronic offerings. For instance, the Pontifical College Josephinum’s A.T. Wehrle Memorial Library serves a large constituency, which includes college’s seminarians and faculty, local clergy, independent researchers, and students of two other local theological schools, the Methodist Theological School in Ohio and Trinity Lutheran Seminary. Along with ongoing acquisitions to strengthen its collections, it subscribes to numerous electronic resources and has retooled its web page to provide suggested starting points for research in philosophy, theology, scripture and humanities subject areas.
Library Graduate Programs Prepare Learners for These Realities
As changes shape the library science field, postsecondary programs are shifting their curricula to ensure that their students are prepared for the available jobs for library science graduates. For example, learners in the Master of Management in Library and Information Science program at the University of Southern California are advised to become tech-savvy information resources. In addition, multitasking skills are also critical, as library employees are frequently called on to give research and technological assistance to patrons. With these institutions expanding their programs and community outreach efforts, even entry-level staff must step up and become leaders and managers.
Those seeking to take advantage of employment in this new environment may want to consider returning to school now. With strong competition in the field, the increasing inclusion of electronic resources and the rise of specialized libraries, candidates will need at least a master’s degree in a library science program to even get their feet in the proverbial door. Museums and archives offer additional opportunities, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 7% employment growth in those areas between now and 2024.
Libraries May Change, But Unlikely to Become Obsolete
Rumors about the death of libraries may have been greatly exaggerated. While these institutions face ongoing funding issues, new innovations have made it easier to access more information and for libraries to expand their services. Library science graduate curricula are keeping pace to get their matriculants ready for the workforce. In this environment, returning to school may be one of the best paths to make yourself attractive to potential employers.