Message from the Director

David EichmannDavid Eichmann, Associate Professor

The School of Library and Information Science is now entering into its second half-century of training future librarians for careers of service to their patrons. (I’ll also note here that our 50th anniversary celebration was a resounding success, thanks to the hard work of the planning committee and volunteers!) I personally am in my third decade with the School, having returned to my alma mater in 1997. As I noted in my reflection piece in the previous newsletter, the field and the School have seen profound changes in those twenty years. Our sense of commonality and connectedness have served our faculty, staff and students well in maintaining a learning community open to and respectful of wide-ranging interests and perspectives. I’ve also had the remarkable experience of having the daughter of one of my earliest LIS students in my classes a couple of years ago!

SLIS has for much of its existence been dedicated to traditional face-to-face education. Students have been expected to pull up roots and move to Iowa City for the two years it typically takes to complete the M.A. in LIS. Many of our peer institutions have in the last two decades increasingly emphasized online delivery of their ALA-accredited degrees, synchronous in some cases (i.e., live interaction through tools like Zoom), but in many cases asynchronous, with no direct, live interaction between students and instructors. The SLIS faculty have discussed these options for a number of years. Many of you are likely familiar with our enabling place-bound teacher-librarian (TL) students to pursue the degree via synchronous participation with live classes in Iowa City. (We gratefully acknowledge the support from IMLS that enabled our initial forays into this technology.) We continue to highly value the live interaction that our hybrid local/synchronous approach provides.

I’m pleased to say that after a series of discussions around the success of the TL program – and particularly the retention rates we see in students selecting that path – that SLIS is opening up synchronous distance access to the program to students interested in all areas of librarianship. All courses, except those requiring physical presence on campus (e.g., book studies studio courses), will be offered in a mixed physical/virtual mode, with both local and distance students sharing the same educational experience. We have also received designation from the University as an official distance program, which means that distance students will be charged tuition at the resident rate, irrespective of their residency status.

This is a major technological step for the program, one that we hope serves the state and the nation well in enabling place-bound learners to pursue the profession. Stay tuned for further announcements about how interested candidates should flag their interest in this option as they apply to the program!