Aug 22, 2008

The Berkeley School of Information and the I School Movement

From Technicalities
August 22, 2008

The 'L' Word Versus the 'I' Word
By Sheila S. Intner

I consider myself a word lover, a person for whom words have major appeal. Besides owning numerous dictionaries and thesauri (and being known to get lost for hours on end occasionally when I delve into one of them), doing crossword puzzles and double-crostics regularly, and playing nightly games of Scrabble with my husband, I've written columns about the implications of naming technical services departments using various words, such as "support services,""database management services," and the like. Not long ago, Technicalities editor Peggy Johnson sent me an article written by Ellen Detlefsen, the medical library education column editor, which examined the results of a study of the I-schools: schools that prepare people to do what we do. The author asked, "What's the difference between The Information School' and 'The Original Information School?' What's an MSI degree? What's happening to 'library schools?' What ever happened to the L-word?" This column will try to analyze Dr. Detlefsen's questions a bit further and pose more questions for your consideration. What's the Significance of 'Original'? ...

What about the "originals"? Presumably, the five remaining schools in the study of 19 I-schools provide the relevant model. Four in this group began as schools of computer science at Georgia Tech, Indiana University, Penn State, and the University of California-Irvine. The fifth, at the University of California, Berkeley, was originally a traditional library school. It transformed its focus to computer/information science....

Of the 19 I-schools mentioned in Detlefsen's study, five have adopted plain old "Information," without further adornment: Florida State University-Tallahassee, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, University of Texas-Austin; University of Washington, Seattle, and the University of California, Berkeley. Perhaps, they should be emulated regarding their choices of names while, simultaneously, strengthening the recruiting, curriculum, and support for their library track.


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