Why Rutgers Faculty Agreed To Drop the 'Library'; Name
Jorge Reina Schement -- Library Journal, 03/23/2009
On February 4, 2009, the faculty at Rutgers' School of Communication, Information and Library Studies voted by a 3-to-1 margin to change the name of the school to the School of Communication and Information. The vote culminated several decades of faculty discourse concerning cohesion, brand, and identity, and has sparked a spirited discussion.
20th century roots, 21st century challenges
We trace our roots to Journalism (1926) and Library Service (1927); and, since 1982, we encompass three departments: Communication; Library and Information Science; and Journalism and Media Studies. That fundamental proposition is a commitment to study the twin phenomena of communication and information. This is what attracts an exceptional faculty and a promising student body.
Our new name draws attention to our uniqueness. It also draws attention to the concerns that we, as a community, share in common.
We graduate nine percent of the University’s total undergraduates in 3 majors: Communication, Journalism and Media Studies, and Information Technology and Informatics. We also offer two master’s degrees: Communication and Information Studies as well as Library and Information Science, plus a doctoral degree in Communication, Information and Library Studies. Three-quarters of our majors are enrolled in programs other than Library Studies.
Among schools belonging to the Association of American Universities (AAU), we uniquely combine communication and information studies. We alone embrace the intersection of these two disciplines as central features of contemporary work, education, and everyday life. Those twin concepts capture the primary concerns of our faculty and student body, individually and collectively. To that end, our students profit from working elbow-to-elbow with the scholars who form the core of this learning community. It is our firm conviction that bringing these varied professions under the same roof has benefitted each and all of our students and alumni.
Some librarians have exhibited genuine concern that the new name signals intent to diminish or even abolish library studies at Rutgers. However, even in difficult economic times, we are growing the size of the program by enrolling students, adding faculty and attracting resources. The MLIS program educates one of the largest student cohorts in North America. We continue to rank nationally; our specialization in school library media was ranked No. 1 in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. Furthermore, the department, program, and degree remain Library and Information Science.
Some fear we are distancing ourselves from the profession of librarianship. This is a commitment we take most seriously; those who look for our graduates will always find them influencing and transforming communities in public libraries. They also will find them leading in university libraries by advancing teaching and learning. Others, they will find in partnership with teachers, tutoring students in the information competencies necessary to succeed in the 21st century.
A sizable number will chart their careers in museums, hospitals, government, news media, military, and New Jersey’s information intensive industries. And, everywhere, our graduates become leaders who shape our digital future. Our vision of 21st century librarianship derives from our total identity as a school.
A few librarians also worry that the name change was forced on the LIS faculty. Not only did 75 percent of those present vote in favor of the change, LIS faculty members—many of them librarians—are outspoken supporters of the change. They recognize that the move strengthens our school as a whole and provides a cohesive, inclusive identity.
The name change is part of a larger vision, which includes: opening our programs to nontraditional students; attracting top teachers and researchers; creating new curricula, such as “Competencies for the Digital Age,” a partnership between our school and Rutgers University Libraries. Together, these efforts will strengthen our school across all of our departments and programs.
Yes, the name change reflects a trend across the AAU toward simplification of names for our related disciplines. Yes, the name change brings us more in line with nomenclature at other AAU peer institutions, thereby positioning us competitively. And, yes, our growth and advancement benefits all of our constituents. Thus, by emphasizing our integration of two foundational disciplines, we proclaim the essence that ties us together in a single, vibrant community—a School of Communication and Information.
Jorge Reina Schement is Dean of the School of Communication, Information and Library Studies, and a professor there. LJ solicited his response to a letter from Rutgers' alum and Queens College professor Mary K. Chelton.