Online Ph.D. Programs: Unique Clientele?

Information schools have one group of potential Ph.D. students that appear to have unique characteristics: academic librarians with faculty or faculty-like status.

To advance in rank in these up-or-out systems, academic librarians:

  1. Publish in peer-reviewed journals, edit such journals, serve on the editorial boards of such journals, write books, and edit books. They also write, edit, and serve on editorial boards of a variety of other publications.
  2. Write proposals for, manage, and analyze the results of funded research projects.
  3. Make presentations at professional conferences and elsewhere.
  4. Teach for-credit and non-credit courses.
  5. Serve as adjunct faculty in information schools.
  6. Serve on committees and as officers of professional associations.
  7. Often obtain multiple master’s degrees.

This is not to say that other librarians do not also perform the above activities; however, academic librarians with faculty or faculty-like status are typically required to do 1, 3, and 6, with the main difference in such requirements being on the need to perform higher-level activities in 1. And they are "rewarded" for performing all of them.

So, what other disciplines with Ph.D. programs have potential students with similar requirements? If the answer is "none" and if the above activities are not viewed as a kind of faux scholarship, then it would appear that experienced members this client group (say those with associate status or above) have characteristics that suggest that their need for enculturation, lengthy preliminary study, and other academic requirements that are obviously needed for freshly minted undergraduates or inexperienced MLS graduates is limited or nonexistent. Consequently, they may be quite successful in online Ph.D. programs where these other students would fail, especially if online study is supplemented with brief on-campus stays.

3 thoughts on “Online Ph.D. Programs: Unique Clientele?”

  1. Given that faculty-status academic librarians do all these things you mention anyway, what exactly is the benefit — to them or to librarianship — of pursuing a Ph.D, online or otherwise, when all it seems to amount to is license to teach tenure-track in (the shrinking number of) library schools?

    I sound bitter or dismissive, but I’m actually not. I’m honestly curious. Cui bono?

  2. It provides more career options. Some high-level academic library jobs require a Ph.D. Non-library academic administration jobs typically require a Ph.D. (such as "information czar" positions). As you note, it provides the teaching option, which isn’t always shrinking in "I" schools.

    It also puts academic librarians on equal footing with conventional faculty, since non-Ph.D.-faculty-status librarians may not always be perceived as full faculty members, even if they are treated as such by their institutions.

  3. Want more discussion on this issue? Check out the long JESSE thread that starts with my posting. Choose "Next in topic" in the View box to move from message to message.

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