Digital Video of “Skills for the Future: Educational Opportunities for Library and Museum” Session

A digital video of the “Skills for the Future: Educational Opportunities for Library and Museum” session of the Webwise 2010 conference is now available.

Panelists included Peter Botticelli, University of Arizona School of Information Resources and Library Science; Phyllis Hecht, Johns Hopkins University Museum Studies Program; Helen Tibbo, University of North Carolina School of Information and Library Science; and Bill Veillette, Northeast Document Conservation Center.

Gary Marchionini Named Dean of School of Information and Library Sciences at UNC Chapel Hill

Dr. Gary Marchionini, Cary C. Boshamer Professor at the School of Information and Library Sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been appointed Dean of that school effective April 1, 2010.

Here's an excerpt from the press release:

"Gary Marchionini is a distinguished faculty member whose extraordinary academic background is internationally renowned," said Chancellor Holden Thorp. "He is the ideal person to lead our School of Information and Library Science into this new decade when information and technology have never been more important in our society."

Added Bruce Carney, interim executive vice chancellor and provost, "Gary Marchionini knows the School of Information and Library Science and our University exceedingly well. He has the support from within the school to keep it a national leader."

A Carolina faculty member since 1998, Marchionini heads the school's Interaction Design Laboratory and chairs its personnel committee. He serves on the Campus Research Computing Committee and has helped lead numerous campus initiatives since arriving at Carolina. Last spring, he was nominated by his students and selected as the school's Outstanding Teacher of the Year.

He is president of the American Society of Information Science and Technology, an international organization of professionals who focus on improving access to information. Marchionini is the chair of the National Institutes of Health/National Library of Medicine's Biomedical Library and Informatics Review Committee. He previously was editor-in-chief of the Association for Computing Machinery's (ACM) "Transactions on Information Systems" from 2002 to 2008, has served on more than a dozen editorial boards and is editor of the Morgan-Claypool book series, "Information Concepts, Retrieval and Services."

Marchionini has published more than 200 articles, book chapters and technical reports on topics related to digital libraries, information seeking, usability of personal health records, multimedia browsing strategies and personal identity in cyberspace. He has been awarded numerous grants from the National Science Foundation and other foundations, as well as research awards from companies including Microsoft, IBM and Google. He is the author of "Information Seeking in Electronic Environments," part of a Cambridge University Press series.

Marchionini earned a doctorate in curriculum development, focusing on mathematics education in 1981, and a master's degree in secondary mathematics education from Wayne State University in 1974. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in mathematics and English from Western Michigan University in 1971.

Before arriving at UNC, he was a faculty member at the University of Maryland for 15 years. He served on the faculty and as a researcher at Wayne State from 1978 to 1983 and taught mathematics at the East Detroit Public Schools for seven years.

Scholarships Available: 100% Online Digital Information Management Graduate Certificate Program

The University of Arizona School of Information Resources and Library Science is accepting applicants for the school's graduate certificate program in Digital Information Management (DigIn). IMLS-funded scholarships are available for students entering the program in 2010.

Here's an excerpt from the press release:

The DigIn program features hands-on experience and focused instruction supporting a wide range of professional careers involving digital systems and data. The certificate includes six three-credit courses designed to build students' hands-on technology skills, and to help students acquire the advanced knowledge needed to curate digital collections, manage digital projects, and to set policies for access and long-term preservation.

In 2009, the first cohort of DigIn graduates completed their certificate requirements with practical "capstone" field projects in a broad range of professional settings, including the Library of Congress, the Metropolitan New York Library Council, the College of William and Mary, UC Riverside, the New Mexico State Records Center and Archives, Phoenix Public Library, Cochise County (AZ) Historical Society, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, and the Mohave Museum of History and Art. As one 2009 graduate noted:

"DigIn broadened my knowledge of the history, trends, and best practices for digital collections. It has also given me the practical experience to tackle hands-on projects that require a deeper understanding of technology and information management. My work in the DigIn program is most certainly what led to me landing a job in a technology-heavy environment."

For information professionals already working in the field, or those considering career changes, the DigIn certificate offers a flexible path for graduate studies. The program is delivered 100% online and has no residency requirements. Students generally complete the certificate in four or six semesters (15 months or 27 months).

Deadline For Summer '10 admission: April 1

Deadline for Fall ‘10 admission: July 1

Deadline for Spring ‘11: Nov. 1.

DigIn was developed in cooperation with the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records and the University of Arizona Outreach College. Major funding for the program comes from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), which has also provided scholarship funding.

Additional details on the program including course descriptions, admissions requirements and application forms may be found on the program website:

Applicants may also contact the DigIn staff at:

digin at

Duke, NC State, and UNC Data Sharing Cloud Computing Project Launched

Duke University, North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have launched a two-year project to share digital data.

Here's an excerpt from the press release:

An initiative that will determine how Triangle area universities access, manage, and share ever-growing stores of digital data launched this fall with funding from the Triangle Universities Center for Advanced Studies, Inc. (TUCASI).

The two-year TUCASI data-Infrastructure Project (TIP) will deploy a federated data cyberinfrastructure—or data cloud—that will manage and store digital data for Duke University, NC State University, UNC Chapel Hill, and the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) and allow the campuses to more seamlessly share data with each other, with national research projects, and private sector partners in Research Triangle Park and beyond.

RENCI and the Data Intensive Cyber Environments (DICE) Center at UNC Chapel Hill manage the $2.7 million TIP. The provosts, heads of libraries and chief information officers at the three campuses signed off on the project just before the start of the fall semester.

"The TIP focuses on federation, sharing and reuse of information across departments and campuses without having to worry about where the data is physically stored or what kind of computer hardware or software is used to access it," said Richard Marciano, TIP project director, and also professor at UNC's School of Information and Library Science (SILS), executive director of the DICE Center, and a chief scientist at RENCI. "Creating infrastructure to support future Triangle collaboratives will be very powerful."

The TIP includes three components—classroom capture, storage, and future data and policy, which will be implemented in three phases. In phase one, each campus and RENCI will upgrade their storage capabilities and a platform-independent system for capturing and sharing classroom lectures and activities will be developed. . . .

In phase two, the TIP team will develop policies and practices for short- and long-term data storage and access. Once developed, the policies and practices will guide the research team as it creates a flexible, sustainable digital archive, which will connect to national repositories and national data research efforts. Phase three will establish policies for adding new collections to the TIP data cloud and for securely sharing research data, a process that often requires various restrictions. "Implementation of a robust technical and policy infrastructure for data archiving and sharing will be key to maintaining the Triangle universities' position as leaders in data-intensive, collaborative research," said Kristin Antelman, lead researcher for the future data and policy working group and associate director for the Digital Library at NC State.

The tasks of the TIP research team will include designing a model for capturing, storing and accessing course content, determining best practices for search and retrieval, and developing mechanisms for sharing archived content among the TIP partners, across the Triangle area and with national research initiatives. Campus approved social media tools, such as YouTube and iTunesU, will be integrated into the system.

Arizona’s SIRLS Gets $900,000+ IMLS Grant for Online Digital Information Management Graduate Certificate Program

The University of Arizona's School of Information Resources and Library Science has received a grant of over $900,000 from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services for its Digital Information Management (DigIn) online graduate certificate program. The grant will primarily be used to fund scholarships.

Here's the press release:

The DigIn curriculum combines intensive, hands-on technology learning with a thorough grounding in the theoretical principles needed to manage large and complex digital collections.

The program takes a comprehensive, interdisciplinary approach to managing digital information and is designed to support a wide range of career paths, especially involving libraries, museums, archives, and records management.

Graduate certificates are increasingly being recognized as a means for professionals with advanced degrees to update their knowledge and skills. DigIn also offers a path for those with undergraduate degrees who are interested in digital collections but who may not yet be ready to commit to a full degree program.

The grant will also greatly boost DigIn's mission to foster disciplinary, institutional, geographic, and cultural diversity in the management of digital collections and services.

Thus, DigIn strongly encourages scholarship applicants representing historically underserved institutions, regions, and communities, as well as students expressing interest in working with digital collections in culturally diverse settings.

DigIn is now accepting applications for admission and financial aid for the Fall 2009 semester. The application deadline has just been extended to July 10.

Late applications will be accepted, though Fall admission cannot be guaranteed once the July 10 deadline has passed. Late applicants will also be considered for admission in the Spring 2010 semester.

The program is delivered entirely online and does not require students to reside in or travel to Tucson. Students generally complete the certificate in 4-6 semesters (15-27 months).

DigIn was founded in 2007 with major funding from Institute of Museum and Library Services, the primary source of federal support for the nation?s 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The Institute's mission is to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas.

Our current partners also include the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and the Sedona Conference.

Additional details on the program including course descriptions, admissions requirements and application forms may be found on the program website:

Prospective applicants are also welcome to contact the DigIn staff at:

Read more about it at "SIRLS Earns Federal Grant to Train More Tech Savvy Librarians ."

University of Arizona Digital Information Management Certificate Program Fall 2009 Applications

The University of Arizona's School of Information Resources and Library Science's Digital Information Management Certificate program is accepting Fall 2009 applications until 7/1/09.

Here's an excerpt from the announcement:

DigIn combines intensive, hands-on technology learning and a strong grounding in the theoretical principles needed to manage large-scale digital collections in a fast-changing environment. The program supports a wide range of professional careers involving digital collections, including but not limited to libraries, archives, and museums.

Graduate certificates are increasingly being recognized as a means for information professionals with advanced degrees to enhance their knowledge and technology skills. DigIn is also open to professionals who are new to the field and who may be considering a masters-level education in the future.

The program is delivered 100% online and has no residency requirements. Students generally complete the certificate in four or six semesters (15 months or 27 months).

Reference Extract: The Librarian-Recommendation-Weighted Search Engine

OCLC, the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University, and the University of Washington Information School have received a $100,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to plan a librarian-recommendation-weighted search engine called Reference Extract.

Here's an excerpt from the press release:

"Sometimes, the simplest ideas are the most powerful," said Dr. Mike Eisenberg, Dean Emeritus and Professor at the Information School of the University of Washington and a lead on the project. "The best search engines are great for basic search, but sometimes the Web site results lack credibility in terms of trust, accuracy and reliability. So, who can help? Librarians. If a librarian recommends a Web site, you can be pretty sure that it's credible. RefEx will take hundreds of thousands of librarian recommendations and use them in a full-scale search engine."

Reference Extract is envisioned as a Web search experience similar to those provided by the world's most popular search engines. However, unlike other search engines, Reference Extract will be built for maximum credibility of search results by relying on the expertise of librarians. Users will enter a search term and receive results weighted toward sites most often used by librarians at institutions such as the Library of Congress, the University of Washington, the State Library of Maryland, and over 2,000 other libraries worldwide.

As part of the planning process, participants are reaching out to partners in libraries, technology organizations and research institutions. "The only way this will work is by making a project of an entire community," said Dr. R. David Lankes, Director of the Information Institute of Syracuse and Associate Professor at Syracuse University's School of Information Studies. "Web searchers get to tap into the incredible skill and knowledge of the library community, while librarians will be able to serve users on a whole new scale. This work follows on previous credibility work supported by the MacArthur Foundation, most notably the Credibility Commons (" . . .

The Reference Extract project will hold a series of meetings and consultations over the coming months. The team is eager to build a business plan and technology architecture to benefit users and the library community alike. Those interested in providing input on the project and learning more can visit the project Web site at

Grant Award: Improving Student Learning of Advanced Digital Technologies in an Online Laboratory

The University of Arizona's School of Information Resources and Library Science has been awarded a $539,686 grant (matching: $327,615) by the Institute of Museum and Library Services to fund its three-year "Improving Student Learning of Advanced Digital Technologies in an Online Laboratory: A Research Approach" project.

Here's an excerpt from "Library Students to Get 'Leading-Edge' Training Thanks to Federal Grant":

The UA school's partners are the UA Libraries, UA University Information and Technology Services, the Harvard University Herbaria and the Missouri Botanical Gardens.

Each of the partner institutions will provide SIRLS with information that then will be recorded and catalogued, then developed into databases—with SIRLS students responsible for these tasks. So, instead of simply having Web sites that simulate the work they would be doing as professionals, the students will have the actual software and other tools to perform more complex work.

SIRLS will use VMWare Lab Manager software—which is quite popular in industry—as the program’s platform to build a virtual online laboratory. "This grant gives us the infrastructure we need to really let us create practical and realistic exercises for students," said Botticelli, also the co-principal investigator on the grant.

Syracuse University's iSchool Establishes Limited Residency Part-Time Executive Doctoral Program

Syracuse University's School of Information Studies has established a limited residency part-time executive doctoral program.

Here's an excerpt from the press release:

The Doctorate of Professional Studies in Information Management is a three-year program with fall, spring, and summer terms, which is offered in a limited residency, distance learning format. The 51-credit hour program involves 16 courses on methods, research, and practice topics (36 credits total), plus 15 credits for thesis work. . . .

The program received formal approval this spring by the Syracuse University Board of Trustees and the New York State Office of College and University Evaluation, and has begun accepting applications for the fall 2008 class. A successful candidate will have completed a master’s degree and have at least five years of experience in the information professions.

Full Scholarships Available for Online Graduate Digital Information Management Certificate Program

Full scholarships are available for students interested in obtaining a graduate certificate in Digital Information Management from the University of Arizona's School of Information Resources and Library Science. Recently, the Library of Congress honored Richard Pearce-Moses, one of the key figures in the development of the program, by naming him as a digital preservation pioneer.

Here's the announcement:

The University of Arizona School of Information Resources and Library Science is pleased to announce that a number of full scholarships are still available in the school's graduate certificate program in Digital Information Management. The program is scheduled to begin a new series of courses starting this summer. Prospects have until April 1, 2008 to apply for one of the openings and available financial aid.

DigIn, as the program is known, provides hands-on experience and focused instruction supporting careers in libraries and archives, cultural heritage institutions and digital collections, information repositories in government and the private sector and similar institutions. The certificate is comprised of six courses covering diverse topics including digital collections, applied technology, technology planning and leadership, policy and ethics, digital preservation and curation, and other subjects relevant to today's digital information environments.

For people just starting in the field or considering career changes, the DigIn certificate program offers an alternative path to graduate studies that helps prepare students for success in traditional graduate programs or the workplace. The certificate also provides a means for working professionals and those who already have advanced graduate degrees in the library and information sciences to broaden their knowledge and skills in today's rapidly evolving digital information landscape.

The program is delivered in a 100% virtual environment and has no residency requirements. Students may choose to complete the certificate in fifteen or twenty-seven months.

The certificate program has been developed in cooperation with the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records and the University of Arizona Office of Continuing Education and Academic Outreach. Major funding for program development comes from the federal government's Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), which has also provided funding for a number of scholarships.

Additional details on the program including course descriptions, admissions requirements and application forms may be found on the program website at Or, contact the UA School of Information Resources and Library Science by phone at 520-621-3565 or email at

University of Arizona's Online Digital Information Management Certificate Program Accepting Applications for Summer 2008

The University of Arizona School of Information Resources and Library Science's Graduate Certificate in Digital Information Management (DigIn) program is accepting applications for its second cohort of students, who will begin their studies in the summer of 2008.

Here's an excerpt from the press release:

Students and working professionals interested in careers in digital information have until Feb. 1 to apply to The University of Arizona's online graduate-level certificate program in digital information management. The program, commonly known as "DigIn," is offered exclusively by the UA's School of Information Resources and Library Science at the University of Arizona.

The program prepares students to build and manage digital collections in a variety of government and private settings, including libraries, archives and museums. Also, the students in the program acquire practical applied technology skills, along with a solid foundation in the theory and strategy underpinning digital collections.

The digitization and creation of collections of books, photographs, museum archives, artifacts, documents, film and video, and other kinds of resources has exploded over the last several years. This has created a demand for individuals with both an understanding of the information management disciplines and also technical knowledge and skills needed to create, manage and support digital information collections.

Those admitted will become part of the DigIn program's second cohort of students, who begin taking courses in the summer of 2008.

The program starts with an intensive hands-on course in applied technology covering the basics of the Linux operating system and also fundamentals of web servers, databases and scripting applications commonly used in today's digital information environment.

In subsequent courses, students are introduced to strategic technology planning and project management; creating, managing, and preserving digital collections; and basic principles of the information professions. Students will learn to apply key concepts and technologies through case studies, applications, theory, and hands-on work with metadata, content management systems and real-life digital collections. Students complete the certificate with a capstone course involving an individual project and electronic portfolio. Many complete the six-class 18-credit hour online course of study in 15 months, and extended options are available.

The DigIn program has been created in partnership with the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records. The certificate is administered by the UA Office of Continuing Education and Outreach. Admissions requirements include a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and other stipulations of the School of Information Resources and Library Sciences and the UA Graduate College.

DigIn is currently supported with funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which will also be providing a generous number of scholarships for the new cohort of students starting in summer of 2008. For more information, visit the website at, or call 520-626-4631.

Back from the Certificate in Digital Information Management Meeting

I'm back from the University of Arizona School of Information Resources and Library Science's Advisory Group meeting for its Certificate in Digital Information Management program.

This online post-bachelor's certificate program is shaping up nicely, building on its unusual synthesis of archival, digital technology, and library perspectives. As intended, its attracting a student body from diverse work and educational backgrounds. Peter Botticelli has been hired to lead the certificate program. Recruitment for the next cohort of students is gearing up, and some IMLS-funded scholarships will be available for U.S. citizens.

The certificate program is composed of six three-credit graduate courses.

  • IRLS 671 Introduction to Digital Collections
  • IRLS 672 Introduction to Applied Technology
  • IRLS 673 Managing the Digital Information Environment
  • IRLS 674 Preservation of Digital Collections
  • IRLS 675 Advanced Digital Collections
  • IRLS 676 Capstone

More detailed information can be found on the Course Information & Schedules: Digital Information Management Certificate page.

Library Juice Online Ph.D. Issue

Library Juice has collected a subset of the JESSE messages about online Ph.D. programs and edited them together into an easy-to-read format for its volume 8, no. 10 (2005) issue.

Here is a complete list of the JESSE threads about online Ph.D.’s in the May archive (in the order they display in the topic sort):

Online Ph.D. Programs: A UK View

As this excerpt from a recent JESSE message by Sheila Webber (Senior Lecturer, Department of Information Studies, University of Sheffield) shows, the view of issues surrounding online Ph.D. programs can be quite different accoss the big pond. (You’ll recall that the Robert Gordon University is about to offer an online Ph.D. in addition to its six online master’s degrees.)

Firstly, the information (or an advertisement ;-) Sheffield University Department of Information Studies, in the UK, has options for our PhD programme—”Joint location” (full time—expected to complete the degree in normal 3 years, one year must be spent at Sheffield) and—"Remote location" (part time—there must be at least one face-to-face meeting per year, and there are conditions laid down for communication). At the moment, for example I am supervising one remote location student (an Irish librarian investigating Continuing Professional Development needs of solo librarians).

See: (info on studying away from Sheffield) (info on research degrees at Sheffield) (info on my Dept.—n.b. the detailed menu for more applications info, on the right of this page, including the format of the research proposal)

Sheffield is a research-led university and the Department of Information Studies has obtained the top possible score in all three of the UK’s Research Assessment Exercises (one of an exclusive band of Departments in any subject area to have done this). (OK, ad almost over.)

I *think* that British PhD programmes differ from North American ones in that the instructional component of British PhDs is less, with focus on developing and investigating your own research question throughout the three years. For full-time PhDs (on campus or joint location) there is a Research Training programme of credit-bearing modules (which most students would take during year 1). Part-time students do not have to take this programme. . . .

Finding people (in addition to your supervisor) to discuss your research with will obviously help you on your personal research journey, particularly people using the same research approach. For, e.g., some types of IR research there is a thriving research community within LIS and sometimes within individual Departments. For others (given the broad spectrum of research approaches which are employed across the whole LIS spectrum) you ideally would want to seek out fellow researchers elsewhere, anyway. Being a distance learner might push/encourage you to get "out there" that bit earlier. From that perspective, if you are able to identify a research community for that research approach internationally and engage in virtual and preferably face to face discussion (at conferences and seminars), this may exteremely valuable.

My feelings are that a mature PhD student may actually have the confidence to engage in this dialogue at an earlier stage, and also have have more command of resources (possibly!) to fund (or get funding for) attending research seminars etc. Also, having to explain and justify your research to interested fellow-practitioners back home can be very valuable & motivating. . . .

No Respectable University Would Offer an Online Doctorate?

During the JESSE debate on online Ph.D.’s, Bill Summers said:

Relatedly, Universities which take themselves seriously do not permit external PHD programs. At any of the three institutions with which I have been privileged to be associated, Rutgers, South Carolina and Florida State, the Dean presenting such a proposal to the Faculty Senate would be hooted off campus and the program forever thereafter labeled as Mickey Mouse.

These are some universities that offer online doctorates (there are others that offer distance-education doctorates that aren’t "online" per se).

University of Arizona, College of Nursing

Boston University, College of Fine Arts

Boston University, Sargent College of Rehabilitation Sciences

Texas Tech University, Department of English

University of Hawaii, School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene

University of Maryland University College

University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, College of Nursing

Anyone hooting?

Online Ph.D. Programs Redux

My "Online Ph.D. Programs: Unique Clientele?" posting, which I also sent as a message to the JESSE list, triggered a long discussion thread on that list. It makes for very interesting reading. (Choose "Next in topic" in the View box to move from message to message.) For related threads, see the May archive.

Let me briefly recap some of my main points in light of this discussion. Academic librarians with faculty or faculty-like status who are at the associate and full levels do not need to be taught how to be scholars: they are scholars. In this respect they represent a unique doctoral clientele. What they need, if they do not have them, are Ph.D.’s. They do not want to quit their jobs or commute long distances to get them from the few information schools that remain. If they wanted Ph.D.’s in other subject areas, they would not be troubling information school faculty. Certainly, a DLIS option would be a welcome alternative to nothing. However, they are not in any way intimidated by the prospect of a research degree. They are researchers. They are interested in a research degree, but many have no interest in joining the ranks information school faculty. Having a research degree will help them in their current career path in a variety of ways.

Illustrating the point that academic librarians are researchers, an examination of high-impact library-oriented journals would likely show: (1) academic librarians edit such journals, (2) information school faculty edit such journals, (3) academic librarians publish in journals edited by information school faculty, (4) information school faculty publish in journals edited by academic librarians, (5) academic librarians often cite papers written by information school faculty, and (6) information school faculty often cite papers written by academic librarians. In short, the peer-reviewed library literature is a co-mingling of the scholarly work of academic librarians, information school faculty, and others. If all identifying information were stripped away from a peer-reviewed library journal article, it would be impossible to determine if it was written by an academic librarian or an information school faculty member.

In spite of some frustrations, most academic librarians have a high regard for information school faculty and believe that what they do is very important. However, they find it difficult to understand how, in 2005, with the wide array of digital technologies at information schools’ disposal why, in light of their unique circumstances, their needs cannot be adequately met with these technologies, supplemented by brief on-campus stays. This dialog has revealed a number of information school faculties’ concerns. It appears to me that a key one is that such a degree would not be viewed as legitimate by faculty in other disciplines at the local institution. This is understandable, because these faculty do not have a potential doctoral study body with similar characteristics. But, depending on local circumstances, they may, at the same time, be officially recognizing local librarians as faculty members or as having a faculty-like status. They sit beside them at the Faculty Senate, and they may have elected an academic librarian to lead them. This could be pointed out to them as a case was made for establishing a special program that was designed to reflect the unique status of academic librarians.

The extent of interest in an online Ph.D. program among academic librarians may not be apparent to information school faculty. However, market research is likely to reveal that a significant subset of academic librarians are interested in pursuing such an option, and information schools that overcome the barriers that prevent such programs will find that their pool of potential doctoral students is significantly expanded with experienced, highly desirable candidates that they would never otherwise attract.


Based on a JESSE message from Ian M. Johnson, it appears that the Information Management department at The Robert Gordon University in the UK is about to offer an online Ph.D. (It currently has six online Master’s programs.)

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.

The Nearly Nonexistant Online Ph.D.

Well, I had that bit about UNT offering an online Ph.D. program wrong. UNT’s grant PI Brian O’Connor says:

I must say that our program is NOT web-based, though it has a strong web component. Our IMLS cohort members are considered members of the same doctoral program and subject to the same requirements as our "residential" students. . . . The IMLS program is design[ed] so that more than 51% of course time is conducted with the same level of face-to-face engagement between students and faculty as would be the case for residential students. . . . I would comment that enculturation is terribly important, though one might be able to imagine someone making major contributions while not being "enculturated.". . . Perhaps more intriguing is the assertion that enculturation cannot be adequately accomplished within a virtual environment. Is this a necessary case? Is it not at all true now, but possible with different technology?. . . . Is there not some virtual way to accomplish critical thinking, sharing, debating, using different perspectives? So far, our experience shows that such give and take is quite possible, especially if the students have had an opportunity to meet each other face-to-face at some point early on. Please do not take the above to mean that I prefer the possibility of a virtual academy—I do not. I am simply suggesting that we not toss out the possibilities, at least, not yet.

Looks like we’re down to one online Ph.D. program (and waiting for a disclaimer on that one). Since it’s only been about 12 years since the Web took off with the release of the alpha version of Mosaic, I guess we need to be patient.

The Ever-Elusive Online Ph.D.

Recently, there has been some discussion of online Ph.D. programs in information studies on the JESSE list. I probably don’t need to tell you that few such programs exist.

The University of North Texas has an online Ph.D. program. However, this IMLS-funded program limits who can apply to school media and public librarians. Nova University has had one for quite some time.

While I’m sure that information school faculty have many good reasons why they believe that such degrees cannot be offered online, I’m afraid that to some academic librarians, who are not about to abandon their day jobs and who have no program within striking distance, this seems like a decidedly 19th-century viewpoint, especially if offered by a school that has morphed into an avant-garde “I” school.

It also seems to be based on the peculiar notion that all Ph.D.s must want to teach. Academic librarians, who are "neither fish nor fowl," may want a Ph.D. for other career reasons.

But leaving that aside, is it really the case that, in 2005, the rich diversity of online tools at our disposal cannot substitute for pressing the flesh, especially if augmented by brief on-campus stays? If that’s really true, why aren’t online MLS degrees second-rate? Isn’t physical proximity as important to future library professionals as to the future teachers of library (and other) professionals?

There is a certain delicious irony in the fact that "I" schools, like my old alma mater Syracuse University, strive mightily and successfully to teach and develop advanced technologies, but cannot bring themselves to use them to deliver online Ph.D. degrees in subject areas like digital libraries. Yet, they offer online digital library CAS degrees (SU and UIUC) without any apparent qualms.

But, it’s unfortunate that, by doing so, they deprive potential students of doctoral degrees and themselves of an expanded client base.