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portal: Libraries and the Academy 2.3 (2002) 481-483
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A New Vision for Library and Information Studies Accreditation
Susan K. Martin
During the last decade, programs located in schools of library and information studies (LIS) have become increasingly diverse. Many of them allow students to specialize in nontraditional fields of study, and a growing percentage of the graduates accept positions not traditionally held by librarians, but for which the skills and knowledge of a librarian are appropriate. As a result, the current accrediting process seeks to accredit a broader spectrum of programs than ever before (e.g., Indiana and North Carolina elected to present their information science programs for ALA accreditation in 1999), but many other related programs may still be omitted from the current accreditation process.
At the same time, programs in allied information professions are drawing closer in content and intent to those in traditional schools of library and information studies. Most of these allied professions do not at this time have accreditation structures. Some are seeking to devise methods of assessing program quality for the formal educational structures in their fields; it would seem appropriate at least to investigate the feasibility ofjoining with these related professions to coordinate program assessment and accreditation.
It is clear that the skills required for the allied information professions, including librarianship, are ever more important in a world dominated by digital information technology. It is also clear that there are similarities between the skills and knowledge required of librarianship and those required of many other information professions. The creation of an accrediting body that is able to elevate the status of programs of education for library and information studies is critically important in the 21st century. It is imperative that a revised accreditation process associated with a new entity outside ALA have the support and advocacy of the many other associations of librarianship and allied information professions within North America.
In the spring of 1999, the American Library Association (ALA) gathered together a large group of people from various library associations to discuss aspects of professional education and their future. The Congress on Professional Education identified a large number of issues to place before the profession at large and ALA established four task forces to define directions in the most critical areas. Together with task forces on [End Page 481] core values, core competencies, and library career pathways, the task force on external accreditation was established. Its membership was representative of a wide range of specialties within library and information studies and included direct and official representation from other associations, such as the Medical Library Association, the American Association of Law Libraries, the Special Libraries Association, the Association of Library and Information Science Educators, and others.
The Ad Hoc Task Force on External Accreditation was charged by the ALA Executive Board to look at the desirability and feasibility of creating an entity external to ALA whichwould be responsible for the policy and structure of accreditation of programs of professional education in library and information studies. The task force was also asked to provide recommendations regarding the current and eventual scope of the accreditation structure and process; e.g., library programs, information studies programs, and potentially, library technician programs and undergraduate information studies/science programs.
The task force quickly came to the conclusion that while the current accrediting system had certain strengths, there were some weaknesses that could be overcome only by joining together with other related professional associations and creating an accreditation structure that recognizes the rapidly developing and changing profession of librarianship in the 21st century. To achieve this structure, an external body would be created, much as is the case in the field of education, where the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education joins together the efforts of a larger number of education-related associations.
The goal of this new accrediting body would be to ensure a high quality of education for students desiring to enter any segment of the information professions. The organization would need to bring all stakeholders together...