This online exhibit is based upon a paper in the Journal of Eduction for Library and Information Science by Jenna Hartel. It enacts the following scenario: At an orientation session for a library and information science (LIS) program an educator gives incoming students a brief address entitled “Welcome to Library and Information Science.” Three versions of that talk are offered here, drawn from seminal works by Shera (1973a), White (1992), and Bates (1999). Each author is introduced, the historical and literary context of the article is noted, and then its unique characterization of LIS is presented in a spoken rhetorical style. The three disquisitions are followed by discussion questions designed to engage newcomers and observations on the pedagogical strengths and weaknesses of each paper. A conclusion crystallizes each work’s conception of library and information science as a unified domain. Readers will benefit from succinct refreshers in these foundational writings and learn new communication and teaching strategies.
A debate has been simmering over the past several years concerning the status of library science and information science paradigms within the broad realm of information studies. Gorman (2004) and Crowley (2008) assert that the information science perspective has eclipsed its library counterpart, to the detriment of the discipline and profession. Bonnici, Subramanian, and Burnett (2009) apply a sociological theory of disciplinary change to information studies and conclude that an emerging “iField” has absorbed the library-oriented sensibility. On a more upbeat note, Dillon and Norris (2005) argue that such controversy marks the entire history of library and information science (LIS) and that the current era is one of unprecedented growth that can benefit all stakeholders.
The online exhibit at hand does not engage these arguments about disciplinary identity and status directly. Instead, it revisits compelling visions of LIS as articulated by distinguished contributors in landmark publications. One objective is to remind all parties involved in the debates of interpretations of LIS that are unifying rather than divisive. Another goal is to provide educators with resources, drawn from a rich literature, to welcome newcomers to the field during a period of change.
There are many excellent definitional statements about information studies; three were selected as the focus of this exhibit. Each featured paper was required to address the nature of library and information science as a whole and in an introductory writing style. The format of a journal article or book chapter was favored, which is an appropriate genre to assign to students. Preference was given to a strong, original theme. The author had to be an accomplished researcher and educator of LIS with a substantial publication record. The three chosen works are Jesse H. Shera’s “Toward a Theory of Librarianship and Information Science” (1973a), Howard D. White’s “External Memory” (1992), and Marcia J. Bates’ “The Invisible Substrate of Information Science” (1999).
The research process involved a close reading of the three featured papers. In addition, related writings from the authors’ oeuvre and critical commentary on their work were considered, when available*. The outcome of the research appears below, addressing the articles sequentially by date of publication. Each section begins with a brief introduction to the writer and the historical and literary context for the work. Then, a succinct synthesis of 500 words is drawn from the paper and presented in the voice of an educator who is addressing newcomers to LIS at an orientation event. Every disquisition is followed by discussion questions for use in a classroom setting and observations on the pedagogical strengths and weaknesses of the article. A conclusion crystallizes each work’s conception of library and information science as a unified domain.
Next: Featured Paper #1 by Jesse H. Shera | Featured Paper #2 by Howard D. White | Featured Paper #3 by Marcia J. Bates
*The amount of critical commentary on the three papers varied. Since Shera’s death in 1982 there has been considerable critical analysis from other scholars. Differently, White and Bates are still active contributors and their work has not been similarly subject to review. However, the work of White and Bates is further illuminated by their own published personal reflections in the forms of a memoir (Bates, 2004), speeches (White, 2002; Bates, 2005), and sundry writings (Engle, 2002; White, 2005; McCain, 2005).