Student Snippets A Window Into The Daily Life & Thoughts of SLIS Students

Archivists in Library School

Danielle Geller

Last week, I briefly mentioned that I decided I no longer wanted to pursue my Masters in History (at this time!), and I will be focusing solely on my Archives Management concentration. I made this decision due to a number of factors, including cost and time constraints, but also a desire to just get out there and work. The reason that the decision wasn’t easy for me to make is because I truly believe that history as a discipline has a lot to contribute to the way that archivists think about archives.
There are a number of articles out there that talk about the intersection of history and LIS departments and the subsequent evolution of archival education in the US. (Joseph M. Turrini published an article titled “From History to Library and Information Science: A Case Study of Archival Education at Wayne State University” in Information & Culture: A Journal of History this summer, which is available through ProjectMUSE.  For our archivists in training, you can find an abbreviated version of his discussion here). Due to increasing technological demands and specialized classes offered by LIS programs, archival education is moving out of history departments.
What have we gained, and what we have lost? Ultimately, I think that depends on your goals and what kind of archive you want to work in. Attending a program rooted in LIS allows us to take classes in web development, XML, archiving and preserving digital media, metadata, and so on. On the other hand, Archives Management is a concentration of an LIS degree; we are also “stuck with” core courses that can weigh more towards libraries than archives, which can feel irrelevant and not directly applicable.
I’m not saying that I learned nothing from Reference/Information Services or Information Organization (which dealt primarily with Dewey, MARC, and LCSH—again, these classes can be applicable to archives), but I also think it’s healthy to be critical of the education we’re receiving. Will there one day be an Archives Management degree that stands on its own? Years from now, how will we be educating future archivists? For me, it’s fun to think about.