Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Changing from SCILS to SCI

Is it a good idea for Rutgers University to change the name of School of Communication, Information, and Library Studies to the School of Communication and Information?

How can students most effectively voice their position to the administration?

What strategies should students employ to become partners in future decisions?

What are your other concerns?

Please comment.


  1. I have only one concern. Will a degree like MLIS from an SCI school raise concerns over its authenticity in due course?

    I have absolutely no say whether the name change should be done or not, but if we are so much focusing on Information sciences, why not award the MIS degree instead of MLIS?

  2. I think the rename is a pretty bad idea.

    As I understand it, Rutgers offers 3 graduate degrees:
    Master of Communication and Information Studies
    Master of Library and Information Science
    Doctorate in Communication, Information and Library Studies

    SCILS describes that. SCI doesn't.

    I don't think its even a matter of whether or not the word 'library' is meaningful- ironically its a matter of accurate communication.

  3. I am an MLIS student in my last semester. I came to the program with an interest in information management, and no prior particular interest in being a "librarian."

    In reading all of the arguments, mainly against the name change, there are couple of things that keep running through my head. I didn't want to send out a listserv message, as I don't feel like alienating my classmates and colleagues. Not until I'm out of school, anyway.

    Firstly, I don't care what they call the school. The proposed title is broader, which kind of makes sense to me. When I was looking into graduate programs, I did not pay any attention to the name of the school, but instead the course offerings and rankings.

    Secondly, and most importantly, it disturbs me that the librarians souond so defensive. We are ultimately information managers. Our main function is to connect people with information. This function will remain necessary as long as there are both people and information. I keep thinking about something David Lankes said in his colloquium lecture last year- I don't recall the particulars, but it had to do with an owner of a railroad recognizing that he was in the transportation business, not in the railroad business. While other railroads went out of business when transportation modes changed, he branched out into these newer modes and thrived. I probably butchered David's anecdote, but the point is that librarians need to realize that we are in the information (or knowledge) business, not the library business. It seems so constraining to me.

    Anyway, that's my (anonymous) two cents.

  4. Personally I'm not opposed to refreshing the name of the school if that is what the powers that be desire.

    However, I am opposed to the name they are proposing. Simply deleting "library studies" gives the impression that something is being taken away. I don't think the average person seeing this drastic change will take time to investigate the reason why. I think it will lead to an assumption, and a negative one at that.

    If "library studies" is perceived as too outdated, misleading or constraining, then maybe is would benefit to update the school's name. So why not use the overabundance of brain power available at SCILS to think up a creative name to reposition the school? I'm sure there are many possible options that would represent what the school has to offer, instead of one that looks like a typo.

  5. @anonymous 3:

    well said in your last paragraph- I like the D. Lankes perspective as well.

    I'm a public librarian over at Brooklyn Public Library. Personally, I'm kind of attached to my 'librarian' title but I do sometimes wonder if losing the title 'librarian' would help rebrand libraries and shift public perception of our duties and services away from being just about BOOKS. We are about so much more than just BOOKS. If studies show that people think 'library' = 'books', does that mean 'librarian' = 'person who deals with books'? Sure, I deal with books- but really that is just one facet of my job.

    Have a look at the Idea Store in the UK.
    They've rebranded libraries and sort of marginalized the use of the words library, but still the name remains.
    Sounds to me like Rutgers is trying to rebrand SCILS in a similar fashion, no?

    Like you said, it is course offerings and rankings that count most. After school it is the job descriptions.

    But again, I think this is really a very simple thing that people are freaking out about-

    Rutgers offers 3 graduate degrees:
    Master of Communication and Information Studies
    Master of Library and Information Science
    Doctorate in Communication, Information and Library Studies

    SCILS describes that. SCI doesn't.

  6. For anyone interested, the name change will be a topic of discussion on the podcast Uncontrolled Vocabulary tonight. Details for joining the discussion here:

  7. I agree with Maeve on the Lissa email, that School of Information and Communication makes more sense than just cutting the existing name.

    I do not understand the point of those who wouldn't have applied here without the name Library on the school, surely they did some research into accreditation before coming here.

  8. who cares?

  9. One of my biggest problems with this whole thing is how it was handled. I feel that if they didn't do this so secretly, there could have been better dialog between everyone.

    Even so, I do still have some questions about things that don't make sense. If they want to make the school more about information, I do agree with the comments about the name being the School of Information and Communication. Otherwise it sounds like they are just chopping off the Library Studies which is what if feels like they are doing. The way the new name is now, it feels like they are just getting rid of us, which doesn't make sense if they keep saying that we are such a large part of the school.

    I am also wondering if this means they are going to start changing the focus of our program towards information instead of libraries first.

  10. Just some of my own thoughts on this unique problem:

    1) If this were originally brought up in public forum, there probably would have been much less outrage. With so many people identifying with our School, it doesn't matter that there was *no* Faculty conspiracy.

    Individuals will feel hurt and draw all sorts of conclusion because they were not included in such a big decision that they may feel reflects upon that identity. As it has been said, it is unfortunate that a Communications school failed to communicate, that our Dean had made grievous (but *unintentional*) errors about the voice of support from other individuals, and although this movement to change the name was made in the best intentions, the politics of the situation have now become very choppy and public.

    2) "SCILS" is an excellent name:

    a) It's a catchy one-syllable word that allows for clever puns ("work SCILS" "library SCILS" "computer SCILS" etc.) which make it marketable.

    b) It descriptively matches the titles of the Graduate and Doctorate programs perfectly. In other words, it is the perfect moniker for what we -do-.

    c) It is an established "brand" with a history.

    d) We are nationally ranked in the top 10 for several of our Library programs, and nationally ranked 1st in our Childrens' Service Librarian program. It's a big part of our prestige and reputation.

    e) We are accredited by the American Library Association.

    3) "SCI" I do not think is the best acronym that can be thought up to replace it as it is far too generic. This, of course is a personal aesthetic, albeit one that many students share and have expressed emphatically. I would be up for hearing alternatives.

    4) Although I see how one could claim that it would make us "more competitive" I am not sure how this data can be quantitatively analyzed. To me this has more the timbre of anecdote, but I may be mistaken. If a study or survey could be produced that is in favor of this change, I may withdraw this point.

    5) Changing names of a School is always fraught with trickle-down problems that cause stress in unimaginable ways. This ultimately effects many, many people:

    a) Changing branding, signs, business cards, etc. Even if used to exhaustion, new ones must be designed and that does cost hard time and money that could be spent towards more core endeavors.

    b) In this time where credential fraud is so high, and it costs companies so much time and money, employers have been especially leery of inconsistent credentials. As such, When employers or colleagues check credentials, our past graduates may seem to have their degree from an institution that does not exist. For example, I obtained my undergraduate degree from Livingston College and now Livingston no longer exists. All of my profiles on various sites where I list my credentials, and all of my saved resumes have had to be altered and explained. It was not fun, and I wish I never have to do it again.

    c) Other literature outside the department will have to be updated to reflect the change. With the number of "ghost systems" that live within the entity that is Rutgers, the change may take a number of months to a number of years to propagate. A great example of this is the trouble changing phone numbers or extensions has wrought upon our University in the past.


    I will ponder some more points at a later date, but for now I must be off. :-)


  11. I think that the name change is a great move. Like Professor McInerney wrote in her email to the LISSA listserv, it puts librarianship in the greater context of information and communication practice and research, which I think INCREASES our relevance and importance.

    For those who think the name change will detract library students from coming to Rutgers - where else will they go?? SCI will still be the only MLIS program in the state, and the best one in the NYC metro area.

    The name change will also attract other students who would be deterred by the "library" in the SCILS name, and that's great. We need a more diverse body of MLIS graduates.

    I'm all for School of Communication and Information. And in the end, it's the faculty's decision, not ours. It would have gone over smoother if they had consulted alumni, but they are in no way obligated to.

  12. @Steve Caruso

    Even if we change the name, it doesn't negate our rankings or our accreditation. Even when a bunch of other library schools changed their names to iSchools, they retained their accreditation and their rankings. Obviously, people will still seek out programs for their MLIS regardless of the name of the school.

  13. Just some questions to consider:

    1. Will the name change stop potential faculty from joining Rutgers?
    2. Will the name change stop potential students from attending Rutgers?
    3. Will the name change affect our abilities to land jobs in the field when we graduate (or before, if we're lucky)?

    I could be wrong, but it appears as if our degrees will not change (MLIS). Is that true?

  14. @Anonymous
    "Even when a bunch of other library schools changed their names to iSchools, they retained their accreditation and their rankings"

    One of my Prof said the same thing too. from the fence I have started moving towards the SCI camp. In any case I was not aware that this decision involved the collective wisdom of our faculty( in whom I trust...)

  15. Dear Dr. Furmanski,
    I urge you to disregard the Dean's request for a name change. There are several reasons.
    First: Even though he may have followed the "rules", he certainly did not proceed with any
    fairness or transparency. There was absolutely no hint this was being considered.
    Second: He is a first year dean with apparently little or no appreciation of the background and
    long history of this institution. Yes, bringing in outside individuals often offers fresh viewpoints,
    however this is definitely not the way to proceed.
    Third: The library faculty represents about one-third of the school. Some way to vote. As well, this
    can put considerable pressure on a young faculty member who needs the job.
    Fourth: The Dean, in a letter to a listserv, stated who he had consulted. NJLA, for example,
    said this never occurred!
    Fifth: The cost of this change is totally unnecessary. Especially these days.
    Sixth: Attracting the best students is an ongoing activity. (Football!!!) All programs need
    and want awareness in their respective educational areas throughout the planet so as
    to attract the best and brightest. Why hide Library???
    I could go on.
    Thank you for this opportunity to communicate directly.
    Stephen S. Rogow, D.M.D., M.L.S. ('00)
    9 Mason Farm Road
    Flemington, NJ 08822

  16. Won't be able to make tomorrow's meeting as the library will be open, but I hope that the discussion goes well. Here is an e-mail that I sent out on the list serve, in hopes of keeping all the comments of those unable to attend consolidated.
    Dear Mr. Furmanski,

    I am writing in opposition to the proposed name change for the School of Communication, Information and Library Science. I am currently pursuing my MLIS with a focus on School Library Media through the school's online program and received my undergraduate degree from the school in 2005 for journalism and media studies.

    I chose to attend SCILS because I believed the administration took the field of library science as seriously as I did. The university's school media specialization is ranked #1 in the nation, with all other components in the program ranking among the top 10. The decision to remove "library science" from the official school name demeans all of the hard work that has gone into achieving that status.

    Library science is the personal face of the information field that is presented in public and school libraries throughout the nations. As it is, the role of librarians within these larger structures is already misunderstood. Our field does not just deal with the curation, presentation and dissemination of information. Many of our job responsibilities have very little to do with information at all. Our smile is the first thing a kindergartner sees when he or she get their first library card. We are the caretakers of society's homeless, offering safe haven for those who can't find it otherwise. We are the ESOL teachers, the homework helpers, the social workers, the detectives, the watch dogs. The library is beating pulse of our democracy, ensuring that every community - no matter how large, small or poor - has free access to information, educationtional materials and community based services, complete with a trained professional to turn to with questions regarding all of the above.

    As the economy worsens, school and public libraries are at a critical juncture. The need for our services increases with each passing day, in the face of severe budget cuts, branch closures and staff shortages. Librarians and support staff are working hard to maintain the level of excellence that is needed to respond to growing use. To pull your support for the field with such a public gesture at such a crucial moment is in poor taste and shows how little the program, its students and its graduates mean to Rutgers University as a whole.

    I will not stand by silently and watch the erosion of my field at a university that I spend a small fortune to attend. I could have gone to any program, but I chose Rutgers for what I mistook to be a passion for librarians, their education and their survival. I find Dean Schement's first major act disgraceful, as it shows how out of touch he is with his own students. Who would want to mess with a group as organized as librarians?

    I hope that you will not do the same and will stand with me in opposition of this change.

    Nicole Signoretta
    MLIS Candidate 2010
    Douglass College/SCILS 2005

  17. After all I have read, pros and cons, I can't put my head around why the school needs a name change. Is this change just for the sake of change, or are there benefits I am just not seeing that will result? Please enlighten me.

  18. It seems strange that at the time they plan to expand the program in terms of both students and faculty they are also getting rid of the name. I think the program is certainly a cash cow (OK, maybe a cash-calf), especially since they added the online component where they can expand the student population without too much additional cost (adjunct faculty and technology). I wonder how much the program contributes to the overall bottom line? The MLIS students do account for 25% of the student body in SCILS.

  19. I'd like to comment on the anonymous statement in an above post with my own anonymous statement. A contributor above mentions that, "...the point is that librarians need to realize that we are in the information (or knowledge) business, not the library business." I think this line of thinking illustrates what bothers me most about the name change: All librarians may be in the information business, but all those in the information business are not necessarily librarians. Although some aspects are the same, the critical distinctions are being overlooked, even by some librarians.
    Unfortunately, it's my opinion that this trend already took root at SCILS a long time ago. It was already in place when I was in library school 10 years ago. In those 10 years I've seen many SCILS students leave for other library programs because of this, particularly the lack of support at SCILS for archives and preservation.
    I realized that I'm not in favor of the name change because the name SCILS reflects what I think the school should be. I'm afraid, though, that the new name is probably more appropriate for what it actually is.