Saturday, May 10, 2008

Harry Bruce Responds to The Silverfish Alumni Survey

In the last installment of The Silverfish Newsletter, we published the results of a massive survey, focused on the job search experiences of MLIS alumni, as well as their impressions of how well their iSchool educations prepared them for their careers. We asked iSchool Dean Harry Bruce to take a look at our survey and give us his impression of the results, a request which he graciously obliged. Take it away, Harry!

Hi Everyone,

I was very pleased to read the Silverfish 2008 Alumni Survey and I'm equally delighted to prepare a short response. To all those associated with the design of this survey - thank you and congratulations. The data are very interesting. To begin with, I am pleased that a solid number (139) of iSchool alums agreed to participate in the study. The researchers do acknowledge that there are some limitations to their snowball sampling. It is likely that this form of sampling renders data that is somewhat skewed. Those who agree to participate in a survey of this sort are generally alums who are more favorably disposed towards the School. I therefore speculate that we have a slightly more positive viewing of the iSchool and how it prepares students for library jobs than might be the case for our full population of alums- but I'm not complaining :)

It is very interesting for me to see the distribution of the professional settings where alums in the sample are working. I think I might have predicted the relative proportions of graduates in academic and public libraries and other sectors so to me this distribution suggests that the sample is fairly representative. It is also very helpful to have a list of non library settings where our graduates are now working. I do note that a majority of our alums working in these settings reported that they were "somewhat" (rather than "absolutely") prepared for this working environment by their iSchool learning experiences. This suggests that the School has some work to do here. The strong response from school librarians that their iSchool experience "absolutely" prepared them for working in the school environment is recognition of the effectiveness of iSchool faculty responsible for the curriculum and advising of these students. I know that we have a very committed group of iSchool alums working in school libraries and making a difference in the State of Washington. Yes - the number of teacher librarians in the sample is small. We should continue to work with this group to ensure that the School is meeting the needs of the student and professional communities.

I am pleased to see that the importance of directed fieldwork is validated by the strong response from the sample that there is much to learn outside the classroom through hands-on work, internships and volunteer experiences. It is also very helpful to see that our alums identify management, cataloging and technology as particularly important skills and the researchers recommendation that students get as much practical experience with people skills, computer skills and taxonomy skills while studying in the program makes good sense indeed.

I have always stated strongly and confidently that graduates of the iSchool are greatly valuable employees. I want our students across all our programs to recognize this value because I know that our graduates become leaders who will be looking to employ talented people. Looking to their School for the best and brightest and most prepared library and information specialists should be the obvious choice. The data from the Siverfish study tells us that an MLIS degree from the iSchool is a pretty good ticket to a job, since almost half the alums in the sample reporting that they were employed by the time they graduated.

Again - I am grateful to the researchers and impressed by the quality of this survey. The data are helpful to the administration of the School and I will make sure that our students services and academic units are aware of this report.

Best wishes
Harry

1 comment:

Jonathan Rochkind said...

I think the biggest sample skew is probably in the "how long did it take you to find a job" question.

People who could not find a library job or job based on their degree _at all_ I would guess are particularly unlikely to still be in social networks with iSchoolers that would have gotten the survey to them.

I would be very interested to see this survey repeated next year, but with notice sent to ALL iSchool graduates for which the iSchool has contact info.