II Trends of Library and Information Sciences Education iSchools & the iSchool at Syracuse University

Elizabeth D. Liddy

Abstract An overview of the origin, development, and current status of the iSchool movement—both the organization which began as the iSchool Caucus, which now leads the much larger iSchool Organization, as well as the profile of one particular iSchool—the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University, in Syracuse, New York. As the rate of change in who, how, when, and where information is being sought and produced is both evolving and accelerating, along with the need for reliable, high quality information, the demands on the information professions are both challenging and exciting. Today, the iSchool Organization is comprised of 55 leading iSchools, from 17 countries, spanning 4 continents, and is actively working with additional top-ranked Schools of Library and/or Information Science in multiple other universities and countries who are interested in joining. The iSchool at Syracuse, which was one of the original members of “Gang of Three” that conceived of a membership organization to promote the information profession, is presented with detail on programs, particularly their most recent focuses on social media, data science, and information entrepreneurship.

Keywords iSchool Caucus iSchools Syracuse University School of Information


It is a truly exciting time for those involved in the library and information science fields, as it is increasingly recognized in every quarter how important the information professions are. The rate of change in all endeavors is accelerating, along with the reliance on high quality information, and as a result, the demands on our profession are both challenging and exciting.

In this era of rising prominence, it is important that we in the education of library and information science professionals share our experiences from around the world—that we learn from each other—so that we can respond in optimal ways to increasingly global demands, and further raise the recognition of the world's overwhelming reliance on information and the information professions.

The iSchool Movement

An initial and natural response to this need for cooperation has been what is termed the 'iSchool Movement' which began in the late 1980s when deans of schools in United States universities who offer degrees in library and/or information science started meeting informally for the purpose of building a strong, unified coalition of schools that are interested in strengthening the relationships between information, technology, and people. This group of deans has since come to be called the “iSchool Caucus” (caucus is defined as a meeting of people with the same goal of bringing about organizational change) and formally adopted its charter in July, 2005. Today, the iCaucus consists of 55 leading iSchools, from 17 countries, spanning 4 continents, and is now actively working with top-ranked Schools of Library and/or Information Science in multiple other countries who are interested in joining. Member schools must have substantial sponsored research activity, be engaged in the training of future researchers via Ph.D. programs, and be visionary in their views of the role of information in the world of the future.

The iSchool Caucus has enabled its member schools to jointly create a common image and message, which is particularly needed by schools which have an undergraduate program that students enter at the age of 18, when they themselves are not yet really sure what career they want to pursue, and do not necessarily think of the information field as a profession. On the other hand, Masters students entering the graduate programs recognize the importance of information and know what they want to be when they graduate—either librarians of one type or another, or managers of the Information Technology (IT) infrastructure in a large organization, or perhaps managers of large telecommunication projects.

The current members of the iSchool Organization, which includes the iCaucus are: Carnegie Mellon University, Charles Sturt University, Drexel University, Florida State University, Georgia Tech, Humboldt University, Indiana University, Michigan State University, Nanjing University, Northumbria University, NOVA University, Open University of Catalonia, Pennsylvania State University, Polytechnic University of Valencia, Rutgers, Seoul National University, Singapore Management University, Sungkyunkwan University, Syracuse University, Télécom Bretagne, University College Dublin, University College London, University of Amsterdam, University of Boras, University of British Columbia, UC Berkeley, UC Irvine, UCLA, University College: Oslo and Akershus University of Copenhagen, University of Glasgow, University of Illinois, University of Kentucky, University of Maryland-College Park, University of Maryland-Baltimore County, University of Melbourne, University of Michigan, University of Missouri, University of North Carolina, University of North Texas, University of Pittsburgh, University of Porto, University of Sheffield, University of Siegen, University of South Australia, University of Strathclyde, University of Tampere, University of Tennessee, University of Texas-Austin, University of Toronto, University of Tsukuba, University of Washington, University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and Wuhan University.

Some iSchools grew out of Library Science Schools, some out of Computer Science Schools, some have merged with Communication Departments, some have merged with Management—but the telling characteristic of each is that they are interdisciplinary and all share the same goal—to enable their graduates to become successful professionals based on their combined expertise in information, technology, and management. As the figure here shows, graduates of the iSchools are prepared to assume positions in organizations in professional roles spanning both the technical and managerial aspects of information provision.

Bridging Management and Technology

Presented quite broadly, the goals of the iCaucus are to work on behalf of its member schools to raise awareness of the Information Field amongst student prospects, the business community, the media, funders of research, and users of information. Members of the iCaucus are able to broaden their course offerings to students via distance education courses available through the WISE Consortium, wherein students can take courses offered at other member schools while paying their own local tuition and receiving credit at their home university.

In addition, the iCaucus sponsors an annual iConference that is open to all schools, faculty, and students, not just iCaucus members, and provides opportunities for presentation and sharing of research and teaching in the field of information. The 9th iConference was held in Berlin, Germany in March, 2014. Ongoing sessions of interest at the iConference include how the iSchool Movement is expanding internationally.

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