Friday, January 27, 2006

Synopsis of Robert S. Taylor Article

Taylor, Robert S. "Reminiscing About the Future: Professional Education and the Information Environment," in Library Journal, (September 15, 1979), 104(16), p1871(5).

This is a thought provoking article about library and information science education in which Taylor asserts that "the future is what professional education is all about" (p.1871). In the article, Taylor argues that librarianship as a profession needs to distance itself from the physical library - a concept that seems quite simple (although controversial for many, I'm sure), but one that I still haven't totally been able to wrap my mind around. I had a definite "Eureka" moment when reading this, I have to admit. The library is not the center of the information universe, but is only a piece - and not necessarily a central one. Taylor writes that "a failure to participate in the whole system will tend to isolate the library and the librarian even more than they currently are from the blooming, dymanic, changing world out there" (p.1872). I couldn't agree more - and again, I'm amazed at the relevancy of this article today and it was written 27 years ago!!!

Later in the article, Taylor point out that library systems are fine for what they are, but that they only exist in the library world. They are not systems with which the world at large are familiar. We, in libraries, should be thinking about the user and the questions they ask and the information needs that they posess rather than focusing on preserving established library traditions (p.1872).

Taylor identifies several skills and attitudes that librarians could and should acquire if they were to "cut their umbilical cord to libraries and similar document-based systems" (p.1873). They could possess "an ability to organize data and information for people to use," "an awareness of the totality of information resources and strategies in search for information," "a sensitivity to use, uses, and users of information," and "a strong tradition of service" (p.1973). Such attributes would help library and information science school graduates understand that systems must be designed by and for human beings.

In terms of the future of professional education, Taylor identifies six subject ares of concern. First is the organization of information. He suggests that we need to organize information based on the "natural processes of information-seeking and knowledge utilization" (p.1873) rather than in traditional methods. The second area is the information environment which can be explained as the context of knowledge and how humans process information. Next is the area or information media which deals with media formats and the natural way in which information is organized. The systems and technologies area is the fourth area. In this area, Taylor is more concerned about the formal methods of design, analysis and evaluation of systems that are created by people, machines and information. The fifth area is reasearch methods which "is concerned with the education of critical consumers of research results and effective participants in the research process" (p.1874). Finally, the last subject area is management which is the area that binds all of the previous ones together. It is the area which is concerned with the identification and definition of information problems (p.1874).

In conclusion, Taylor writes that "libraianship is too important a profession to be tied to the fate of a single institution" (p.1875). He suggests that the profession has several large problems with which it needs to deal: "better filters to withhold rather than supply information, better means for making information available, programs on information literacy, and maintenance of a human scale in information and knowledge transfer processes" (p.1875).

Other references that I need to check:
Taylor, Robert S., Manpower and Education Programs for Management, Research, and Professional Growth in Library and Information Services, report to the National Commission on LIbrary and Information Science, October 1974.

Taylor, R.S., "Libraries, Librarians, and the Information Environment" (copyright 1979 by the author).

Taylor, R.S., "Educational Breakaway," American Libraries, June 1979, p.364-68.

1 comment:

G. Bolduc said...

I am currently doing a historical review of information literacy for my master's and I have been having a very hard time finding this article, as it doesn't show up in our databases. I was wondering if, by any chance, you would have it in your posession?
It would be very appreciated, thank you :)

Have a great day!