Skip to Content

Continuing education options for Information Managers

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version
Issue: 
Fall 2009

Lynn Yarmey (CCE/PAL)

I am currently in the midst of completing the first semester of my Library and Information Science (LIS) Master’s program with a concentration in Data Curation through the iSchool (http://www.ischools.org) at the University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign (http://www.lis.illinois.edu). I am a ‘distance learner’ so all of my classes are conducted online, each class meets once per week using the Elluminate software package. The experience, while couched in the library context and perspective, has offered a great deal in terms of insights, theory, literature and skills that directly pertain to my work with the LTER and at Scripps Inst. of Oceanography. After applying, I was awarded a Data Curation Education Program fellowship that enables me to participate as a full-time student; my classes so far have included two core library classes as well as Foundations of Data Curation and Systems Analysis and Management. Topics in these first core classes have covered the breath of Information Science, from cataloging, subject access and indexing on the library side, to academic and science-related digital data lifecycles, scholarly communication, data collections, archiving and preservation, ontologies, metadata and provenance. Next semester I am looking forward to taking a class in databases and one about building instruction systems. A third class on collection development will be taught by Dorothea Salo, an institutional repository librarian whose work I admire. Guest lecturers in my classes this semester have included Ruth Duerr from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (http://nsidc.org/) and Gail Steinhart representing the DataStaR Institutional Repository project at Cornell (http://datastar.mannlib.cornell.edu).

While online education has certainly been very different than my past campus-based experiences, I have found the environment to be effective and the classes rigorous to say the least! It was fortunate my university is currently offering a program that allows me to drop my time to 50% time without penalty in terms of my benefits. It is also fortunate that the groups I work with encourage continuing learning. Even with everyone’s good wishes, though, it’s not a simple task to juggle my schoolwork with my job. I’ve learned a lot about budgeting time and am still exploring ways to schedule effectively. Some of the other students I’ve met in class have made other arrangements. Some don’t work at all while others reduce class loads to work full time, Local Illinois students have the option of taking a GA (graduate assistant) position. My classmates have a variety of backgrounds, including library science, finance, wireless communications, law, Luso-Afro-Brazilian studies, computer science, and biological science. The age range of my classmates is quite varied, with some just having graduated college and others nearing retirement.

After considering programs at the University of Washington and the University of California, Los Angeles, I chose the UIUC iSchool for a number of reasons including a science-specific data curation track, the synchronous classes and on-campus component required for distance students, the reputation of the school and the faculty, and the number of faculty researching topics of interest to me. However, there are many other options for those with different paths in mind! Many of the schools offering distance programs have continuing education classes; at UIUC, graduate classes offered to enrolled MLIS students are open to anyone with a bachelor’s degree (as ‘community credit students’) for continuing education depending on space availability (http://www.lis.illinois.edu/programs/cpd/). At the other end of the academic spectrum, options include Doctoral degrees through integrative programs such as Science Studies through University of California San Diego (http://sciencestudies.ucsd.edu). Interestingly, while there are not so many telecommunting opportunities at the undergraduate or PhD levels, it seems that a variety of distance learning program options exist at the Masters level. I am happy to share my experience if it would be of interest, please feel free to send along any questions!