Wayne State University Turns LIS Program into School

The board of governors at Wayne State University in Detroit voted December 3 to authorize the creation of the School of Library and Information Science, effective May 6, 2009. The school will house the existing library and information science program, which has grown from 125 students in 1987 to more than 600 in 2008. “The successful program has outgrown its designation and its size warrants the status of a school,” said WSU Provost Nancy Barrett. Despite new budget restraints, she noted, “we need to keep investing in our strongest programs.”

Dean of University Libraries and Library and Information Science Sandra Yee will become the school’s new dean. “We feel that this will enhance our ability to attract excellent faculty and students and give our students an experience similar to other schools,” she told American Libraries. “This does not change an existing location or administrative structure, so current students and faculty will not experience any disruption of current programs or activities. Our faculty will have a recognizable home that is on par with their peers.”

“The library and information science field is very much alive and well at Wayne State University and in general,” Yee added. “Employers of our graduates tell us that they hit the ground running and are well prepared for the jobs at hand. We know we must continually review and refresh our curriculum, our technology, and ourselves in order to meet the fast pace of change in our profession. We’re up for the challenge and accept it with confidence.”

The announcement followed the news that WSU will reduce spending elsewhere to fill an $8-million shortfall. Registration campus-wide was down 4.2 percent, or 1,404 students, from last fall’s headcount.

“The recommendation came from the realization that the WSU library and information science program has been growing steadily over the past 10 years, and has grown significantly in the last five,” Yee explained. “We began primarily training school librarians but have grown into a nationally recognized master’s degree, with specializations in school media, public, academic, health sciences, and special libraries. We are the home department for the archival program and offer certificates in information management and in records and information management. We graduate approximately 230 students per year.”

Yee went on to say, “With my support and the support of the director, the LIS program faculty voted to endorse the change from a program to a school, primarily because of the size and activity the program generates. The Graduate School Council voted in favor of the recommendation and the provost fully supported the change. The provost brought the recommendation to the president and the board of governors.

“I have been serving as the dean for the program since arriving at WSU in 2001,” Yee told AL, “with the director of the program reporting to me. Over the course of the past seven years, with the help of two excellent directors, Joe Mika and Stephen Bajjaly, we have made significant progress.” She explained that the program received a full seven-year accreditation from the American Library Association in 2002, is involved in a second major Institute of Museum and Library Services grant (“Training Fine and Performing Arts Librarians for the 21st Century”), launched a totally online program in fall 2008, and is now defining a new concentration in urban librarianship, which, along with the concentration in the fine arts and performing arts “speaks to the unique nature of our school.”

Yee added, “We have developed significant partnerships with the area cultural and museum institutions and are uniquely positioned in the heart of a major urban area. We will continue to expand our online program in order to better serve those in remote areas of the state. We have recruited excellent faculty and look forward to continuing to do so.”