Banazîr the Jedi Hobbit (banazir) wrote,
Banazîr the Jedi Hobbit

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The Five Departments We Need the Most, Number 3: Library Science

  • Who needs it: Everyone! No, really: everyone in research. Librarians as practitioners of the science and purveyors of problems, data, and participants. Education folks in both research and pedagogical training for related reasons. CS and statistics researchers for the information retrieval (IR) and information extraction (IE) angle. Human-computer interaction (HCI), human factors, and ergonomics people in IMSE and Psych. Modern languages people and anthropologists to study the social impact, translation. Linguists for the natural language processing aspects (see the first department I advocated for). Applied mathematicians for the fundamental probability, graph theory, and combinatorics. Scientists as end users and hence providers of user data. People from the humanities for critical review of texts. Journalism and political science researchers for their expertise and interests in specialized libraries. Medical and legal researchers from other Kansas Regents universities.

  • Why we need it: See above for domain-specific reasons. I also think that a Library Science department is a good sign that a large public university has arrived when it comes to the interfaces between CS and the university library, among different HCI researchers across colleges, and among different information science disciplines from cognitive science to the various flavors of intelligent systems. The more integrated we are, the better we can talk to one another, and the more we can leverage interdisciplinarity. We're not even close yet to having something like a Library and Information Science department, much less Virginia Tech's centers and UIUC's top-ranked Graduate School of Library and Information Sciences (GSLIS), but you have to start somewhere. As Mehdi Harandi said when he was on my Ph.D. committee: "The majority of lost opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration can be blamed on people's unwillingness to walk a block". I find it's also a good sign when the left hand knows what the right is doing - for example, when different academic computing units (such as our IT and Academic Computing group, Computing and Telecommunications Services, and our High-Performance Computing infrastructure group) unite in common cause.

  • When we need it (and how long we've needed it): Decades, at least. Twenty years is probably a conservative estimate. This is a sensitive issue, I guess, because it's largely a function of how well-equipped and willing our university library (a college-level unit) is to do research and to teach courses in the discipline. I don't pretend to know the answer to these questions.

  • How bad we need it: Again, as a function of opportunity cost from untapped markets, we need it to the tune of a few million dollars a year, conservatively. Whether that's 1 million or 10 million is debatable, but the opportunities abound, and potential for synergy is seldom higher across our campus. The right energy is there, too; the real issue is how efficient we can be about applying it and having all the pieces fit together.

  • Where it should live (i.e., to what college it should belong): I, personally, would like to see it in the Library, but maybe Arts and Sciences would want it more. It can fit in several programs; we have only to create it.

Tags: education, library, research, university

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