The Field Scan

The field scan reviews the current landscape of design in both master’s level library education and library practice. The field scan consists of two parts:

  1. compilation and analysis of information about design-related course content and curricula from ALA-accredited MLIS and equivalent programs in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. This information will be analyzed and synthesized to reveal ways in which current MLIS curricula align with or diverge from concepts inherent to design thinking and methods.
  2. solicitation of feedback regarding the interest in and use of design thinking and methods in library practice, and the use of and need for design skills and abilities in library practice from active librarians. This will be achieved through the use of an online feedback form.

Our analysis of course description data showed that although the word “design” appears across almost all schools’ curricula, the term is used in very different ways and represents a wide variety of concepts. Just because the word “design” is used in a course title or description does not necessary mean that methods and principles of design are taught in that course. Out of 466 courses, we identified only 4 that explicitly focused on teaching design thinking and methods. Read more about the curricular field scan in Clarke (2020).

Responses from the questionnaire revealed that while library practitioners see benefits to using design thinking and methods in their work, a lack of resources, supportive organizational culture and leadership, and design expertise were barriers to implementation. Approximately 50% of respondents said they would be interested in design education specifically focused on libraries, with 27% believing that design thinking and methods courses should be mandatory in MLIS programs. Read more about the questionnaire results in Clarke, Amonkar & Rosenblad (2019).