Meeting Notes

 The Future of Library Education in Georgia

Town Hall Meeting – July 27, 2004

Auburn Avenue Research Library of the Atlanta Fulton County Public Library

 

- Dr. Ismail Abdullahi welcomed attendees and announced speakers from the various participating organizations.  Then, Dr. Abdullahi gave a detailed chronology of events surrounding the Clark Atlanta University’s (CAU) board of trustees decision to phase out the School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS). This chronology includes several attempts by library professionals to communicate with the CAU board of trustees. 

 On September 29, 2003, the CAU board of trustees refused to meet with several deans of library schools from the southeastern United States.  The deans traveled to meet together in Atlanta specifically to meet with the board and voice support for the CAU SLIS.  No one from the CAU board of trustees thought it fit to meet with them.

 On July 15, 2004, American Library Association (ALA) councillor Kathleen Bethel traveled from Chicago to personally deliver a letter from ALA to the CAU board of trustees requesting a reconsideration of the SLIS phase out.  Ms. Bethel and Dr. Abdullahi were unable to deliver the letter because the location of this board meeting was not made available to them.

 Locally, the Metro Atlanta Library Association (MALA) wrote a letter to the CAU board of trustees urging them to reconsider the SLIS phase out.  MALA received no reply acknowledgement of their letter.

 - Dr. Wallace Koehler described efforts by the Valdosta State University (VSU) Master of Library & Information Science Program (MLIS) to link with CAU’s SLIS for the common good of Georgia library education and the particular benefit of each school’s library school program.  These efforts by VSU to engage CAU in a collaborative effort brought no result.  Dr. Koehler also described the process that VSU is following in their ALA accreditation effort for their three year old library school program.

 - Dr. George Gaumond expressed a concern that quite a few librarians in Georgia will be retiring in the next several years.  A stable library school environment in Georgia is essential to continue to backfill the vacancies.  Dr. Gaumond reminded the audience that the Georgia Library Association (GLA) can provide some political leverage in support of library schools in Georgia.

 - Dr. Rick Wright read a letter of support from the Metro Atlanta Library Association (MALA) for a continued library school presence in metro Atlanta.  Dr. Wright noted MALA’s support for CAU and its SLIS as well as VSU and its library school program.      The MALA letter also suggested that VSU hold some classes in metro Atlanta rather than Macon, GA.  The text of this letter is available at http://www.matllib.org/MALA-StatementJuly272004.htm .

 - Allison Evatt  noted the Special Library Association’s (SLA) policy of not making statements of support.  However, she spoke for herself in expressing support for library school education in Georgia.

 After these introductory statements of position, Dr. Abdullahi gave a short review of library school education at CAU, noting Atlanta University and the Hampton Institute as the schools from which CAU SLIS came.  The floor was then opened to participants from the audience.

Members of the CAU SLIS faculty in attendance included: acting Dean Dr. Anita O’Neal, Dr. Fazle Kabir, and Dr. Ismail Abdullahi.  

Members of the VSU MLIS faculty in attendance included: Director Dr. Wallace Koehler, Dr. George Gaumond and Dr. Elaine Yontz.

 Dr. Fazle Kabir noted that CAU president Dr. Walter Broadnax  gave verbal assurances that the CAU SLIS will be supported.  Dr. Kabir spoke of the questionable methods used to determine the revenue vs. cost issue of the CAU SLIS.  He indicated that Dr. Broadnax would “revisit” the issue of the SLIS closure.  He urged alumni to organize – “make your voices heard”.

 Responding to questioning, Dr. Koehler described how VSU offered to collaborate with CAU including cross-listing courses, offering to “teach out” any CAU student who doesn’t complete their MLS before the phase out, and offers to consider CAU SLIS professors to teach VSU classes.  He noted that it is time to develop a formal proposal to “continue the legacy” of CAU SLIS in a partnership with VSU, whereby the CAU SLIS valuable history and resources would continue to benefit library education in Georgia.

 Carolyn Garnes, ALA councillor, noted the resolution (ALA CD #35) passed by ALA in support of the CAU SLIS  at the 2004 ALA Midwinter Meeting. Ms. Garnes also noted that a subsequent three page letter was drafted and delivered via mail to the CAU board of trustees.  This is the letter that Kathleen Bethel was not enabled to present in person on July 15th.

 Several CAU SLIS students in attendance expressed concern about the school’s continued ability to administer to their needs.  Currently, the CAU SLIS has only four persons serving as professors/instructors.  The contract for the school’s technology and library automation instructor wasn’t renewed.  The students described their efforts to lobby the president on an informal basis.

 Dr. Abdullahi noted that ALA’s intervention in favor of CAU SLIS is the first time that ALA has taken this action.  He also noted that the $500,000 that the state of Georgia gives to to CAU for the SLIS blurs the line between private education and public funding.  It was noted that this funding was reduced to $475,000 in the 2004 budget.

 A CAU SLIS student asked about accreditation.  Dr. Koehler described in some detail where in that process the VSU library school program is.  VSU’s library school is currently in their third year of pre-candidate status toward ALA accreditation.  Per the new ALA accreditation process, three years of pre-candidate status is followed by two years of candidate status.  Then, the ALA review team comes to the school for a site visit and review, after which ALA decides on accreditation.  Given this timetable, VSU’s program is still over two years away from accreditation.

  Dr. Koehler noted that a student who earns an MLS from VSU within one year of VSU’s accreditation by ALA will have their degree considered fully ALA accredited. Students who earn a VSU MLS degree more than one year before VSU ALA accreditation will be eligible for a Georgia “Board of Regents Equivalency” which satisfies only in-state requirements.  For this reason, many VSU library school students are delaying completion of their MLS until they know that their VSU degree will be accepted as ALA accredited outside of Georgia.

 It was noted that CAU’s accreditation with ALA ends in 2005. 

 It was noted that over 60 Georgia SLIS students now earn their degree through the benefit of a “common market” among library schools in the southeastern United States.

This arrangement entitles residents of the state of Georgia to pay in-state tuition for SLIS courses at any school within this common market.  

 Jane Robbins, dean of the Florida State University library school, reminded the audience that efforts to strengthen both CAU and VSU might result in delay or loss of accreditation for both.  She urged that Georgians consider focusing on one program or the other, not both.

 Lamar Veatch, state of Georgia librarian, offered to voice concerns to the Georgia Board of Regents.

 Elaine Hughes, Georgia State University librarian and Atlanta University MLS graduate expressed disappointment that the CAU SLIS phase out was assumed.  She urged CAU alumni to organize and not give up the fight.  There was discussion of rallying support and establishing some strategies in the effort to save the CAU SLIS.  In addition to primary stakeholders and the library community, the press and the Georgia legislature were mentioned at targets for a “save CAU SLIS” campaign.

 The relationship between the Black Caucus of the Georgia state legislature and the $475,000 in state funding to CAU for its SLIS was noted. 

 Dr. Abdullahi suggested that a motion be made to give the CAU board of trustees until October 2004 before holding further town meetings or other creative actions.  It was the general sense by all the speakers that Georgia library professionals need to make some contingency plans given the likelihood that CAU will phase out the SLIS.  Before a vote was taken, security personnel from the Auburn library advised participants that the library was closing for the day.  The meeting then adjourned.

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 Dr. Ismail Abdullahi is a professor with the CAU SLIS.  He is also an ALA councilor, and a member of MALA and SLA.

 Dr. George Gaumond is the Valdosta State University librarian.  He is also the president of GLA.

 Dr. Wallace Koehler is the Valdosta State University associate director and associate professor with the Masters in Library and Information Science program.

 Dr. Rick Wright is an Atlanta Fulton County Public Library instruction librarian.  He is also the president of MALA. 

 Notes compiled by Tim Wojcik in collaboration with several attendees.

Related websites:

Clark Atlanta University's School of Library and Information Studies

Valdosta State University's Master of Library and Information Science Program

American Library Association -  Accreditation Status: Categories of Accreditation

Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) Academic Common Market

 

 MALA Homepage