A Ph.D. in Library Science?
Posted by Emily Knox
Not long ago a participant on a listserv that I am on asked if she should consider getting a Ph.D. in library science. The answers were swift and almost all were negative–the poster should get a Ph.D. in anything but library science. Although it’s hard to believe now, this was something I considered before starting my Ph.D. program. Would I be boxing myself in if I studied library science? Should I get a doctorate in an area that is primarily identified by a professional master’s degree?
I told that poster that she should get a Ph.D. in an area that interests her. Ph.D.s take so much time and commitment that it is difficult to finish if you start one in an area that doesn’t interest you. According to the Council for Graduate Schools, the average completion rate for all Ph.D.s hovers at around 50%.
My area of interest, intellectual freedom and censorship, is a classic field within the library and information science. If this area were part of another discipline, I would be in another department. However, what has been most surprising to me throughout my coursework at Rutgers is how much I love studying libraries. I enjoy thinking about them, researching them, and having arguments with my fellow students about their status in society. Even the information science classes weren’t as bad as I had anticipated since they broadened my understanding of how people interact with data/information/knowledge in the world.
I find it disheartening that other librarians think research in our field is only necessary for teaching other librarians and has nothing to say to the wider academic community. We must encourage research in LIS in order to have a stronger voice in academia and to boost the status of libraries throughout the world. If we don’t believe that a doctorate in LIS is as worthwhile as one in another area, who will?
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