Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Stanton, Jeffrey M., Guzman, Indira R., and Stam, Kathryn R. Information Nation: Education and Careers in the Emerging Information Professions. Information Today, 2010. ISBN: 1573874019. $35.00
Information Nation discusses the educational needs of those in the field of information technology (IT) and explores students' future career choices. I had high hopes for this book, but they were not entirely met. In particular, I was looking for insight regarding the revamping of educational programs for information professionals, including librarians; however, this specificity was missing. As careers in IT are being remade with the arrival of new technologies and delivery modes for information, a clear path regarding the preparation and training of future professionals is sorely needed. While the authors accurately identify adaptability and life-long learning as the most important habits to be imparted on modern IT students, they refrain from making bold predictions as to what we should be teaching today's learners.
The book is divided into three parts. The first part covers how information is changing the way we live and work. The authors explore how this change is accelerating with the accumulation of information and information tools. They make a good case that due to its natural state of accumulation and disorganization, information needs to be harnessed and organized by professionals more than ever. In addition, almost all career professionals are dependent on the ready influx of information, whether they be lawyers, doctors or scientists. The authors also address how the rapid and easy flow of information around the globe has made some jobs vulnerable to outsourcing. Part two of the book examines the work done by information professionals. The authors use quotes from interviews to show the barriers and challenges encountered in an IT career as well as the stereotypes that go along with IT, such as being considered a "nerd" or socially inept. Part three of the book asks "What's Next?" and covers cyberinfrastructure, the library profession, the growing role of iSchools (or information schools) in the education of librarians, and the recruitment challenges associated with the information profession.
The book provides many interesting insights, including the recommendation that students get a degree in a narrow field such as computer engineering in addition to an education in a people-centric field such as psychology. The authors state that while specialties will continue to be needed, a broad knowledge base in an additional area (e.g., business, psychology, agriculture) will make students more highly sought after and resistant to the forces of outsourcing because jobs that draw from more than one discipline are difficult to export.
The authors also examine why the U.S. has a lower percentage of students studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) than do many other developed countries. One of the most profound observations in the book is that students often do not consider a career in STEM because their high school education has not prepared them to start a college degree program in STEM. As the book points out, a major factor that may contribute to this lack of preparation is that the public education system in the U.S. varies in quality depending on the local tax base; consequently, schools in areas with greater wealth provide a better education than schools in poorer areas.
This book explores many important ideas about the future of education and careers in the information profession, and there is a lot to consider; however, the authors stop short of offering specific solutions for our education system. In addition, the book suffers from a repetition of ideas. For example, although the point is made several times throughout the book that a major barrier to choosing an IT career is the fact that there are strong stereotypes associated with it, the authors do not offer any resolutions. This book is recommended for educators and students in the information sciences who are not necessarily looking for easy answers, but instead want to explore and investigate the choices and challenges that a modern information professional is likely to encounter.