Kate Dohe Monday, November 3, 2008 LIS 650
Midterm Option 1: A PEST/SWOT Analysis of the LIS Program Introduction
The cable news outlets and various “talking heads” are making much of the economic crisis
in the agonizingly long lead-up to the presidential election. While this author takes the analysis of CNN correspondents and their peers with more salt than a margarita, she must admit the economic crisis is making itself known within the library profession and academic life at UH. Consequently, it is only a matter of time before the LIS program must make key adjustments to its core curriculum to address the myriad changes taking place within LIS, Hawaii, the nation and the world. This report will examine the current strengths and weaknesses of the UH LIS program, as well as make recommendations to strengthen the program even further in the face of uncertain times.
Analysis of the LIS Program Methodological Note
As a basis of comparison, the mission statements and course offerings of Catholic
University of America’s (CUA) SLIS program and the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) SLAIS program are also briefly examined. This contextualizes the UH LIS program’s mission statement and course data with other comparable ALA accredited programs (which have or will undergo reaccreditation within a year of UH’s program), and creates a more solid base for analysis.
UH LIS Program Overview
The mission statement of the Library and Information Science program at the University of
Hawai’i includes program objectives which span three broad areas: curriculum, research, and service.1 Under each of these areas are 27 specific objectives of student achievement, which include demonstrable information technology skills, theoretical understanding of information
retrieval and searching, student and faculty research objectives, and collaborative service with the departmental, institutional, and broader LIS community. For the purposes of brevity, this analysis will focus on the LIS program’s abilities to fulfill its summative mission statement, quoted below: The mission of the LIS program is to educate individuals for careers as librarians and information specialists and to undertake instruction, research, and service programs that meet current library, information and technology needs. The Program supports the Department’s and University’s missions by developing leadership in a diverse local, national, and international population with an emphasis on Hawaii and the Asia-Pacific region.
From this statement, it is fair to extrapolate the following aspects of the LIS program for analysis: ✦Current library trends ✦Technology needs ✦Leadership development ✦Research development ✦Development of a diverse population ✦Hawaii and Asia-Pacific emphasis of study
To better comprehend how the UH LIS program compares to other information science
programs, the mission statements of the Catholic University of America School of Library and Information Science as well as the University of British Columbia’s School of Library, Archival and Information Studies are also examined here.
UBC’s SLAIS mission statement references leadership development, student diversity,
research, and service connections with the local community,2 much like the LIS program at UH. Interestingly, technology experience is not explicitly stated within the mission statement, as it with LIS, nor does it refer to the unique research opportunities presented by its location. Catholic University of America’s School of Library and Information Science mission statement parallels the UH LIS mission as well, by emphasizing service, information technology, and leadership.3 However, unlike either the UH LIS mission or UBC’s SLAIS mission, CUA’s unique - 2-
geographic proximity to the US government’s lifeblood, and its position as the national Catholic university of the United States adds an emphasis on Washington D.C.’s historical resources and religious faith to its mission statement.
From examining comparable documents from comparable LIS programs, it becomes
clearer that the UH LIS program’s most unique objectives are its emphasis on Hawaii and the Pacific, its diversity, and its focus on technology and library trends.
SWOT and PEST Analysis
In order to evaluate the effectiveness of the UH LIS program, both a SWOT (Strengths,
Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) and PEST (Political, Economic, Social, and Technological) analysis are essential to painting a complete picture of the program. This analysis will be applied by examining the UH LIS program’s strategic plan, using informal class assessment, and current course offerings for insight. SWOT - Strengths
Clearly, the UH LIS mission statement highlights the program’s emphasis on Hawaii and
Asian-Pacific librarianship as a considerable strength of the program. This is further borne out by its uniqueness among other comparable LIS programs, and is supported and achieved through extensive course offerings in the field over the course of several semesters.
Another strength of the LIS program at UH is its extraordinary program diversity—
classroom experience indicates American students come to the program from not just Hawaii or the West Coast area, but also from midwestern states such as Ohio and Missouri; international students representing Indonesia and the Philippines, among other nations, are also present within the program. However, the UH LIS program’s student diversity is not limited merely to geographical origins; students in the LIS program span a wide range of ages, socioeconomic backgrounds, and academic and work experiences.
SWOT - Weaknesses
Several indicators point at technology as a significant weakness of the LIS program. In-
class discussions reveal many students are currently dissatisfied with the state of current technology courses offered within UH’s LIS program. Furthermore, the majority of current course offerings for technology within the LIS program are either very generalized, such as the LIS 670 course, or specific to digital searching and navigation techniques.4 While both varieties of courses are essential to the program, there appears to be a gap in regular offerings for students who seek courses which familiarize them with various software components of information science, such as ILS or ERM software, and for students who wish to pursue more advanced courses in web development for libraries, database management, or emerging topics in information technology.
While the LIS program mitigates the lack of technology programs with its close relationship
to the Information and Computer Sciences (ICS) department, there are significant barriers to entry in these programs for LIS students (including, but not limited to, an undergraduate background in computer science, programming knowledge, and knowledge of computer science research methodologies). SWOT - Opportunities
A significant opportunity for the LIS program is presented within its Strategic Plan for
2008-2012—the development of a portfolio requirement for graduation.5 The introduction of this option presents two excellent opportunities—first, students will be given the opportunity to critically evaluate the standards their academic and case-study work will be held to; furthermore, a portfolio option demonstrates to prospective employers and interested community members the caliber of work students are capable of in ways a thesis or oral examination cannot. SWOT - Threats
In a sense, the UH LIS program has already grappled with the greatest threat it has faced in
recent years—the 2004 facilities flood in Hamilton Library. The Strategic Plan outlines the LIS program’s plans to transition back to repaired facilities at the Library, but this transition is potentially - 4-
problematic to the close relationship it has forged with the ICS department. Part of this relationship is due to the close physical proximity of faculty offices, which will inevitably fade with the upcoming move. The weakening of this relationship may lessen partnership efforts between the ICS community and the LIS program, as has been posited during course discussions. Furthermore, in light of the two additional floods which have occurred since 2004 at Hamilton Library6, this researcher is somewhat skeptical of the long-term feasibility of moving back to the basement of Hamilton Libraryâ€”especially given the tenuous financial situation the library, university, and state are currently in. The volatility of current state funds are a liability to the LIS program as well; a recent informal email survey7 of UH faculty indicates university administrators are considering budget cuts which will negatively impact facultyâ€”the loss of research resources, funding, benefits, or even positions all seem possible. PEST - Political
A recent political decision which may directly impact the growth and sustainability of the UH
LIS program is related to the Hawaii state governmentâ€™s choice to cut funds to the Hawaii State Public Library System by approximately 10% in the near future.8 While the immediate ramifications of this cut are still unclear, the drastic cut to funding indicates the library job market in Hawaii will be fairly poor for new graduates. It is realistic to extrapolate several problems from this current state of affairs: enrollment may drop, as students opt to pursue their degrees in regions with healthier employment markets; graduates may be forced to take positions distant from Hawaii, and thus be separated from their existing professional social networks. PEST - Economic
The UH LIS program currently faces substantial economic obstacles which may severely
impact its ability to fulfill its mission. As mentioned above, recent economic news has prompted UH administrators to administer system-wide budget cuts,9 and consider cutting even more programs and resources. Two potential economic scenarios present themselves:
1. UH will raise tuition significantly to cover existing costs and accrued debt. 2. UH will cut funds essential to supporting low-ROI research and academic objectives, such as library resources, graduate assistantships, non-tenure track lectureships, or limiting the current benefits package for University employees. Clearly, both these scenarios may have substantial negative impacts on the LIS program—in the former, students may no longer consider UH’s already steep out-of-state tuition to be a worthwhile educational expense; in the latter, the lack of resources and benefits UH can offer LIS faculty may make prospective lecturers and existing faculty reconsider their positions. PEST - Social
Beyond the economic and political problems currently faced by the LIS program, social
trends indicate potential future problems as well. Increasingly, there is a fear within professional literature that patrons increasingly view libraries as archaic institutions—after all, the argument goes, who needs a library when Google is available everywhere? However, this researcher believes this attitude is dissipating in the face of the current economic crisis—news reports indicate public library use is on the rise,10 and community feedback on budget cuts to HSPLS shows citizens genuinely concerned with keeping the library alive and well within Hawaii.11 Still, public attitudes shift over time, and as a technologically savvy generation accustomed to instantaneous information provided by search engines and Wikipedia grows to maturity, there may be less support for libraries as information centers, which may lead to less interest in librarianship as a profession. PEST - Technological
Even though the political, social, and economic challenges posed to the LIS program are
significant and worth evaluation, each of these combine to create an even greater technological hurdle for the LIS program. At this stage, technology has been identified as an area which requires improvement within the LIS program; given its prominence within the UH LIS mission statement, it is clear this area must be as strong as possible. However, economic factors prohibit its growth—
the program cannot afford the computers, the software, or the support; political factors inhibit the availability of support for technological advancements; social attitudes commodify information sources and value speed of delivery and accessibility over the quality of research.
Given the analysis conducted above, two key changes are essential to the LIS program’s
core curriculum—a strengthened emphasis on current technological trends, and a complete integration of a portfolio graduation path within the curriculum. These changes will address several of the problems listed above, as well as further the existing mission of the LIS program.
Recommendation 1: A dynamic Special Topics in Information Technology course requirement.
This course shall be taught on a regular basis by various LIS faculty, and shall have a
regularly updated and changing focus on current technology trends. Technology addressed can include, but should not be limited to: ✦Virtual reference ✦Web 2.0 (social web) and 3.0 (semantic web) ✦Open source technology, including OS platforms, integrated library systems, and digital library software. ✦Emergent metadata standards and markup languages ✦Advanced web design techniques and languages for libraries. ✦Information architecture and an overview of advanced searching. ✦Mobile technology and emergent trends
By addressing the issues listed above, the LIS program fills significant gaps in its
technology objectives, and takes steps to address and anticipate problems posed within the PEST analysis. First, by emphasizing emerging technological issues within the profession, students have more demonstrable knowledge of current trends and influences within the field, which makes students more competitive in a broader variety of job markets. Additionally, exposure to open source technology and alternatives alleviates some of the financial burden associated with maintaining a current computer lab expressly for LIS students, and is a proactive step to ensure - 7-
LIS students are technologically competent in the face of an uncertain professional future. Finally, if this course is taught with the support of guest lecturers from the ICS department, then it shall help maintain the academic partnerships and bonds between two programs after LIS’s relocation.
Recommendation 2: Establish a formal portfolio project and evaluation as part of an existing LIS core curriculum course.
At this time, electronic portfolios are required as part of LIS 610, though the evaluation
process is still unstandardized, and adequate completion of the project does not appear to make an impact on the graduation of an LIS student. This author proposes the following suggestions based upon her undergraduate e-portfolio experience12: ✦E-portfolios should be submitted during LIS 610; initial review should be conducted by the instructor of LIS 610. ✦Final e-portfolio review and oral defense shall be conducted by a panel of LIS faculty, including the student’s academic advisor. ✦LIS 610 should be taken only in the last two semesters of a student’s academic career, or when the student is within six credit hours of graduation. ✦E-portfolio artifacts should align with ALA Core Competencies as well as UH LIS objectives. ✦E-portfolios shall be accessible to LIS faculty and prospective employers. If permission is granted by the student, exemplary work may be used by LIS faculty to demonstrate the academic quality of work to interested parties.
In a small way, the creation of an e-portfolio system strengthens the technological
component of the LIS program, though this is not its primary objective. Rather, a portfolio requirement for graduation more clearly demonstrates the LIS program’s commitment to its specified program goals, and gives each student a tangible body of work upon graduation. In time, this may reap several significant benefits for alumni and the LIS program as a whole; it allows prospective employers to evaluate for themselves the relevant work of a student, and helps the LIS program clearly articulate the outcomes of its curriculum to parties who may seek to marginalize a program’s resources or position.
Even though PEST and SWOT analytical practices are endorsed by Stueart and Moran in
Library and Information Center Management,13 research reveals numerous flaws with both methodologies. Regarding PEST analysis, some key problems which emerge from scenario-based analysis are predicability of theme selection,14 implicit assumptions, 15 and conflation of perceived reality with actual reality16. O’Brien asserts that too often, thematic scenarios are often either “optimistic” or “pessimistic,”17 which limits the richness of analysis. This is borne out by the analysis conducted above, which, due to page restrictions, focuses overly on the negative PEST possibilities, and paints a future which borders on Dickensian. Furthermore, O’Brien continues, PEST analysis often contains the analyst’s underlying assumptions about the stability of the world —peaceful times will remain peaceful, economies will continue on their current paths, extraordinary catastrophes will not occur18. Again, this is demonstrated by the analysis above, which assumes first that technological innovation will continue at its current rate, and second that economic conditions will either worsen or hold at their current state. Finally, Michel Godet highlights a fundamental problem with scenario planning—too few analysts within an organization can see clearly enough to distinguish the differences between imagined plans and stability19 , and realistic assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of a department. While this author is not equipped the assess the reality of her assessment, she recognizes many of her perceptions of the LIS program are from only one perspective, and thus may not accurately reflect the program in her analysis.
SWOT analysis has also undergone academic criticism in recent years, though some of its
unique shortfalls are related more to its abuse by management in various organizations. Often, claim Terry Hill and Roy Westbrook,20 SWOT analysis is merely a tool for “list making”—its output consists of a mere list of the good and bad within an organization, with little depth of analysis. Furthermore, the article states, research indicates management often does not take an additional
step of prioritizing, categorizing, or sequencing the findings of the SWOT analysis, thus making it merely a description. Finally, SWOT inherently assumes stability and predictability within a given market,21 which makes it somewhat unsuitable to volatile arenas as a standalone measure of analysis.
Ultimately, the UH LIS program is well positioned as a unique and forward-thinking
information science program, and should benefit the careers of students and alumni. However, it does need to improve in some select areas in order to address the impacts a global recession will have upon information science, and to help LIS graduates remain competitive in far-flung professional fields. The analysis conducted above, while limited in scope and methodology, illustrates the general problems the UH LIS program may focus, and asserts some potential solutions.
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Kate Dohe Monday, November 3, 2008 LIS 650
"LIS Mission and Goals - UH Manoa LIS Program." University of Hawaii System. http://www.hawaii.edu/ lis/program.php?page=mission (accessed November 3, 2008). 2
"School of Library, Archival and Information Studies -- UBC." School of Library, Archival and Information Studies -- UBC. http://www.slais.ubc.ca/ABOUT/MISSION.HTM (accessed November 1, 2008). 3
"The Catholic University of America - School of Library and Information Science." The Catholic University of America - School of Library and Information Science. http://slis.cua.edu/about/ (accessed November 1, 2008). 4
"Schedule - UH Manoa LIS Program." University of Hawaii System. http://www.hawaii.edu/lis/ courses.php?page=schedule (accessed October 28, 2008). 5
"LIS Strategic Plan - UH Manoa LIS Program." University of Hawaii System. http://www.hawaii.edu/lis/ about.php?page=strategic (accessed October 28, 2008). 6
Bernardo, Rosemarie. "Roof leaks rain onto UH library books." Honolulu Star-Bulletin, October 28, 2008. http://www.starbulletin.com/news/20081028_Roof_leaks_rain_onto_UH_library_books.html (accessed October 28, 2008). 7
Faculty Senate Committee on Administration and Budget. <email@example.com> “Campus Priorities Survey.” October 16, 2008. Personal email (October 16, 2008). 8
Da Silva, Alexandre. "BOE panel approves 10% cut for libraries." Honolulu Star-Bulletin, October 22, 2008. Faculty Senate Committee on Administration and Budget (accessed October 22, 2008). 9
Faculty Senate Committee on Administration and Budget. <firstname.lastname@example.org> “Campus Priorities Survey.” October 16, 2008. Personal email (October 16, 2008). 10
Nealy, Michelle. "Flagging Economy Spurs Increase in Library Use." Higher Education News and Jobs. http://www.diverseeducation.com/artman/publish/article_11856.shtml (accessed November 1, 2008). 11
Da Silva, Alexandre. "BOE panel approves 10% cut for libraries." Honolulu Star-Bulletin, October 22, 2008. Faculty Senate Committee on Administration and Budget (accessed October 22, 2008). 12
"Professional Education Unit - Missouri State University ." College of Education. http:// education.missouristate.edu/peu/default.htm (accessed November 1, 2008). 13
Moran, Barbara B., and Robert D. Stueart. Library and Information Center Management: Seventh Edition (Library and Information Science Text Series). Englewood, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, 2007. 14
O'Brien, F.A.. "Scenario Planning--lessons for practice from teaching and learning." European Journal of Operational Research 152 (2004): 709-722. In Science Direct[database online]. Available from University of Hawaii (accessed November 1, 2008). 15
Godet, Michel. "The Art of Scenarios and Strategic Planning: Tools and Pitfalls." Technological Forecasting and Social Change 65 (2000): 3-22. In Science Direct[database online]. Available from University of Hawaii (accessed November 1, 2008). 17
O'Brien, F.A.. "Scenario Planning--lessons for practice from teaching and learning." European Journal of Operational Research 152 (2004): 713. In Science Direct[database online]. Available from University of Hawaii (accessed November 1, 2008). - 11 -
Godet, Michel. "The Art of Scenarios and Strategic Planning: Tools and Pitfalls." Technological Forecasting and Social Change 65 (2000): 7. In Science Direct[database online]. Available from University of Hawaii (accessed November 1, 2008). 20
Hill, Terry, and Roy Westbrook. "SWOT Analysis: It始s Time for a Product Recall ." Long Range Planning 30 (1997): 46-52. In Science Direct[database online]. Available from University of Hawaii (accessed November 1, 2008). 21
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