Professor Candy Schwartz's Words of Wisdom

February 28, 2014

"Students still need to learn how to organize, manage, and find information, as well as evaluate and select appropriate information for a community. Today we are organizing information in a variety of online and other settings. While new technology has been added, many of the basic concepts have stayed the same."

When Professor Candy Schwartz isn't dreaming about using GIS technology to develop MapQuest coordinates of Tolkien's Middle Earth or traveling to the latest Celtic folk festival, she is thinking about her students. She wants them to "feel they can learn anything given enough time. I want students to feel they can take initiative and risks." After describing how she stumbled upon a successful career of more than three decades in library and information science (LIS) by paging through McGill University's catalog, Schwartz shared her words of wisdom about the field.

Despite the changes that have occurred in the LIS field, Schwartz claims much of the core has remained the same. "In my 35 years of teaching, the fundamentals of managing information have not changed," said Schwartz. "Students still need to learn how to organize, manage, and find information, as well as evaluate and select appropriate information for a community. Today we are organizing information in a variety of online and other settings. While new technology has been added, many of the basic concepts have stayed the same."

What do LIS students need to make it in today's marketplace? Schwartz claims that LIS students need to understand the guiding principles and frameworks surrounding metadata, classification, and controlled vocabularies. All LIS students need to be technologically prepared because "the library isn't an escape place" for those intimidated by technology. "Students should know how to manage their technological lives," says Schwartz. While not everyone needs to be a programmer, librarians need to know more about technology than their typical patrons. A children's librarian "needs to know more about the latest iPad than the kids." Students need to be power searchers. "You need to know more than the users." Schwartz also emphasizes that LIS students should expect to be life-long learners.

Schwartz believes the future for libraries is promising. "Overall, public libraries have increased in use since the economic depression," says Schwartz. While some public libraries have repositioned themselves as community centers, she recommends that public libraries consider combining with community centers rather than supplanting them. She cites successful examples of this union in England. "Libraries need to find the right allies. They also need to define their missions a in such a way as to position themselves as unique and necessary services," says Schwartz. She believes libraries are still places - whether virtual or physical - to manage and digitize local collections, provide maker spaces and content creation facilities, and help people use the Internet resources. Librarians today need to connect with users in new ways. "We also may not always see our patrons, but does it matter?" asks Schwartz when referring to how users now connect with libraries virtually. Remote users mean that marketing and outreach skills are becoming increasingly important for librarians. We also need to create new public perceptions of librarians.

Technological developments and the different kinds of library services mean that librarians need to prepare themselves for the future. For example, libraries today create and synthesize information - what kinds of knowledge and skills does that imply? The rise of e-scholarship suggests that students planning to go into academic library work should consider courses related to data management. "While Ivy League institutions' libraries have been helping their scientists manage large datasets, the rest of us also need to reach out to the research community proactively to help researchers manage data." Courses, such as LIS 469 XML and LIS 445 Metadata are helpful in these areas.

Simmons GSLIS's digital libraries specialty is nationally ranked in U.S. News and World Report, which was a surprise to Schwartz, who created her LIS 462 Digital Libraries course more than a decade ago. This course requires students to be involved on committees dealing with digitization, preservation, rights management, and metadata, among others. "I was among the first to use the team-based approach, more than a decade ago, and now everyone teaches it this way," Schwartz says about the course's approach to building a functional digital library. "No one is a slacker in that class. They can't afford to be," says Schwartz. "It's rewarding to do all that work and have it be made available to the world."

Schwartz believes digital libraries present new opportunities and challenges. As an advocate for the Digital Public Library of America, Schwartz believes its approach to aggregating metadata from many institutions will increase awareness of eclectic local collections, which are otherwise untouched and siloed. The DPLA presents opportunities to develop "go-to places" for those searching for items in various institutions and organizations, and "to separate the wheat from the chaff." She hopes that DPLA will reach beyond academic and scholarly communities to target school teachers. Also, DPLA and large projects resulting from massive book digitization will need to manage scaling challenges. While increasing search personalization by tailoring retrieval results based on individual preferences would be a value-added feature, confidentiality policies and technical issues need to be overcome.

In Spring 2014, in addition to teaching LIS 415 (Information Organization) and LIS 419 (Indexing and Thesaurus Construction) on the Boston campus, Schwartz is busy with service projects, workshops, and research. Along with Professor Peter Hernon, Schwartz is co-editor of the journal Library Information Science and Research (LISR), which has ranked among the top 5 LIS publications in the field for about 25 years. "I've been proud that we've been able to attract prestigious scholars to contribute to the journal. My only wish is that journal was open access," says Schwartz. As one of the most distinguished faculty in the LIS field who has held numerous offices at American Society for Information Science and Technology, Schwartz delivered the keynote speech at the 5th International Conference on Asia-Pacific Library & Information Education & Practice in Thailand in July 2013. She is also an external examiner for Hong Kong University Library School's library and information management program. In addition, Schwartz conducts Evernote and Zotero workshops in the GSLIS Tech Lab. She also manages a BiblioMystery collection in Beatley Library, which may offer a promising capstone project for someone interested in managing metadata in LibraryThing.

Her current research interests include retrieval of full-text books in large databases. While full-text online content uses computer algorithims to facilitate access and retrieval, she believes there is room for controlled vocabularies in small digital libraries (i.e., a collection of fewer than 10,000 items) since large collections are too costly to index. "Indexing and controlled vocabularies increase search precision and browsing capabilities." However, non-textual content, such as music and images, still require pattern-matching solutions. "While tagging supplies discovery words, structured metadata that includes subject terminology adds discoverability. We need to further develop guided navigation systems, which are based on classification. Information architecture and LIS are natural partners. We need to understand information structure and this will continue to be the case," says Schwartz.

Although Schwartz loves what she does at Simmons GSLIS, she looks forward to having time to learn all of the Elvish languages, read, bead, and travel through Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, and the U.S.'s West Coast. In the midst of her office's Middle Earth maps, a whiteboard has etched on it her intended retirement date: Fall of 2017. She is looking forward to a "major party with multiple German chocolate cakes."

Schwartz can be found on Twitter @candyschwartz, blog, Slideshare, and Facebook.

By Dean's Editorial Fellow Jennifer Moyer