Dominican University Library School Establishes PhD Program

October 12, 2009

In a bold recession-bucking move, Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois, has launched the first PhD program in library and information science in its 108-year history.

The Doctorate of Philosophy in Library and Information Science, to be administered through the suburban Chicago university’s accredited Graduate School of Library and Information Science, has accepted its first cohort of eight students for the fall 2009 semester.

“Achieving this academic milestone communicates the maturity, breadth, and quality of graduate professional education at Dominican University,” said President Donna M. Carroll in making the announcement. “That we have the level of faculty and depth of programs to sustain a PhD is heartening.”

One of only 50 schools in the country to be accredited by the American Library Association, Dominican’s graduate library school emphasizes the areas of children’s and youth literature, community informatics, cultural heritage/archival studies, and the management of public libraries.

The program in brief

The new three-year professional doctoral program in library and information science will be the first in the Chicago metropolitan area, and the university believes “it will answer an expressed need for well-educated leaders in a rapidly changing profession. As the third-largest employer of degreed librarians in the country, Illinois offers a strong potential market for the new doctoral program. Statistics gathered by the Association of Library and Information Science Education indicate that within the next five to seven years there will be a shortage of librarians in the practice.”

“The mission of the doctoral program is to educate dynamic leaders in the field of library and information science who are poised to bridge the theory-practice divide and be the field’s creative innovators in the 21st century,” said Susan Roman, dean of the GSLIS. Roman told American Libraries that the graduate school faculty had worked long and hard with an advisory committee and had conducted an extensive feasibility study to the board of trustees in order to create a compelling argument before proceeding with a new program at a time when funding cuts are the operative mode at institutions across the country.

Largely, the program is designed to attract “people who are not necessarily willing to leave their jobs to get a PhD,” Roman said, “and that’s why we structured it the way we did, as a professional PhD designed for serious research but for busy people, on weekends.”

With 36 credit hours over two years of coursework, including summers, the PhD program is designed to offer a short, defined period of study with classes that fit a working person’s schedule, Roman said. The program operates on a cohort model, in which a group of students start together and keep the same pace over the duration of the program.

The program will be directed by Associate Professor Tonyia Tidline, formerly of the University of Alabama’s School of Library and Information Studies. Tidline received her PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Ohio State University and a master’s degree in library and information science from Kent State University.

Tidline told AL that the founding of the new PhD program has tremendous significance for the profession. “It’s a real opportunity to fill a niche, to give people an opportunity to seriously consider the whys and wherefores of practice” and “to move forward with professional values, given that there is so much change now associated with the provision of library service.”

Echoing Susan Roman, Tidline said she wanted to emphasize the program’s special interest in enhancing its graduates’ ability “to translate between the two cultures of theory and practice.” She added, “Library and information science professionals are flexible and astute, and this program gives people a space for the contemplation of how to implement and evaluate best practices.”

Founded in 1930, Dominican’s GSLIS has grown to be one of the nation’s largest master’s degree–granting programs.