What we mean when we say "design": A field scan of coursework offerings on design topics in Master's level library

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6 Scopus citations


Future MLIS graduates need to be collaborative, creative, socially innovative, flexible, and adaptable problem solvers-characteristics demonstrated by people with backgrounds in design. Yet design, especially as an epistemological framework, seems underrepresented in master's level library education. This work explores the current landscape of coursework offerings on design topics in master's-level library education, including the availability of design coursework, the array of design courses offered, and coverage of various methods for, approaches to, and perspectives on design. A field scan of existing coursework in master's- level library degree programs and subsequent categorical, linguistic, and grammatical analysis revealed patterns of topical content and linguistic frequency. These findings show that design is conceptualized in alignment with applied fields, especially technology/computing and instruction, and rarely addressed as an overarching epistemological approach. The use of the term design is especially problematic due to myriad meanings and applied uses: it may refer to a disciplinary field, an artifactual product, or a process of creation, or it may be used to modify another concept. Such use emphasizes difference among contexts over the similarity of epistemology, thus perpetuating a divisive perspective that contradicts the current scholarship of design and may have negative implications for LIS education and the field of librarianship at large.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2-24
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Education for Library and Information Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020


  • Course descriptions
  • Design
  • Graduate-level library education
  • MLIS programs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Library and Information Sciences


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