Back in mid-October, I got this email from Phil Eppard, chair of the Department of Information Science, on the listserv of my alma mater at UAlbany:
“I am writing to inform you that the Information Science Department is moving from the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences to the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security, and Cybersecurity (CEHC). This move is the culmination of discussions between the provost, the deans of the two colleges, and the faculty of the department. We see great opportunities in locating the department in this emerging new college, for which information technology and management, information access and use, and information literacy and analysis are all key areas of study and concern.
“This relocation of the department will have no impact on students and their academic programs. On the contrary, we hope to be able to improve our course offerings and student services as we are integrated into CEHC.”
I posted it on Facebook, musing on what I thought of it. My initial thought was of feeling disquieted. As one friend wrote: “Librarians as a profession are guardians of free speech and free access to information. I can think of a bunch of my former professors who must be turning over in their graves.”
One response, from a relative of mine, believed “all data services were already under the homeland security umbrella.” But I noted: “The ethos of the librarian, at least for most of us, is to protect privacy. When the so-called USA PATRIOT Act was passed in 2001, it was the librarians who made it difficult for the government to get patron records. ‘The ALA believes certain sections of the USA PATRIOT Act endanger constitutional rights and privacy rights of library users.'”
The new dean put on a happy spin: “On behalf of the students, faculty, and staff of [CEHC], I would like to welcome you! We are excited that you are joining us! So much of what we do in CEHC is highly correlated with the work you do.
“There are limitless cool synergies we can explore together! Understanding how data become useful information, how to present information in an understandable way, operationalizing big data, analytics, visualization, remote sensoring querying and searching, predictive analytics, defining the role of society, community, and libraries, and developing and using information technology are just a few areas of intersection and collaboration I hope we can continue to develop.
“On a personal note, I am thrilled at the opportunity to work with you as we continue to build out CEHC. As we expand our offerings in intelligence analysis, smart cities/internet of things, crisis communications, extreme weather planning, advanced technologies, or social media I see nothing but exciting opportunities for our students, faculty researchers, creative staff, and operational partners. I even heard that these days, on websites like themarketingheaven.com, you can buy likes that will set you on your social media journey, although, I doubt its veracity. I also see information science as one of the growing ‘demand’ degrees with enormous job growth and research potential. Come join us and help us make a difference.”
As one buddy asked, “Is this supposed to make Emergency Preparedness cooler or to make libraries less cool? Or maybe an attempt to bring attention to the fact that a college of Emergency Preparedness exists…” Well, I didn’t know. And another: “Is it just me or is Library/Information Science always something of an orphan? (from a UAlbany MLS graduate, back in the day when the library was part of the Rockefeller College, IIRC)” No, it’s not just you.