Monday afternoon I had the pleasure of touring the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, NY. Our tour guide (a student) not only told us about the facility but also about the very intense program of study. What I found quite interesting is that each student is required to spend six months "preparing food using fresh ingredients in a paid or non-paid position in a professional kitchen, banquet facility, hospital kitchen, soup kitchen, or other non-fast-food facility" in order to understand the realities of working in the food service industry. Students then enter the program with an idea of what their work days will be like after graduation. In addition to the work experience received before entry into the program and the mandatory "externships" (what most would call internships), every student is also required to work in one of the five CIA restaurants just before graduation. And if that isn't enough to get students to understand the workday, classes are held at times when work is generally done in food service. (Classes start very early in the day and end late.) By the time they graduate, they know exactly what they have gotten themselves into!
Many incoming library and information science program -- no matter the university -- have never worked in a library. They don't know what type of services libraries offer or the types of resources they contain. They know that there is something about the library work environment that is attractive to them, even though they are unsure of what the work entails. (I wonder if the same is true for those that are attracted to archives and museums?) These students learn about their future work environments as they progress through their studies, with the hope that they understand enough of the environment before graduation.
As I heard my tour guide at the CIA talk, I wondered what would happen if library and information science programs required incoming students to have paid or volunteer experience before matriculating? What type of "leg up" would that give students as they approached their studies? How would that change what was taught? Would we have fewer students? Would they have a greater interest in specializing?
I have more questions than answers, and I know that they are questions that I'll continue to ponder...and maybe I'll test some ideas on my colleagues. I think this may influence how I talk to those that are interested in an LIS program. Yes, it is a great profession, but perhaps you should test the waters before enrolling; you'll be smarter about your future career path.