NIU might offer library degree in Quad-Cities

By Jim Wozniak

FREEPORT—NIU announced its intention to the Illinois Board of Higher Education Tuesday to offer a master of arts degree in library and information studies at the Quad-Cities Graduate Study Center in Rock Island.

NIU President John LaTourette said the Board of Regents, which governs NIU, already has approved the proposal. NIU Assistant Provost Lynne Waldeland said the university now has to wait for any questions about the proposal. If no university raises questions and the IBHE thinks the proposal is worthwhile, NIU will be able to offer the degree.

IBHE Executive Director Richard Wagner said the board could vote on the proposal as early as December but probably will wait until the spring. He said the IBHE will have discussions with NIU about the proposal before then.

Waldeland said the Quad-Cities Graduate Study Center Program Review Panel has approved NIU’s request. That approval is necessary before NIU can begin offering the degree there, she said. The panel did “a lot of the leg work” and determined whether there was enough interest in the program, she said.

LaTourette said, “There’s a demand there (Quad-Cities) on the part of a group of people. If that demand continues, there might be a group of 30 to 40 people who want the program. But this group is sufficient. The Quad-City area has not been as important to us as Rockford or the Western suburbs. This is unique in that no major university is right by there.”

The president said NIU is not the only university offering programs there. If the IBHE approves the program by the spring, NIU could offer the degree by next fall, he said. LaTourette said the IBHE looks at programs about twice a year.

Graduate School Dean Jerrold Zar said the degree would consist of 30 hours which includes four core classes. The remaining hours would be electives. The four core classes study foundation of librarianship, library organization and management, library research methods and information studies, an IBHE report states.

The report states NIU expects to have about 25 students a year in the program, with seven degrees being granted, after the degree has been in place there for five years.

The proposed move to the Quad-Cities will increase the number of areas where NIU offers the degree. NIU already offers the degree on campus and in DuPage, Rock Valley, William Rainey Harper and Chicago community college districts, the report states. It states the American Library Association has accredited the degree since 1967.

Waldeland said the center requested the university to offer the degree in 1983 because area librarians expressed a desire to take the classes. NIU decided to offer a class a semester as an experiment in response, she said.

NIU will continue to offer one class a semester, which might mean students will need more than two years to receive the degree, Waldeland said. She said NIU might offer a summer class but did not know that definitely.

“That’s all we can afford without additional faculty,” Waldeland said. “We’re the only one to provide this degree (off campus).”

The report stated the university would need no new faculty.

“It’s really a way of serving the community,” Waldeland said of the reasons for starting a degree in the Quad-Cities. “There really isn’t anything close. The reason many departments do this is for service. That’s a long way (for students) to drive. A lot of the students are fully employed or are people with small children and can’t leave.”

LaTourette said, “You can’t tell if the demand is there. We thought the nursing degree in Rockford would absorb the demand, but it didn’t.”