Regents hear plea for department

By Ken Goze

A plea was made to save the doomed department of library and information studies from a planned phase-out at the Board of Regents meeting Thursday at Sangamon State University.

NIU graduate student Katharine French read a prepared statement to the Regents asking the them to force NIU to keep the program. NIU President John La Tourette announced plans last month to phase out the department over two years.

La Tourette said the move was forced by a combination of a tight budget and unreasonable accreditation demands from the American Library Association.

French said the department is a small but necessary program in a field of study which is shrinking. French said there are only 50 accredited library school programs in the United States but more than 10,000 public libraries.

“In this country, it is more difficult to become a librarian than a doctor or lawyer,” French said. French said the ALA’s requirement to replace a faculty member who left and add another one is not unreasonable.

She said the move would not save NIU much money because the department’s four tenured professors would be transferred and new faculty would be among the lowest paid on campus.

La Tourette said the ALA’s threat to revoke accreditation amounted to harassment. In 1989, the association granted NIU accreditation through 1996. La Tourette said the ALA reneged when it requested another site visit in 1991 without any explanation.

“We were confronted with a situation of having to spend several thousand dollars for site visits to learn nothing more. This is just strictly harassment on the part of the agency,” La Tourette said.

La Tourette said he will file a complaint to the Council on Postsecondary Accreditation, which has the authority to investigate claims of harassment in accreditation.

Regent Joe Ebbesen urged La Tourette to push for reconsideration. “If somebody’s looking for a fight, they ought to get one,” Ebbesen said.