Christinger Tomer
Associate Professor
School of Information Sciences
University of Pittsburgh

One of the constants throughout my time in LIS education -- I began teaching in 1975 -- has been the arguments about theory versus practice. I have concluded that the debate is, in the main, a refuge for educators who don't have the skills to do the work for which their students are preparing. Programs that focus on cultivating useful skills in the context of the basic bibliothecal enterprise do their students a genuine service, however high or low the price may be, by making them employable and providing a tactile understanding of what the information professions require. Programs that don't do so place their students at a decided disadvantage, both intellectually and practically. The intellectual disadvantage? In library and information science, an emphasis on "theory" typically entails the presentation of vague, ill-conceived, and often misleading ideas about cause and effect. The practical disadvantage is that the commitment to "theory" effectively precludes a larger commitment to the development of professional skills, technical and otherwise, and tends to produce graduates not prepared to compete for or engage in productive work. So, one of my main goals in teaching is to create courses that produce skills and insights into the work that librarians and other information professionals do, with special emphasis on the knowledge and skills that are required to provide effective and imaginative service in digital environments.