Library and Information Science (LIS) education has been offered at Charles Sturt University and its predecessor institutions since 1975. The School of Information Studies is itself over 30 years old, and is now the only school amongst Australian universities devoted to Library and Information Science education and research. Its 'headquarters' is Building 5 on the Charles Sturt University's Wagga Wagga campus, about 400 km south-west of Sydney, NSW.
The School currently has around 2,000 students enrolled in the Bachelors and Masters of Information Studies, the Master of Education (Teacher Librarianship) and other specialist courses. It also has fifteen full-time academic staff, teaching and researching in a wide range of LIS subfields, many adjunct and sessional staff, and a large cohort of PhD students.
Library and Information Science (LIS) education has been offered at Charles Sturt University and its predecessor institutions since 1975, with the School of Information Studies being established in 1983, a few years after a graduate diploma in School Librarianship was launched, to complement the general library science programs. By the time the Riverina-Murray Institute of Higher Education became part of the new Charles Sturt University in 1989, the School's LIS courses were being offered wholly in distance mode and fast gaining a reputation for providing a solid and thorough grounding in librarianship for students who were often already working and in need of flexible, part-time study options. In the 1990s, the School started to develop advanced courses and research degrees, and both student and staff numbers continued to grow. It also developed a very successful partnership with the University of Hong Kong, whereby the CSU programs were taken up by Hong Kong-based students assisted by local tutorial support. This arrangement remains in place to this day.
The 2000s saw further growth in the LIS programs and the first students to graduate with PhDs in the discipline. In 2007, the IT programs and lecturers moved out of the School, leaving it to focus solely on the LIS discipline in its new Faculty of Education. Shortly after, the School dramatically expanded its curriculum to encompass new fields of Information Studies outside of librarianship. Accordingly, in 2013, the School joined the iSchools organisation, an international consortium of information schools and departments dedicated to advancing the information field. In 2016, the School moved into its current Faculty of Arts and Education.
From a staff of two, and student numbers in the tens, the courses established in the 1970s and 80s have evolved into the largest LIS programs in Australia and some of the largest in the world. The School currently has around 2,000 students enrolled in the Bachelors and Masters of Information Studies, the Master of Education (Teacher Librarianship), several other specialist courses, and its PhD program. To support its teaching and research, the School has around 20 faculty, teaching and researching in a wide range of LIS subfields. While its 'headquarters' is Building 5 on CSU's Wagga Wagga campus (about 400 km south-west of Sydney), both its staff and students are based in many other locations, across Australia and indeed the globe.
Much has changed over the past five decades, and the School's courses have likewise changed, to address both the changing needs and circumstances of our students and the many developments that have occurred in the LIS professions and the information environment at large. Constants, however, have been our commitment to quality education fully engaged with contemporary practice, and our focus on students and their individual learning journeys.
The School's commitment to the information professions is demonstrated by its close ties with the leading professional bodies in Australia and across the world, including the Australian Library and Information Association, which has accredited our courses since the 1970s, and, more recently, the Australian Society of Archivists, the Records and Information Management Professionals Australasia, and the Institute of Information Management. Our faculty are also active members of, and in some cases office holders in, many other key organisations in the field, including, for example, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, the Association for Information Science and Technology, and the International Association of School Librarianship.
These ties help ensure that our programs enjoy a national and international reputation for excellence and relevance. To ensure that they remain relevant, we also engage many working professionals to serve as sessional staff and advisers. Most of the School's full-time lecturers likewise have extensive experience as information professionals and continue to be actively engaged in their field.
One key reason for the School's global reach is that all of its students study in online mode. Specialising is this mode, our faculty lead the way in their pioneering use of online teaching tools and learning resources, providing 'virtual classrooms' places for students to come together from across the world, their different perspectives and experiences along with them. Even the lecturers are not limited by geography, able to teach from anywhere with an Internet connection.
Just as the School's courses are based on professional practice, so too is its research. The breadth of the LIS discipline is mirrored by the diverse research interests amongst the faculty, who regularly publish in both national and international journals. Their research informs their teaching, and vice-versa. They are also dedicated supervisors of our PhD students, who are also investigating a wide range of topics.
Effective information work is centred on users. Similarly, effective teaching is centred on students, irrespective of their physical whereabouts. The School of Information Studies is a community, with its incredibly enthusiastic and responsive students very much at its heart. Students, practitioners, academics, administrators - regardless of the roles individuals play, they are all equally part of the one School. I welcome you to this community and hope that you stay part of it for a very long time to come!
Prof Philip Hider