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Editorial: Pitt school has a record worth celebrating

Wednesday, June 06, 2001

In the current information explosion, society needs qualified professionals who can separate the data from the din, the essence from the ersatz. The University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences is dedicated to producing such people with a devotion to public service.

The school traces its roots back 100 years, to the day in 1901 when Andrew Carnegie funded the Training School for Children's Librarians, a department of the Carnegie Library. The program later graduated to a college setting, first at the former Carnegie Institute of Technology, then in 1962 at Pitt.

Today the University of Pittsburgh is home to one of the country's most renowned library and information science departments. In its most recent listing, in 1999, U.S. News & World Report ranked Pitt's Master of Library and Information Science program third in the nation. Specialties within the master's also received high rankings -- like health librarianship (1st), library information systems (3rd), archives and preservation (4th) and services for children and youth (4th).

Decades ago, the school was largely a place where young people enrolled to become librarians. Today its reach and its mission are as specialized and sophisticated as the Information Age itself. With six degrees and three certificates of advanced study, the school prepares scholarly adults for careers not only in academic, public and medical libraries, but also in archives and records management and in information systems and technology. As if to underscore the school's reputation, 200 of its 900 current students come from outside the United States.

Given the modern-day clash between individual privacy and the public's "right to know," the School of Information Sciences is also the only one in the country to offer a full program on information ethics. It consists of an information ethics course, fellowship, Web site and forum. Toni Carbo, dean of the School of Library and Information Sciences since 1986, founded the information ethics program because of her belief that balancing the needs and interests of the individual with those of society presents difficult challenges that demand "ethical reflection and action."

That's the kind of progressive thinking that puts the Pitt school on the frontier of information science. And it's the kind of contemporary relevance that's worth celebrating in a university program.