ASSOCIATES (vol. 2, no. 2, November 1995) -

Table of Contents



                       Barbara J. Mann
               Associate Processing Archivist
                     Special Collections
                      Emory University
                      Atlanta, Georgia

There are those in support staff positions who desire a master's
degree in librarianship in order to advance their careers.  Their
quest may be hindered by the fact that a program is not in close
proximity and circumstances may prevent them from being able to
just pack up and move to a new locale.  In today's
technologically advanced society, a new method of education has
become available in the form of distance education.  This article
will focus on my experience as a distance education student
living and working in Atlanta, Georgia, and enrolled in the
University of South Carolina's College of Library and Information
Science located in Columbia, a three hour drive from my home in

As a full-time support staff person in the Special Collections
Department of Robert W. Woodruff Library at Emory University, and
a wife and mother, I was not geographically mobile.  Having
advanced as far as I could without the degree and realizing that
librarianship was the career for me, I sought out a local library
program.  Because there were none available that fit my needs, I
became frustrated.  However, my problem had a solution in the
form of distance education.

My first experience with distance education was through the
University of Alabama's Graduate School of Library Service's
experimental program entitled QUEST.  Classes were videotaped and
then mailed to each distance education site.  Arrangements were
made to make Emory a site and six of us from two campus libraries
met together weekly to watch the class.

To maximize the benefits of distance education, one must be
self-motivated.  The videotapes were over a week old by the time
we received them so we did not have the benefit of a live class
broadcast.  Also, in order to contact the professor we had to
call long distance.  This situation was less than ideal, but
it was workable and I feel that I gained a great deal from this
class, especially in finding the resources necessary to complete
each assignment.  Emory's libraries did not always have the books
and journals needed, so much effort was expended in tracking down
materials.  To me, this added to the learning process.

After I had attended only one semester in Alabama's program, the
faculty at the Graduate School decided to discontinue the
distance education program.  My choice was to commute to Alabama,
a three and half hour drive, or stop.  Commuting was not an
option so I had to stop.  My  frustration returned.

I was at a loss as to what to do.  A  colleague showed me a
notice in a library publication about a distance education
program that had begun in the fall of 1992 from the University of
South Carolina's College of Library and Information Science.  It
was already November, but I called to get an application, quickly
filled it out, mailed it back in, and was accepted.  I  began
this program in January, or spring semester 1993.

First, a bit of history about how this program came to Georgia.
In 1982 the University of South Carolina's College of Library and
Information Science began offering classes via distance education
using live interactive closed circuit television to sites within
South Carolina.  Through the efforts of David C. Wilson,
currently the Director of the Ocmulgee Regional Library in
Eastman, Georgia, the College came to Georgia.  Wilson was
commuting once a week from Eastman to Columbia while attending
library school there.  He inquired into the possibility of
the program coming to south central Georgia.  The College faculty
discussed this possibility and voted unanimously to expand their
distance education initiatives outside of South Carolina into
Georgia and West Virginia.

The College applied to the Georgia Non-Public Post Secondary
Education Commission, after receiving letters of support from
Clark-Atlanta University, The State Library, and Board of
Regents, to receive permission to bring their program to Georgia.

It took eighteen months to get the necessary approvals.  The next
step was a series of town meetings that the College held with the
professional community to discuss this new venture.  The final
step was a town meeting in Eastman, Georgia, with potential
students.  Word spread and soon areas all over Georgia were
requesting to be a part of this program.  Some of these areas
only had one or two students.  One group even met in a satellite
dish showroom.  Eastman remained the only official site, but the
College supported the other sites as well.

Originally the College thought that those most interested in the
program would be staff from public and academic libraries.
However, students came from all facets of librarianship and the
curriculum was adjusted accordingly.  Over 50% of the courses
offered in the College catalog were made available via distance
education.  These courses were the same as those offered at the
main campus.  In fact, distance education students in Georgia,
West Virginia, and South Carolina took the same course at the
same time as students at the main campus.  At the end of the
three-year cycle the College received a 98% approval rate from
the evaluation sent out to all students who had graduated.  My
own experience also gives the College a very  high approval rate.
My site was at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, about
a mile down the street from Emory.  I joined this site at the
beginning of their second semester, my first.  At this time there
were eighteen of us in the class, but this number dwindled as we
progressed due to program completion or the opportunity to view
from home because the DeKalb County government added the
programming to their government access cable channel.  Each class
was live, received at each site via a satellite downlink.  CDC's
technical staff handled the technological end.

Most classes were two hours in length and met late in the
afternoon.  Summer semesters, because of their compression, met
twice a week for two and a half hours.   If, during the
broadcast, we wished to ask a question, respond to the
discussion, or were called upon by name we could do so by calling
a toll-free number and were then "on the air."

Each class also required two on-site visits per semester.  Since
Eastman was the only Georgia "official" site, all students from
Georgia met together for a whole day at the Ocmulgee Regional
Library, usually on a Saturday.  Some of the elective classes,
which were smaller, met at other locations.  One class actually
had a two-day on-site visit and we stayed overnight.  The
on-sites, as we termed them, gave everyone in the program in
Georgia a chance to meet in person with the professor, become
acquainted with him/her and each other, discuss issues, give
reports, and interact just like any other class.  Sometimes the
discussions became quite lively.

Interestingly, Dr. Daniel D. Barron, Coordinator of School
Library Media Program and Professor at USC, proposed a study of
distance education issues to the Research Grant Award Committee
of the Association for Library and Information Science Education
in 1989.  He received funding and conducted a survey, sending
the survey instrument to administrators and faculty of all
ALA-accredited library schools as listed in the Journal of
Education for Library and Information Science's 1989-1990
directory issue.  Of the responses received from this mailing,
56% were usable for the data analysis.

One of the responses pertained to access to instructors.
Fifty-nine percent of the respondents "agreed with the notion
that distance education students have limited access to
instructors, meaning the quality of the faculty-to-student, out-
of-class interaction is inferior to that of full-time students."

My experience and that of my classmates proved that this was not
so at USC.  The faculty and administrators  of the College were
very accessible, encouraging students to contact them.  The
College provided a toll-free number, all faculty had voice mail,
stated office hours, and email.   They returned phone calls,
usually within twenty-four hours and answered email just as
promptly.  During the on-site visits, time was allotted for
individual discussions.  It was my responsibility to contact my
professors when I had questions or problems with the assignments,
just as any student should, on campus or not.  I still keep in
contact with two of my professors.

Also in Dr. Barron's study 49.7% "agreed with the statement that
distance students are so far removed from the campus and library
resources that they cannot participate fully in classes and
class-related activities."   Based upon my own experience and
those of my classmates, I found that this statement was not true
either.  Although living in a major metropolitan city did make it
easier for me to find resources than if I was in a smaller urban
setting, not everything was readily at my finger tips. It
required ingenuity and considerable effort to locate needed
resources and then obtain them.

The libraries at Emory were useful for most assignments, but I
also had to use other libraries in the city.  Interlibrary loan
was invaluable in helping me to obtain articles and books I could
not find in Atlanta.  My supervisors were supportive of my
endeavors, but I still had to use a lot of vacation leave and
week-end time to do the necessary research and complete the
assignments.  However, in spite of the effort involved, I was
able to complete all assignments.  I found these experiences
to be quite positive.  As someone who is training to be an
information specialist, I needed to know how to find materials.
I was able to hone these skills on myself.

When one avenue came to a dead-end, I had to find an alternative
just as I would for the patron I am assisting.  I learned a great
deal about types of sources and searching techniques.  I truly
believe this was one of the greatest benefits of distance

I  also called on the librarians at Emory for assistance when
needed.  This assistance took the form of tours of departments,
opportunities to ask questions, assistance in tracking down the
resources I needed.  Without exception, my requests were met with
cheerful assistance and I was most grateful for their help
and support.

Technology is becoming increasingly important in librarianship.
Distance education at the College kept up with these advances.
For those who did not have internet access, the College provided
it at a nominal fee.  One computer course was part of the core
curriculum and others were offered as electives.  Everyone had
DIALOG access and a great deal of time was spent learning how to
set up search statements and use on-line databases.  We evaluated
CD-ROM products and set up systems "on paper."  At that time, the
World Wide Web was not as prevalent as Gopher, so we learned the
intricacies of gophering and became quite proficient, a skill
which has carried through in using the Web.  Each class had a
listserv from which assignments would be posted, questions asked,
and information given.

The issue of socialization is a concern for distance education
students because they are not part of campus life, but our site
at CDC was our campus and we became friends.  Because there was
not the physical presence of a professor, we had more
opportunities to interact with each other.  Most of us did not
know each other when we began this program, but as the program
continued we got to know each other.  We carpooled to Eastman, we
helped each other with assignments, we encouraged and supported
each other.  During the semester many of us took the cataloging
course, we met once a week at a local restaurant to go over the
assignments together before mailing them the next day.  Outside
of class we communicated via phone and email and often met at the
library.  Everyone helped everyone.  Now that we are all
graduated, many of us still keep in touch and even get together
for lunch.  Professionally, there have also been times when we
have called on each other for information that has been needed in
the course of our daily work.  The friends I have made has also
been one of the greatest benefits of distance education.

Upon completion of the program several of us went through
commencement at USC's campus in Columbia.  At the August 1995
commencement, which also marked the end of the three-year cycle,
the College had a major celebration and all program participants
were invited to attend.  Even though I did not attend the
main campus of the University of South Carolina, I still feel
that I am a graduate of this institution.  It was a very proud
moment for me when my name was called and I received my degree.
All the time, effort, and struggles were worth it.

The three-year cycle has been completed in Georgia and West
Virginia.  The College is presently offering the program in Maine
with an enrollment of one hundred forty students and an expected
completion date of August 1997.  The states of New Hampshire,
Vermont, and Utah have made serious inquiries to the College to
see if the program could be brought to them.  The College's
mission is primarily to the southeast, but these inquiries are
being given serious consideration.

The College is also investigating the possibility of bringing the
Sixth Year Certificate program to Georgia and have received over
one hundred fifty notifications of interest.  The faculty is
unanimous in its support and the necessary permissions are being
pursued.  The tentative target date is late 1997 or early 1998.

Distance education is not for everyone.  One has to be
self-motivated and resourceful.  However, if the desire for the
degree and all the work and effort that is involved is there, but
a program is not, explore the possibility of distance education.
It was truly a rewarding experience for me.


Daniel D. Barron, Coordinator of School Media Programs and
Professor, College of Library and Information Science, University
of South Carolina, interview by author, 18 October 1995,
telephone interview

Gayle Douglas, Assistant Dean, College of Library and Information
Science, University of South Carolina, interview by author, 23
October 1995, telephone interview.

Daniel D. Barron, "Perceptions of Faculty and Administrative
Staff in ALA-Accredited Programs  toward Part-Time and Distance
Students in LIS Education," _Journal of Education for Library and
Information Science_  Vol. 34 (Summer 1993)