Owing to the scope and pace of change, society has become increasingly knowledge-based so that higher learning and research now act as essential components of cultural, socio-economic and environmentally sustainable development of individuals, communities and nations. In this environment, it is essential that higher learning and knowledge creation involve effective partnerships among academic and non-academic learning institutions and communities to create and apply learning and knowledge with stakeholders that are managing and creating sustainable development initiatives. Growing concern regarding the importance of the contribution that higher education institutions make to society has aroused increasing debate about their relevance and credibility amid escalating social problems. An underlying premise of community engagement is the understanding that not all knowledge and expertise resides in the academy, and that both expertise and great learning opportunities in teaching and scholarship also reside in non-academic settings.
This conference will explore how LIS educators and researchers can develop curricula, programs, and research activities that enable active partnerships with communities and civil society to manage and create change. How can LIS programs increase opportunities for experiential, service oriented, and community engaged student learning? How can we develop further collaboration between LIS programs and their larger communities (local, regional/ state, national, global) for the mutually beneficial exchange of knowledge and resources in a context of partnership and reciprocity?
With the increasing community orientation of LIS practice and scholarship, the debate on the role of diversity education takes center stage. The very idea of community engagement in such complex multicultural societies as the U.S. and Canada is inextricably linked to educating a new generation of professionals who are culturally competent, knowledgeable, and well-equipped for dealing with diverse individuals and community groups. Yet, with a few exceptions, education for diversity is not an integral part of the LIS curriculum. Course offerings are limited; the definition of diversity is often narrow and does not encompass a variety of life experiences.