During the week-long trip that six representatives of various American universities took through Germany, and in discussions with colleagues from a total of seven German educational institutions, many ideas were gathered. All of those involved exhibited great interest in further cooperation, but also a healthy pragmatism in terms of judging what is possible.
The essential difference between the American and German systems is that in the U.S. librarianship is almost exclusively offered at the graduate level in Master’s courses. American students arrive with a BA in their chosen area and then complete a two-year MA course of study in order to be able to work in a library. The majority of library positions in the U.S. require a Master’s degree. In Germany, on the other hand, a BA in library science is the standard course of study and most positions are filled at this level. A Master’s is necessary only at the administrative level. American students as a rule study abroad during their undergraduate studies. Lengthy study abroad would be extremely difficult for American students, due to their tight schedule. A semester-long exchange would be viewed as rather unrealistic.
One possibility considered realistic by all was that of organizing summer schools, such as those offered in Stuttgart and Hamburg. If a student could earn at least six credit hours at summer school, American students could then apply for financial aid for a stay in Germany. It is also important that grades and credit points be awarded by the university of the respective home country. In this way, the problem of the difference in tuition structures in the U.S. and Germany could be avoided. A mixture of German BA students and American MA students in library science would not present a problem, as in terms of course material they are almost at the same level.
An entire string of collaborative possibilities was also considered at the level of direct contact between individual universities. Pratt Institute in New York and the University of Leipzig, for example, have a special emphasis on music and the fine arts. The collaboration between Pratt Institute, among others, and the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts could also be of interest to students from Leipzig.
Online programs and videoconferencing for students also seemed feasible to all. In this context, it would even be possible for a student to attend courses abroad and maintain contact with his home institution through an online program. After all, in the United States as well as in Germany entire courses of study are completed with minimal physical attendance.
Even if study abroad for a semester or a year presumably remains the exception, the possibility of receiving a grant through the DAAD or the Fulbright Program was mentioned.
Another possibility of particular interest to students from Germany is, of course, an internship in the United States. Especially if the internship is conducted with a special project in mind, which many universities expect from students at the advanced level of their training.
Another theme was faculty exchange. Generally, it is not viewed as problematic that guest lectures in Germany are held in English. The German colleagues would be particularly interested in their universities offering presentations not usually included in the curriculum. Especially intriguing, of course, was the idea of transatlantic themes, that is, students in both countries working on the same theme.
A third area of exchange, collaborative research projects, also engendered great enthusiasm. However, the focuses of research first must be ascertained, in order to better facilitate the „matching“ of projects.
In summary, everyone agreed that it would be truly interesting to initiate such projects. But a certain amount of lead time is called for. And, as with all good intentions, it’s important to stay on the ball. For this reason it was decided to create a mailing list, in order that participants can continue to exchange ideas and which should, of course, be open to colleagues who did not have the opportunity to participate in the study tour. In addition, it was decided to organize a videoconference for the fall, so that the American study tour members and their German colleagues, once they have all consulted with their own institutions, may again exchange thoughts on what potentially successful steps they would like to pursue next. A presentation is being planned for the next Association for Library and Information Science or ALISE Conference in January 2010, to present the group's ideas and outcomes to other institutions – for, after all, only 6 of the 57 American library schools were represented on the trip.