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VSU’s $3.5 Million Master of Library and Information Science program threatened with Georgia Senate Bill 390

VSU is the only college in the state of Georgia that offers a MLIS degree, which has become threatened by Georgia Senate Bill 390.  

Georgia Senate Bill 390 was created for public libraries in the state of Georgia to disaffiliate from the American Library Association. If passed, it will go into effect on July 1, 2025.  

The ALA is the only accrediting organization for librarians nationally, and has raised concerns within tax payers and legislators. Texas, Missouri, Alabama, Wyoming, and South Carolina have already disaffiliated from the ALA. 

The president of the ALA is a self proclaimed “marxist lesbian.” The term for a president in this organization is one year, so a new president will represent the ALA in June.  

 Many parents have raised concerns about the books that are made available to their children. People argue that the images and language in books are crude and inappropriate for young children.  

Georgia Senator Larry Walker spoke at a hearing for the Georgia Senate Committee on Feb. 7 regarding the bill.  

“I feel like this is kind of being forced on our citizens and forced on our children and kind of shoved down our throat,” said Walker in regards to the ALA. 

Georgia Senator Randy Robertson agreed with Walker that people should have the right to choose who they support and pay, and should not have the option of only one organization.  

“I do not think as those, as the men responsible for the taxpayers, should be held hostage by any organization that is a nonprofit organization,” said Robertson. “That has no tie whatsoever to managing how we run our states to let them dictate what happens.” 

With the bill directly affecting VSU, accommodations were asked to be looked into. 

 “My intent, of course, is not to hurt Valdosta State University,” said Walker. “My intent is not to diminish or reduce the level of professionalism or education level of our current status of our librarians.” 

The MLIS program at VSU allows for students to become accredited through the ALA, as well as through evaluation from other universities.  

“They are in charge of the accreditation and seem to have sole control over that,” said Walker. “They provide the continuing education hours for our librarians.” 

David Slykhuis, Dean of Dewar College of Education and Human Services was present at the Senate meeting to represent VSU. 

“Losing accreditation would eliminate Valdosta State as a viable MLIS degree program for most students,” said Slykhuis. “The loss of the ability to remain accredited would devastate a program that is bringing in over $3.5 million in tuition revenue to Valdosta State annually.” 

The disaffiliation from the ALA would cause librarians to possibly lose their current accreditation and require them to do so over again.  

“Almost all library employers in the US and Canada require an accredited degree for most professional library positions,” said Slykhuis. “Many states require certification of their librarians and the primary credential for certification is an MLIS degree from an accredited academic program.”  

Due to VSU being the only school in the state of Georgia allowing a program for certification to become a librarian, the organization receives a growing number of students.  

“VSU’s program has grown from 292 students in the fall of 2018 to 400 students in the spring of 2024,” said Slykhuis.  

“This 27% growth in five years has been due to the following factors: our outstanding faculty, the degree program is fully online and asynchronous, tailored to working adults, its affordability and the accreditation which allows for graduates to attain jobs in their career field.” 

Slykhuis asked the Senate to think about allowing their program to continue until the current students enrolled have finished the course and receive their accreditation.  

“Until another accrediting body can be found or formed, I respectfully ask the bill sponsor and committee for consideration to be able to use privately donated funds to continue our accreditation,” said Slykhuis. “At least through our currently approved cycle of 2028.” 

Walker feels confident that another accrediting organization will soon be formed to take the place of the ALA. 

“With these other states pulling out,” said Walker. “I feel sure that there is going to be another organization that’s going to step up and offer an accreditation for library education programs.” 

 

Written by Jenna Arnold, News Editor. Photo Courtesy of Gavin Ponder, Graphics Editor. 

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