The proliferation and velocity of information compelled many countries, both developed and developing, to review the LIS education and focus on changes and realignments over the past two decades. Several universities in South Africa started with a change in the names of the departments such as Departments of Library Science/ Library Studies or Librarianship are known as Departments of Library and Information Science/ Studies. To reflect some incorporated disciplines in the name, the University in Namibia chose Department of Information and Communication Studies, the University of Johannesburg termed its department into Department of Information and Knowledge Management. Moreover, LIS is not confined to the traditional faculty of Humanities or Social Sciences; faculties or schools such as the Centre for Higher Education Development at the University of Cape Town, the Faculty of Management at the University of Johannesburg or the School of Information Technology (with Computer Science) and Informatics (Information Systems) offer LIS programmes equally.
Distance education in LIS is considered irrelevant as the main focus is on education and training for library workers whereby the University of Technology and Polytechnics in South Africa offers vocational education and training qualification. The programme includes subjects such as knowledge management, multimedia, records management, information technology and publishing, and also an increased integration of diverse subjects in order to cater for emerging markets. Information and knowledge management modules that include topics, such as personal information management, tools and techniques of information and knowledge management, strategy formulation and implementation, information and knowledge audits and information consultancy form part of the LIS programme too.
In view to adopt a different learning focus, the Universities of Johannesburg and Stellenbosch have switched from traditional LIS programmes to Information and Knowledge Management. Hence, they offer programmes termed as, for example, BA in Information Science and BCom in Information and Knowledge Management. These aim to train students in the ever-changing electronic environment, provide intellectual competencies and practical skills while applying information and knowledge management principles and prepare them to use information as an important resource in the decision-making process.
The Department of Information Science at the University of Stellenbosch further crossed the line by changing the courses in information science to socio-informatics. The latter could be described as a subject that deals with the relationship and interface between information needs and practices, knowledge of economy and society and knowledge dynamics on computer technology. The programme focuses on theoretical aspects and the practical needs of information specialists and knowledge workers.
The following further shows significant changes in LIS education in several African universities:
- The University of Zululand offers BA Information Science which includes modules to equip students with skills of basic computer repairs for uninterrupted use of computers and further trouble shooting skills.
- Multimedia topics are compulsory modules in the IS programme at the University of Pretoria and media publishing studies form part of the LIS programme at the Moi University.
- The Department of Information and Communication Studies at the University of Namibia offer LIS degrees with specialized programmes in media studies.
- At the University of Botswana, the Department of Library and Information Studies offer various information science topics such as Information and knowledge management, information retrieval, system analysis and design, web management, databases, decision support systems, electronic commerce, networks, etc.
The above changes and challenges in LIS education have received the support of the Library and Information Association of South Africa (LIASA). The association recognizes the Continuing Education and Professional Development (CEPD) of professionals essential to keep their practices current and relevant, enhance and upgrade skills and encourage the promotion of service standards and acceptable good practice. Through the policy of life-long learning, the faculty members, in addition, are required to keep themselves up to date with developments to ensure quality teaching and research. Furthermore, there exists a general system of external examiners and regular external evaluations for quality control to ensure teaching and research of acceptable quality.
Likewise, in the developed countries, the LIS programs are under constant scrutiny with the view to prepare students for the future, in a world where there is an avalanche of information and continuous change in the workplace. The University of California, Northridge and Valdosta State University in Georgia developed successful programmes with more focus on information science while keeping the established library science studies. This hybrid approach aims to provide a stronger foundation in the library career while the multidisciplinary focus, in addition, provides opportunities for other career paths.
The acquisition of skills, mainly soft skills, such as analytical ability and communications skills, customer service skills, business and marketing skills, flexibility and adaptability are more valued by employers than traditional technical skills. LIS programs train to locate, filter and evaluate information where librarians are the first and foremost educators of information and information sources. Thus, the curriculum has additional elements such as internships, networking, mentoring and leadership skills in order to equip the students in the changing industry. The American Library Association (ALA) follows this transition closely and ensures the accreditation standards are also developed to meet the varying needs of the discipline.
However, during the accreditation process, many issues are addressed. The topics of curriculum, quality, and skill sets for the LIS field, the student-to-faculty ratio for appropriate teaching and advising, assessments, placement services and, above all, the viable teaching and learning environment for students are given much consideration. Much emphasis is laid upon comprehensive assessment, systematic curricular review and alignment of syllabi and the need for managed growth and class sizes. The quality of faculty and quality students, and adequate resources to create and maintain a quality programme are measured and, furthermore, studies and surveys are regularly carried out to help develop an ideal LIS programme. Thus, the ALA standards state that the curriculum should integrate the theory, application, and use of technology and that it must be reviewed and evaluated by a variety of stakeholders, including students, faculty, and potential employers.
To sum up, it could be said that there has been a gradual and definite conversion where a multidisciplinary approach and research-based focus form part of the LIS education overseas. In the local context, contrarily, the LIS education has undergone minimal change. With only a modification in the name, the topics of the curricula of LIS have remained more or less the same along with unchanged teaching methods. The inadequacy of relevant and current subjects, in addition to the lack of life-long learning practices of the educators and faculty for the past two decades renders the programme obsolete compared to LIS education offered at the international level. Moreover, the professed associations generated to oversee the developments in LIS remain unvoiced through out the years. The situation is undeniably critical and enormous development is needed to bring LIS education to equal stage in Mauritius.
Chow, Anthony S, Ph.D.,2011. Changing times and requirements: Implications for LIS Education. Library and Information Science Research Electronic Journal. Vol. 21(1).
Ocholla, D. and Bothma, T. Trends, challenges and opportunities of LIS education and training in Eastern and Southern Africa. University of Zululand, University of Pretoria, South Africa.