No Library is an island

As students of LIS, you must have come across the saying that “No Library is an Island”. The meaning is simple: no library can stand on its own and pretend to be “self-sufficient”. In fact, no library is capable of satisfying all the information needs of its users, however resourceful the library might be. In the past, some rulers cherished the dream to possess all the printed materials of the world. The founders of the Ancient Library of Alexandria (now Bibliotheca Alexandrina) had such plans in their mind. Expeditions were even launched to various parts of the world to “collect” library materials. The Library of Congress, resourceful as it is, and true to its lead role as an icon in the communication of information, cannot claim to hold all the publications of the world.

Now that we are all working in the LIS sector, we realise how important it is for libraries to cooperate with each other, pull out our resources and share our expertise for the common benefits of all our users. Such cooperation has the advantage of maximising output out of our scarce resources and at the same time avoiding unnecessary duplication of work/resources. Libraries in the past have successfully operated such cooperative projects which have proved fruitful, particularly when such plans were well-thought, designed with a purpose and with the good will of librarians committed towards their users. The various union catalogues compiled at regional levels or in particular subject areas are examples of such successful projects. In Mauritius, the need for sharing our resources is even more important as the size of the country easily facilitates such endeavours. We could imagine the ease and comfort for a local researcher to have access to all what he wants from “one point of access only”. Who would deny the benefits of networking all libraries in institutions involved in tertiary education in Mauritius? The same could be said of libraries in secondary institutions. Creating a community starts by first sharing what we have. Can we lay claim to have developed a model for sharing library resources at national level?

Instead of bridging / cementing our way towards a community of information providers, and working strenuously towards some kind of “horizontal integration of libraries”, some ‘forces of evil’ have destroyed the very foundation of this community. By encroaching into the territorial zones of other organisations, duplicating resources or even ‘hijacking’ collections of other cultural institutions resulting in the overlapping of corporate functions and ‘building empires’ of collections, alien to their statutory objectives, these evil forces have deliberately attempted to do every thing but ultimately ended up by doing nothing [well]. They have thought of their library as an island! Real ‘Jack of all trades, but master of none!’ Some would say ‘round pegs in square holes!’

R. Hauroo

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Organisational Politics

  

Although politics in organisations or “the intentional acts of influence undertaken by individuals or groups to enhance or project their self-interests  when conflicting courses of action are possible” (Gray & Ariss, 1985) is  sometimes considered as an inescapable fact of life, it can  undermine the very foundation of such organisations  by dramatically weakening staff morale, reducing employee job satisfaction and productivity, creating victims and victors, wasting energy and time spent on planning attacks and counterattacks instead of concentrating on getting jobs done –  specially when it reaches an abnormally high or alarming level as it seems to be the case  in many private companies and public institutions in this cosmopolitan island.

 

 Young professionals joining the service and who happen to be imbued with a sense of duty and  moral principles and who naturally expect equity, justice, meritocracy, recognition and reward for hard work, soon become disillusioned because these values are being constantly baffled.

 

The saddest part of the story is when management itself encourages organisational politics, practises  the divide and rule policy, destabilises democratically elected staff associations whenever these are perceived to  be against its wishes, praises and rewards those employees who are ‘gifted’ with  this dirty ‘talent’ and who excel in this opportunistic game shamelessly.  

 

 The remedy to this plague is for management to cultivate a humane organisational culture which is supportive of staff, fosters equity, meritocracy, transparency, recognition and reward and values each and every employee according to his or her contribution in the achievement of organisational goals and objectives.

 

Ibrahim

Collection Management

There was a time in history when the grandeur of a library was judged by the size and magnificence  of its building or by the number of documents found in its collection. During this period, which lasted for centuries, libraries – specially in North America and Europe rivaled among themselves to surpass each other.

 

There was also an over-emphasis on the library as a storehouse of knowledge serving the elite or a privileged few, i.e the custodianship and preservation roles of libraries as opposed to facilitating access to information which is now the order of the day.

 

Some old-fashioned library managers still value library premises and boast of  owning the largest collection. Is this relevant to the needs of the 21st century librarianship ?  Debating the successful future of the librarian as a bookman or a knowledge worker, Herbert S  White categorically stated that “the most useful collection is a small collection which contains everything which is wanted and very little else.”

 

 Indeed, this should inspire us when devising a written collection management policy for our library, bearing  in mind emerging concepts such as the borderless and digital library.

 

In short, a collection which is relevant  to the information needs of its user groups, rapid and easy access to it and quality are far more important than merely quantity.

 

 Ibrahim

courtesy: White, H.S (2003). The successful future of the librarian: bookman or knowledge worker ? In Australian Academic & Research Libraries, Vol. 34, No. 1 

 

 

How would you test the efficiency and effectiveness of your library?

At first sight, this might appear to be a simple question especially to some of our librarians, if we can call them ‘Librarians’. The simple answer for these people would be ‘statistics’. Yes indeed, “let’s count how many people come to the library and if there are 500 users per day, this means we are efficient and effective” these Librarians would say. But, we must ask ourselves, since librarians are supposed to be  intelligent people, whether simply ‘counting your number of users’ is sufficient. What if the 500 users who came to your library weren’t at all satisfied with your service or weren’t able to effectively use your database and preferred to seek the required information elsewhere? Would you call this an achievement of the year? I suspect ‘no’. This is not to say that statistics are useless but on the other hand, statistics should be used intelligently. Whilst carrying out any survey, of whatever type, we should bear in mind both the quantitative as well as the qualitative aspects. Quantity is not enough but must be supplemented by quality so that you can get a good picture of whether your library and its services are really efficient and effective. The following are some of the main aspects that should be taken into consideration when trying to find out whether or not your library is efficient and effective:

1. The people – that is, whether your technology is adapted to their needs and preferences. What are their specific information needs and information-seeking behaviour?

2. The technology – that is, whether your library is evolving with the current technological advancements, which is by the way, far from being the case in Mauritius.

3. The human-information interaction – that is, how do your users interact with the information.

and lastly, we would add statistics to the list.

To conclude, we can say that if we really want to test something’s efficiency and effectiveness, it is better to do it as completely as possible rather than simply jumping to the simplest available method which is ‘statistics’ and which won’t tell us much apart from the number of users coming your library. Lastly, it would be a time and energy wasted uselessly and you would be making a fool of yourself and of your library.

HL

The Quality of Library Websites

A library website has the potential to act as a powerful public relations tool. Through their websites, libraries can offer their patrons a new ‘virtual entrance’ to their collections and services from their workplaces and homes. The quality of library websites depends on several factors, namely: contents, language, structure, design, navigation and accessibility. Together, these constitute the “usability” of the website. According to Nielsen (2002), the most important part of any website is its homepage which acts as its ‘face to the world and the starting point for most user visits’. That is why a library’s homepage should be carefully designed taking into consideration the special needs, competencies and behaviour of the clientele. Commonly used methods for evaluating library websites include:

1. Web Surveys – surveys ask for satisfaction rates, purposes of a search, problems encountered
2. Focus Groups – the website is discussed with a small group of users
3. Group Tests – groups work on specific tasks, moderated by an expert
4. Think Aloud – a test in which users verbalise their thoughts when searching is recorded on tape
5. Observation – users perform a set of tasks and are observed by video or an individual
6. Transaction Logs – evaluation of use data as to the frequency of use, most used pages, ways of searching, etc
7. Heuristic Evaluation – a small group of experts evaluate the website based on the principles of usability
8. Cognitive Walk Through – experts construct a “user scenario” and perform tasks of an imaginary user.

Ibrahim
[ Courtesy: Poll, R. (2007). Evaluating the library website: statistics and quality measures ].

Bright Leaders and Dysfunctional Behaviours

Bright Leaders with Dysfunctional Behaviours
Professor Adrian Furnham of the university college, London in an illuminating interview vividly describes how bright leaders or bosses engage in dysfunctional behaviours which contribute to the downfall of their organizations. Analysing the factors which help people climb the slippery pole to the top of an institution, he identifies ability and hard work. But along with these two positive attributes, he also pinpoints three personality disorders, namely:Narcissism, psychopathy and paranoiac which result in organizational decay:

The Narcissist Leader – He/she has tremendous need for admiration, lacks empathy, is preoccupied with being superior, unique or special, shamelessly exaggerates his/her talents, indulges in addictively boastful and pretentious self-aggrandizement, has a feeling of internal insecurity, fails to understand others, sees people as possessions for the pursuit of fame and glory, uses employees to reflect his/her glory, is capricious, inconsistent, erratic and has an unpredictable behaviour
The Psychopathic Leader – Known as the “moral imbecile”, he /she does not worry about others’ pain and hurt, is happy to use and abuse people in the organization at will, has a low emotional quotient, and is reputed for being tough and ruthless.
The Paranoiac Leader – He / she is distrustful and suspicious of others at work, interprets the motives of colleagues as malevolent all the time, keeps suspecting without evidence that others are exploiting, harming or deceiving him/her about almost everything, is preoccupied with unjustified doubts about the loyalty or trustworthiness of subordinate staff, customers and others.

Ibrahim
[courtesy: Organizational Performance Review, Spring/Summer 2007, pp. 30-32 ]

Continuing Professional Development

Continuing Professional Development is a scheme where professionals would on a continuous basis update their knowledge and skills and thus ensure that they have the required standards to perform their jobs professionally. This scheme is present worldwide and most countries require that professionals follow an appropriate Continuing Professional Development programme. Unfortunately, such a scheme is not yet available in Mauritius. The presence of such a scheme in Mauritius would have been highly beneficial to our professionals in the field of Librarianship especially since with the advent of technology, there are indeed many new things to learn and skills to acquire!

HL