K.C. Harrison Report (1978) on Libraries, Documentation and Archives Services

An electronic version of the Harrison Report on Libraries, Documentation and Archives Services in Mauritius has been uploaded on our site. Just navigate to the page e-Newsletter/Publications from the left-hand side menu to access the document. You may also read it from here…Harrison Report 1978. Those who are interested in the history and development of librarianship in Mauritius will surely enjoy reading it. In that report, the author K.C. Harrison made a series of recommendations to the  Government of Mauritius to improve library, archives and information services. Some of the recommendations were related to the creation of a National Information System (NATIS) for Mauritius, training of LIS personnel, enactment of library legislation, etc.  Since the submission of that report in 1978, the library landscape has changed. Other reports that followed (Pope’s  report, for example) made similar recommendations and supported the “struggle” of librarians for an improvement of library and information services at national level. However, in view of the sweeping changes taking place today in  libraries  throughout the world, one remains sceptic about claimed “revolutionary progress”  in this field in our part of the world.  Lack of a national strategy or policy for the development of library and information sector in Mauritius does not bring hope for a brilliant future.   Much more could have been done only if there were visionary leaders in our field. . . For those who have not read the Harrison report, I would recommend them to read it.

R. Hauroo

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How to Change the Perception of Libraries in our Country?

Many people have a wrong notion about libraries and even about library personnel. For these ignorant people (are they really ignorant or they feign to be so) librarianship is a dormant and dull profession. As library and information workers, we have to unveil that mask! We need to change this bad perception about our profession. It is high time we eradicate this wrong impression. So, seniors, juniors, friends, colleagues and supporters, let us work together to build a new image of librarianship in Mauritius. I urge all of you to feel free to express your comments and your suggestions.

If we, in the library field do not discuss about our profession then who else will do so? Others do discuss about us but unfortunately most of the critics are  negative.

If I am not mistaken, libraries exist ever since books existed (earlier manuscripts). Books will continue to exist and so will libraries. This field will never cease to exist.  It is very well-stated that “Books are the bullets in the battle for man’s minds”.

 I admit librarianship was not my childhood dream career BUT now I am proud to be in this field and love it. It is very much constructive to its very own core. And I will deliver my best in this domain.

I believe that as library and information workers, we should promote more creative activities in this field. Also, local academic institutions should offer more courses in this domain. By so doing, we will thus enhance the importance of the profession.  Let us ask ourselves what we have and what we have not: Code of ethics, Professionals, Association, Council, and support from concerned authorities? SO??

 LLL Long Live Librarianship!!! Hats off!

For now, I will end saying : United we stand, divided we fall! And yes, with eyes closed we can say this profession is here to stay in any way. Carry on.

Best wishes.

Kirtee Kiran Peryagh  

Does a degree a librarian make?

At the very outset, let me put it plainly that this is a very controversial topic. In the library land of Mauritius, those who are exercising the profession of librarianship have not all followed the same route to qualify as librarians. Some have pursued their university degrees in varied subjects and followed their career in fields other than LIS. For them, joining the library sector was just by accident (the accidental librarian!). Others have worked in the library sector and gradually embarked on various courses leading to a degree in LIS. At present all librarians heading library and information services are degree holders (in LIS). The Mauritius Council of registered Librarians Act 2000 enacted by Parliament is clear on this point: no person shall be registered as a professional librarian unless he “holds a degree or a post graduate diploma in library and information studies from an internationally recognised school, university or other institutions.” So the question whether a person has to have a LIS degree to work as librarian is clear; there is no ambiguity on this.  It is worth noting that even after the promulgation of the Mauritius Council of Registered Librarians Act 2000, there were institutions which continued to be administered by people who did not hold any degree in LIS. Now they have all retired.

 

No doubt there need to be professional credentials for librarians. The profession is constantly evolving and there is room for people with IT and communications skills, knowledge of Database and Database Management Systems, Information Management Systems, and other qualities to design and manage the new user-centric online library services. A degree in LIS is vital but knowledge and expertise in other areas will help immensely.

 

In Mauritius, a distinction is made between paraprofessionals and professionals in the library sector. Many librarians call themselves professional librarians which imply that there are librarians who are not professionals! The Mauritius Council of Registered Librarians Act 2000 also mentions professional librarians in many sections. Even a  library association has been created exclusively for professional librarians, thus discriminating against other categories of emplyees and paraprofessionals. After giving a thought to what constitute a professional librarian and a non-professional librarian, matters get more confused. Is there any difference between a professional librarian and a library professional? Is a cataloguer not a library professional? A Web Master or a database Administrator working in a library, is he not a library professional? Is this just a matter of terminology? Can we say that there are library professionals who are not professional librarians?

 

I believe that there is a tendency from library people here to take for granted that the conferment of a basic degree in LIS entitle them to the status of a professional librarian. Earning a degree and registering oneself with the Council as a registered librarian automatically convert one into a professional. This attitude encourages people to do nothing and only wait for the opportune moment  to be offered appointment as librarian. Once this target is achieved, the story ends. Some people have purposely made the young generation believe this story to be true. This is highly debatable. Is there not any flaw in our library land which needs to be addressed to change this mindset? There is an interesting thread opened in our forum under the title “Use of the word Librarian” but very few of us have expressed our views /opinions. In our local context, if the degree makes the librarian, however, a degree does not make a professional. It takes more to become a professional. After all, is it not the person who makes the entire difference?

R. Hauroo

The Intelligent Building, the Green Library, and so on

Faulkner-Brown’s Ten Commandments
1. Flexible with a layout, structure and services which are easy to adapt
2. Compact for ease of movement of readers, staff and books
3. Accessible from the exterior into the building and from the entrance to all parts of the building with an easy comprehensive plan needing minimum supplementary directions
4. Extendible to permit future growth with minimum disruption
5. Varied in its provision of reader spaces to give wide freedom of choice
6. Organised to impose maximum confrontation between books and readers
7. Comfortable to promote efficiency of use
8. Constant in environment for the preservation of library materials
9. Secure to control user behaviour and loss of books
10. Economic to be built and maintained with minimum resources both in finance and staff

COMMENTS

These criteria formulated by a chartered architect and a library planning consultant still remain valid. Several library buildings have been erected according to these ten principles, namely, the National Library of Iceland, Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Egypt) and Juma Al-Majid Centre for Culture and Heritage in Dubai. But, in the light of recent developments, these qualities need to be revisited simply because they are inadequate.

Two new concepts in library building have emerged namely the intelligent building and the green library. Libraries as repositories of information or centres of learning cannot lag behind. They must become a place one seeks out happily in enthusiastic anticipation of intellectual stimulation. According to a report entitled: “The Intelligent Building in Europe”, an intelligent building is “one which maximises the efficiency of its occupants while, at the same time, allowing effective management of resources with minimum lifetime costs”. This definition has a wide range of implications which architects and library managers must take into consideration while designing modern library buildings. Wim Renes, a public library manager based in the Hague, Netherlands, believes that “an intelligent building is an enthralling concept, a state of the art library building with the latest and greatest in design and constructional technology, offering clients system that once only existed in the imagination of futurists. It is a dream of engineers, designers and librarians, a forum to marry new technology with creative design applications and a heavily used library building.

Nevertheless, with the advent of online information resources and their delivery via the desktop, the concept of the ubiquitous library – a library without walls, is high on the agenda these days. The importance of the library as a physical place is being more and more questioned. At the same time, interesting developments are taking place at the National Library of Singapore and the National Library for Children and Young Adults in Seoul, South Korea on how to integrate lifestyle habits into the library in order to capture a wider clientele and provide enhanced user-friendly services. Innovative ideas include, discussions rooms with full multimedia facilities where users can discuss and work in small groups on projects required at work or in schools , open-air courtyard with coffee club, the provision of outdoor garden adjacent to the reading room and facilities like water fountain in the library – in addition to the paradigm shift from staff assisted library environment to a largely self-help environment.

As regards the green library, it is an ecological library building which uses natural light to maximise use of ambient renewable sources of energy by means of an atrium, for instance. A recent case is the Taipei Public Library, Taiwan’s first green library – a building made of steel and wood located within Beitou Park. It was built in 2006 and designed with an environment-friendly architecture. It is a two-storey building with a lower level. The large wooden structure’s design is based on the themes of ecology, energy saving, waste reduction and health. IFLA has published some insightful monographs on library building. However, the guidelines contained therein are not meant to be rigidly adhered to specially in this fast changing global context. Rather, they should be adapted to one’s own country whenever the need arises to erect new library buildings.

For further reading:
1. Latimer, Karen and Niegaarad, Helen (2007). IFLA Library Building Guidelines: Developments and Reflections. Munich: K.G. Saur. ISBN 978-3-598-11768-8.
€ 58.00
2. Bisbrouck, M.F & Chauveinc, M (1999). Intelligent Library Buildings. Munchen: K.G. Saur. (IFLA Publications No. 88)
3. Annual Report of the National Library for Children and Young Adults 2006-2007. Seoul: NLCYA, 2008.
Ibrahim