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?