As professional workers delivering a public service to the community, librarians are fully aware that change is the only constant factor in their work environment. Libraries are not and have never been the exclusive provider of information in society. Nowadays there are other players, and big ones, in the information industry. Information consumers have a multitude of online and offline sources at their disposal. Those seeking information have developed a different culture which often contrasts with the traditional techniques of libraries in providing information. There is urgent need for librarians to adapt to the new realities and adopt new technologies in the delivery of library and information services. Failure to do so will force their exit from the industry. On the other hand, commercial enterprises and businesses are much more vulnerable in the turbulent and competitive markets. Their survival depends on their capacity to adapt to the new situations. However, to address this challenge, investment in the human resources is important. There is a need for continuous learning to fit in the constantly changing environment. This concept of continuous learning is not new, though it has become prominent in recent years. In our field, we often refer to the continuous professional development of library staff. What does this mean?
Continuous learning is not continually attending one course after another to gather more and more knowledge. Knowing something (theories) is only one side of the coin; putting knowledge in practice, implementing what one has learned and developing skills is what makes learning useful. Formal learning programmes are good but if learning ceases with the formal training / education, then the process is devoid of meaning. Learning is a continual process throughout life as one never stops learning at any stage; one learns from every experience in life, whether at work, at home, in private or in the process of social interactions.
This process of continuous learning always starts with a personal vision; a recognition of values and how one wants to live and work in the future. This implies a self-assessment of one’s weaknesses and a desire to change by seeking paths that will lead to that future. A scanning of external environmental factors influencing the internal work environment help in a proper assessment of the situation. A personal commitment to continuous professional development is highly critical for achieving the desired results. Learning should always be charecterised by personal and professional change.
Organisations having a learning culture generally encourage their employees on this learning process. Some have also set up formal structures to develop their human resources and have consequently created a climate conducive to learning. However, for organisations where funds are inadequate or where top management is reluctant to invest in their human resources, employees need to initiate actions on their own. It becomes their responsibility to continually develop their skills and join the pool of multi-skilled personnel to fit any future scenario.
How many years ago (or decades), did you receive your degree or formal qualifications in librarianship? It may be years now. If that’s true, ask yourself the following question: has the exercise of the profession of librarianship changed in our country? To what extent? What are the drivers of this change? What new skills do you require to perform efficiently and effectively? When was the last time you underwent a training programme in your work?
In the library and information service sector in Mauritius, there is very little formal training for library staff. Refresher courses, local seminars / workshops, personal coaching or mentoring of new entrants, discussion groups and other platforms would have helped in this learning process. Library associations and national cultural institutions have the duty to play an active role in the continuous professional development of library staffs.