Library profession in Mauritius and adaptation to changes

The 21st century, is marked as the age of electronic communication where knowledge and technology have become borderless and have become the basis for all appropriate decisions in relation to socioeconomic development of people. Electronic format dominates all spheres of our lives including education, employment, agriculture & industrial environment. As a result of this rapid and continual change in society and in the sphere of technology, the essence and contents of all the professional activities of the entire information profession are changing.

Referring to the Mauritian context, library and information professionals, we are utilizing ICT to keep pace with the problem of information explosion. Information and communication technologies (ICT) are facilitating the process of identification, collection, storing, processing and disseminating of information in most of our libraries and information centres while others are still in the process of implementing the new technologies.

Though, print media is still a major source of information in our libraries, however, this situation is changing in our academic libraries. Our service is usually geared to the needs of our students, academic staff and researchers. Our views to focus only on catalogues and in-house collection and tools are changing direction towards the web where our clients are. We are on the web exposing our resources and capabilities, surfing and exploring online libraries & databases, harvesting and linking via Facebook, Twitter, etc., bringing the power of those tools into our services. It is not only exposing resource collection but also promoting them and developing Information Literacy so that users are better equipped to discern what is of value to them.

We are showing flexibility and responding to changing realities. The skills which we have developed to such high level have to be reinvented. Our knowledge has to be reapplied in this new connected world (Walton, Graham and Varlejs, Jana). We must all be concerned with discovery in a world of awash in information and must recognize that we have a significant role to play in supporting the essential need for ongoing learning by all in a fast changing world.

Though, we may argue that the information professional today faces great challenges, the other side of the coin is that enormous opportunities proliferate on all sides – opportunities to innovate, find new customers, improve existing services and systems, and harness the continuing explosion of information to the organization. Converging technologies are offering opportunities which are beyond the wildest dreams of earlier generations of information workers. For e.g., from our own work station, we can easily links with services, systems and information which were previously either inaccessible or unknown (Pantry 1997:170)

We should always remember that we deal with information and that our skills lie in making information available through time and across borders. We should be quick to embrace the opportunities of new technologies and new approaches and show that this profession is important to the society.

In 2009, Elizabeth Stone Lecture given by Alex Byrne, he is equivocal about the need to change. “we must throw open our door and move out into the highways and byways of the information culture to cultivate a new profession which steps out comfortably in a borderless information world …”

Whether it is in Academic, National, Municipal, School or Special libraries, we all can embrace new information technologies, find new methods and ways of rendering services & communication. Some examples which can enhance our services can be as follows:-

• Computerized systems to facilitate rapid and efficient service.

• Well trained & knowledgeable staff to help with information retrieval.

• Subscription to various online libraries or databases can provide users with unlimited access to information (virtual Library).

• Information literacy program can guide users with skills & techniques for information retrieval.

• A well- equipped library with computers /laptops & ipads, internet & Wifi facilities will encourage members to visit & use library facilities more often.

Much more can be done depending on the budget allocation but even small changes can make a big difference in service provided. We have to hold tight our value for we are one of the few professions to take the long view about the need to preserve and make available without bias the knowledge of the past, present and the future. We have to be very active, encourage and mentor enthusiastic people into the profession, taking the wisdom of the experienced and the energy of the novice to create a new image of the highly communicative profession.

Sources consulted:

University of South Africa. Department of Information Science. 2003. Information professions and Cooperation. Only study guide for AIS102-E. Pretoria. University of South Africa.

Rahman, Anisur. Information and Communication Technologies, Libraries and the Role of Library Professionals in the 21st Century. http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-3-540-30544-6_69. Accessed on 21/04/2014

IFLA, Byrne A. Promoting the global information commons: a commentary on library and information implications of the WSIS Declaration of principles “Building the information society: a global challenge in the new millennium” Document WSIS/PC-3/DT/6. http://ifla.org

 

Lalita Takoor

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