LIS Education: Crossing the Frontiers

The proliferation and velocity of information compelled many countries, both developed and developing, to review the LIS education and focus on changes and realignments over the past two decades. Several universities in South Africa started with a change in the names of the departments such as Departments of Library Science/ Library Studies or Librarianship are known as Departments of Library and Information Science/ Studies. To reflect some incorporated disciplines in the name, the University in Namibia chose Department of Information and Communication Studies, the University of Johannesburg termed its department into Department of Information and Knowledge Management. Moreover, LIS is not confined to the traditional faculty of Humanities or Social Sciences; faculties or schools such as the Centre for Higher Education Development at the University of Cape Town, the Faculty of Management at the University of Johannesburg or the School of Information Technology (with Computer Science) and Informatics (Information Systems) offer LIS programmes equally.

Distance education in LIS is considered irrelevant as the main focus is on education and training for library workers whereby the University of Technology and Polytechnics in South Africa offers vocational education and training qualification. The programme includes subjects such as knowledge management, multimedia, records management, information technology and publishing, and also an increased integration of diverse subjects in order to cater for emerging markets. Information and knowledge management modules that include topics, such as personal information management, tools and techniques of information and knowledge management, strategy formulation and implementation, information and knowledge audits and information consultancy form part of the LIS programme too.

In view to adopt a different learning focus, the Universities of Johannesburg and Stellenbosch have switched from traditional LIS programmes to Information and Knowledge Management. Hence, they offer programmes termed as, for example, BA in Information Science and BCom in Information and Knowledge Management. These aim to train students in the ever-changing electronic environment, provide intellectual competencies and practical skills while applying information and knowledge management principles and prepare them to use information as an important resource in the decision-making process.

The Department of Information Science at the University of Stellenbosch further crossed the line by changing the courses in information science to socio-informatics. The latter could be described as a subject that deals with the relationship and interface between information needs and practices, knowledge of economy and society and knowledge dynamics on computer technology. The programme focuses on theoretical aspects and the practical needs of information specialists and knowledge workers.

The following further shows significant changes in LIS education in several African universities:

  • The University of Zululand offers BA Information Science which includes modules to equip students with skills of basic computer repairs for uninterrupted use of computers and further trouble shooting skills.
  •  Multimedia topics are compulsory modules in the IS programme at the University of Pretoria and media publishing studies form part of the LIS programme at the Moi University.
  •  The Department of Information and Communication Studies at the University of Namibia offer LIS degrees with specialized programmes in media studies.
  • At the University of Botswana, the Department of Library and Information Studies offer various information science topics such as Information and knowledge management, information retrieval, system analysis and design, web management, databases, decision support systems, electronic commerce, networks, etc.

The above changes and challenges in LIS education have received  the support of the Library and Information Association of South Africa (LIASA). The association recognizes the Continuing Education and Professional Development (CEPD) of professionals essential to keep their practices current and relevant, enhance and upgrade skills and encourage the promotion of service standards and acceptable good practice. Through the policy of life-long learning, the faculty members, in addition, are required to keep themselves up to date with developments to ensure quality teaching and research. Furthermore, there exists a general system of external examiners and regular external evaluations for quality control to ensure teaching and research of acceptable quality.

Likewise, in the developed countries, the LIS programs are under constant scrutiny with the view to prepare students for the future, in a world where there is an avalanche of information and continuous change in the workplace. The University of California, Northridge and Valdosta State University in Georgia developed successful programmes with more focus on information science while keeping the established library science studies.  This hybrid approach aims to provide a stronger foundation in the library career while the multidisciplinary focus, in addition, provides opportunities for other career paths.

The acquisition of skills, mainly soft skills, such as analytical ability and communications skills, customer service skills, business and marketing skills, flexibility and adaptability are more valued by employers than traditional technical skills. LIS programs train to locate, filter and evaluate information where librarians are the first and foremost educators of information and information sources. Thus, the curriculum has additional elements such as internships, networking, mentoring and leadership skills in order to equip the students in the changing industry. The American Library Association (ALA) follows this transition closely and ensures the accreditation standards are also developed to meet the varying needs of the discipline.

However, during the accreditation process, many issues are addressed.  The topics of curriculum, quality, and skill sets for the LIS field, the student-to-faculty ratio for appropriate teaching and advising, assessments, placement services and, above all, the viable teaching and learning environment for students are given much consideration. Much emphasis is laid upon comprehensive assessment, systematic curricular review and alignment of syllabi and the need for managed growth and class sizes. The quality of faculty and quality students, and adequate resources to create and maintain a quality programme are measured and, furthermore, studies and surveys are regularly carried out to help develop an ideal LIS programme. Thus, the ALA standards state that the curriculum should integrate the theory, application, and use of technology and that it must be reviewed and evaluated by a variety of stakeholders, including students, faculty, and potential employers.

To sum up, it could be said that there has been a gradual and definite conversion where a multidisciplinary approach and research-based focus form part of the LIS education overseas. In the local context, contrarily, the LIS education has undergone minimal change. With only a modification in the name, the topics of the curricula of LIS have remained more or less the same along with unchanged teaching methods. The inadequacy of relevant and current subjects, in addition to the lack of life-long learning practices of the educators and faculty for the past two decades renders the programme obsolete compared to LIS education offered at the international level. Moreover, the professed associations generated to oversee the developments in LIS remain unvoiced through out the years. The situation is undeniably critical and enormous development is needed to bring LIS education to equal stage in Mauritius.

REFERENCES

Chow, Anthony S, Ph.D.,2011. Changing times and requirements: Implications for LIS Education. Library and Information Science Research Electronic Journal. Vol. 21(1).

Ocholla, D. and Bothma, T. Trends, challenges and opportunities of LIS education and training in Eastern and Southern Africa. University of Zululand, University of Pretoria, South Africa.

Lalita Chumun

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Knowledge: the Key to Competitive Advantage for Learning Organisations

Changes in technology, especially information technology, has accelerated the spread of knowledge at tremendous speed, as well as exposing its quick obsolence. The increasing complexity, turbulency and uncertainty of the library environment predictably requires different and greater knowledge on the part of library service providers to satisfy the increasingly complex customer demands. There is a clear need for new solutions.

Knowledge is viewed as the key input for the development of a competitive advantage for organisations where employees’ knowledge and skills are critical factors. Without this there is no organisational success. It follows then that managerial methods, policy and styles should be constantly revamped and in tune with current development. Employees’ education and training on the other hand require due consideration to improve library and information services. In the local context, training programmes and career-building for employees seem to be very low on the agenda of top management.  Without employee training and a proper staff development plan, appropriate conditions for constant knowledge improvement, innovation and creativity in work,  organisations will not survive in a more and more competitive and turbulent environment. It is only through knowledge, knowledge-sharing and mutual experience exchange that will lead learning organisations to attain a competitive advantage.

Besides, lifelong learning of employees in the library field will contribute to the establishment of a permanently learning organisation. A learning organisation is formed when it actively promotes learning of all its members and transforms it permanently. Today successful organisations are not those that have a well-educated workforce but most often those that have coherently and systematically implemented a continuous (life-long) learning programme. The only way for the library community to survive as a learning organisation is to innovate or accept to perish. Obtaining knowledge, learning, education, all have a real effect on the quality of service when they are harmonised with the needs and objectives of a particular library. In addition, employee training and development does not imply only obtaining new knowledge, abilities and skills, but also the possibility to introduce employees to changes, encourage the change of their attitude and involve them actively in the process of decision making.

The learning organisation is also the organisation that learns and encourages people to learn in the organisation. It motivates information exchange between employees and creates staff with different knowledge. The initial concept of knowledge management indicates that power does not come from knowledge, but from the exchange and use of that knowledge. More qualitative knowledge is obtained by exchanging knowledge; and obtaining and sharing knowledge becomes the core of a learning organisation. Application of this system in the library community of Mauritius remains a managerial challenge. Library management requires positive reinventing to constantly monitor and encourage the development of new skills and knowledge and create a new type of leadership where the leaders are not all-knowing supervisors, but rather moderators and inspirators. The leaders need to recognize, attract and release knowledge which also implies a high degree of employee competence and orientation towards the participative style of management.

The prosperity of the library community is definitely dependent on the intellectual capacity of the employees and their ability to change and adjust to the dynamic environment. Renewing knowledge is crucial in the library field and not an option. Without it, it is difficult to implement the changes and adjust them to the ever changing environment, to create innovations and guarantee the success of the learning organisation.

Lalita Chumun

Reference

Vemic, J. 2007. Employee training and development and the learning organisation. Economics and Organisation, 209 (4/2).

Continuous Professional Development for Librarians

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.

P. Hauroo

Library Education in Mauritius: A Bird’s Eye View

In this article, an attempt has been made to trace back the brief history of libraries, librarians and library education in Mauritius. An overview of the various undergraduate LIS courses offered by tertiary education institutions since 1981, coupled with relevant statistics have been presented. Some recommendations have also been formulated at the end. For the full-text version, please Click here…Library Education in Mauritius…

Ibrahim Ramjaun