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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Old Reports on Libraries in Seychelles & Mauritius

In an earlier post, we shared with our readers an old report on libraries in Mauritius by K.C. Harrison entitled “Libraries, Documentation and Archives Services”, dated 1978 (see link here ). Two more reports have been uploaded, one concerning libraries in the Republic of Seychelles by K.C. Harrison (1978) and the second one relating to Mauritius by S.W. Hockey (1966). Both these reports may help those who are interested to trace the development of libraries in this region. To access the documents, click on the following links:

  1. Republic of the Seychelles: Libraries, Documentation and Archives Services (Harrison, 1978)
  2. Development of Library Services in Mauritius. (Hockey, 1966)

Digital Library in Mauritius

Bibliotheque NumeriqueThe Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF), based at Reduit, has developed, in collaboration with the University of Mauritius,  a digital collection on “Mauritiana”. This may be considered as the first digital  library in Mauritius. The collection has been built out of the holdings of the University of Mauritius library and is organised under nine broad subjects. It is searchable and the digitised documents are all in pdf format. Staffs of the University of Mauritius Library and the AUF have plans to digitise more documents and make them available online to the public at large. The digital library may be accessed at  http://bibliotheque.mu.refer.org/.  The National Library of Mauritius and the Mauritius Institute of Health are also working on similar projects to build up digital libraries. In the long run, major libraries of the country may ultimately work out a coordinated scheme to digitise and preserve the national heritage of the nation.

P. Hauroo

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

LIA e-Newsletter Vol 2 No 1 of 2010

LIA e_Newsletter Vol 2 No 1 of  February 2010 is now online. Just click on the link below to read/download it Vol 2 No 1

Library Professionals in Mauritius: Need for Collaboration

The practice of librarianship in Mauritius, the problems affecting its development and the current and future  status of the profession have been serious  concerns for people working in the library and information field in our country. New entrants in the profession are worried not to see “real change happening”. Each one of us has his/her idea of the reasons why things are as they are; some discuss it privately, others dare to criticize openly those who they think are responsible for such conditions and still a few prefer not to express themselves. One of our member, Garen Chenganna has reflected on the subject and has produced a paper. To access it, click on the following link Garen_ The need for collaboration among Library professionals in Mauritius. We invite our members and readers to join the discussion!

Report on Public Libraries in Africa (1962)

This old report on the Regional Seminar on The Development of Public Libraries in Africa held in Nigeria from 10-12 September 1962, may be of interest to those who would like to have a global view of the development of  librarianship in Africa. The report focuses particularly on the training of library staff. Mention is made of Mauritius also. A comment made on courses offered is worth our reflection and it reads as follows  “…From all this, it will be seen that the general pattern of training is uneven, and the most successful ventures have been in those countries where library schools have been established. The attachment of such schools to universities, as in South Africa, has given the profession a standing commensurate with other professions and with appropriate salaries. As library services expand in emergent countries, training policies will follow local needs rather than being dependent on outside sources…” This comment invites our critical analysis in the light of new developments taking place in libraries, specially in the digital era. To read the full report, click here …Public Libs in Africa.

P.Hauroo