Library and Information Science: Academic and Research Libraries in Africa

Education and Training for Subject Specialization in Academic and Research Libraries in Africa: A Theoretical Critical Re-Appraisal by Benki S.H. Womboh

Education has been postulated as a dynamic force which requires periodic re-appraisal to ensure that everything occurs according to mapped plans and that the envisaged objectives are achieved. The author strongly believes that for any country in Africa to make decisions on the education and training of librarians without minding her national goals is intellectual irresponsibility. It is necessary for educational policy makers in Africa, not only to consider carefully the proper aims of education in the context of the particular environment, but also continually to review critically those aims to ensure that they equal the changing values. Education and training for subject specialization in academic research libraries (ARL) in Africa is necessary, but it is not the highly prized type obtainable in the developed countries of the world.

The author considered the provision for local adjustment of the international standards of education and training of librarians made by the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) and deemed it the best option for Africa. The African philosophy of librarianship, especially concerning the education and training for subject specialization in ARL, is presented. The author concludes that the undergraduate degree type of education and training of librarians with ‘sufficient’ subject background which will not only enable the graduates to achieve the national objectives of their countries, but will also gradually pilot them to the ideal international standard – is the most acceptable and relevant one for Africa. A number of suggestions are made to improve the education and training of librarians in Africa, among which the following are salient: (1) Library educators in Africa should conduct periodic research to measure the performance of the graduates and use their findings to improve the curricula of their schools; (2) The present curricula of all library schools in Africa should be coordinated, standardized, and systematized through a continental seminar to be sponsored by United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and/or IFLA; and (3) Subject specialization, especially in science and technology, is necessary for service in ARL, therefore, library schools in Africa should be encouraged to offer more elective courses in the pure sciences, agriculture, and engineering.

Many library and information studies (LIS) programs in the United States offer different courses to prepare students for an increasingly educational role. Studies from 1974 through 1996 indicate a gradual rise in the number of courses offered in the areas of bibliographic instruction, information literacy, and user education. Most of these studies were limited by the non-response rates of the surveys used. This study, however, examines the public web sites of each ALA accredited LIS program in the U.S., finding that, for the first time, over half of the current programs offer full, regularly scheduled courses in user education.

A study of service encounters between adult library staff and adolescent users drawing on the communication theories of Erving Goffman, Michael Lipsky and Hartmut Mokros is reported from three data sources: a content analysis of professional guides to conduct, group interviews with adult library staff and adolescents, and taped observations of professional and clerical encounters in a high school library. Professional guides to practice are predominantly prescriptive, advocating the avoidance of behaviors admittedly prevalent in practice. Adults and adolescents are congruent on what they want out of ideal encounters, but admit to stereotypical views of the other based on age and appearance. Service is found to be multi-dimensional, primarily clustered in very short interactions when classes change, more predominantly concerned with help with equipment, and less than half of what staff do in the high school library. An equal amount of time is allocated to enforcement activities, none of which is alluded to in professional guides to conduct. Influences of technology on practice and rhetoric on reality are discussed.

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