Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Misplaced Librarian

There were many insights and issues that surfaced from my seminar-workshop with public and barangay librarians yesterday at the Filipinas Heritage Library. Public librarians, kin to school librarians, have their share of problems, concerns and what-nots. For many, funding and budget is not the number one challenge in meeting the objectives of library services, but, staff training and the availability of enough manpower to sustain the energy of the library. This was articulated by almost three fourth of the participants.

Although it was never identified what kind of training they needed the most, I have an inkling that the skills and competencies they must learn are those on library management, communication skills and the ability to integrate a variety of disciplines that will eventually lead to succesfull plans and programs for the public library. In this case, librarians must be given enough exposure to travel and bench mark with other librarians in the provincial and international settings. Those who are still in the academe earning the degree necesitate an interdisciplinary learning experience in their study of Library and Information Science.

Last I heard, teachers of LIS are revising and improving curriculum to give focus and direction to students. There may be students who would like to focus on IT development; public service; media and communications; education and training; etc. but with a foundation on LIS.

When job related issues began sprouting during the discussion, I was earnest to hear them out. I was interested to find out the paradigms and schools of thought these librarians subscribe to. Often, their comments and questions reflect their personal and professional philosophy.

One librarian was given the task as tour guide. And yes, it was a very uncomfortable task. Not the librarian's fault since she was trained to procure, organize, manage and circulate the library's collection. Then again, the role of a librarian has changed radicaly over the years that to maintain that set of tasks limits the moral, cultural and intellectual growth of the community. Public librarains have a special role in elevating literacy. And there are many kinds of literacy. Is the public librarian trained and prepared for this change. Is the public librarian equiped to handle emerging kinds of literacy for people of different age groups and demographics?

There are many librarians I know who did not take LIS courses but were lucky enough to learn and get units of LIS. Most pursue a graduate degree even. Some are quite succesful though their bachelor's degree is non-LIS. But what happens if the table is turned? What can the librarain do if he or she is expected to be teacher, curator, manager, events planner, PR officer, editor, web developer, even computer technician? Will he/she rely on God given wit and talent or learn new things to integrate with the old knowledge?

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