Library Education and the Australian Public Librarian

Article excerpt

The paper discusses the roles, skills and attributes required of today's public librarian; ponders whether there are adequate opportunities to exercise them; describes an educational profile for librarianship in Australia and asks if this profile can address the needs of public librarianship in the Australian context

A background to this paper was recently published in the conference proceedings of the Australian Library and Information Association (Alia) Public Libraries Conference held in Perth, WA in November 1999[1] and should be read in conjunction with it. The paper which follows synthesises and develops the content of the conference paper and the thoughts shared with delegates during the conference presentation.

The public library of the future

In order to contemplate an educational profile of today's and tomorrow's Australian public librarian, we need to look forward. There are many places we can go to do this as there has been, and I suspect will continue to be, extensive soul searching amongst information professionals, particularly those involved with libraries, regarding their future and the future of their institutions. This was so when I was president of the Australian Library and Information Association in 1997. Whilst some felt quite comfortable grappling with issues of change, it was evident that many of our profession did not. Things may have settled down a little, but with Alia itself undertaking a change agenda, there is likely still some disquiet.

I found two likely internet domains forecasting the future for public libraries. One, thanks to a recent student assignment, was from Libraries for the Future, the other from the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (Ifla).

Libraries for the Future

The Libraries for the Future home page[2] states

* a new vision of the public library is needed and then offered as a mission

* to preserve and revitalise the free public library as an essential institution for a democratic society.

The vision which followed encapsulated the following ideals

* make accessible to all who wish to use them: collections, online information, learning services, public programs and public space

* in terms of: location, hours, availability of support services, languages, formats and content

* available to people: at home, in the community, in the workplace, in traditional main and branch library buildings

* will serve as: centres for the communication of ideas, needs and resources both locally and worldwide

* will involve citizens in: planning and delivery of information and learning services

* will provide: local and virtual space for research, education and problem solving

* will be responsive: to the information and leaning needs of each local community.

This is what we should be doing now. It is certainly the tenor of recent and present literature regarding the provision of public library services.

Ifla

Ifla is undertaking a review of its public libraries guidelines, and has published the following

   The world of information and communication is going through a period of
   unprecedented and accelerating change.

The public library

* is an institution which exists in almost every part of the world

* is profoundly affected by this process of change

* is the gateway to the world's knowledge for all the world's citizens

* has an enormous opportunity to enhance the scope and quality of its services and become a vital bridge between the citizen and the exciting world of information[3]

There is, of course, more because the Ifla revision of the public libraries guidelines runs to many pages. These challenges offer hope and promote action for the future.

Issues for today's public librarians

The future

The future of the public library, as described above, would have to be one of the main issues facing public librarians around the world. …