An Instructional Role for Librarians: An Overview and Content Analysis of Job Advertisements

By Clyde, Laurel A. | Australian Academic & Research Libraries, September 2002 | Go to article overview
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An Instructional Role for Librarians: An Overview and Content Analysis of Job Advertisements


Clyde, Laurel A., Australian Academic & Research Libraries


Around the world, library and information science schools or departments are being asked to add new courses (1) to their programs, particularly those that will make graduates more competitive in the employment market. `Higher education programs are under great pressures from government funding agencies, but more importantly, students and employers, to provide the type of educational programs that meet their needs and standards', say Callison and Tilley, (2) with reference to work done by the Institute for Research on Higher Education of the United States Department of Education. (3) At the same time, though, there is also pressure on universities and colleges to review and restructure so that they are more efficient and effective in a time of financial constraints. Under these circumstances, it is often the case that fewer courses are offered, with the aim of reducing teaching costs. Consequently, it can be difficult to add new courses to the curriculum, especially in a situation where even established courses may be under threat. Thus, when any new course is being considered, there needs to be clear evidence that it will meet a real need in the workplace, and will be attractive to current and potential students. `Most of the good library schools ... re-evaluate their curriculum constantly and try to offer courses that are relevant to the jobs their students will take upon graduation'. (4)

In developing their programs, the library and information science schools or departments will be faced with a number of competing demands for new courses designed to meet emerging needs. This article describes research undertaken for a university outside Australia as part of the course approval and development process for a proposed new library and information science elective. The research was designed to be purely descriptive; the methodologies selected (literature review and content analysis) were ones that could be implemented within a limited time frame and the results were intended to be applied within the decision-making processes in the current academic year. The main aim was to gain an overview of current library workplace needs (as of the first half of 2002) for the knowledge and skills to be developed through the proposed course. A secondary aim was to ascertain ways in which content of the proposed course could be tailored to meet current and emerging needs in the workplace. The results may be of interest to other library and information science schools or departments that are considering or planning similar course offerings.

Instruction in Libraries

Libraries have been involved in `user education', in various forms, for a very long time. In academic and school libraries in the nineteenth century it usually took the form of `library orientation'--making sure that new students and faculty knew how to find the books and other material for theft courses. (5) In nineteenth and early twentieth century public libraries, it often took the form of literature promotion or reading promotion activities for children and young people, and even of `lessons' on how to look after books, right down to the need for washing hands before handling books. (6) The introduction of card catalogues and classification systems such as the Dewey Decimal Classification resulted in a need for user education in all kinds of libraries, with sessions based on topics such as `The card catalogue: The key to the library' and `How to find a book on the shelves'. (7) The introduction of automated catalogues from the 1960s, and later, databases on CD-ROMs, online information services for end users, and the Internet, have increased the need and demand for formal and informal user education, regardless of the type and size of library. `Over the past decade', says Marcum, `information literacy has emerged as a central purpose for librarians, particularly academic librarians'. (8)

Various terms have been used to describe this work, including `library tours', (9) library orientation', (10) `bibliographic instruction', (11) `library instruction', (12) `library research courses', (13) `user training', (14) `library skills instruction', (15) `user education', (16) `library customer education', (17) `end user education', (18) `information skills instruction', (19) `information literacy' education, (20) `research instruction', (21) among others.

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An Instructional Role for Librarians: An Overview and Content Analysis of Job Advertisements
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