An Integrated Perspective for Professional Education in Libraries, Archives and Museums: A New Paradigm, a New Training Model

By Ribeiro, Fernanda | Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, Spring 2007 | Go to article overview
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An Integrated Perspective for Professional Education in Libraries, Archives and Museums: A New Paradigm, a New Training Model


Ribeiro, Fernanda, Journal of Education for Library and Information Science


The contexts and contents that have traditionally characterized education in the archives, libraries and museums fields conform, even nowadays, in a general way, to the dominant paradigm that goes back to ideas and perspectives emanating from the French Revolution. The historical, custodial and technical paradigm is the leading one today and professional training is organized, mostly, in accordance with this model. Besides, the prevailing curricular thinking has been colored by UNESCO's curriculum harmonization efforts back in the 1970's and 1980's and the approach of merging archives and libraries into information studies as undertaken by some institutions during the last two decades. This vision is discussed and critically examined in light of a new paradigm that emerges from the impact of the social, economic, cultural and technological conditions of the information society. The new information age has given rise to a recent perspective that understands archivistics, librarianship and, in some aspects, museology, as applied disciplines in the area of information science. This new perspective of convergence has as its object of study information and is seen as a unified and transdisciplinary field that convokes other disciplines in an obvious and profitable interdisciplinarity. Naturally, this epistemological perspective has implications for professional training and the respective models of curricula. In illustrating the theoretical considerations in this respect, reference is made to the undergraduate program named Licenciatura em Ciência da Informação taught jointly by the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Porto (Portugal).

Custody, Technique and Document: Keywords of a Paradigm in Crisis

The practices related to archives and libraries are as old as the invention of writing and they evolved in a natural way, since the use of information has always been a necessity. Information came to be recorded in a variety of media, thus making the existence of a memory possible that can be accessed an unlimited number of times and over the years, decades and centuries. The procedures involved in organizing (classification, arrangement, disposition) and representing (description, indexing, abstracting) information increased as a response to different needs and increasingly became more complex as the amount of information grew and the efficiency of retrieval became indispensable to the actions of persons, collectivities and institutions. In comparison with the longevity of millenary practices in archives and libraries, the disciplines related to these areas are remarkably young. They have only really emerged in modern times, following the spread of the ideas and perspectives of the French Revolution and within the context of the development of history and positivism during the nineteenth century. Archivistics, librarianship and even museology developed as autonomous disciplinary areas within an umbrella framework, which is here called the "historical, custodial and technical paradigm," characterized briefly in this way:

* over-valorization of the custody or keeping, conservation and restoration of the medium as a basic function of the professional activity of librarians, archivists and museologists;

* close association between the custodial and public mission/service of archives, libraries and museums with the preservation of a country's erudite culture;

* emphasis on memory as a source of legitimacy for the state-nation, in harmony with an ideology of nationalist character;

* growing importance of access to the "content" of documents through finding aids (guides, inventories, catalogs, indexes), where such documents are considered more as cultural heritage than as informational sources;

* prevalence of the professional aspects over the scientific ones, thus instigating a strong and corporative spirit and sustaining the confusion between "profession" and "science," as if professional activities in archives, libraries or museums could generate autonomous disciplines such as archival science, librarianship or museology.

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