Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Challenges of Preparing LIS Professionals for Leadership Roles in Pakistan

Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Challenges of Preparing LIS Professionals for Leadership Roles in Pakistan

Article excerpt

Library leadership is almost an unexplored area in library and information science (LIS) education. All eight library schools in Pakistan offer management courses to impart skills needed for managing libraries but there is little awareness regarding the importance of inducing leadership traits-as distinct from managerial skills-among LIS academia, researchers and practitioners. The paper explores different aspects of the issue with specific reference to Pakistan by using mixed methods. Data was obtained from professionals through a questionnaire, content-analysis, focus groups, discussions, and personal observation and experience. The paper identifies fundamental leadership attributes required for LIS professionals and their status among professionals in Pakistan. Barriers in the development of leadership traits among professionals are also identified. Findings suggest that the emerging social, professional and technological scenario in the country requires information professionals with leadership qualities, to foresee and create the future by timely planning and not become the victim of unforeseen changes.

Introduction

Pakistan came into being in 1947, as a sovereign Muslim state, after independence from the British rulers. However, the major areas constituting Pakistan - the base of the Indus valley - is known as one of the oldest civilizations that go back thousands of years. The world's first ever university at Texila, near Islamabad, was set up here. This region, known to be the place where the early Hindu Vedas were written, has a rich intellectual and cultural history.

At present, there are 100 universities in the public and private sectors offering education in all kinds of disciplines with attached centralized or decentralized library systems. In addition, there are college, public and special libraries, but no current directory of these libraries is available. For entry-level professional positions in all of these libraries, a master's degree in library and information science (LIS) is required. The seven library education schools together produce more or less 400 graduates annually. Another school has been established in 2004 in Multan. There is a surplus of library professionals at entry-level positions and the job market has become very competitive. Only graduates with outstanding skills of various types can satisfy the job market, especially in big cities. On the other hand, there is a serious crisis of leadership at the top level. Senior professionals with desired skills are not available for various reasons including brain drain and unsatisfactory working conditions.

The evolving digital paradigm requires professionals with exceptional leadership talent at all positions in LIS programs in order to read the pulse of time and develop curriculum and infrastructure accordingly. Library schools offer management courses to impart skills needed for managing libraries, and treat leadership only as a merit for managers. The lack of leadership qualities has gradually resulted in the diminishing the role of the Pakistan Library Association (PLA) as a national professional body to the extent that many would call it "dead." Despite this dismal status, the issue of leadership crises has not been explored or addressed in the local literature and educational programs. There is hardly any awareness among LIS academia, researchers and practitioners regarding the importance of inculcating leadership qualities as a distinct skill for the managerial level. This article investigates the different aspects of the issue with specific reference to Pakistan.

Leadership

Merriam-Webster Online defines leadership as: "the office or position of a leader; capacity to lead; the act or an instance of leading."1 The body of literature on leadership illustrates that it is difficult to define precisely the concept of "leadership." Lowry referred to Bennis' statement that decades of academic analysis have given us more than 350 definitions of leadership. …

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