Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Library and Information Studies Education in New Zealand and Australia: Background, Issues, and Challenges

Academic journal article Journal of Education for Library and Information Science

Library and Information Studies Education in New Zealand and Australia: Background, Issues, and Challenges

Article excerpt


The goal of this paper is to describe current New Zealand and Australian professional library and information studies (LIS) education programmes, and also to identify the challenges these programmes face. The paper concludes with reflections on the similarities and differences between LIS education in the two countries, and possible ways in which the issues could be addressed.

New Zealand

New Zealand is a small, isolated group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean, approximately 2000 kilometres south-west of Australia. It is slightly larger than the United Kingdom and roughly the same size as Colorado, with a population of around 4.5 million. New Zealand is a bicultural country that recognises indigenous Maori traditions and culture as a significant feature of New Zealand life. New Zealand is also a country of migrants: 25.2 percent of people living in New Zealand were born overseas, and 15 percent identify as indigenous Maori, 12 percent identify as Asian, and 7.5 percent identify as Pacific peoples (Statistics New Zealand, 2014a).

A high proportion of New Zealanders are literate and information-aware. New Zealanders are heavy consumers of electronic information, with 92% of those surveyed as part of the World Internet Project New Zealand indicating that they are actively using the Internet (Gibson, Miller, Smith, Bell, & Crothers, 2013).

LIS Education in New Zealand

The most recent New Zealand census results indicate that there are roughly 9,000 information professionals, including archivists, librarians, records managers, library assistants and 'information and organisation professionals' (Statistics New Zealand, 2014b, Table 23). Since the 2006 census, there have been significant increases in the number of health information managers (110% increase), chief information officers (228% increase) and library assistants (84% increase) (Cossham, Wellstead & Welland, 2014, p. 5).

Traditional LIS education in New Zealand is provided by two tertiary institutions: Victoria University of Wellington offers a Postgraduate Certificate in Information Studies, a Postgraduate Diploma in Information Studies, and a Master of Information Studies, while the Open Poly technic of New Zealand offers a range of undergraduate qualifications, including a Certificate in Literature and Library Services for Children and Young People, a Diploma in Library and Information Studies, a Bachelor of Arts, and a Bachelor of Applied Science. Both of these institutions offer elective courses in archives and recordkeeping in their qualifications. Student numbers have traditionally been too low to justify separate degrees in either archives and recordkeeping at either Bachelor's or Master's level. However, since New Zealand's recordkeeping community generally follows the records continuum model (which identifies the archival value of a record while it is still current and applies appropriate ongoing methods of management), this may be less important than it would be in other countries. For a more complete discussion of the history of these qualifications, see McCahon (1999), Irvine and Cossham (2011), Chawner & Oliver (2012), and Cossham, Wellstead & Welland (2014).

Distance delivery is a feature of both institutions' information studies programmes. The Open Polytechnic's undergraduate programme is offered only by distance, while Victoria's postgraduate programme is offered both face to face and distance. At both institutions, the majority of students study part time while working full or part time, often (but not always) in libraries and other information organisations. Distance education has proved to be popular, due to the relatively small and geographically diverse population. In addition, students live throughout the country, while both programmes are located in the Wellington region. It is not feasible to offer face-to-face LIS education more widely as student numbers are too low to sustain more programmes (Chawner and Oliver, 2012). …

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