A Competency Index for Research Librarians in Kenya

By Kwanya, Tom; Stilwell, Christine et al. | African Journal of Library, Archives and Information Science, April 2012 | Go to article overview

A Competency Index for Research Librarians in Kenya


Kwanya, Tom, Stilwell, Christine, Underwood, Peter G., African Journal of Library, Archives and Information Science


Introduction

Although the basic professional tenets of librarianship remain the same, the methods, tools, scope and environment of information delivery continue to change dramatically (Special Libraries Association, 2003). Myburgh (2003) describes the emerging information environment as being hypertext, networked and digital (virtual) and characterised by disintermediation, convergence, connectedness, competition, globalisation, the information explosion and vacillating funding. Kigongo-Bukenya (1999) argues that the information landscape is now characterised by increased agitation by stakeholders for the use of new technologies in organising and communicating information transparently, professional differentiation to meet the special group interests, and "interdisciplinarism".

Gunasekara (2005) defines a research library as a reference library, which provides specialised information facilities where exhaustive investigation on a particular field is conducted. He adds that research libraries are established under specific research institutes. Kent, Lancour and Daily (1978) also agree that research libraries should collect information on the area of research pertinent to their parent institutes in greater depth than any other library. Research libraries ordinarily provide reference service, reference management, research space, information literacy training, management of research outputs, resource exchange, and access to online information resources and gateways.

Research libraries, just like the other library typologies, are continually facing new expectations from stakeholders. The Council on Library Information Resources (CLIR, 2008) explains that the research information landscape is currently characterised by ubiquitous, digitised, indexed and online access to content. CLIR (2008) also predicts that the research libraries of the future will be multi-institutional entities collaborating with multiple researchers, stakeholders and information providers; open to change and embracing discovery; and largely digital, holding federated collections organised and delivered digitally through converged ubiquitous media. Such libraries will support the creation of research information, connect research communities, and provide the physical and virtual infrastructure to facilitate their use. Walker (2009) explains that research librarians are expected to be custodians of the physical and digital research information resources; managers of institutional repositories; administrators of information services; experts in subject information, information literacy and the management of vast research data sets; and providers of specialised information technology services.

Knight (2009) argues that the dynamic information environment requires versatile and better-educated information professionals who, besides librarianship and technical information skills, also possess good change management, communication, leadership and people management skills. Although some scholars (Salter 2003; Abram 2005) advocate for a new breed of librarian, i.e. Librarian 2.0, others (Gutsche 2010) argue that a review of the skills, knowledge, behaviour and attitudes of progressive librarians should possess would mainstream the profession in the emerging information ecology. Opinion is also divided on whether each librarian should possess all the skills. Some practitioners argue that the more the merrier while others hold the view that the essential skills differ depending on the context of the librarians. The latter group explain that research libraries can benefit more from a synergy of skills from different librarians than multi-skilled individuals (Partridge, Lee and Munro 2010).

Literature Review

Limited literature exists on the competency requirements of library and information professionals in Kenya. Only two works were identified. Shiholo (1 999) conducted a study on competency requirements for information professionals of the 21st Century and concluded that information technology and management were rated high. …

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