Special Issue April 2009: Papers from the 3rd conference of the Student Association of Medical Library and Information Science of the Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences and Health Services, Tehran, Iran, held in December 24 and 25, 2008.
The Role of Library and Information Science Education in National Development
Information is a crucial factor in national development, and the ability to use information tools is considered a source of power (Bordbar, n.d.). In the 21st century governments must recognize this need for information use and literacy as a means of development (Noruzi, 2006). Librarians and information experts play a key role development. The cooperation and assistance of librarians is a basis for any movement to gain development. By this cooperation and the provision of useful information in economic, cultural, social and political contexts, development becomes possible (Bordbar, n.d.).
The essential role of librarians in providing access to information for development means that LIS departments must provide dynamic educational systems. This discusses the changes needed in LIS education and the necessity of basic changes in the curricula in this field in Iran as a key factor in national development, including some guidelines for these objectives.
"Development" is gradual growth toward advancement and power (Zahedi Mazandarani, 2003). Development has economical, political, social and cultural aspects. Rapid expansion of knowledge and technology creates complexities in determining which factors have an effect on development. Considering factors such as culture, economy, hygiene, education, etc., leads to a broad but unified concept of development (Bahramzadeh, 2003). Taken as a whole, development is all actions that lead society toward an organized system of individual and collective living conditions relating to desirable values (Sharif al Nasabi, 1996).
Influential Factors in National Development
Resources and institutions are two important influences on national development.
Potential and actual resources are the determining factors for achieving goals. Developing countries need quick access to resources, including natural resources, advanced technology, and managers and skilled workers who are motivated ("Human Resource Development," 2002).
Human resources are particularly crucial for this effort. There is a direct connection between the quality of human resources and the structural evolution of countries. A technical and modern curriculum is important for LIS. This kind of education should be supported by higher education and programming administration.
Curricula should include skills related to designing, consulting, and improving information systems. Librarians should be qualified to make decisions on operational, executive, and technological topics, and on organizing and managing libraries and archives.
Librarians should participate in the following activities:
Having the skills to participate in these activities will help librarians contribute to national development
Professional, scholarly, and scientific institutions and agencies are a key factor in development. Library organizations can serve as operational arms in development. They can adopt the goals and polices that will facilitate national development and advancement.
Selected Research on LIS Education
Change and reform in LIS education are always popular topics in the literature. Ghanjian (1974), Ebrami (1975), Dayani (2000), and Keyani (2003), all emphasize the importance of LIS and the need for intellectual and knowledgeable graduates. Fattahi (2002) reviews reforming LIS curriculum looking at the quantity and quality of the LIS teachers' skills. Mortezaie (2001) did a comparative study that analyzed LIS training in different countries, whose outcome can be used for designing a new program. Nowkarzi (2004) in refers to a comparative study of an LIS BA before and after the Islamic revolution. There have been no remarkable changes in curricula during that last four decades
Challenges to LIS Education
LIS faculty have many different kinds of training and skills, but their training may not be appropriate for the current needs of society. Many librarians who have completed an LIS program do not consider this discipline an advanced and crucial field, but regard librarianship as a simple duty. Instructors who lack expertise and the lack of interaction between the computer colleges and communicative sciences (Ghardirian and Asili, 2005), has also delayed the reformation of LIS programs (Fattahi, 2006). Accepting students to LIS programs without an interview or other rigorous screening (23:4) is another challenging issue. LIS programs have not responded to the expectations of the profession or of the university community. It is necessary reform the organization, curriculum, training material and equipment, and instructor preparation.
Requirements for Change in LIS Programs
It is necessary to reform LIS education, creating new interdisciplinary courses and teaching new methods of providing information services. With continuously changing technology, the need for reformation is crucial. We need new fundamental principles for LIS education.
The classical view has many shortcomings including:
For reaching the ideals of national development, curricula should be designed to make students think about fundamental theories and concepts, and think creatively about the changes and challenges that are occurring, and simply to use tools better (14:21). There have been changes in recent years, and all have improved LIS education and its impact on national development.
Curriculum reform has many advantages. It can have a benefit for human resources and human capital (Hayati 2008). Instructors must have both the knowledge and experience, to train students to handle, manage, and analyze data in the most efficient way. Universities should apply reforms that shape the attitudes that lead to professionalism, and there must be supervision and evaluation of LIS curricula.
Scientific and professional associations can help with teaching methods and curricula for the BA through doctorate levels with the purpose of training professionals and providing continuing education. That includes international seminars and conferences on educational topics for the profession (Dayani, 2005).
The Relationship between Development and LIS
Until now, science and technology was regarded as the most important element in development, and it was given priority in universities. The process of advancement depends on knowledgeable, creative, responsible, and self confident people. Progress relies on the power of people. That includes librarians who are providing useful information for individuals and organizations who play a crucial in development. Libraries provide an environment where every user can flourish (Nowkarzi, 2004). To play this role in development, librarians must receive the appropriate professional education. Changes to the structure of higher education should be in harmony with the ideals of national development and rapid social change.
Librarians and library associations should consider the following suggestions for LIS education:
These skills are also a necessary part of LIS education:
Discussion and Conclusion
"Development" is a desirable goal for most people and nations. While development is associated with economic progress, the economy is not the only factor. There are other factors involved, including life skills and security (127:15). Science and technology, and access to information are crucial factors in development. To achieve the goal of development, professional education is essential, and we must make fundamental changes in higher education systems.
LIS is vitally important for development. Therefore librarians, libraries, and library associations, as well as information systems, all play a role in fostering creativity, innovation, and dealing with people's needs and expectations. LIS can overcome its problems and shortcomings and meanwhile adapt itself to rapid social changes. Librarians should consider what is needed for national development and train sophisticated professionals to deal with development issues (234). This requires qualified LIS teachers who have adequate knowledge and experience to train the best students.
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