The Changing Educational Role Of The Academic Librarian Education Essay


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This chapter discusses the main issues that have arisen from a review of the most relevant literature relating to the changing educational role of the academic librarian and librarians' affiliation with academic staff, both as professional equals and collaborative partners. Perspectives on CPD and its potential importance are also explored, along with the development of IL in the current HE environment. It should be noted that some of the details in the four sections do overlap because they inevitably share common characteristics.

2.1 Changing educational role

Bundy (2001) argues that librarians are needed now more than ever due to the vast and diverse collection of information now available. Many users believe that because they know how to use the internet, they will be able to find what ever they are looking for, but as Bundy comments, it is librarians who recognise more than anyone that 'the sheer abundance of information and technology will not in itself create more informed citizens', (2001: 3) and only reinforces the need for librarians to support and instruct users on how to benefit as much as possible from the information available.

Doskatsch highlights that in response to the changing HE environment both the content and delivery of degree courses has had to change. She states that the

'unbundling of traditional teaching activities . . . [has brought with it] many opportunities for librarians to assume a more active educational role and demonstrate their actual and potential contribution to the re-engineering on the teaching and learning environment' (2003: 112).


The problem seems to be, how to best facilitate this role and get librarians to take responsibility as educators? This has been helped by the Ross Report (1990), which significantly raised the profile of librarians as learning facilitators in Australia. Since its publication, librarians have increasingly seen themselves more and more as teacher-librarians, and partners in the learning process (Doskatsch, 2003).

Another aspect of the debate which has continually arisen in the literature reviewed, is the importance of librarians having a grounding in the pedagogical structures applied and be sensitive to the different student learning styles that exist, in order to provide the most appropriate and accurate instruction required; Bundy (2001) and Powis (2004), place particular value on these skills. Bundy states that 'librarians need to become conversant as early as their pre-service education with pedagogical concepts and how people learn' (2001: 4). Peacock (2001) supports Bundy's assertion and emphasises the ever-increasing spectrum of skills that librarians now need. She states that librarians who teach now require 'a deeper understanding of the multiple facets of education and training' and that 'this extension of their role . . . necessitates their involvement at developmental and strategic levels across the university . . .' (2001: 4). Doskatsch (2003) echoes this perspective and stresses that the focus on student centred learning has reinforced the need for librarians to be proficient in a much wider area of skills, both socially and educatively. It is essential that they be in touch with the needs of the students in order to predict educational requirements. Doskatsch summarises the qualities that she would identify in a teaching librarian/learning facilitator, ' . . . the convergence of pedagogical knowledge, information expertise, technological competence, strategic skills and professionalism' (2003: 113). The Adsetts Learning Centre at Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) is one example of adapting to a changing culture. Hines (2004) notes that key considerations when designing the Centre were the changing learning environment and the different approach that would be taken by library staff. Graham Bulpitt, Director of the Adsetts Centre adds that staff ' . . . have a good understanding of how students actually do learn and are likely to provide the most practical, productive and innovative ideas. They will require a sound understanding of institutional teaching and learning strategies' (2004:157).


The change in the teaching and learning environment in HE is not only educational, or professional but also and, possibly, more critically, cultural. Every aspect of the academic institution is changing, including the design, layout and naming of the library. In the same way as libraries are becoming learning centres and reflecting the acknowledgment of student centred learning in their design, as described above, librarians also need to accept the changing culture of the profession and use this opportunity to reinvent the stereotype and present a more realistic image of librarianship to the HE arena as a whole. Doskatsch (2003), argues that the main problem for librarians is that they do not successfully market themselves as dynamic, able professionals, who are key to the education of students. The significant technological and educational changes that have taken place in HE have presented librarians with an opportunity to change the culture of librarianship, embrace their new roles and titles in an attempt to more accurately describe the contemporary functions of library staff.

The rapid growth of the Internet and the ease of gaining access to information from it has opened up endless possibilities for the provision of education in universities and has also had a noteworthy effect on the role of the academic librarian. Powis argues that in the current environment, ' . . . an understanding of the different skills and knowledge required to develop online learning is becoming essential' (2004: 87). The rise in popularity of e-learning environments such as VLE's and WebCT, have increased the need for librarians to know how to design and use them if they are going to take a bigger role in teaching and learning. As Corrall states, 'the IT revolution has not only altered and developed established roles, it has given rise to new specialisms and posts . . .' (2004:29). Many librarians have developed skills in designing online learning environments, thus helping to break down the image of dusty books and bibliographic instruction that is linked with the library and librarians. Corrall emphasises the extent to which librarians must have a grasp of online learning technologies, arguing that staff need to be able to 'install and maintain all the plug-ins and add-ons now required to access primary and supplementary journal content' (2004: 31). This signifies a clear departure from the traditional, office based, and administrative dominated work, previously undertaken by professional staff in academic libraries and the rise of the librarian as learning facilitator (Powis, 2004).


To focus on the satisfactory provision of IL, Bundy (2004) argues that libraries on an international level are not delivering an IL programme that is appropriate to the present information intensive environment. He feels that because librarians have direct contact with both the students and the developing information resources on a daily basis, they are therefore in a position to question the structure and delivery of IL education. In respect of this, librarians should be involved with the development of students' IL education. Bundy (2004) also looks at the Australian, UK and USA literature and emphasises the contributions of Bruce (2004) and Candy (2003) to the Australian IL debate. Nimon (2002) previously stated a similar view to Bundy (2004) but claimed that librarians must be educationally and professionally competent if they are going to gain the respect of academics and reinvent the institution as a 'learning library'. The HE environment is undoubtedly changing and now demands that librarians take a more active role in the educational development of students. They are expected to be IT literate and able to design online learning environments for the students, something that academics cannot do, but they need to understand and liaise with librarians in order to prepare the most apposite course for their students. These developments have in turn necessitated a need for librarians to gain a knowledge of pedagogical skills and learning styles, which further adds to the diversity of their role. The literature suggests that it is academic staff who find it most difficult to accept librarians as educational partners and have trouble adapting to the evolving HE culture. Academics and librarians need to reconcile their educational goals if they are going to work together and provide effective IL provision for students.

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