by Fredrick Otike
A lot has been said about the role of libraries in this digital era. Some claim that the library will be replaced by the digital information providers, others claim that the role of librarians will be obsolete and taken over by the ICT professionals. I do not intend to discuss about the debate because enough has been said about it and still more is being discussed.
I have been an academic librarian for over ten years now, I have equally taught library studies in various institutes and Universities in Kenya, I have always treasured my profession and my work. I have mentored many and also been mentored by my seniors in the profession. It is as a result of these that I would like to share my experience. Most institutions always fail to know the role of librarians in any organization. I have always seen senior staff and managers in organizations seconding staff who are not qualified librarians to work in the library with justification that anyone can be a librarian. In all these experience with my managers, I have never blamed them, I always blame the librarians.
Librarians in all organizations need to voice up and be heard; librarians need to move out of their comfort zones. We as librarians should gear up and stop being ROUTINE staff but rather be IMPACT staff. We should always focus on ways of offering value to our clients and not just offer regular/routine services like lending, receiving, cataloging, shelving etc.
Librarians should focus ways of developing their libraries into intellectual centers as catalyst for learning, discovery, innovation, collaboration, and scholarly breakthroughs. In today’s educational environment, simply focusing on library space planning is not sufficient. Librarians should focus on ways that the library can become beacons for both interactive learning and knowledge creation across both the physical and digital realms. Librarians should be able to offer solutions for current library needs as well as ensuring that their facilities can respond to future changes in pedagogical and technological trainings.
In most instances, librarians have always complained about lack of support from the mother institutions in as far as funds are concerned. However, it should be noted that there are various ways of making an impact to our users with minimal support of funds. With the advancement of technology there exists various free and open software, resources and services which libraries can easily explore for the benefit of library users in their organizations. Some of these tools are, Library management software, text to audio converter for the visually impaired, referencing tools, Digital repositories, Library inventory software, remote access software etc. For purposes of being relevant librarians should be familiar with most of these online tools and not always depending on ICT staff in their organizations.
Since technology will constantly continue to develop and advance, it is imperative for librarians to constantly attend short trainings and also be members of Library associations, consortiums and library forums. In Kenya especially, it has been noted that many librarians are not members of the Kenya Library Association since it is not mandatory during employment or promotion. Many are not using the opportunity being provided by AfLIA through webinars on topical issues in librarianship. Importantly, most librarians are not aware of the benefits such forums bring into their career developments and advancement. I would therefore urge librarians to move out of their comfort zone of regular and routine work and be librarians who create impact and relevancy in organizations. Key into opportunities in your countries. Attend online webinars by AfLIA and others. Let’s play our roles as 21st century Librarians!!!
This article was written by Fredrick Otike, he is the current University Librarian at Dedan Kimathi University of Technology-Kenya. Previously he worked at Kenya Methodist University-Meru (Kenya) as a Deputy University librarian. The author has written research papers focusing mainly on Library management, challenges of establishing University libraries in Kenya, Reading culture, information literacy etc. Mr. Fredrick Otike has a Blog: https://africachildliteracy.blogspot.com/. Connect with Fredrick on the following social media accounts;
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