Preparing the Information Professional: An Agenda for the Future. Sajjad ur Rehman. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000. ISBN: 0–313–30673–7 192 pages, tables. $57.50.
It has almost become a cliché to say the library and information profession is in rapid flux. This does not make it any less true, however, and Sajjad ur Rehman's monograph provides an thoughtful, empirically based contribution to the literature on the role of library and information science education in the preparation of today's professionals, particularly in the context of developing nations.
Rehman currently teaches information science at Kuwait University, but the studies on which his conclusions were based took place in Malaysia. He is careful to point out that "any effort to redesign professional education must be attempted in the context of situational peculiarities." Nevertheless, while the perspectives gathered among information library and information managers are Malaysian in their origin, there are trends and issues expressed here that are, if not universal, certainly common to many in similar situations. The evidence comes from that ubiquitous method of library and information researchers, namely survey questionnaires, sent out to a sample of middle and top managers in the largest library and information organizations in the country. This comment does not imply criticism of Rehman's choice of methodology, however, and indeed, it is apparent that Rehman did not resort to the time–honored mail survey, but instead relied upon personal interview.
The monograph proceeds systematically and builds up to its conclusion. Rehman begins by laying the groundwork in definition and objective. The goals were to obtain and analyze perceptions among library administrators concerning needs among their employees and expected trends in the field, and from these results and the managers' own suggested strategies to extrapolate strategies for developing LIS education. A competency approach was chosen, carefully defined and statements of appropriate knowledge, skills and attitude components identified, and the final instrument submitted for validation by selected executives of LIS organizations in Malaysia. The result was a set of competencies, both general and specific to three types of libraries, academic, public and special, that were considered applicable for the evaluation of programs in LIS education.
Further investigations, this time in the Persian Gulf area, concerned the differences in roles between graduate and undergraduate educated librarians. In doing so, Rehman points out an important difference between the North American model of professional education, where graduate education is the norm, and developing nations, where the picture apparently is more confused, but undergraduate programs predominate. European LIS education also has traditionally had a majority of undergraduate programs, although here, graduate programs are emerging rapidly, with some interesting developments in Denmark and far north in Tromsø, Norway. Review of competencies with library administrators in the Gulf region reinforced Rehman's assumption that graduate and undergraduate educated librarians have distinct roles in the evolving electronic environment. The monograph concludes with an insightful analysis of strategies and directions in LIS education in the United States, the UK and Australia and the situation in the three developing regions with which Rehman is familiar, namely the Indo–Pakistani subcontinent, Malaysia–Singapore, and the Persian Gulf region. Finally, Rehman makes some perspicacious comments about the problems of using a competency–based approach and the difficulties inherent in translating laundry lists, no matter how empirically based, into courses and curricula. He is careful to point out, and rightly so, that "Professional education and practice . . . call for diversity, academic autonomy, and adjustment to the local needs and aspirations." In other words, the situation is complex and the accelerating pace of change plus the exigencies of economics and professional recruitment make vigilant and continual monitoring of the marketplace essential, no matter whether the library school be in a developed or a developing nation.
Sajjad Rehman has provided an interesting and perceptive study that LIS educators in all parts of the world would do well to take note of.
About the Author
Johan Koren is Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, Dominican University.
Email: jkoren [at] email [dot] dom [dot] edu
© 2000 Johan Koren
Top of Page | Table of Contents