The purpose of this paper is to discuss the need for continuing professional development for librarians in academic libraries in general and at Rhodes University Library, South Africa, in particular. It aims to describe the planning, design, implementation and evaluation of a staff‐development and training pilot programme for professional librarians at Rhodes Library.
A group of 15 librarians, drawn from the library staff complement, participated in an eight‐session training course developed by information services librarians. The course, which covered basic information‐finding skills using a variety of research databases and offered an introduction to concepts in twenty‐first century academic librarianship, was presented using course management software in a face‐to‐face environment and required homework exercises and the completion of a two‐hour final test.
Results of the project demonstrated the urgent need for such development programmes for professional library staff. Of the participants, 80 per cent completed the course. The final test results indicated below average database search skills and an inability to think laterally. An unexpected finding was a lack of IT competencies. Important lessons were learned with regard to course‐construction, content and timing.
The paper illustrates that, by testing a variety of competencies expected of professional academic librarians, this programme provided invaluable data and guidelines on which further continuing staff development courses could be based.
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