Human development: competences for the twenty-first century

Librarian Career Development

ISSN: 0968-0810

Article publication date: 1 January 1998



Lacey Bryant, S. (1998), "Human development: competences for the twenty-first century", Librarian Career Development, Vol. 6 No. 1.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 1998, MCB UP Limited

Human development: competences for the twenty-first century

Human development: competences for the twenty-first century

IFLA CPERT 3rd International Conference on Continuing Professional Education

"The average shelf-life of a qualification is now three years ­ and falling!" warned Prof. Darlene E. Weingand (1997), addressing an international audience gathered at Danmarks Biblioteksskole. The message to librarians concerned with their own career development, and that of others, is loud and clear. To quote the chilling words of Ganga Dakshinamurti: "We no longer have a choice... If we want to survive as a viable profession, libraries should become learning organizations".

In a densely packed programme (no half-day trips to 'Hamlet's castle' during this event) library educators came together with practitioners to exchange research findings and explore the way ahead. The presentations were grouped together fairly loosely, often in parallel sessions, focusing on the following themes:

  1. 1.

    Continuing Education Planning (individual and institutional)

  2. 2.

    Measuring Continuing Education Needs

  3. 3.

    Models to cope with growing Continuing Education Needs

  4. 4.

    Training the Trainer

  5. 5.

    User Education

Delegates benefited from the experience, and also the philosophical reflections of, colleagues from more than 40 countries ­ many of whom have experienced political changes and upheaval from which most European professionals have been sheltered since the Second World War. Naturally, this brief report is far from comprehensive, reflecting simply those papers which made the greatest impression on me. The papers were of a high standard, so I can confidently refer readers to the published Proceedings. The oral presentations, each offering a brief perspective rather than the full paper, were also interesting, brought alive by the asides which are not reproduced in the printed text.

Continuing Education Planning (individual and institutional)

Training officers and service managers need to be aware of the research by Goulding and Kerslake (1997)which has, I believe, profound implications for the profession. That Flexible Information Workers now comprise over a third of the British library workforce may surprise some. Certainly there is no room for complacency, at either institutional or individual level, in tackling present barriers to Continuing Professional Development which threaten the quality of information services in the future.

Human Resources personnel will surely have applauded the reminder from Terblanche (1997) that "You cannot make happy customers with unhappy employees". This presentation on planning professional excellence, which argues a need to re-humanize the library and information organization, also discusses the National Qualifications Framework in South Africa.

My own paper (Lacey Bryant, 1997) examined the professional development needs of Solo Librarians, another growing presence within the workforce, as they prepare to take advantage of the new opportunities which the Twenty-First Century will bring. Skill in managing personal development is crucial for these practitioners and a methodical approach to professional development is to be advocated.

With the development of knowledge-intensive economies we can expect to see a growing interest, at least among academics, in the shapes which information policy might most usefully assume. Kristiansson and Kajberg (1997) considered how information policy might be applied to 'information cultures', production units which transform ideas and objects into new ideas and objects.

Firmly grounded in experience as a subject librarian, Morgan (1997) forecast the credentials and personal qualities which will be needed by the academic librarians of the future. His plea for librarians to resist the temptation to moan, lest the library is perceived "as a "whinging" resource-sapping central service".

Measuring Continuing Education Needs

An Israeli study of school librarians endorsed earlier findings in the Special Library sector, regarding the differing perspectives of librarians and their managers on the priorities for training and development. (Dotan and Getz, 1997).

Models to cope with Continuing Education Needs.

Distance education is regularly hailed as a potential solution to the problems of bringing new knowledge to the practising professional . Sievert and Tobin Johnson's amusing presentation about non-persisters in an experimental distance education programme demonstrated that this will never be a cheap or easy option for providers. They looked at the attitudes and experiences of those who 'dropped out' of an experimental programme involving a satellite broadcast, a series of modules via the WWW, a listserv discussion group and a traditional seminar. (Tobin Johnson, Sievert, Hartman and Patrick 1997).

Ritchie described the experience of fledgling librarians in Western Australia, of group mentoring (Ritchie and Genoni 1997) much to the interest of the audience, many of whom went back home wondering how they might replicate this approach.

Training the Trainer

Farmer and Campbell's study of the portable skills of information professionals used the technique of 'learning pairs' to elicit information. Although this research used a small sample, nevertheless it appears that mentoring can facilitate individuals to recognize their own worth, providing a focus for future professional development. (Farmer and Campbell 1997).

User Education

Couzinet and Bouzon's (1997) paper on information exchange looked at the role of the Specialized Librarian in scientific research, in the context of a study of PhD students. It is memorable for the observation that the postgraduate student "seems to live through a bulimia of readings", accompanied by a trust of the professorial staff which, alas, is not extended to the information specialist.

Anyone responsible for user education may wish to consult Woolls (1997) paper on Evaluation to review their use of questionnaires to measure the need for Continuing Education and evaluate its outcome.

If Walton's paper on 'Information skills teaching in the age of the electronic library' is anything to go by academic librarians, in particular, should take any opportunity to attend events disseminating the findings of the IMPEL projects. (Walton, Day and Edwards 1997). This research speaks for itself, delivering the full spectra of views about the implications of the electronic library and the teaching of information skills.

A number of papers looked at continuing education within a networked environment, the role of librarians as Internet providers etc. Ironically, like most of the speakers, I arrived with my Powerpoint presentation on disk to find that, for technical reasons, we were encouraged to use our old OHPs instead. Sometimes I wonder about the electronic revolution...

"The Barbarians are coming..."

Dakshinamurti's (1997) paper on libraries as learning organizations reminds us that fear of the coming of The Barbarians bestows certain advantages. One way in which a learning organization can begin to evolve is by "finding an external enemy to spur greater co-operative learning". Surely it won't take a full SWOT analysis for library services, or individuals, to spot the direction(s) from which the Barbarians might be expected to come in the early years of the Twenty-First Century?

Sue Lacey BryantInformation ConsultantThame, OxfordshireSeptember 1997


All the papers discussed in this Conference report are published in the Conference Proceedings:

Human development: competences for the twenty-first century: papers from the IFLA CPERT Third International Conference on Continuing Professional Education for the Library and Information Professions; a publication of the Continuing Professional Education Round Table (CPERT) of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions / ed. By Patricia Layzell Ward and Darlene E. Weingand. Munchen: Saur, 1997.

(IFLA publications 80/81).

Couzinet, V. and Bouzon, A., Information Exchange And Communication Between Researchers: The Specialised Librarian's Part In Scientific Research, pp. 334-41.

Dakshinamurti, G.B., Libraries as Learning Organisations, pp. 350-7.

Dotan, G. and Getz, I., Differences between librarians and Library Directors In their Perception of Continuing Professional Education, pp. 140-50.

Farmer, J. and Campbell, F., Measuring Continuing Education Needs: Identifying Transferable Skills through Mentoring, pp. 284-9.

Goulding, A. and Kerslake, E., Continuing Professional Development and Flexible Information Workers: Problems and Opportunities, pp. 10-18.

Kristiansson, M. and Kajberg, L., An Approach to Identifying Skills Within an Information Culture: the Application of Information Policy to Information Cultures, pp. 264-70.

Lacey Bryant, S., Personal Professional Development: Competences for the Solo Librarian, pp. 179-88.

Morgan, S., Future Academic Library skills: What will they be?, pp. 19-29.

Ritchie, A. and Genoni, P., Group Mentoring: A First Experience in Continuing Education, pp. 88-97.

Terblanche, F., Planning Professional Excellence in Library and Information Organisations ­ A South African Perspective, pp. 193-200.

Tobin Johnson, D., Sievert, M.C., Hartman, T. and Patrick, T., Constructs for Investigating Lack of Persistence in Experimental Distance Education: A Study of Health Science Librarians, pp. 49- 59.

Walton, G., Day, J. and Edwards, C., Information Skills Teaching in the Age of the Electronic Library in the United Kingdom, pp. 342-9.

Weingand, D.E., Training the Trainer: a perspective from The ALA/CLENE-RT, pp. 290-305.

Woolls, B., Measuring Continuing Education Needs and Results Competency for the Twenty-First Century,.pp. 161-78.