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PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND JOB PERFORMANCE OF LIBRARIANS IN FEDERAL AND STATE UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES IN SOUTH SOUTH NIGERIA
1.1 Background to the Study
The rationale for professional development among librarians lies in the very nature of every profession which is that all professions are based on a body of knowledge and research findings. Theknowledge base is continually expanding, and new research findings are being made. This has resulted in the introduction of lots of innovationswhich requires that individuals seek ways of acquiring, mastering and applying the skills resulting from the emerging trends. This has led to the growing interest in professional development of librarians that stems from both a rapidly changing library environment and from the preponderance of concepts and skills needed to acquire so as to remain relevant in the profession.
Gruca (2010) states that, the library profession includes among its skills, promoting the dissemination of knowledge, organizing sources of information, and making them available. For this reason as well as because of the awareness of the new role they have taken on, librarians all over the world should see the need to track modern trends in professional development.
Professional development is a process of developing and/or unleashing expertise through training and development for the purpose of improving performance. Werner and Desimone (2009) define it as a set of systematic and planned activities designed by an organization to provide its members with the opportunities to learn necessary skills to meet current and future job demands. With the current emerging trends in librarianship which has led to increased application of information technologies in library services delivery, it is pertinent that librarians acquire these new skills through various forms of professional development to update themselves. Recently online methods are available in which librarianscan exploit to keep pace with current and emerging skills, knowledge and competencies brought about by application of information technology.
Ugwuanyi (2011) stated that Librarians need to keep track of developments in technology and new information products to assess them for use in their libraries and to exploit them to improve their services. He further stated that they also need sufficient Information Technology knowledge to supervise projects in their library, and to draw up specifications for these projects. These can only be achieved by acquiring these skills through professional development.
It has often been argued that professional development especially online professional development plays a significant role in improving job performance. The continued acquisition of skills and knowledge is critical for all professional librarians in order to stay abreast of new technologies and trends in the field. According to American Library Association (2014) online learning has become a natural solution for global continuing education, for keeping up to date, and for sharing knowledge and best practices. Further stating that more and more people in the library and information environments around the world are accessing e-learning in various formats, including webinars, e-courses, online workshops, and podcasts.
Chiware (2007) believes that for African University libraries to make it in the digital age, they must make sure that staffs are adequately trained both through formal education and continuing education to initiate and manage the digital resources.As professionals, librarians need to avail themselves of the various opportunities in professional development and keep themselves up-to-date professionally so as to deliver cutting edge services that will match the needs of their techno savvy users. With the increasing technological innovations and awareness, library users are becoming increasingly techno savvy and expect to receive services that will match their technological needs. This is very important if libraries are to retain their users and remain relevant in the scheme of things.
The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), the major worldwide professional organization for academic libraries, cites technological changes, growth of diverse patron populations, and changing needs of end users as reasons that professional development is a constant requirement for committed librarians (ACRL Human Resource Development Committee, 2000). Although professional librarians must typically undertake two years of graduate education in order to qualify for their careers, the changes mentioned by ACRL render many of the skills gained during that two year period outdated shortly after graduation, this further solidifies the need for continuous professional development so as to keep abreast of evolving technologies which apply to the profession.
Every modern profession must continuously adapt itself to a rapidly evolving technological society. According to Albritton (1990) ‘In order to function effectively as a professional, one must have continuing learning experience to reinforce his or her formal education.Keeping up with constant change and innovations in one’s profession is a challenging task, but one which must be undertaken to operate successfully in today’s world. In librarianship the task is formidable because new information appears at an overwhelming rate; users are becoming increasingly techno savvy therefore effective up to date services need to be offered by libraries to satisfy their users.
Academic libraries play a critical role in supporting their tertiary institutions in achieving their teaching and research goals. It has been legitimately suggested that academic libraries have been at “the heart of the university” since the nineteenth century Lynch et al. (as cited in Maesaroh and Genoni, 2009). Many scholars rely heavily on their university library’s collections and services to enable them to develop new knowledge(Hayward, 2006), and in fully developed higher education environments libraries are supported as essential component of the scholarly community in which researchers and librarians create and transmit knowledge.
Libraries are service based and render specialized information services that are constantly influenced by technological advancements. These services include: virtual reference services, online cataloguing, acquisition, information retrieval and dissemination.Abba and Dawha (2009), state that the university libraries have been significantly influenced by the transformations of automated systems being used. At the centre of the academic library are the Librarians. To render these services effectively librarians need to equip themselves adequately with professional development opportunities. It is expected that the acquisition and application of skills obtained from these opportunities will lead to increased job performance by the provision of services that will meet the growing users’ needs and expectations.
Librarians have an essential role in managing collections and delivering information services to their users. It is the librarians who are expected to build library content; organize collections to optimize information retrieval; ensure reliable and equitable access to information sources and implement reference and information services to meet the various needs of the library user. Maesaroh and Genoni, (2009) maintained that the quality of staff is influenced by numerous factors which include: personal attributes such as aptitude, intelligence and commitment. They also stated that there are a range of environmental factors that are important, including the availability and standard of education, continuing professional development and workplace learning.
Librarians are therefore expected to equip themselves with the necessary skills to meet up with emerging trends in the profession especially using modern methods. This is necessary to enable them perform their professional duties optimally and in line with best practices.
Professional development of librarians is synonymous with training; it is also a very important tool in achieving effective service delivery in libraries which is essential in ensuring job performance. Ranganathan (2006) in justifying the need for training and professional development of librarians according to the first law of library science stated that:
‘As long as the task of a library was to preserve books, there was no need for giving any special training to the care-taker-librarian. The moment ‘books are for use’ stepped into the place of ‘books are for preservation’, librarianship was invested with several tasks, which required a well-thought-out professional training, with as much grind and as much technique as that required for any other learned profession’ (p.50).
This further lends credence to the fact that continuing professional development of librarians is a task that must be accomplished if job performance must be achieved. Hashim (2005) insisted that some of the core skills can be adapted into the new global library environment such as training and facilitating skills, evaluation skills and concern for customers. People are a self-renewing resource, and the more self-renewing they are, the greater their effectiveness and job performance.Librarians’ job performance is therefore expected to evolve around the use of certain correlates of professional development which include: Twitter, Wikipedia, E-learning, blogs, LinkedIn and social bookmarking.
Blogs are current awareness tools that offer insight and reflection on different topics. A blog is a personal webpage kept by the author in reverse chronological diary form. It is a“log on the web” and a “log of the web”. (Williams, 2008). They are often used to share presentations of conferences and workshops by the bloggers which can be quite useful as professional development tools. Blogs bring immediacy, interactivity, and informality on topics about what it means to be a librarian. According to Laning, Lavallee-Welch, andSmith (2005) Librarians can use blogs asprofessional development tools to stayabreast, and follow newresources, technological advances,research, vendor activity, new materials,conferences, and job postings.Previous studies according to Jeffrey & Hadley (2002) also suggested that blogging is an efficacious means for professional development.
LinkedIn is also a powerful resource for librarians, especially in professional development. It helps in building profiles, connecting with colleagues and engaging in discussions. According to ALA (2013) LinkedIncan be used to address various aspects of professional development including: monitoring emerging library trends, staying current with LIS thought leaders, identifying topic experts who are willing to share their expertise.
Wikis have been used as a user-initiated knowledge sharing tool. According to Redden (2010) they facilitate knowledge sharing, collaborative authoring and online discussions.Further stating that wikis have the great potential to leverage knowledge creation and sharing in the library context.
E-learning offers librarians diverse opportunities through webinars, online courses and weblogs to accelerate their professional growth so as to enhance their job performance. Librarians could exploit thebenefits of e-learning which include: mostly free, self-paced, informal learning, cost is minimal;networking is easy among learners and with their teachers. According to Smithee (2005) e-learning allows members to choose the enhanced learning opportunity and skill development that have traditionally been made available only to large corporate and government employers, adding that skills developed for successful online learning, along with course content, enable the learner to cultivate workplace leadership skills.
Social bookmarking is another powerful professional development tool that librarians can benefit from.According to (Redden 2010) bookmarking is the practice of internet users identifying and labeling web pages for future use. It has become a popular way for individuals to organize and share online resources. He further stated that social bookmarking tools can have several purposes including: organizing and categorizing web pages for efficient retrieval; keeping tagged pages accessible from any networked computer; sharing needed or desired resources with other users; integration of new social software tools and mashups to access tagged pages.
Professional development is paramount to Job performance of employees. To perform optimally certain factors have to be put in place to ensure that the required skills are acquired through professional development, and applied to the job. Villamova, Austin and Borman (as cited in Saka and Haruna 2013) defined job performance “as that aspect of work behaviour domain that is of relevance to the job and organisational success”. Saka and Ibrahim (2013) listed jobs performed in the library to include: organization of library resources including cataloguing and classification of materials, provision of references services, dissemination of information, charging and discharging of materials to users etc. They further stated that “job performance in the library situation is geared towards meeting not only users’ information needs but also it is a basis or a criteria for promoting staff”.