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55th ILA National Conference on Library & Information Science - Conference Proceedings – January 21-24, 2010

Role of Librarian in the 21st Century
Somvir Assistant Librarian, PDM College of Engineering, Bahadurgarh E-mail: somvirrathee@yahoo.co.in ABSTRACT: All modern libraries are facing new challenges due to the immense amount of available information in form of electronic tools. The traditional libraries should be transformed into hybrid libraries focused on providing information collected in the form of books and electronic sources to survive and meet the need of end users. With the development of the modern information technology the traditional libraries have not been fit on the requirement of the information time and knowledge economic development, so these face the basic changes and innovation. In this paper authors emphasize the role of librarians in libraries which have collection in form of e–books, digital documents and various databases and common access to the Internet. Modern libraries are creating the society of knowledge and in these modern libraries a librarian works as information officer who is a guide to help search the relevant information in numerous sources of information. The librarians are constantly open to any changes in their field and eager to improve their skills and knowledge. The importance of personality traits of a modern librarian are particularly emphasized.

INTRODUCTION Society is an open system, dynamic set of interrelated social systems, institutions and individuals that act upon and react to the various aspects of the world around it. The term ‘Information Society’ describes the characteristics and structure of a society in which the driving force will be the production of information values and not material values. It will be a society that brings about a flourishing state of human intellectual creativity. The society is becoming increasingly centered on information handling, processing, storage and dissemination, using microelectronics-based technologies, made available through the convergence of computer with telecommunications, namely, IT. Information Society appears as an outcome of technological and economic changes. Information Society and Knowledge Based Society The information age has arrived and modern society is commonly referred to as the “information society.” Still, this term does not have a commonly accepted interpretation. The first definition of information society was established as early as in 1963 in Japan by

Tadao Umesamo, concerning the “information processing society.” The civilization to be built as we approach the 21st century will not be a material civilization symbolized by huge constructions, but will be virtually an invisible civilization. Precisely, it should be called an ‘information civilization.” Information society is described by the modern researchers as “the society in which the information is intensely used in economic, social, cultural and political life; it is a society with abundant means of communication and of information processing, the society being the basis for serving as a major part of the national income and ensuring the source of income for majority of the population”. The information society is defined as “the whole of activity serving to produce, use, protect/secure, accumulate and pass on information. The information society is constituted by all those employed in producing, using and transmitting information as well as those creating information infrastructures.” The popularity of the Internet and other electronic mass media is spreading very fast. The use of internet and e-resources created a new type of society and the analog technology has been abandoned in favour of digital technology within a couple of years. This new

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55th ILA National Conference on Library & Information Science - Conference Proceedings – January 21-24, 2010

society is also referred to as the digital, Web, Internet or computer society. Information is the most sought–after and valuable merchandise in this society. It becomes indispensable for one’s social and professional development to keep up with information constantly, to gain and use it in practice, due to changes taking place in the modern world. The crucial factor is being well acquainted with and searching for adequate sources, selecting and evaluating the information from the “ocean” of information as well as having the ability to transform the information into knowledge. ROLE OF LIBRARIES IN INFORMATION SOCIETY OF THE 21ST CENTURY Education and professional activities are the major method for fighting against social exclusion. In this context we mean literary and media education at the primary school level, and technological information at higher levels of education. An extremely wide scope for such activities is available in the libraries. The information is provided to the society in need of information through the library cooperation with the development of science, economy, culture and education. Therefore, the libraries were co–creating the information society long before it started to be associated with particular conceptions of society. Twenty–first century libraries have a lot in difference with the traditional model. Their dominant elements are changed. Sr. No. 1. 2. 3. 4. Traditional Library Collection Book Journals Bound Volume Reference Collection Modern Library Collection E-Books E-Journals Journal Archival Digital Tools

5. 6. 7. 8.

Slides Scientific Movies Photo Album Newspaper Clippings

Images DVDs Image Collection E-Newspaper clipping (PDF, PS, DOC Format)

Most library–related processes are now computerized. Due to the technological development, it is easy to access the required information within time throughout the world. It has changed methods of communication, and consequently it has altered the tasks to be undertaken by modern libraries. To enable users to interact with humanity’s cultural heritage as a means of preventing cultural homogenization in the age of globalization, modern libraries should offer a widely– perceived educational activity. With the impact of new technologies cooperation between libraries is possible, with the information resources in today’s libraries constituting a significant contribution to the informational potential of a society. ROLE OF LIBRARIANS IN INFORMATION SOCIETY OF THE 21ST CENTURY One might think that a librarian is no longer necessary due to the use of electronic sources of information, as well as a world dominated by common Internet access with new libraries and the process of gathering information may be performed automatically in modern libraries. However, this is not true. To search the required information a great amount of time is required due to the increasing rate of the speed and amount of information in the world and also on the Internet. In order to efficiently find, select, check and make information available, and understand the users’ needs, through a computer program or database it is not possible to provide some sort

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55th ILA National Conference on Library & Information Science - Conference Proceedings – January 21-24, 2010

of condensed data, an information expert such as a librarian is required to access the information. The tools and resources used to supply required information and transform it into knowledge are changed but the librarian’s role has remained unchanged. Especially now, it seems necessary to reflect upon the characteristics of a modern librarian that would best serve all users. Therefore, the librarian is indispensable in the era of the information society. In Information Society modern libraries could be compared to information malls. Moving around them can cause certain difficulties. A very common phenomenon is that of “library anxiety,” mainly observed in higher education institutions where users feel uncomfortable about their level of knowledge. The obstacle is fear of embarrassing oneself when asking elementary questions, or getting a negative feedback from a librarian. Another is a lack of computer proficiency, which renders searching superficial and incomplete and makes one feel uncomfortable ad lightly unconfident in the environment. Therefore, one can obviously conclude that the librarian is an irreplaceable link. In a full self service library, which has a remote information section and a cyber librarian, from which one can obtain necessary information at any time, there is a librarian, who indirectly participates in the process of searching for information. In the era of information processing, communication, and the knowledge industry, the librarian participates in building a new society. Librarians are important as a professional group and their role is not limited to passing books. Modern library staff works toward winning new readers, similar to commercial organizations winning customers. A modern human has a craving for acquiring knowledge from childhood, and considered in it the role of libraries and librarians. Therefore, the libraries’ advertising promotion activities are

tied to creating a social conviction that libraries are a necessary link allowing the user to realize even the most advanced information needs. This can take place by evoking in the reader the idea that he is important, approached individually and professionally. In a consumption–oriented world, the role of information has equal importance as that of any other need in a contemporary individual’s life. Readers may or may not be aware of their information needs. The role of a librarian consists in comforting the users and supporting them so that they can overcome their own fears about being in the library. To make a user friendly image of libraries and librarian, it is essential to adopt individual approaches to different types of customers, often including special–needs or elderly users who possibly may be unable to utilize the new technologies. The knowledge of psychology pertaining to customer service is extremely important in the process of the librarians’ in– service training. INFORMATION LIBRARIANS LITERACY AND

Information literacy is “the ability to recognize the need for information and to identify, locate, access, evaluate and effectively use the information to address and help resolve personal, job related or broader social issues and problems.”Professional library associations like the Indian Library Association (ILA), American Library Association (ALA), Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) etc. are conducting developed information literacy programmes. The term ‘21st century skills’ includes information literacy skills, digital literacy skills, media literacy skills, information and communication skills, critical thinking and

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55th ILA National Conference on Library & Information Science - Conference Proceedings – January 21-24, 2010

problem-solving skills and interpersonal and self-directional skills. To succeed in the 21st century, one should have all these 21st century skills. WHAT SHOULD THE TWENTY–FIRST CENTURY LIBRARIAN BE LIKE? Twenty–first century libraries heap new tasks upon a librarian. There is a lot of difference in the model for a hybrid librarian and a stereotypical librarian, except in lending books. Modernized working conditions i.e. new library buildings, new technologies undoubtedly, influence the changing image and prestige of a librarian. A modern individual wins against the stereotypical image of a librarian. A contemporary librarian becomes a guide in the world of knowledge, which demands they know how to use the new sources of information skillfully. Modern librarians are crucial now for not only their high level of expertise, but also for being able to associate with the modern individuals’ personality. A 21st century librarian must be modern, with acquiring psychological, praxeological, social and professional capabilities. Psychological abilities involve self– awareness, self–evaluation and self–control. A librarian should always be aware of modernizations, new resources and new technological developments, noticing the need for their own development, not only when encouraged by their superiors, but also resulting from their own motivation to learn. The need for development must stem from the natural predispositions in the librarian because such skills are not provided by the education. A librarian must be aware of his or her role and aware of the need to constantly develop and improve. Praxeological abilities involve diligence, adaptation and motivation. A librarian’s diligence is beyond question, as meticulousness is a required characteristic and

associated with the librarian’s profession by society. In the twenty–first century, gradually necessitated a change in traditional work methods due to the technological developments. Today, continuous professional development is very necessary in the form of courses, training, conferences and meetings, and the use of new educational methods such as e–learning or internet discussion forums. The twenty–first century society is a learning society; therefore by virtue of their mission, librarians should serve as an example for other professional groups. “Learning processes are not only in favor of other co–employees, they also have an impact on effectiveness and quality of the library information services” and a librarian must be aware of this. A modern librarian is open to innovations and changes. He/She has an eager and interested attitude towards new solutions because of the fast–paced, constantly evolving nature of changes in libraries. A modern librarian, can develop modern characteristics throughout one’s professional career even after many years of work, one does not need to be young to be modern. The shift in the image should be first reflected in us, following the proverb “fine feathers make fine birds,” and it involves the ability to evoke intended emotions in others. The librarians’ ethic of collaborating on improving their image as well as sharing experiences and mutual support helps society to perceive librarians as a strong, determined group of professionals, aware of their socially useful role. By utilizing social competences such as empathy, persuasion, leadership and cooperation a librarian can provide better service to the society. The librarian’s personality instantly creates a link between the media and information for the users. The task of librarians consists in recognizing, satisfying and developing information, educational, scientific, cultural needs and the needs for entertainment. A librarian must be aware of

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55th ILA National Conference on Library & Information Science - Conference Proceedings – January 21-24, 2010

technological developments and be proficient in new technologies. Librarians play a role of psychologists, because they are challenged to distinguish the users’ needs appropriately and help the user specify them. Libraries are regarded as service providers, while the information becomes merchandise and a user the customer. To many people, the library is often thought of as a place only visited out of necessity, in order to find a necessary item or get particular information. The need for constant knowledge acquisition will result in more frequent users’ visits, so it appears crucial to make this place a pleasant experience for the user–customer. Modern librarians ought to change themselves with changing image of modern libraries. Working with pleasure, and not with a sense of obligation, enables one to derive satisfaction from it, and only an employee genuinely involved in performing his or her own duties is able to approach each specific customer– user professionally. Discussing professional qualifications last might not seem to make sense; however the essential issue appears to be the personality of a contemporary librarian, his way of approaching his duties and new challenges, while education becomes only a help in professional life to acquire knowledge. A modern librarian should also be qualified in terms of sources of information and using them, not to mention keeping up with constantly changing information resources. For a successful librarian proficiency in searching information and knowledge, allowing its selection and minimizing information noise are the basic requirements. A librarian should also be equipped with general knowledge, to enable him to be conversant in a multitude of subjects. The current model of the librarians’ university training is directed towards improvement in the scope of scientific information. Other

extremely important issues are self– improvement and training. Librarians should serve as an example to the user living in the learning society, and it is the conception of lifelong learning that should be perfectly reflected in the person of the librarian. The two professions of computer scientist and economist should be combined by a contemporary librarian, because proficiency in the use of electronic tools, and a marketing approach to library and the marketing of its services is the only alternative in the case of hybrid libraries. Barrier in Librarianship Librarianship is not considered a prestigious profession in the society. A low social recognition decreases the motivation in the professional environment. However, librarianship is a profession with a future. There is a demand for new specialists in form of discipline librarians, systems librarians and electronic information specialists etc. Each specialization requires other competencies and skills, and each of those presents new challenges. A sense of professional fulfillment and satisfaction tend to be significant factors influencing the librarian’s motivation. Librarians are not motivated by lucrative career prospects. This needs to be clear to anyone considering a career as a professional librarian. However, “born librarians” are guaranteed satisfying careers. Social assessment reflects that the mission and character of our profession remains unclear, thereby requiring constant promotion and a change in the stereotypical perception of a librarian. In the local context, unfortunately there are still some big libraries which are entirely dependent on print media. Automation of libraries is still a dream while employees are often seen performing all library house-

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55th ILA National Conference on Library & Information Science - Conference Proceedings – January 21-24, 2010

keeping jobs manually. The attitudes of some librarians having charge of important libraries are really frustrating. As soon as they hear about computers or computer-related technologies in the LIS field, their first reflex is that such things are the realm of computer technicians, systems analysts, database managers, not for librarians or library people. Such behaviours on behalf of those at the head of institutions are detrimental to the library profession in general. They forget that technology permeates all branches of learning, all disciplines and every sphere of our lives. Lawyers, engineers, medical practitioners, people of all walks of life need Information Technology in their daily personal and professional lives. If librarians and library employees are themselves not fully conversant with Information Technology, it is difficult to see them having a role in the information literacy programmes. They may not be of any assistance in bridging the digital gap. CONCLUSION The development of the modern world and requirements cast upon the society imply that librarians working among the richest sources of information are very important individuals providing access to information to be transformed into knowledge. And the crucial issue is not the debate whether the librarian is necessary, but the question of developing the model and standards of librarians’ activity to become an integral part of modern society and its consequences, and to be perceived in this way by a more and more demanding user. Libraries and Librarians can play a critical role both in making their users information literate and bridge the digital divide that exists at local, regional or national levels. Libraries can provide digitized full-text content, provide free access to computers and Internet and become national portals of digital information resources. In the changed environment, the

librarian’s role have to shift from that of information locator (custodian role) to that of an information evaluator and instructor in the use and evaluation of information sources. Library people have time and again complained about lack of training to develop ICT skills in employees. They wrongly believe that the onus of training falls entirely on their employers. In now days, no one is guaranteed a job for a life time. Only those persons have great chance of employability in such workplaces, who train themselves by constantly updating their skills and become multi-skilled and who are engaged in life long learning. In the past, employers made it a duty to train their employees but nowadays this responsibility is given less importance. In difficult economic situations, they downsize their personnel and redeploy those who suit the new market requirements. In the local context, our librarians and information workers need to give a serious thought about the exigencies of the 21st century and the skills required to meet all the forthcoming challenges. REFERENCES Amudhavalli A.; Dynamics in Digital Information Systems, 2008, 978-81-7000-5377 Chopra Y. L. and Chopra Mamta; Challenges Before Library and Information Science in New Millennium Das, Anup Kumar and Lal, Banwari; Information literacy and public libraries in India, Delhi Public Library, (2006) India Dhiman, Anil K.; Basics of Information Technology for Librarians & Information Scientists, 2002, Galhotra, Mohan Kumar; Information Technology in Library and Information Services, 2008 Kabir, S. H. and Others; Changing Trends in Library and Information Science

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55th ILA National Conference on Library & Information Science - Conference Proceedings – January 21-24, 2010

Mishra, K.C.; 21st Century Library Management, 2004 (New Delhi : Ess Ess publication) Mishra, Sanjay and Kumar, Sunil; Staff Development for Library and Information Services, 81-7000-264-8 Mittal, Savita; Modern Library: Administration and Automation, 2005 (New Delhi : Ess Ess publication) Panigrahi, R. M.; Library Information Technology: Decision Maker’s Manual, 2000, 81-7000-295-8 Patil, S.K. and Deshpande, Neela; University and College Librarianship in India in the 21st Century. Ed. by ,2004. Sehgal, R. L.; Information Technology For Librarians Sooryanarayana, P. S. and Mahesh, V. Mudhol; Communication Technology: Its Impact on Library & Information Science, 2000, 81-7000-274-5 Tikekar, A.C.; Towards 21st Century Academic Libraries and Librarianship, University of Bombay, Mumbai, India SRELS Journal of Information Management, Year : 2007, Volume : 44, Issue : 4 ISSN : 0972-2467. http://library.iisc.ernet.in/ http://www.softlinkasia.com http://www.worlib.org http://www.libsys.co.in http://www.nalanda.nitc.ac.in/ http://www.libraryjournal.com/ http://www.ala.org/ www.trinity.wa.edu.au/plduffyrc/library/lib/tlr ole.doc

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