Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Technology is the catalyst - Librarians urged to find new models

“Technology is the catalyst – the opportunity to challenge ourselves – time to adapt, to think out of the box, to move way out of our comfort zones – to be visionary and see a bright and exciting future for the librarian.” These are the words of Library and Information Association of South Africa (LIASA) president Naomi Haasbroek during the keynote address at the 46th Zimbabwe Library Association conference underway in Kadoma.

This came at a time when librarians are battling to content with emerging technologies which are fast developing than the librarianship profession. The advent of internet has brought a number of technologies that require continual funding for the library to keep abreast which cannot be done due to frequent budget cuts affecting libraries. The theme of the conference ‘Information professionals at crossroads: opportunity for change’ has challenged librarians to be proactive through using that technology to improve information distribution. Haasbroek said that technology has created exciting possibilities for business, education, and research and libraries are no exception - the new developments in technology have brought new modes of information delivery, new platforms, and new access points. Haasbroek contributions are significant towards encouraging developing new models for running libraries in times of transition. The most critical development to note is Web 2.0 technology that has allowed the users to take control of information delivering tools that are easy and convenient and are available 24/7 outside the library walls.

Naomi Haasbroek (far right), LIASA pesident
sharing ideas  at the 46th ZimLA
Conference and AGM in Kadoma.
The notion of embedded librarianship should take into effect as highlighted by Haasbroek that the Embedded Librarian is a new generation librarian who no longer sits in the library waiting for the client to visit the library, but who “embeds” him/herself in the faculty, department or classroom.  She further pointed out that the new role requires the librarian to become an integral part of the team, to build relationships with faculty and to add value by providing relevant information and assistance to access, evaluate and manipulate the information as needed.   The emphasis is on utilizing the emerging technologies to better serve the user in time of need.

The embedded librarian is the ideal tool to better serve the “Google Generation”, Generation Y, also known as “Born with technology” (BWT) a group of users who are digitally savvy and communicate via social networks. Technology has dramatically changed the way librarians should model there operations to better serve the new group of users.
The conference has provided a new perspective for librarians to understand trends in library communities and how the library spaces are shifting to pave way for new developments. The concept of open access, e-books, kindle and other new web 2.0 functionalities are making it possible for librarians to deliver better and improve the visibility of the library. LIASA president put a new mark through challenging librarians to adopt emerging technologies as a route to take from the crossroads to reinvent and transform the way information services are delivered.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Zimbabwe Rural Schools Library Trust Launched in Harare

The birth of a new baby brings joy to the family and new hope for the future when that baby’s needs are provided for. Probable opportunities are high that the child one day lifts the family flag high by landing that high job that would change the position of the entire family – including extended family.
The birth of a new baby is synonymous to the launch of Zimbabwe Rural Schools Library Trust (ZRSLT) an organization established for the sustainable development of libraries in rural schools and communities. The launch took place in Harare and was attended by several Ministers, council officials and members from the library fraternity. ZRSLT join a plethora of civic organizations established to push for the development of school and rural community libraries in Zimbabwe with the view of improving rural information access and to fill the gap between the ICT ‘haves’ and ‘have-not’.
Well, the amazing attribute of the trust is to reinforce a reading culture among rural school children who have been marginalized due to a myriad of challenges associated with lack of library infrastructure and commitments to other work after school. The support to be provided by ZRSLT in form of book donations and training (I suppose) will go a long way to support the schools and communities’ educational, cultural, entertainment and informational interests. The right to information is a fundamental right that requires efforts from all concerned parties (government and civic society) to build a knowledgeable people capable of leading the future with wisdom. Access to information to deprived communities has potential to increase economic activities and agricultural development which are key activities to eradicate poverty.

Part of the people that attended
 the launch of  ZRSLT in Harare at the Town House.
(Picture courtesy of ZRSLT)

ZRSLT anticipate unlocking the reading potential in participating communities whilst putting a stop to child delinquency through participatory activities that engage the children in mental and intellectual capacity. Further benefits of the ZRSLT programmes include assistance with information on agricultural activities and equip the community ICT skills to enable them to be independent researchers and learners. Information literacy skills are critical for the 21st century citizen to allow effective information sharing and participate in development issues. The trust programme provides a working solution to challenges bedeviling the rural schools expansion and educational projects if implemented fully.
As I said in the beginning that such birth can be a blessing if well taken care of as they propel growth in society but the big question still remains – How are they going to implement the trust projects for the rural schools to benefit? Several other issues stand in the way relating to the role of National Library and Documentation Services (NLDS), Zimbabwe Library Association (ZimLA) and other Ministry departments who have the mandate to develop the library fraternity in Zimbabwe. Their continual silence is tantamount to put the library development in Zimbabwe into a sinking ship regardless of the fundamental importance of libraries in communities they are established. Efforts from ZRSLT and other civic organizations are imperative for equipping the society with the endeavor to enrich the human mind for social inclusion.