As of 22 April 2009 this website is 'frozen' in time — see the current IFLA websites
This old website and all of its content will stay on as archive –
The faculty of the School of Library and Information Science at San Jose State University has attempted to respond to the growing demand for continuing education and to develop appropriate programs for a wide range of information workers. In particular, the previous Director of the School, Dr. Stuart Sutton, worked closely with the California Library Association (CLA) and its Task Force on the Future of the Library Profession to help produce a series of recommendations concerning statewide planning for library and information science education. Dr. Blanche Woolls, the current Director of the School has a longstanding interest in continuing education especially for school and public librarians, and was recently a presenter at the 1997 IFLA CPERT Third International Conference on Continuing Education for the Library and Information Professions. In 1995, Dr. Ruth Hafter was awarded a Department of Education grant to create a Summer Institute on Ethnography and Information Seeking Behavior. During the past two years she has worked with the Chancellor's Office of the California State University (CSU) to produce a two-day seminar on implementing technological change and has also helped to facilitate the instructional programs of a collaborative group of information planners working in various units of the University of California at Berkeley.
Recently, the San Jose State faculty has begun to research the possibility of offering a comprehensive professional development program or a post-graduate certificate. Its analysis has included a review of relevant professional literature and of recent unpublished surveys querying information professionals about their perceived educational needs. The faculty have been especially interested in surveys of California librarians since this area contains the School's target audience for its initial continuing education certificate. Many of these surveys differ in sophistication of technique, in size and composition of respondents, in methodology, and in the questions they pose. Surprisingly, however, the answers they report are very similar. These answers are very disturbing because, taken together, they paint a picture of practitioners who have a rigid and narrow perception of professional services, products, and activities. If these surveys do, indeed, reflect present day professional aspirations, library managers, planners, and educators clearly must do more to create dialogues with practitioners in order to help them understand the broadening scope of professional activities and its certain expansion as we enter the twenty-first century.
Demographics of Respondents
The objectives of the Membership Needs Assessment Survey were to:
The objectives of the Non-members Needs Assessment Survey were to
Survey Instruments and Methodologies
The membership Super Survey instrument contained 55 questions divided into nine areas. The Professional Development section consisted of six questions dealing with factors affecting participation in continuing education courses and awareness of the many professional development programs offered by SLA. The questionnaire was mailed to a random sample of 4004 members stratified by chapter and division to ensure a proportional representation for all parts of SLA's membership. A total of 1847 members returned the questionnaire, for a response rate of 46.1%, which is exceptionally high for a lengthy self-administered survey. At the 95% confidence level, this sample size provides data at a precision level of + or - 5%.
The nonmember survey was a computer-assisted telephone survey of 300 randomly selected individuals who were on a list of non-members who had either attended the Association's Annual Conference, enrolled in one of its continuing education programs, or purchased an SLA book. Interviews lasted 15 minutes. At the 95% confidence level, this sample size provides data at a precision level of + or - 5%.
Key Findings Relating to Continuing Education
The survey analysts conclude that technology based content is or primary interest. This is a "key thread" running through all responses to multiple questions.
Demographics of Respondents
Survey Instruments and Methodology
A questionnaire was included with the annual ballot and mailed to all members. Of 1,950 questionnaire, 526 were returned. This constitutes a relatively low response rate of 26%. Statistical measurement of significant differences in response is based upon a 95% level of confidence.
Key Findings Relating to Continuing Education
Technology is ranked as the most relevant topic and the one with the greatest payoff. It also seems to provide a unifying content interest for both professionals and paraprofessionals. Thus, for at least 75% of CLA members, interest in learning about applications of information technology at CLA sponsored conferences and regional meetings is an important reason for maintaining institutional membership.
Demographics of Respondents
The PLCE Project was administered by a large Advisory Board consisting of prominent representatives from the library and information fields. After several meetings, the Board identified the following grant objectives:
The expected outcome of the Project was "the successful design of a model of education that will equip current information professionals to exercise leadership in meeting needs of twenty-first century society."
Survey Instruments and Methodology
In order to identify a group of potential participants in the experimental institutes, the PLCE Advisory Board mailed out a needs assessment survey to selected libraries and posted the survey on a web site. The resulting response is proof in itself of the growing influence of technology. A total of 1,300 surveys were mailed. Of these, 671 were returned by post-mail and e-mail; the majority of responses coming from the web e-mail. The questionnaire consisted of sixteen questions related to continuing education curriculum choices and to the demographics of the respondents.
Key Findings Related to Continuing Education
In response to this final recommendation, four statewide forums were held in March 1997. They were located at San Jose State University, the Berkeley Conference Center, the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), and the Oceanside Public Library. Attendance was free and the Forums were widely publicized by CLA, San Jose State, UCLA, and UC Berkeley. Despite this effort and the high caliber and prominence of the speakers at all of the forums, a total of only 110 participants attended the forums. Members of the Task Force have concluded that the theoretical nature of the discussion of future library education needs was not compelling enough to interest most working librarians. Clearly then, the 110 participants, among whom were 26 library school students, were not representative of librarians, or even of the CLA membership. On the other hand, they form a unique group of professionals motivated to learn about and/or participate in continuing education planning.
At the end of each Forum, participants were asked to complete a one-page questionnaire about their response to the Task Force recommendations. Only 44 surveys were completed, but 18 respondents also wrote longer statements indicating areas of agreement and disagreement with the recommendations. Thus, the overal results of the Forum surveys are difficult to quantify because of the mixture of qualitative and quantitative responses and in no way can they be considered a reflection of statewide librarians' opinions. Given these limitations, it is interesting to note that this group ranked the desirability of technology instruction below management education, critical thinking, entrepreneurship, user studies, and human resources.
Demographics of the Survey Respondents
All but two of the respondents (88%) had graduated during the past 6 years. The remaining two had more than 10 years of experience. One-third were employed in public libraries, one-third were employed in academic libraries, and the remaining third consisted of special librarians and "other" information professionals.
Results of the Survey Relating to Continuing Education
Respondents were asked to list what "they needed to learn more about in the next two years." Fourteen of the eighteen respondents listed some allication of technology (e.g., Windows, Web design). The four remaining respondents chose General Source Information, Programming, Management, and Teaching Tehcnology. Three-quarters of the respondents (75%) indicated that they favored instruction that could be delivered in either a half- or full-day of classes.
Clearly there is no way to make generalizations based upon the minimal response to this pretest. What is interesting, however, is how much this survey response on continuing education corresponds to the statistically valid SLA and CLA Membership Surveys. In fact, there is a startling level of consensus emerging from almost all the surveys about the preferred content and duration of continuing education courses.
Continuing education in institutions of higher education has become what is commonly described in the U.S. as a "cash cow" meaning the various offerings are perceived by campus administrators to bring a high return on investment. Coordinators of university continuing education programs often hold rank of Vice-President, and as such set fees that may limit the ability of a library education program to offer CE experiences as at cost that participants can afford. At one institution a $100 fee is charged for students to receive their transcript of continuing education credit for participation in the workshop.
The changes would also impact the responsibilities and duties of paraprofessionals and consequently they "can take on greater accountability for the day-to-day operations of the library, freeing librarians for the new assignments outlined above" (p. 11).
In other words, this large educational planning group, which was composed of University Academic Vice-Presidents, Deans, and Educational Planners, envisioned that librarians would be involved in increasingly abstract and intellectual processes involving broad disciplinary-based research and applications. Paraprofessionals would shift their duties to encompass a wider range of applications and services. All levels of library staff would require significant and substantial new training to prepare them for their changing roles.
What is significant about this overview of academic library changes is that it affirms the complexity of instruction and education required for effective work by academic librarians. It acknowledges that these librarians must learn about technology and understand various applications and their impact upon academic research and learning. It does not, however, contemplate, or promote the idea that library lifelong learning needs can be satisfied by short technological overviews of particular technological applications. In fact, at many points the report reaffirms the vitality of traditional library courses of instruction (selection, organization, and evaluation of resources) and highlights the new necessity for studying about information policy, management, marketing, and teaching skills.
Of course, the views expressed in this pamphlet don't come as a surprise to librarians. In fact, they express the vision of continuing education articulated by a very wide range of library educators, managers, planners, policy makers, and opinion leaders. In June 1997, at the American Library Association Annual Conference, the Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) Education Committee sponsored a meeting entitled, "Lifelong Learning for Librarians, Updating Your Technical Skills" (Education Committee 1997). All the speakers possessed impressive information technology backgrounds, and yet none of them focused on library technology applications per se. Instead, they stressed a personal CE strategy that involved developing an overview of technology innovations, staying current, and then deciding what learning was required in order to enhance services to users and to benefit their organizations. After extensive interaction with their audience, the panelists concluded that the profession needed to grow not a skill set but a concept set which would enable practitioners to place their learning needs within the context of their own career and organizational requirements. Jane Fisher, Continuing Education Specialist for The University of California Berkeley noted that, "Not everyone needs to become a Java programmer or web master, but we do need to be able to use the Web and to understand enough of the background technologies that drive it and the implications this can have for our particular library service and function. Then we can decide what more we need to know and also be able to find, hire, and manage for the specific technology expertise required."
Three prominent library educators, Eileen G. Abels, Gary Marchionini, and Paul Wasserman, recently published an alternative model of continuing education (Abels 1997). They concluded that library schools must accept responsibility for providing their graduates with programs that foster critical thinking, team work, resource sharing strategies, an ability to cope with and anticipate change, and a service commitment to enhancing the environment and quality of life of the communities that they serve. Their model coincides with the reality that today almost all library schools are restructuring their curricular offerings to include more emphasis on long-range planning, information policy, user studies, ethnography, preservation, information management, and intellectual property.
At a more immediate and practical level, almost any review of job ads for librarians and information specialists reveals a long list of required competencies (interpersonal skills, teaching ability, systems analysis) with knowledge of some technological program either assumed as given or listed as a desirable. Specific knowledge of a technology application is a rare requirement, and when it is listed it is usually for an entry level position.
Given this wide ranging vision of library leaders and managers of what working professionals need to know, why are the practitioner survey responses so nearly unanimous that the quick fix for every problem is learning about technology? There is no ready answer to this question, but we certainly need to begin researching what may be an alarming disconnect between leaders and practitioners. Perhaps the gap between the two groups is an artifact of the way the questions were worded. For instance, the San Jose State questionnaire asked what was most important to learn in the next two years. It is possible that the short time frame focused respondents on fixing immediate needs encountered at work instead of expanding their vision to include long-term professional growth. Undoubtedly survey results of the Institute for the Future surveys were skewed by the lack of a random sample. More than half of the self-selected group that emerged responded via the Internet. Moreover, initial publicity about the experimental institutes placed emphasis on the goal of expanding technological competence. It is interesting to note that only in the Statewide Forums was there a preference for a broadened concept of professional education, but this was the only conference that assumed that education, not training, was the goal of continuing professional education.
In many ways the overwhelming consensus about the scheduling and delivery of continuing education courses is as much a cause for concern as the narrow content of the practitioners' desired CE courses. The five surveys revealed a strong preference for very short courses (one half to four days in length) taught in a traditional classroom/laboratory mode. Clearly the constraints of such requirements lead to the almost exclusive provision of practice oriented workshops, a far cry from the conceptual and research oriented programs envisioned by library planners. Sad to say, if the survey results are to be believed, librarians are selecting CE courses that are far better suited to the new working requirements of paraprofessionals!
It is certainly easy to understand that busy librarians find it difficult to make time for continued graduate level courses, especially since their organizations are seldom willing to fund their expenses for semester-long classes and/or provide adequate time off from work. On the other hand, the majority of survey respondents were in mid-career, and many of them occupied managerial and supervisory positions. Even without organizational support, it seems reasonable to assume that they would recognize the need to invest in post-graduate education to broaden their intellectual, managerial, interpersonal, and planning concepts and thereby increase their job mobility and career options. Why then are the survey responses characterized by a narrow and rigid vision of the professional mission? What motivating factors exist in other professions that encourage practitioners to sacrifice personal resources of time and money in order to participate in lifelong learning? Are they missing in the context of present day library education, and, if so, are there mechanisms available to create them?
To place continuing education programs to meet participant needs in the context of the college or university setting means understanding that the primary focus there is on degree-seeking students. Some individuality is lost when one department's CE planning must meet requirements of an umbrella group. Scheduling and use of facilities often requires some political maneuvering on-site as well as the need to do a great deal of public relations in order to attracting CE participants. As library educators concerned with developing appropriate continuing education courses and programs, we think it is important for leaders, planners, and educators to actively seek some answers to these questions, to engage in greater dialogue with our California colleagues working in libraries, and to continue the conversation at a global level here at the IFLA conference.
California Library Association (1997). CLA member survey report summary. Sacramento: California Library Association.
Education Committee of the Library and Information Technology Association (LITA) (1997). Lifelong learning for librarians: Updating your technical skills. Conference notes. Chicago: American Library Association.
Partnership for Librarian Continuing Education. (1997) Summary report of survey results Berkeley.
San Jose State University. School of Library and Information Science (1997). Alumni survey. San Jose: San Jose State University.
Task Force of the California Library Association on the Future of the Library Profession and its Education (1997). Future directions for the library profession and its education. Sacramento: California Library Association.
Woolls, Blanche (1997) "Measuring continuing education needs and results: competency for the twenty-first century." Papers from the IFLA CPERT Third International Conference on Continuing Professional Education for Library and Information Professionals. Munich: K.G. Saur.
Working Group on the Changing Role of the Library Staff of the CSU-SUNY-CUNY Joint Committee (1996). The Academic library in the information age: changing roles. Long Beach: California State Library.