In the past, some sharp differences have been seen in the definitions of school librarians, their principal role in the school and as a consequence their professional preparation. In 1986 the IFLA Section of School Libraries published a document called Guidelines for the Education and Training of School Librarians. A new edition of this document has been prepared which outlines the competency requirements for modern school librarians. It contains an outline of the essential knowledge and skills necessary for these professionals which include information studies, management and education.
IFLA's interest in this problem dates back for a long time. I became involved with IFLA in 1974 when a separate Section for School Libraries was being prepared. I remember that at one of the first business meetings of the Section, a person from the audience got up and posed a very straight forward question. "Who are these school librarians you are talking about?" Prior to that we had perhaps avoided the question and hoped that we would not have to deal with this sensitive issue. But there it was and there was no way to avoid it anyway.
The Section discussed the issue of education for school librarian at several of its meetings and looked for ways to approach it constructively. In 1978 a seminar on education for school librarians w as held in Costa Rica with participation from all the Central American countries. The seminar was attended by high level officials from ministries of education, people from library schools and teache r training institutions, and the main emphasis was on how to develop educational programmes for teachers in school librarianship. The proceedings of this seminarJwere published in Spanish and later t ranslated into English. In connection with the seminar, a short course was offered for school librarians.
The next step was to form a Working Group in 1982 to look at the educational requirements for school librarians. This was an international group of 13 people with very different views of what school librarians were all about and each member looked at the issue from their particular perspective. Very soon we realised, however, that this issue was very deep rooted and did not have any straight ans wers. Strong feelings existed on both sides, supporting the emphasis on teachers on the one hand and on librarians on the other. The "either or syndrom" which we jokingly called t seemed to be about to prevent any progress on this issue. One group was determined to look at librarians as teachers and the other wanted to empha sise the library component as indispensable.
Dual qualifications were in some cases listed as the optimal alternative. On the other hand to many members that looked much too demanding for the educational system in their particular country wher e professional preparations for either profession were 3 4 years. Dually qualified school librarians would then have 6 8 years of education on the university level!
In some developing countries the only option seemed to be to select a teacher and provide some basic skills in running a school library since teacher's training is on a lower level than librarianship . Elementary schools would never be able to afford library trained people. In other countries librarians in schools were on a lower level than teachers and had status on the secretarial level only.
In view of the divergent ideas there was no alternative than to approach theissue from an entirely different standpoint. The approach which was tried and which seems to work for that particular group was simply to ask the question: "What does a school librarian need to know?" This approach meant that the Working Group could focus on the identification of the competencies which school librarians needed in order to function properly in the school setting and then leave it to individual countries or school systems to figure out for themselves what was the most efficient and effective way to cr eate courses which would include these competencies.
Another necessary step was to simplify the use of terminology. To avoid problems in this area it was decided to use only the term "school librarian" and specifically the plural term "school librarian s" to avoid gender specific references to the school librarian. In order to obtain consistancy in terminology for the library in the school, it was decided to use the term "school library" for the i nstitution in the school although other names are used in the literature.
The first edition of the Guidelines for the Education and Training of School Librarians was published in 1986. That edition has been out of print for some time. During the Annual Conference of the In ternational Association of School Librarianship in 1991, a proposal for a revision of the Guidelines was accepted. The proposal was discussed by the IFLA Section of School Libraries in 1992 and subse quently approved by the IFLA Professional Board in 1993. The chairperson of the original IFLA Working Group was requested to review the first edition of the Guidelines for the Education of School Lib rarians, and submit a draft to the Section of School Libraries and to the Board of the International Association of School Librarianship. A revised draft of the new version of the document was prepar ed in 1994 with view of the changes that have occurred within this field since the first edition was published. The draft was based on the former edition, constructed the same way, because the form w as considered appropriate for its purpose. The draft document was then sent out for comments to people all over the world. The last of the comments was received in May of 1995.
Through comments from the review group and in view of experience with translating it into other languages, a new title was proposed: School Librarians: Guidelines for Competency Requirement. As said before, the main purpose is to analyse the role of school librarians and through that analysis draw attention to competencies and knowledge needed to perform this role.
The change in educational methodology places at the center the uniqueness of the individual and the obligations of the educational system to meet the individual's needs. A school library programme be comes essential when such philosophy is used as a guiding principle for educational activities. A school library with a rich variety of sources is a prerequisite for the enrichment of the curriculum and systematic efforts to meet the individual student's needs.
The so called "information explosion" is a phenomenon which has also influenced the goals and purposes of education. In an information saturated world each individual needs and uses a wealth of info rmation. The school is expected to prepare students for diverse roles in society, and consequently in a world where information is becoming one of the most important commodities, the school must prep are students with information handling skills to facilitate their current and future use of information. The school library plays an essential part in helping students to develop the concepts of in formation retrieval and assisting them to acquire the skills for handling and managing information sources.
The school library is a storehouse of information within the school, organised in ways similar to other institutions which hold the same purpose. The school library, therefore, acts as a bridge betw een school and society, bringing increased knowledge into the school in order to provide challenges to the inquiring mind of young people. The main purpose of the school library is to provide and exp loit organized information to help broaden the knowledge base of each individual student, and to prepare students with information handling skills to help them seek and use information in their futur e life.
The most drastic changes in the development of information skills in the past few years is the availability of online sources through computer networks, a fact which carries the potential for a chang e in all information transfers. Through access points in each school, children have access to an almost infinite variety of information sources. No school library is any longer limited to the sources the school has managed to acquire through purchase. School libraries are becoming information clearinghouses within the school and as such they will constantly change and adjust their role as cataly sts in the information society.
The world is rapidly entering an era of technological revolution where information technology forms an integral part of societal changes. Easy access to a variety of sources calls for a revision of t he education of school librarians so they are capable of planning and teaching the new information handling skills with teachers for students. This training can be carried out as a component in the b asic educational programme for new school librarians, and for those already working it is important to offer a variety of courses through continuing education. School librararians need to change the methods of instruction for information skills in schools to include skills of coping with the enormous amounts of information available to each individual through these new channels. In view of these changes is very important that the school librarians are recognized as information specialists in the new sense.
Occupational studies exist from different parts of the world which have attempted to identify the roles and functions of librarians in the school context. This shows that the role of school librarian s vary according to the educational objectives of the schools, teaching methodology, the national legal framework, financial situation, etc.
Information studies is an essential component for the selection, organisation and utilization of society's recorded information and ideas;
Through the revision, this basic division was not changed, but it was, however, necessary to add several components to the competency requirements to match with the abovementioned changes. School lib rarians are still recognized as specialists in the two main roles of the school library; i.e. the provision and organisation of information for the purpose of increasing the knowledge of each individ ual student, and the integration of information handling skills into the curriculum. They also need to possess sufficient management skills to operate the school library smoothly and successfully fo r the fulfilment of these roles.
Secondly, there is a detailed explanation of each of the functions listed on the schematic presentation. There, the functions which school librarians perform the schools are briefly explained. As a c ontinuation of these definitions, the competencies, knowledge and skills needed to carry out each of these functions efficiently are listed.
Thirdly, the document includes a checklist of competencies, which is included for a quick assessment of existing programmes or as an initial framework for a new one.
A short Bibliography is included to facilitate access to further information on these issues. Finally the Appendix contains two major international statements on school libraries, one from Unesco and the other from International Association of School Librarianship. Both are helpful as policy statements on general roles and purposes of school libraries and school librarians.
Those who are in the process of developing new programmes for prospective school librarians will find in this document a succint but comprehensive description of the abilities which a school libraria n will need to master. The competencies outlined under each section can be used as a basis to build on a series of courses where each course could cover a variety of aspects.
One of the issues that needs to be addressed is the stability of such programmes. It is imperative that their future be secured and a guarantee made that they can continue for several years to provid e a logical, comprehensive preparation of the personnel for the school library system, a preparation programme which can be developed and upgraded gradually and systematically.
An effective school library educational programme needs to include all of the aspects listed in the document, but it depends on the situation in each country how deeply and extensively school librar ians need to study each factor. Therefore no prescription is been made as to the length or depth of each course.
Firstly, to find out how it measures up to needs and expectations;
Secondly, for new programmes, the checklist could be used as an initial frame to identify which areas are to be emphasized at the beginning of the programme and make out a developmental plan, identif ying the areas which need to be added to at a later stage;
Thirdly, the Checklist can help the organizers of the educational programmesfor school librarians to define the level of study which is needed in view of the present situation.
Added Emphasis on Continuing Education and Distant Education
As said before, school librarians must have opportunities to keep up to date with developments in the fields that mainly concern them and their working place, the library. Techological changes are r apid in the form of online services, new media such as the CD ROM have become common. More information is available on how to combat illiteracy, on how students learn and what can be done to interest them in reading. This information is valuable for school librarians to increase their importance in the school.
In many schools the number of students is too small to support a full time school librarian. To provide interested teachers with the basic information needed to provide the services of a school libra ry, it is necessary to organise distant education programmes where teachers can study at their own speed and as the need arises. There are now more and more possibilities to provide distant education courses through the use of info rmation technology and students can communicate with their teachers through electronic mail, receive comments on their assignments and progress immediately. Many countries on the path of development or countries which are sparesely populated must look into the possibility to provide school librarians with this type of educational programmes.
A. Information Studies
A I. Collection development
a. Develop Selection Policy
b. Evaluation and Selection of of Resources
c. Criteria for Gifts
d. Design and Production of Sources
A II. Acquisition and organisation
a. Ordering, Receiving and Processing
e. Selection of Appropriate Technologies
A III. Information Services
a. Assessment of Information Needs
b. Design of Information Services
c. Guides to Sources
d. Circulation, Reservations
e. Online Searching
f. Interlibrary Loan
g. Use of Advanced Technology
B I. Policy development implementation
a. Establish Long term and Short term Goals
b. Design Strategies
c. Policies and Programmes
d. Modification , Change
e. Programme Evaluation
f. Community Involvement
B II. Resource Management
a. Organisation and Development
b. Supervison and Management
c. Plan for Efficient Use
d. Preservation and Care
e. Development of Services
B III.Finance and Budget Control
a. Securing Financial Support
b. Budget Control
C I. Cooperation in curricular design
a. Participation in Curriculum
b. Fostering Independent Learning
c. Curriculum Enrichment
d. Teaching Partner
e. Application of Learning Theory
C II. Integration of Resources and Skills
a. Analysis of Information Needs
b. Integration of Information Skills
c. Assist Effective Usage
d. Design Activities
C III.Guidance and Promotion of Use
b. Encourage Participation
c. Relate Resources to Curriculum
d. Motivation, Stimulation
e. Advising Teachers on Materials
f. Encourage Use of Other Institutions
School librarianship can be considered as one branch of librarianship, or information studies which deals with the acquisition, organisation and distribution of recorded knowledge. At the same time it has a strong allignment to the teaching profession. In the creation of educational programmes for school librarians it seems both appropriate and practical to utilise available courses offered to other librarians and/or teachers to the fullest extent possible.
The school library is, furthermore, one of the cornerstones of a national library network. In many instance, the sources in the school library are valuable to the community as a whole and frequently the school offers its collection for use by the community. On the other hand, combined libraries are also common where the school must share a library collection and services with the public librar y. Whatever local solution has been chosen to provide the school and its children with information beyond the textbook, school librarians must be aware of their responsibilities as information medi ators and teachers of information handling skills.
School libraries must be organised along the same lines as other libraries in the community, using the same type of classification and arrangement of collections, and an emphasis should be placed o n mastery of the organisationalcomponents of the library work as well as the others.
Educational programmes for school librarians will inevitably vary from one part of the world to another but must never be on a lower educational level than the equivalent teachers' training. If teac hers' training is on a post graduate level, the educational programmes for school librarians need to be on the post graduate level as well. School librarians who have been professionally trained and have the competencies which have been outlined here, have a very important role in the school since they are responsible for keeping up with all the educational activities in the school, working with all teachers and students, serving as teaching partners, managers and organisers in a complex institution. They should therefore be looked upon as specialists within the school and their edu cation and status should be rated accordingly.
2. Carroll, Frances Laverne. Guidelines for School Libraries. The Hague, IFLA Section of School Libraries, 1990, p. 12.