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62nd IFLA General Conference - Conference Proceedings - August 25-31, 1996

Future Chinese Librarians and Their Training

He Qin & Ma Jin
(Dept. of Library and Information Science, Peking University, Beijing, 100871)


According to the statistical data, the quality and quantity of Chinese librarians have improved significantly in the past ten years. However, as marketing economy is gradually establishing, information technologies are being applied widely and new kinds of information centers are appearing, there is a need for new types of librarians in China. It is pressing for Chinese librarians to strengthen their abilities in information marketing, technological operation and intellectual exploration in the future. As a result, the Chinese library education should be reformed and it should place more emphasis on information management and application of information technologies in order to meet the requirements of future professional development and international cooperation. Students of library sc hools should be encouraged to have more strong subject background on social science and natural science. At the same time, as more and more graduates of library schools find jobs in various kinds of information centers rather than libraries, continuing professional education will be more important for Chinese librarians to update their knowledge and apply new information technologies to Chinese l ibraries in the future.


Key Words

Librarian, Library Education, Information Technology


As the world economy begins to embrace an ever growing information industry, many traditional information institutions throughout the world are being forced to reevaluate their role in society. Libraries, perhaps more than any other, are facing unprecedented challenges as each new wave of technology allows individuals greater access to an expanding world of information. In order for libraries to continue to serve a function in society, librarianship itself needs to be thoroughly reexamined and current library staff, which is the core of library service, must begin acquiring those skills that will allow libraries to continue to meet the information needs of their constituents. But what qualifications need to be stressed? How should existing library staff be trained? For the moment, we wil l focus on these questions as they pertain to Chinese librarians.

Challenges to Chinese Librarians

At present, Chinese librarians have to meet following challenges:

1. The challenges from the market economic system.

The reform of the market economic system in China continues to have both positive and negative effects on libraries. On the one hand, it offers opportunities for the development of libraries. Libraries become market-oriented and can carry out paid-services, such as SDI, information research and so on, using their holds of resources. On the other hand, like other public institutions, funding for C hinese libraries comes from the government and is often not enough to meet the actual needs of the libraries. Coupled with rising book prices, this lack of funding is forcing Chinese libraries into an increasingly poor economic situation.

2. The challenge from new kinds of information technology.

Although many new kinds of information technologies such as computer, multimedia and CD-ROM are bringing unprecedented abilities to Chinese libraries, these same technologies are also bringing greater responsibility to current library staff. The automation and networking of libraries demand a group of librarians to engage in the exploration of applied software and the installation and maintenanc e of automation systems and networks. Additionally, with an increasing number of information media, library staff must strive to remain competent navigators of each medium in order to assist library patrons. Lastly, the complexity of information processing and storage systems increases with each new technology introduced and librarians are forced to attempt to keep up with these changes.

3. The challenge from new kinds of information service centers.

In China, new kinds of information service organizations such as consulting agencies and information retrieval centers are on the rise and the presence of these new commercial information institutions poses new challenges to Chines libraries. In order to survive in this competitive environment, Chinese libraries need to prepare themselves to meet the needs of the economic society, improve the lev el of automation and commercialization of their information services, and get into the information marke t with popular information products.

The Current Situation of Chinese Librarians

Since 1949, Chinese library staff has greatly expanded and its overall quality has also improved. According to the statistic data[1], the education background of the staff of five Chinese library and information systems is as follows:

The education situation of some Chinese librarians

SystemYear Staff (Total) Graduates From Colleges (Gra)Percentage (Gra/Total)
Public Lib.19871387 571 41.2
Colleges and Univ. 198836092 20472 56.7
Science-Technology 1988 25256 14938 59.1
The Chinese Academy of Social Science1988 543 349 64.3
The Chines e Academy of Science1988 883 489 55.2

Note: the description of the public library system only includes those in six provinces and seven cities. Moreover, according to the statistic data[2], by the end of 1990, the number of the staff in college and universities amounted to 35180, 60% of which were graduates from institutions. Among them, 1707 were senior research-librarians, covering 4.8% of the total, and 8413 were research-libraria ns, covering 23.9%. In 1993, there were 43051 staff who served in Chinese public libraries. More than half of them held titles of professional or technical posts, 3.2% were senior research-librarians.

Overall, this data supports the following two conclusions:

1). The quality of Chinese library staff tends to be steadily improving.

The professional education of library and information science in China has achieved considerable success. By 1988, there were more than 50 departments of library and information science established in Chinese universities or colleges. In 1990, China's National Education Commission approved the granting of the Ph.D.'s in library science and information science to Peking University and Wuhan Unive rsity, respectively. This event marked a new level of professional education for library and information science students in China.

At the same time, the in-service education in China has also made significant progress. For example, the Department of Library and Information Science at Peking University began to enroll on-the-job students in 1985 and from 1990 to 1994, there were 1500 on-the-job student graduates from the University. In addition, other institutions such as Nanjing University and Wuhan University have also set up various kinds of in-service training classes. All of these in-service training programs have played an important role in the professional education of Chinese librarians.

2). Despite improvements in the training of librarians, there will likely be a lack of qualified Chinese librarians in the future.

Many present Chinese librarians have received their training before they entered into libraries[3]; they are only familiar with some traditional manual operations and do not have enough knowledge about new kinds of information technologies. They also lack some of the necessary skills and competencies needed for modern information management and administration.

Due to the shock of a commodity based economic environment and the commercialization of the information industry, more and more graduates of library schools are reluctant to work in libraries. This trend will likely have a significant negative influence on the quality of Chinese librarians. According to the statistics[4], before the middle of 1980s, more than 90% graduates of Peking University l ibrary school went to work in libraries. However, during the late 1980s (1986-1988), only 49.4% of the graduates entered libraries and, 10% during the years of 1990 to 1992. More and more graduates of library schools are entering information centers, statistic centers, developing companies and other organizations. This obstructs the renewal and expansion o f Chinese library staff.

In addition, another factor which influences the quality of Chinese librarians is that many young and well-educated professional staff are leaving their present positions because of poor salaries in libraries. According to the statistics[5], from 1987 to 1991, there were 275 people who left their positions in Beijing Library, the national library of China. Among them, 196 are graduates from inst itutions or colleges, covering 71%, and 193 are below 35 years old, covering 70%.

The Training of Future Chinese Librarians

As stated above, the quality of Chinese library staff needs to be improved. We need to pay much more attention to both in-service training and professional education of Chinese librarians.

1. The in-service training of future Chinese librarians

In the future, the in-service training of Chinese librarians should resolve the following problems:

1) We should strengthen macro-management and the coordination of the in-service training. In-service training is different from regular professional education, which is accomplished within special schools offering regular courses. As the major task of libraries is to provide services for the society, it is impossible for them to spend much time on the training of their staff. Therefore, it is ne cessary to set up an authority organization to micro-manage and coordinate the in-service training of librarians. The Chinese Library Association, together with other organizations, should take this responsibility. It should make general plans to arrange some training programs and entrust special colleges or libraries to conduct those programs.

2) It is necessary to organize the in-service training on multiple levels in accordance with the librarian's specific situation. At present, Chinese librarians could be divided into three groups, according to their education background. The first group have received professional education in library science. They need to learn more about modern information technologies in order to update their professional skills. The second group have not received professional education in library science, but have studied another major like chemistry, electronics, etc. They should make up the courses on library science they missed. The third group are those who have never received professional education both in library science or other majors. They need considerable training. In-service training must meet the differing needs of these three groups by offering training on multiple levels.

3) We should carry out the in-service training in a broader environment and in various forms. This may be developed as follows:

* Acquiring certain diplomas via correspondence school, television college or by self-learning.

* Inviting some experts to give professional lectures, set up short-term training, and impart knowledge according to the variety of individuals present.

* Visiting other libraries at home or abroad for advanced studies. At the same time, various professional skill tests could be carried out from time to time to prompt librarians to update their professional knowledge and enhance their professional skills on a continual basis.

2. The professional education of future Chinese librarians

To improve the quality of future Chinese librarians, especially of those senior managers in libraries and information centers, it is necessary to push forward the professional education of library science in China.

The matters of concern are as following:

1) Adjustment on the aim. At present, the general aim of Chinese professional education in library and information science should be the training of highly-qualified librarians both in information acquisition and information management. This means the integration of library and information science in China should be emphasized. This will be needed to keep consistent with the development of the pr ofessional education in other countries and provide a good environment for future international exchange and cooperation.

2) Reforming the way schools are run. It is necessary for Chinese library science schools to maintain openness and flexibility in their teaching models. There are few, adopted from other countries, which may prove useful:

* Implement a dual bachelor degree. This means the institution encourages its students to study the courses in other fields such as law, economics, computer science, chemistry and so on, in addition to those in the field of library and information science. As a result, the graduates would get two degrees.

* Implementation of an interdisciplinary degree. This means the library and information science school would offer a degree program along with another discipline. The graduates with this degree not only have knowledge in library and information science but also have knowledge in the other discipline.

* Implementation of a greater variety of courses in library and information science. This mean, in addition to those general courses offered by current Chinese library schools, many other special courses such as medical information retrieval , legal library, public library, children literature and library etc., should also be offered. This would make some graduates more eligible for work in spec ial libraries.

3) Readjustment on the curricula. The adjustment of the education aim and the reformation of the way of running schools will certainly lead to the readjustment of curricula in library and information science. The fundamental education of library and information science should include three categories of courses. They are as follows:

* Required courses: Introduction to Library Science, Cataloguing and Classification, Information Resources Management and Application, Bibliography and Reference, Abstracting and Indexing, Fundamentals of Information Science, The Principle of Computer programming Language, Operation System, Database, Database Structure, Automation of Library, Information storage and Retrieval, etc..

* Elective courses: Bibliometrics, Management Information System, Visual Communication, Network, Information Analysis and Prediction, Information economics, Introduction to Information Environment, etc.. In addition to these courses, students should have the right to choose courses offered by other departments in the university. At the same time, the curricula should reflect the different levels in accordance with the different students enrolled. The purpose of the undergraduate education is to lay a firm professional foundation , develop students in the ability of operations of new information technologies in library and information centers and broaden students' vision and knowledge. For Master's degree, some subject branches should be set up to equip students with competence as high-l evel librarians or information professional, who could engage in reference consult, SDI, the analysis and design of information system and so on. The Ph.D. students should have more specialized abilities of research and teaching to become the major force of the theoretical research and professional education in library and information science.

4) Improvement in teaching methods. First of all, new kinds of courses are expected to introduce new theories and technical developments. Before the content of a course is mature, some other methods such as seminars and survey courses can be adopted in order to provide students with an awareness of the frontiers of their discipline and how their work will affect their society. Secondly, learning laboratories should be set up to allow students to gain valuable experience by completing practice exercises which are similar to real life job duties. These laboratories can provide the students with access to some on-line catalogs and retrieval systems, CD-ROM stations as well as the Internet. This would make the students more competent upon graduation. Thirdly, library schools should coopera te with some libraries and information centers to set up a long-term professional practice bases for their students to test their knowledge and skills which are got from 'ivory tower'. In addition, every library school should pay more attention to the training of its faculty. It is necessary to make a routine survey on the content, method and overall quality of instruction delivered by teachers. This would encourage faculty to improve their knowledge structure to fulfill the requirement for their teaching task.


With the establishment of a market economy system, the rapid development of information technology and the constant emergence of new kinds of information services, Chinese libraries are facing more and more challenges. This new environment puts more and more requirements upon Chinese librarians. It is imperative to improve the quality of library staff and to train more qualified librarians in Chi na. The future Chinese librarians should not only have profound knowledge of the management of libraries but also be skilled in the operation of advanced information technologies. They are the foundation for the development of Chinese library service. And only with these high-qualified librarians could Chinese librarianship develop more steadily and quickly.


1. Shi, Xuezhi. "The Status Quo of the Document and Information Service in China and Their Trend". Library, 1992 (2): 9.

2. Liu, Jinshui. "The Utilization and Exploitation of the Library Document Resources in China". Chinese Library Journal, 1992(5): 64-68.

3. Liu, Deyou. "Advancing on a New Step with the Advantage of the Evaluation of Chinese Libraries". Chinese Library Journal, 1995(2): 3-9,25.

4. Jin, Feng. "Study on Training Objectives and the Curricula of Chinese Higher Education in Library Science". M.A. Thesis, 1995.5.

5. Tian, Gaoliang. "The Library Cause in China during the Reform and Openness". Chinese Library Journal, 1995(2): 21-29.

6. Wan, Jinde. "The Education and Training in the Library Science in Asia-Pacific". Jiangsu Library Journal, 1992(6): 52-54

7. Li, Jinzheng. "Informationalization is the Inevitable Trend of Chinese Library Science". Chinese Library Journal. 1995(2): 14-17, 88.