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As mentioned in Mahawamsa, the main historical chronicle of Sri Lanka, the Buddhist texts and their commentaries were committed to writing by the clergy during the first century B.C. This is considered as an important step toward the establishment of libraries in Sri Lanlka. These early temple libraries were a type of reference libraries, which is quite different from modern functional or public libraries in the sense that listeners congregate in a preaching hall where the appointed readers read out to the public from the books. (Piyadasa 1985 p.25)
Printing was not a known technique in early Sri Lanka and all the literary works were done on processed Talipot Palm (Corypha Umbraculifers) and Palmyra (Borassus Flabellifer) leaves. (Piyadasa 1985 p.21)
According to Piyadasa, it is not possible to answer the questions of whether they had any type of classification or cataloguing or any method of book selection. But he suggests that these ancient people had a type of broad classification for their books, especially for the religious works - the three main groups : Vinaya, Sutta and Abhidamma with supplementary and commentarial works on them. Classification of Sinhala, Pali and Sanskrit texts were done on form and then by subject. He further says that these libraries had a simple type of catalogue where the titles were used as main entries. The commentaries, lexicons, glossaries,etc. produced in Sri Lanka are sufficient evidence to show that ancient libraries had developed a fairly efficient and useful reference service. (Piyadasa 1985)
The oldest library of the modern period was the United Services Library founded in 1813. (British Council 1987 p.1) The Government Oriental Library which was established in 1870 was an important event in the Sri Lankan library history. The Colombo Museum Library was opened in 1887 and the manuscripts of the Government Oriental Library and the valuable collection of Royal Asiatic Society (Ceylon Branch) were transferred to the Museum Library. With the establishment of subscription libraries founded in 1813 (Colombo Library) and 1829 (Pettah Library), the public library movement was started. (Lankage 1980).
First academic library in Sri Lanka was the Ceylon University College library established in 1921. The University of Ceylon was established in 1942 and when in 1974 all universities were given their own autonomy this became the University of Peradeniya. University of Colombo was established in 1967 and its library began with the collection of the Colombo branch library and the Medical Faculty library of the University of Ceylon. In 1959 two more university libraries were added with the granting of university status to Vidyodaya and Vidyalankara Pririvenas. In 1972 University of Moratuwa library was established. Jaffna University library in 1979, Ruhunu University library in 1978 and Open University library in 1980 were established.
A Postgraduate Diploma course was commenced by University of Peradeniya in 1961 but discontinued in 1965 due to staff shortage. Two Junior universities commenced Junior University Diploma in 1968 but discontinued in 1970. University of Kelaniya established the Department of Library and Information Science (DLIS) in 1973 and a Bachelor of Arts General Degree which offers Library and Information Science (LIS) as one subject was commenced in the same year. A Postgraduate Diploma was commenced in 1974. Bachelor of Arts Special Degree in LIS which teaches LIS for four years, was started in 1979. (Lankage 1989 p.69). A Masters Degree in LIS by research was commenced in 1989. This and the Postgraduate Diploma were suspended later.
Sri Lanka Library Association (SLLA) commenced a three tier professional course named as first, intermediate and final in 1961, 1966 and 1973 respectively. A similar three tier part time course was commenced by University of Kelaniya in 1977, Both these course are still functioning.
University of Colombo commenced a Diploma course in LIS in 1982. However this too was suspended by 1988.
Sri Lanka National Library Services Board (SLNLSB) commenced a postal course in LIS in 1983 with the objective of providing an opportunity for Public and school Librarians from rural areas to obtain qualifications. This was suspended in 1997 due to lack of funds.
DLIS conducts two bachelors degree programmes. Above mentioned General Arts Degree which is targeted at intermediate level para-professional jobs and Special Arts Degree which is targeted at highest level of para-professionals or lowest level of professional librarians. Objectives of these two courses are to give the students an understanding of the basic principles and fundamental laws of LIS, to enable the student to understand and appreciate the function and purpose of the library and to train the student in the techniques of librarianship and management. Medium of instruction is Sinhala.
University of Colombo, under the auspices of Faculty of Graduate Studies started a Masters Degree in LIS (MLS) in 1993. Target group of this programme is the senior information professionals of university, special and industrial sectors. Objective of the programme is to train librarians and information professionals to manage change in a technically oriented society. Lectures are conducted in English medium.
DLIS under the auspices of Faculty of Social Sciences started a Masters Degree in Social Science (in Library and Information Science) in 1998. Target group and the objective is as for the MLS of University of Colombo, but the difference is that classes are conducted in Sinhala medium for those who do not have the working knowledge of English. There are two types of courses within this Masters Programme - those who complete the course work and write a short dissertation during the first year have the option of obtaining the M.Soc. Sc. Those who continue the dissertation during the second year and produce a lengthier work are offered an M.Phil.
National Institute of Education (NIE) conducts a Bachelor of Education programme for teachers and Educational Technology and Information Science is one component of this programme. The objective is to provide the basic knowledge for the teacher to look after a school library.
Professional level programmes , are the three tier part time courses conducted by SLLA and DLIS. Part I and II of DLIS programme have been named as part I and II of Diploma in LIS, while Part III is called Professional Advanced Certificate in Library Science and Documentation. SLLA conducts these course in three different centres in the country and in three languages. Objectives of these courses are to produce library personnel who could handle an average Sri Lankan library. Apart from the three tier course, SLLA conducts a Library Technicians Programme for those who work in the libraries without any professional qualification. without any professional qualification, specially public and school libraries in rural areas. Objective of this course is to develop personnel who could assist professionals and in the absence of professionals, to look after the libraries. This course is limited to a specific geographic area at a time.
Course Duration Entry Requirements General Arts 3 years University entry qualifications* Special Arts 4 years Pass in first year exam at the University AND a pass in English at university first year exam or a pass in English at GCE/OL MLS 2 years 1st or 2nd class honours in Special/ (full time) General Degree in any field of study or 4 years Bachelors Degree with Postgraduate (part time) Degree or Diploma in any field of study or Bachelors Degree with ASLLA or equivalent in Library and Information Science AND 1 year work experience in a recognised library AND a good working knowledge of English M.Soc.Sc./ 1 year / General / Special Degree in LIS M.Phil. 2 years or General / Special Degree and 1 year experience in a recognised library or General / Special Degree and Advanced Certificate of University of Kelaniya or final year exam of SLLA. B.Ed. 75 hours Entry qualification for B.Ed. Degree SLLA - I 1 year 3 passes in GCE/AL and pass in GCE/OL English (First Year) or 6 passes in GCE/OL including mathematics and English and 3 years work experience in a recognised library. SLLA - II 1 year pass in first year (Intermediate) SLLA - III 1 year pass in second year (Final) ASLLA - SLLA Final and one year as a member of SLLA FSLLA - ASLLA and 5 years of work experience after ASLLA or equivalent Lib. Technicians Programme 1 year GCE/OL with passes in Mathematics and Sinhala/Tamil AND work experience DLIS - Part I 1 year 3 passes in GCE/AL and a pass in GCE/OL (Diploma Part I ) English DLIS -Part II 1 year 3 passes in GCE/AL and a pass in GCE/OL English (Diploma Part II) or Pass in Part I Professional 1 year Diploma in LIS of DLIS or Equivalent or higher Advanced and Certificate 2 years work experience
The above table provides details of duration and entry requirements of all current LIS course in Sri Lanka. An English knowledge at GCE/OL standard or higher is a requirement for all courses. *University entry requirement is a minimum of 4 passes at GCE/AL examination but because of tight competition the actual entry level marks are much higher than this and also vary according to district basis.
Masters of Social Science of DLIS consists of five core subjects and a dissertation of 8,000-10,000 words during the first year. Those who opt for M.Phil. can complete the five subjects during the first year and continue with a research project of 30,000 words during the second year. The five core subjects are Organisation of knowledge, management of libraries, information science, research methods in librarianship and use of computers in libraries and information services.
SLLA's three tier course consists of four subjects each year. Librarianship, cataloguing (theory and practicals), classification (theory and practicals) and library resources and information services are taught during the first two years. In the final year library management, indexing, information technology and information services are taught. In addition to the taught courses, students are given a two week practical training at a recognised library in their first year. During the second year they are expected to submit a bibliography on a selected subject and in the third year they have to write six essays on selected topics in addition to the written exam.
Library technicians programme includes five subjects - library practices, user services, office practice and library machines and technical services. More emphasis is placed on practical aspect in this course than on theoretical aspect.
Associateship of SLLA (ASLLA) is awarded for to those who have passed final year exam and have completed one year as a member of the SLLA. Fellowship of SLLA (FSLLA) is awarded to those who have ASLLA and five years work experience after ASLLA.
DLIS part time course offers a variety of subjects like library and library use, technical services classification and cataloguing, reader services, library and community, organisation and administration of libraries, bibliographic services, information services, information analysis and library automation, within the three year period.
Apart from the DLIS, other organisations which conduct courses in LIS are not in a position to employ full time staff. SLLA has no financial provision for this purpose. Faculty of Graduate Studies of University of Colombo too, has no provision for full time teachers. Under these circumstances LIS education field in Sri Lanka largely depends upon part time staff.
In order to implement these provisions an education committee has been established in the SLNLSB. Membership consists of co-ordinators of all LIS courses conducted in the country , Head DLIS and President - SLLA. A board member serves as the president while the education and research officer of the SLNLSB serves as the secretary. Main objective of the committee is to periodically evaluate the curriculum and provide necessary advice and assistance for LIS training programmes.
This act was followed by the Sri Lanka Library Association (Incorporation) Law of 1974. Objects of the SLLA with regard to the LIS education is stated as " to train librarians and to conduct professional examinations in librarianship and to issue certificates of proficiency".(Act 1974)
While these two legislations are looking after the general co-ordination of LIS education, at University level the senate, council and the faculty board maintains the academic standards of the LIS courses conducted by universities.
Majority of students study in Sinhala or Tamil mediums. Yet literature in vernacular are extremely rare. The expected English knowledge of students is not sufficient to comprehend most of the LIS material published in English. Therefore the students have to depend largely on the lecture notes prepared by teachers who have other commitments in addition to teaching. Above all, the part time students are not provided with any library facilities by the teaching institutions. Most of these students travel from far away places to attend lectures on Sundays. They cannot travel to city libraries where general collections in LIS are maintained, during the week, either because their employers do not grant them leave or because it is too time and money consuming for them to make the journey more than once a week.
Three tier courses which face all the above problems, seem to be the most popular among the employers Job vacancies appeared in the Ceylon Daily News from January to December 1997 and in the Government Gazette throughout 1997 indicated that three tier courses of SLLA and DLIS are popular among the employers than the General or Special Degree in LIS. Giving preference to those who have obtained a part time qualification by following a course which does not have proper educational facilities or practical training over those who have followed a full time course with better educational resources decides on entrants to the profession. A good part of the profession consists of personnel who have had a part time, notes based knowledge.
Professional LIS education programmes of Sri Lanka seems to have a problem in recruiting suitable candidates. Minimum entry requirement for SLLA first year is 6 passes at the GCE/OL with 3 years work experience. And for DLIS Diploma Part I it is 3 passes at the GCE/AL. Librarianship as a profession is not well recognised in the country. Therefore there is no competition for admission from the students. This leads to recruitment of students who fail to gain admission to universities or other training programmes like accountancy, banking, and computer technology. This contradicts with the IFLA's selection criteria.
Another noted fact is the varying academic standards of the students recruited to Masters programmes. The fresh graduate from the university who has one year work experience as well as senior librarians who have necessary degree qualification in addition to 10-15 years work experience are in the same class. These two categories have different levels of knowledge in library procedures and different levels of academic capabilities. This creates a problem for the lecturer in balancing standards in the class room.
All LIS education programmes in Sri Lanka concentrates on training personnel to manage a library by providing an in depth knowledge of traditional library practices. Cataloguing and classification takes a prominent place in the curriculum, and trainees are provided with an introductory or basic level knowledge of traditional library procedures and concepts. None of the course provide an opportunity for a librarian to specialise in any particular field. This is a serious drawback in the curriculum since we need personnel to introduce current developments in information field to Sri Lankan libraries.
Another drawback in the LISA education system is the lack of retraining or continuing education programmes. The few available programmes concentrate only on library automation especially on use of CDS/ISIS in libraries and information systems. This is not a good condition at all for the development of LIS system.
LIS education system of Sri Lanka needs immediate attention of the professionals, if it is to achieve any sort of standard. We need more full time staff members, better educational and library facilities, a revised curriculum, more and more research, publications especially in Sinhala and Tamil, better control and accreditation of courses, and students of high academic standards.
In the development of LIS education system SLLA and SLNLSB must play a more authoritative role than being educational organisations. SLLA seems to have ignored its role as the guardian of the profession in its attempt to provide educational programmes.
We can expect that the future of LIS education will be brighter with the establishment of National Institute of Library and Information Science (NILIS) at the University of Colombo with the aid of World Bank. NILIS will establish standards for training and will accredit LIS courses. It will offer courses at Certificate, Degree and Post-graduate level by amalgamating the current tertiary level training programmes offered by University of Colombo (UC), University of Kelaniya, SLLA and SLNLSB. Management and conduct of courses will be the responsibility of the Director who will be a fully qualified and experienced librarian holding the post of Professor Grade II. For academic purposes, the Director will be advised by a Board of Studies comprised of representatives from SLNLSB, UC and other university librarians, Ministry of Education and Higher Education, and NIE. (Unpublished draft 1997).
Ceylon National Library Services Bozard Act No. 17 of 1970. Colombo. Government Publications Bureau. p.6
IFLA (1976) "Standards for Library Schools" IFLA Journal , Vol. 2 No. 4, pp.209 - 223.
Irving, Ann (1983) Education and Training for Library and Information Work. Colombo : SLNLSB. 52p.
Lankage, Jayasiri (1980) "Library movement in Sri Lanka". IN Roads to Wisdom ed. Ishwari Corea. Colombo. Municipal Council.
Mangla, P.B. (1994) "Library and Information Science education in South Asia : India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka", Education for Information, Vol. 12 No. 4, pp. 399-427.
Lankage, Jayasiri (1989)"Library Education in Sri Lanka" International Library Review 21. 67-72
Piyadasa, T. G. (1985) Libraries in Sri Lanka : their origin and history from ancient times to the present time. Delhi : Sri Satguru
Sri Lanka Library Association (Incorporation) Law, No. 20 of 1974. Colombo. Government Publications Bureau. p.2.
Wijetunge, Pradeepa ; Willson, Jonathan (1998) "Descriptive survey of Library and Information Science Education Personnel in Sri Lanka" to be published in Asian Libraries
Unpublished draft proposal of libraries component of World Bank mission to Sri Lanka (1997). 5-6.