Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Fully booked

Those who love books can train to become knowledge managers by pursuing Library Science, writes Usha Albuquerque

FOR those who love books and cant wait for a new title to come out, library science can be the ultimate career. And if your hobby is to curl up with a good book, this is where you get paid to do just that.

A libraryís primary purpose is to systematically store and catalogue information for easy access by users. For centuries, these vast stores of knowledge have existed within sheets of paper. Books of all shapes and sizes, periodicals, newspapers, and so on have filled shelf upon shelf of libraries across the world. But today, libraries are no longer confined to knowledge in the form of books. As computer-based systems develop, libraries store information on micro-films, discs, videos, slides, cassettes and records for education, research, reference and pleasure.

Library Science is, therefore, an information science, providing the means to manage the explosion in knowledge and information, utilising the new technology to collect, store, categorise, compile, and make information available to larger and larger numbers of people.

In India, there are over 500 large libraries employing over 15,000 people and catering to different groups of people and their requirements. These include -

Public libraries: These are funded and managed by the Department of Education and Culture, and range from the large national level public libraries to the small mobile libraries Ďon wheelsí which service villages and small towns.

Academic libraries: These cater mostly to the staff and students of universities, colleges, schools and polytechnics, covering reference and textbooks, fiction, non-fiction and the specialised needs of the institution, whether for a particular subject, or field of knowledge.

Specialised libraries: These may concentrate on particular subjects, such as art or fashion, cater to a particular commercial or industrial purpose, or professional body, or language group, or cater to a specific readership, such as books in Braille for the visually handicapped..

Archives: Contain public records and documents of historical importance.

Private collections: These may be owned by an individual/family or form part of a club or organisation.

Newspaper/news agencies: Maintain indexed records of their own work, or reference material.

Industry and commerce: Relate to specific areas of an organisation.

Information centres: Set up by foreign missions in cities to promote an understanding of their countryís culture.

Work of a librarian

The most important function of a library is to organise, acquire and disseminate information. Librarians select and purchase materials from publishers, wholesalers and distributors, classify them according to subject matter, and arrange them in the library in a way that users can easily find them. They also need to read book reviews and publishing catalogues to keep themselves informed of recent literature and academic resources. Librarians have to constantly keep a track of all the books in the library, update catalogues, and stock the library with new books as soon as they arrive. For this, they have to remain in constant touch with publishers and booksellers.

In technical libraries, librarians may be required to determine the userís needs, and search, acquire, if necessary, and prepare materials for use.

As more and more information is stored digitally, much of the work of a librarian is that of a knowledge manager, preserving documents through computerised systems, enhancing and refreshing content, and making it available on-line and digitally.

While in large libraries, librarians specialise in a particular function, in smaller ones they may be required to handle all the work. In general these include:

Library attendant: Looks after inter library loans, shelving books, processing bills, subscription renewals and new memberships.

Library assistant: responsibilities include accession, levying of fines, book binding, location of missing books, etc.

Junior librarian (Semi professional assistant): Receives and issues out books, reminders on overdue loans, accessioning, etc.

Junior librarian/professional assistant: Looks after classification, cataloguing, bibliography, ordering books/material, takes care of reference services, computer programming.

Deputy librarian: Oversees administration, supervision and computer programming.

Librarian: Is the overall in charge of technical, administrative and financial matters, acquisitions, library supervision, management and other details.

Director/head of information centre: Works at the policy planning level. You can join a library at different levels depending upon the qualifications acquired.

An attendant needs a matriculation or school-leaving certificate, with a certificate/diploma in library science. A semi-professional assistant can enter with a bachelorís degree in library science, while a professional assistant needs a masterís in library science. For senior positions, an M. Phil or Ph.D. would be required.

The study of library science is a one-year course Bachelor in Library Science (B. Lib) after graduation in any subject, offered by many universities. Several also offer short-term certificate courses between 3 and 8 months long, as well as diploma programmes of 1-2 years. There are also several correspondence courses of one year. Masterís in Library Science is a one-year programme after B. Lib.

The National Informatics Centre funded by the UGC offers a one-year training programme for library science graduates in technology and e-content management.

Placement prospects

With a qualification in library science you can work with any category of libraries, including libraries of government organisations and agencies, public libraries, as well as with those in schools, colleges and academic institutions. Librarians are also recruited for information brokerage services, archival work at universities, private collection, photo/film libraries, media organisations, and with software companies for research and content management.

While a love for books is a pre-requisite in this career, you also need to be methodical and organised in your thinking, resourceful, persevering and computer literate. A curiosity and an interest in a wide variety of subjects are other useful personal qualities that can ensure your growth in this vast world of information.

Training talk

Most state universities offer courses in library science at the graduate, postgraduate, certificate and diploma levels. Prominent institutions offering short-term courses in Library and Information Science include:

  • INSDOC, New Delhi,

  • Jamia Millia Institute, New Delhi,

  • Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi.

  • Panjab University, Chandigarh

The writer is a noted career expert