Review of the literature

1 Introduction

Due to the geographical remoteness of the University of Plymouth this review is limited to those items which could be readily acquired through interlibrary loans. The Internet was used extensively, but the full text of articles, with a few notable exceptions, still had to be obtained through interlibrary loans.

A considerable number of articles were identified between March and June 1996. Since then many other items have been identified, some of which have been incorporated into this literature review. More recently, there has been a surge of interest voiced through the medium of e-mail discussion lists, on the changing roles and skills requirements of information professionals.(1) New resources have fuelled the debate, such as the NetLinkS site, which was set up by the eponymous eLib Training and Awareness project in March 1997. This provides an annotated bibliography of articles of interest in respect of Networked Learner Support, as well as an active discussion list.(2)

This review therefore represents a selection of the vast literature available. The following criteria was used in the final selection process:

2 The imperative for new skills: the early literature

The winds of change affecting the information profession started to blow in the mid 1980s. These winds are now approaching gale force, and the tone and tactics adopted by authors veers from the doom-laden: ‘change or else you’re extinct’, to the buoyant, optimism of the: ‘there are tremendous opportunities for us all if only we recognise them and act quickly’. Many early articles, in retrospect, have been prophetic as some of the trends they identify have started to take effect. However, the pace of change for the profession has lagged behind that of technology, although it would be hard for humans to match the current pace of change wrought by innovations in information and communication technologies, as attitudes, organisational structures, and professional cultures, tend to evolve and change gradually.

In the mid 1980s, Adams produced a thought-provoking analysis of the issues surrounding the training and skills requirements of future information workers.(3) He argues that the future librarian will need skills which are close to those of the information scientist. These might be: designing and developing systems; retrieving and integrating data to provide usable information, and the education of users. He also argues that “certain personality traits” should be sought by recruiters, and suggests that there may be a mismatch between those who are attracted to the library environment and the personal qualities which are actually required.

Adams criticises library school curricula which now offer such a wide range of options, including IT modules, that the student can emerge at the end of a course with little grounding in the ‘ethos or foundations of librarianship’. He also points to the lack of staff with appropriate IT expertise, in departments of librarianship - partly because existing staff have ‘grown up in the era of mechanisation’, but also because of the shortage of personnel with IT skills.

Adams foresees an increase in the range of skills which are needed by LIS staff, to meet both contemporary and future requirements. He suggests that the current phase is one of transition, which calls for skills in both the old and the new technologies. To meet future needs Library schools will need to produce at least two different types of graduate - both will be ‘librarians’, but one will be the information specialist, who has the knowledge and skills to exploit information systems, whilst the second will be the support function librarian, who will have technical expertise in the design and application of IT. In addition, a course in information management and handling could provide an opportunity for librarians to bring their ‘unique talent to the handling of in-house data’. Adams therefore suggests that the current three year undergraduate programmes be scrapped to be replaced by programmes along the twin routes he proposes. He also highlights the training needs of paraprofessionals, and strongly criticises the professional institutions for not developing their role. His arguments are both convincing and pragmatic.

  1. At around the same time (1986), Marsterson examined the role of the librarian, with particular reference to the impact of information technology. (4) He refers to IT as “an ever-growing cuckoo in the nest”, replacing the traditional techniques of librarianship - such as classification and cataloguing. IT is perceived as an all pervading influence which reinforces the role of the reference librarian as communicator or interpreter of on-line information. IT causes changes in the organisation of libraries, and introduces new subjects such as programming and systems analysis. He notes that library school curricula in the past offered IT as optional studies, but due to demand it has now become part of the core curriculum. He fears that the general purpose of librarianship and information work will become lost amongst the “bewildering array of courses and institutions” on offer. (5)
  2. Bebbington and Cronin deal with staff skills within the context of the convergence of libraries and computing centres. (6) Computing centres, they argue, are moving towards a “communications counsellor” role, and away from a technical services role, whilst libraries are shifting away from technical services towards reader services. This trend represents a shift from back-room to front-of-house activities for both services. The authors argue that institutional change, on this scale, warrants managers with vision; managers who will “drive the vision through the shallows of vested interest”. (7) Staff will feel insecure in this climate of change as roles become “blurred”, and autonomy gives way to greater co-operation as the emphasis shifts towards service quality and customer satisfaction:

3. Job descriptions will change, as will staff deployment patterns, creating a need for reskilling and retraining programmes. Much more will be expected of both staff and management in the future....(8)

Collier lists eight practical IT skills which he perceives to be essential for future academic librarians. (9) These range from the basic graduate skills, such as word processing and spreadsheet use, to programming skills (to supplement package implementation), and database management. Interestingly, he also includes traditional library skills amongst the eight i.e. text retrieval, indexing, on-line searching and downloading. He goes on to list “broader IT topics” which the library student should understand, including: systems analysis, management of information, and developments in the publishing industry.

3 The imperative for new skills: the literature of the 1990s

In the early 1990s, Line notes that the range of skills required by LIS staff is “greater than ever”, but adds that these are in areas such as computing, systems design and marketing. (10) He remarks that library and information studies courses used to have 70 per cent of the curriculum in common, but ten years on this has been reduced to 30 per cent, suggesting greater diversity within the profession. Line foresees the erosion of the dividing lines between professionals and non-professionals, and the replacement of library qualifications with proven transferable skills. These skills will be in management, marketing, and computing. The corollary of this will be the weakening of the library association’s control and power over its profession.

Line follows up with a critique of the structure of libraries, and suggests that flatter management structures would facilitate a change of style and practice. He sees future managers as adopting a “co-ordinating” role, rather than that of “the boss”. He concludes by advocating the commissioning of a “staff requirements audit” to evaluate the skills requirements for LIS staff in five years time. The choice would then be between training existing staff in new areas of expertise, or appointing new staff with appropriate skills.

4. Sutherland sees the move towards an integrated approach to service delivery arising from the “perception of a gradual convergence of roles, and an awareness of the need on the part of each area for the skills of the other...”. (11) She examines a range of opinions on the need to provide a more formal basis for co-operation, and summarises convergence activity in universities in the USA, the UK, and Ireland.

5. Problems which are associated with the staffing of converged services are identified as twofold: they are either due to resistance to change, or to disparities between the different groups of staff. The “hybrid member of staff” is perceived by Sutherland as a concept popularised in early theoretical articles, which has failed to materialise in practice, and has not been promoted as an ideal. She notes that the consensus, at the time of writing, was for the preservation of professional specialisms, and visits to institutions revealed a “vertical career structure for most staff especially within the library”. (12) The need for staff to overlap in skills is considered to be a greater priority at small sites, although the author acknowledges that the provision of single service points will necessitate that all staff are familiar with a range of services.

Several of Sutherland’s concluding remarks are worth repeating here; they have subsequently been borne out by visits made on behalf of the SKIP project, indicating little change over the last 5-6 years:

House and Moon look at the role of the subject librarian and the “information advisor” group. (13) Subject librarians have traditionally provided guidance on information sources to specific user groups, whilst staff in computing services have provided the tools and communication channels with which to access this information. House and Moon refer to the Fender Report of 1993 (14), which calls for the elimination of barriers between categories of staff in Universities, and to the Fielden Report (15); both reports recommend that serious work be carried out on job evaluation schemes. The authors also cite the Jarrett Report of 1985, which called for a new model of management. (16) The current policy of appointing university heads for fixed terms is seen as instrumental in perpetuating hierarchies, as well as the ‘benevolent autocracy’ - both of which characterise library management. House and Moon agree with Line in arguing for a more flexible and flatter management structure, and see it as essential to the success of the networked environment.

Birchall et al. take a macrocosmic view of the directions which organisations in present day society are taking, and explore the role of the librarian within these evolving structures.(17) They argue that organisations are developing in two divergent directions: either towards the learning organisation or towards “technocracy”. They feel that there is a role for librarians in both types of organisation, but argue against the pursuit of professional status; to do so could jeopardise the “continuation of the social ethic according to which librarians are educated”.(18) The authors look in detail at the personal characteristics of the traditional librarian, and the roles that now need to be filled in the modern technological environment. They consider the need for a ‘cybrarian’ - that is a librarian who is able to navigate in cyberspace, but conclude: is a rare person who is at one and the same time at home with technology and able to communicate well with many different types of people.....there seems to be a big divide between the kinds of people who gravitate towards an expertise in the technical aspects of the profession, and those who prefer to provide a service directly to users. (19)

Heery talks of the “new realism” in universities, which is founded on competition, consumerism and “controllerism”, and notes that the entrepreneurial approach, which is distasteful to some university librarians, is now an integral part of the life of academic researchers in their quest for funding. (20) He calls for a professional ethos for librarians which would support greater flexibility, and makes an unfavourable comparison with other professions where flexibility is already being demonstrated.

Brophy lists a range of new skills for librarians, such as an understanding of networking issues, and better teaching and tutorial skills. (21) More importantly he states:

..Librarians need to be much better at teamwork, working with colleagues who have different backgrounds and competencies.

Mowat examines the case put forward for librarians to work within an “interdisciplinary mode” in the future, where their role will be as the “experts in non-expertise”. (22) He concludes that the literature divides into two distinct camps: those who prophecy the end of the library, print culture, and librarianship, and those who see technology as the means to the realisation of the provision of information, as and when it is required.

Dempsey argues that the development of campus services will probably be: “a co-operative venture between computing and library staff, who have to discover new roles in relation to each other.” (23) He lists the type of joint tasks they might undertake: designing integrated local services, and introducing users to electronic information services. He cites anecdotal evidence which suggests that the extent of institutional use of databases, such as Bath Information Data Services (BIDS), is related to the level of support and training which is available for the service.

Breaks, writing from the viewpoint of 1994, sees the traditional role of the librarian disappearing within the next decade, as networked information becomes directly available to the end-user. (24) He sees the future role of librarians as located within user education and support - roles which have been traditionally filled by teaching staff or computing services staff. He notes that the corollary of this could be “an identity crisis within the profession”, and a weakening of the professional status of librarians. However, he remains optimistic, and visualises new opportunities which build on traditional library skills - these opportunities would involve “synthesising information and creating user-friendly systems”. (25) He also points to a future teaching and support role to facilitate user exploitation of on-line resources, and adds that library staff will need to work in subject teams, and will require both specialist information resource knowledge and technical expertise. Like many writers on this topic, Breaks warns that librarians must be pro-active if they do not want to be marginalised in the future networked environment.

Geleijnse, examines the human and organisational aspects of library automation, and describes the development of automation at Tilburg University library in the Netherlands.(26) He considers the skills required by library staff in the “information age”, and, in addition to communication and IT skills, he advocates the acquisition of skills in public relations and marketing. He singles out subject specialists for attention, and suggests that they be trained, or retrained, in methods of accessing information, but also advises that they retain their subject specialist skills to enable them to solve users’ information problems.

Heseltine criticises the whole concept of subject librarianship, and argues that ‘functionally-specialised, institution-wide and perhaps sector-wide’ services, such as training for end-users, will replace the traditional discipline-based model. (27) He sees the functional team as providing a better model for convergence than subject or faculty-based teams.

Lester identifies four imperatives for change in the library world - one of which is

IT. He refers to “the generic complexity of the technology itself” and states:

Unfortunately, for those of us who are not innately technologically inclined, much of life these days is about getting to grips with the IT, learning enough to know when one’s technical experts are talking sense or just trying to pull the wool over one’s eyes. (28)

He adds that this problem can be overcome with the help of computing and networking staff, who are prepared to co-operate with information professionals and understand their situation. He concludes that the role of the librarian should be as advisor and facilitator.

6. Foster examines the role of the librarian in bringing networked information tools and training to the end-user. (29) She states that the reference librarian should look on networked information as an “integral part of his reference collection”, but adds that librarians need in-service training on using networked information. Foster calls for resources to be made available to support the development of expertise and to fund pilot projects in this area. Foster also states that Networked Information Retrieval (NIR), and the use and design of NIR tools, should form a major part of library school curricula, in order to train the “librarians of tomorrow in the modern tools of the virtual library”. Developments have taken place in this area since Foster’s article was published. The eLib project, NetLinkS, has been funded by JISC: ‘to provide effective end-user support for the use of networked information resources in research, teaching and learning’.

7. The University, College and Research Group presented papers at the UMBRELLA 3 1995 Conference on the changing role of information services staff in the aftermath of the Fielden Report. These were subsequently published in the journal Relay. Two of these papers, one from Fielden in the form of an update to the 1993 report, and the other from Priestley, are summarised below:

8. Fielden affirms that the roles of most LIS staff will continue to change, vis à vis the central IT service, and assesses whether their role as “guides or advisers in technology” has been realised. (30) He notes that academics have shown capability in mastering the Internet, thus obviating the need for librarians to offer navigational support and training. However, whilst pressure on academic staff time continues, the learner support role of LIS staff might yet be realised. He states that future skills for LIS staff must be identified, and human resources planned more systematically. In the absence of a national action plan, he suggests that institutions might consider imposing their own “overlay of titles and roles” on their individual LIS staffing structure. He cites the example of a library which has introduced one integrated grading structure for all staff, independently of the rest of the university. He also mentions NVQs, and sees their gradual adoption, and close linkage with the eLib programme, as the way forward for staff development.

Priestley notes how changes in higher education have been compounded by change created by external agencies, in particular by government policy. (31) He adopts the Fielden approach by looking at how these changes will affect certain categories of library staff.

9. He sees support staff taking on some of the subject librarian’s traditional responsibilities, whilst subject librarians, in turn, will be more involved in validation, curriculum development, and programme assessment, in order to ensure that information services are “in tune with programme delivery”. A new role for subject librarians will emerge - driven by support staff taking on some of their responsibilities, and by the increase in graduate recruitment into library assistant posts. He notes that new posts are being created to deal with networked information sources, but adds that all staff will need network navigation skills to cope with the Internet, CD-ROM, and multi-media. All categories of staff will need new skills, and will also need to redeploy traditional skills so that, for example, cataloguing and classification skills are adapted to cope with electronic information sources.

10. Priestley goes on to call for a national programme for IT training, and lists the kinds of skills (identified in discussions between SCONUL and BAILER), which newly qualified staff should have. Amongst these are “sound generic IT skills and a knowledge of networks”. He opines that skills and competencies will be emphasised for future or new staff - “at the expense of knowledge and scholarship”, whatever the outcome of the current debate about the implementation of level 5 NVQs.

Collier evaluating the implications for staff development in converged services states:

rather than having different skills it may be a question of converged service staff having higher or more advanced skills than those of academics. The re-skilling process will be a never-ending cycle...Librarians are moving into database development, courseware and open learning, quality management and academic staff development. In the wake of this professional territories will be re-drawn. (32)

Collier argues that, if librarians are to work well in multidisciplinary teams, the important attributes are ‘competencies not professional labels’. He is dismissive of perceived differences in culture between professional groupings - they are likely to be ‘generalisations and based on anecdote’. These differences will disappear in time, as staff become accustomed to working together in teams, but staff development programmes could usefully include issues of culture change, to ensure that the problem is addressed rather than being allowed to ‘fester’.

Sykes, writing on staff development for library assistants, argues that it would be better to identify the areas where skills need to be developed and the staff who need to develop them, rather than leave this process ‘to chance and the vagaries of individual managers’ styles’. (33) He states that all staff are going to need: “a greater familiarity than they currently possess with microcomputer software and the workings of at least their local institutional networks”, as electronic information resources become more widely available, and this includes core undergraduate readings and courseware.(34)

Wood argues that the role of librarians and information service workers has changed ‘irretrievably’ from intermediary to trainer/facilitator.(35) The factors contributing to this are the increased accessibility of computer-based information sources and the development of user-friendly interfaces, which has lead to a ‘self-service approach’.

However, users are not as yet self sufficient and there are problems with the technology which require LIS staff to be ‘knowledgeable, not only about the software and how that works, but also about the hardware, and what to do if the equipment fails’. LIS staff need to be able to instruct users to be ‘self-reliant’ in addition to helping them access available information resources.

This calls for better training for LIS staff, such as that offered to academic/teaching staff by the Staff and Educational Development Association. (SEDA) These courses should teach the educational theory and practice which underpins the teaching and learning experience to ensure that individuals understand the learning process.

Bluck, cites Peele, when questioning the reasons behind the call for librarians to be user educators and involved in teaching and learning:

the familiar argument is that no one understands what we do or why it is professional...the image of the book-mad spinster whose chief thrill occurs each morning when she changes the date stamp is with us still. In order to obtain the status for our work that our pride demands it should have we must attach ourselves to a profession that is both respected and easy to understand. Everyone knows what teachers do.(36)

Corrall and Lester argue that there are ‘two species’ of professionals - the ‘content’ professional, with expertise in the organisation of information, and the ‘conduit’ professional, whose expertise lies with the technology. They classify these two groups into ‘information specialists’ and ‘IT specialists’, whilst noting that some professionals may combine competencies from both areas and are ‘hybrid’ professionals. (37)

Corrall in a paper given at a Circle of State Librarians study day, asks: ‘What will ‘qualified’ librarians contribute to tomorrow’s organisation? (38) She challenges library managers to ask themselves whether ‘long-held assumptions about jobs requiring professional library/information science qualifications are valid today’. She cites the SKIP project’s contribution to the skills debate in carrying out research into the viability of the professional ‘hybrid’, and notes how non-professional staff are taking on work previously undertaken by qualified librarians such as cataloguing, interlibrary loans and enquiry work. IT developments have played a part in bringing about these changes, but Corrall also points to changes in management practices, such as the trend towards team working, as contributing to change. Of particular interest is her investigation into the Institute of Information Science’s criteria for admission which it has recently reviewed. She notes that the activities are couched in general terms making it difficult to distinguish between an information specialist and a computing specialist. She opines that this could be a deliberate ploy to ‘reposition the profession and perhaps attract members from different spheres of operation’, but sees it as failing to establish a ‘distinctive contribution in the management of information’.

Corrall’s thesis is that professionals still divide broadly into those who are ‘content professionals’, that is the information professionals, and the ‘conduit’ professionals - the IT or computing professionals, although both can, and do, develop expertise in both aspects of information management. She sees moves to conflate the two areas of expertise as a dilution of ‘expert contribution, at a time when our traditional areas of competence and strength ought to be pushing us into the limelight’. She concludes that it has been proven to be more cost-effective to appoint ‘conduit’ specialists when the need arises; they are able to identify technical solutions and applications development which a ‘content’ specialist, even when equipped with considerable expertise in PC-based systems, would be unable to do. She adds that the way forward is to design roles for individuals rather than describe jobs and specifying skills requirements. Managers need to spot and develop talent amongst existing staff, and to do this they need a flexible organisational structure.

Creth, speaking at the Follett Lecture Series in September 1996, listed activities which librarians needed to carry out ‘aggressively’ rather than ‘passively’ as was currently the case. (39) These activities were: user education; knowledge management; organisation of networked resources, information policy development; electronic publishing and strategic and operational planning. She emphasises the need to move beyond bibliographic control, storage and retrieval. LIS can meet the demands of the future electronic environment by training and learning, and they must ‘relinquish the comfortable traditions’ and not label themselves as ‘cataloguers’ or ‘reference librarians’. When discussing merged services, librarians are seen to be moving on a parallel path with computer specialists. The futures of the two groups are intertwined, and any differences between the two groups must be resolved by acknowledging their existence and stating what these differences are. Librarians must form partnerships with academics and technologists, and take the “image of the servant out of the concept of service” and see themselves as partners in the campus.

De Vries and Minnigh(40) examine future roles for information specialists and provide a list of areas where information skills can be utilised:

This list represents a shift away from organising the library’s collection to describing virtual resources on the Internet. The authors recommend this is done in collaboration with academic and student communities, as they offer a ‘unique combination of novice perspective and subject expertise’.

Wagner, writing from an Australian perspective, refers to the need for information professionals to make a paradigm shift - from traditional source orientation to process orientation. (41) Information professionals should therefore get involved in: designing, researching, indexing, and evaluating electronic mediating devices (such as hypertext or hypermedia front-ends), or they will risk ending up as “mere spectators”.

Abell takes a long hard look at the prospects for the Information Professional in the corporate library, but many of the questions she raises apply equally to staff working in higher education. (42) The most pertinent amongst these questions are: what is the role of the information profession in educating students in information use? Is the content and timing of professional education appropriate? For example, should it be at graduate and post-graduate level, or should it be in the form of post-experience training? Has the profession had its day; is it redundant? Are information professionals the best people to evaluate the quality of information supplied to users, and are there objective criteria to enable them to do this? Are they able to understand (in depth) the organisation and its sector? Should information professionals concentrate on facilitating appropriate access and delivery mechanisms? Can we improve the communication between practitioners and educators?

She goes on to argue that ‘core information skills’ are crucial to the successful design and implementation of IT systems, but notes that they may not remain the province of the information profession.

The shape of things to come within Higher Education, and thus the imperative for change within HE libraries, is outlined in a book on managing change in Higher Education:

Students will be independent, active learners, not passive recipients of teaching. They will make extensive use of technology in learning, and many of them will learn at a distance, from home or in the workplace, not on a campus at all. They will use an enormously wide range of learning resources: computer based learning packages; printed open learning materials; networked information resources which they will seek out across the Internet; and books and other documents held in the library or resource centre’.(43)

The contributors then turn to the implications of this scenario:

There are likely to be important shifts in the organisation of access to learning resources in the future. In particular, the role of the library as a principal storehouse of learning materials can be expected to diminish. ...The library does therefore experience some loss of control. It is no longer the institutional library which is at the centre of things, but the work station on the desktop of the end-user. Furthermore the electronic services offered by the library are only some among many of the information resources which the end-user can access.(44)

The authors explore the trend towards the provision of information resources at a national level, citing the ‘value added services’ provided by JISC datasets, and the subject gateways, such as Social Science Information Gateway (SOSIG), which are ‘being funded to support resource discovery and access as well as to provide a measure of quality control.’ (45)

4 Literature from the USA

11. The USA were in the vanguard of implementing automated systems in a campus environment, and introduced the concept of ‘one-stop shopping’ information services. The USA thus provides a useful indicator of what is likely to happen, in terms of the realisation of the electronic library, in the UK. Much of the early literature focuses on the convergence of libraries and computer services, as this is perceived to be a more effective way of delivering a seamless information service.

12. Battin, wrote a seminal paper in 1984 arguing for the creation of a new information infrastructure to provide the “electronic scholar with the same kind of universal gateway across to recorded knowledge as the traditional library provided for printed materials”. (46) Battin emphasises that it is the relationship between the information and the user which is important, and it is the responsibility of libraries to focus on this relationship. The way forward would be through the formation of a “scholarly information centre”, formed by the merger of the library and computer centre. This would provide “one-stop-shopping” for the University community, and would be capable of rapid response to fast changing technologies. (47) Staffing of the “scholarly information centre” is seen as problematic in terms of funding, but “trained subject specialists” and “technical consultants” are the terms which Battin uses to describe the type of staff required. These staff would need to be capable of providing a wide range of services to meet the information needs of a varied clientele ranging from “the freshman to the specialised scholar” . (48)

Cimbala, several years later, refers to Battin’s work, and explores the issues surrounding the “hybrid librarian-computer scientist”. (49) This hybrid person would be capable of fulfilling both the technical and information skills roles in the modern electronic library. Cimbala notes the disparities between the salary levels, status, and qualifications of library and computing staff, and notes that it will be years before the “tradition-bound university will be willing to address full integration of computing services and libraries/media centres into one body”.

13. Higginbotham talks of the rationale for a “modern marriage” between academic libraries and computing.(50) She notes that the division of labour is related to the format the information is in, and views this as a highly artificial arrangement. As resources are increasingly being created in, or converted to, electronic format, so the division of labour will be rendered ‘meaningless’. Higginbotham argues persuasively for the establishment of a formal relationship between library and computing centres. Lack of co-operation results in “a chaos of campus information resources” with much duplication and redundancy of both faculty and student effort. The result is that students are left confused as to where to go for what service.

14. Higginbotham refers to the emergence of an “information transfer role” in academic libraries, and links this to the creation of a “self-sufficient library user”, who is able to apply the concepts of information retrieval. (51) She goes on to look at a range of organisational models for converged services. The “merged” service is seen as the strongest option, with the newly merged office ideally reporting to two heads: one from the academic side (for academic matters), and the other from the systems side (for administrative matters). In this way neither computing nor library services feel threatened or side-lined. Unlike other writers, Higginbotham does not rate the provision of one centralised building highly. Communication networks are based on a decentralised model, she argues, which obviates the need for a single building to house both services.

15. Hay undertakes an historical and critical review of the role of the “subject bibliographer” in the academic library, both in the United States and in Europe.(52) He attacks the one year graduate training programme for librarians, which aims to produce “generalists” with many areas of knowledge, but instead, he claims, produces “superficialists... with a smattering of ignorance in many fields and an expertise in none”. He argues for the continuance and expansion of subject or faculty-based specialisation in libraries, and notes that in Third World academic libraries the traditional Western model of functionally organised libraries is perceived to be a “stage in the evolution of the academic library which they cannot afford to experience. In answer to those who claim that subject specialism is a ‘dinosaur’, he argues that the role is well equipped to cope with change, and cites the demand for user-oriented services involving electronic media as an example of its adaptability.

16. Machovec refers to the “convergence or coexistence” of libraries and computer centres, (53) and lists eight “commonalities” which indicate their converging interests:

  1. both employ highly educated professionals with specialised training
  2. both have user services departments to assist their clientele
  3. a library’s technical services division is somewhat similar to programming staff in the computing centre
  4. both deliver information throughout the campus or the user community
  5. both strive for a user friendly orientation
  6. both store huge quantities of information with a growing percentage in machine readable form
  7. both strive for highly structured files and collections
  8. both want to provide accurate and up-to-date information.

17. This list, on the face of it, provides a persuasive rationale for the adoption of a converged service. However, Machovec also examines the differences between the two services, and pinpoints four key areas of difference:

18. 1. libraries do not charge fees to users accessing their information, whilst computing services “charge back” some fees;

19. 2. the emphasis is on free and open access to information in libraries, whilst password protect and security prevails in computing facilities;

20. 3. libraries still maintain holdings in print format, unlike computing centres

21. 4. library’s electronic services are concerned with access to external databases, whilst computing services handle internally generated data, such as email and student records.

22. Machovec proceeds to examine various models of relationships between libraries and computing services, and notes that organisational structures are more likely to be determined by the personalities of staff, and by the history and tradition of individual institutions, than by trend setters. He concludes that the convergence of goals and activities of the two services presents a “unique opportunity” for mutual co-operation and the forming of alliances, whilst users “do not care who is supplying the information but want clear, easy, and low-cost access to public information”.

A seminal contribution from the USA is the work of Woodsworth and Maylone on the ‘Information Job Family’.(54) This research, carried out in the early 1990s, found eight comparable tasks for library and computing centres, which would suggest that traditional, separate, identities for the two professions are artificial constructs. The eight tasks comprise:

9. develop training tools and system documentation

10. design, operate, and use local and wide area networks

11. plan, select, install and operate systems and software applications on all types and sizes of hardware

12. collect and organise data and information in various forms and formats

13. create, maintain, query, and manage databases

14. analyse user, service, and system needs

15. provide consulting and technical assistance

16. instruct faculty, students, and staff

However, having made this observation, the authors do not argue for any large scale professional changes. They simply state that their results need to be applied in the day to day management of colleges and universities, and that their research highlights the importance of human resources planning in the ‘informated’ organisation.

An article by Leonhardt, on the changing roles of paraprofessional and support staff, advocates clear division of work in libraries with clear expectations for performance for every member of staff, irrespective of their grade.(55) He cites the military model as one which enables individuals to move up the hierarchy according to ability, education, and willingness to work for the organisation. He suggests that, although libraries are not known as ‘rigid, class-based societies’, they do not always give full recognition to those who are not librarians. Eliminating these barriers would benefit the individual and the library, and this could be achieved by raising staff levels of awareness of their role in the organisation through staff development programmes.

The CRISTAL-ED Project: University of Michigan

In 1995 the Kellogg Coalition on Reinventing Information Science, Technology and Library Education (CRISTAL-ED) project produced a proposal to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for major co-investment during a five year period to enable restructuring of the University of Michigan School of Information and Library Studies. (56) This was followed by an interim report which documents the activities of the project; both documents are available through their Web site. (57)

The project aims to introduce radical change to education for information and library professionals, at what is deemed a ‘crisis point’ for the profession:

Schools of information and library studies (ILS) have not sufficiently addressed future-oriented educational needs. Data, information, and knowledge are becoming even more critical to modern life and technology is providing a vast array of opportunities to augment the print-on-paper, place-based library to meet these demands. The basic values of librarianship - service to people, education to meet information needs, an ethic of broad access, quality of information, guardianship of knowledge for the future - have never been more important. For a variety of reasons, few ILS schools seem to have the resources or the capabilities to lead into this future. In fact, ILS schools continue to be closed or severely curtailed even as we step into the age of knowledge.(58)

CRISTAL-ED aims to ‘build a national, multi-disciplinary collaborative consortium to define new professional specialisations... in the rapidly emerging age of digital data, information and knowledge’.

The report identifies five core components which would form the basis of the new core curriculum. These are: organisation of information; information systems analysis and design/delivery tools; evaluation; users and access, and management and professional competence. A task force has been allocated to each of these areas of the core curriculum More recently course content documents have been produced with required texts and reference sources appended. (59) A cursory glance suggests that little has fundamentally changed in terms of core knowledge as is indicated by the inclusion of Rowley’s seminal text: ‘Organising knowledge’,(60) but the teaching of on-line searching using DIALOG, which is used less and less in the higher education sector is surprising. The ‘specialisation’s’ listed under the heading of ‘prototyping’ do however, look like material for the information professional of the 21st century. They include: ‘The making of digital libraries’ and ‘Internet: resource discovery, organisation and design’.

The USA: Internet discussion lists

There has been lively debate on series of topics on the discussion list also set up by the University of Michigan.(61) Topics are put forward for discussion, and are led by someone with interest and/or expertise in the field. In September 1996 they ran a discussion entitled: A new paradigm for excellence in information services, in which ‘the blurring of the three Cs: computing, communication, (and) content industry’ led to questions regarding the implications of this for the information profession. One contributor noted that the profession is converting from service to management, and attributed this to the effect of the ‘information age’, but she also asked: ‘must we stop teaching the older skills in order to fit in the other two ‘Cs’?’ (62). What constitutes an appropriate mix of traditional and new skills has been a concern of the SKIP project team, and prompted us to ask new information professionals how relevant they found their traditional skills to be in their current post, and how these skills mapped onto the electronic and networked academic environment.

A similar, but less prolific discussion list was set up by the University of Berkeley (63), with contributors making statements such as:

[i]f the library profession is to survive as the primary interface to information *in any format* then we must retool, retain, and reinvent. We need to create, foster, beg, borrow and steal digital skills, knowledge, and experience. We need to redefine our roles or risk becoming an anachronism in an increasingly on-line world.(64)

One thing these debates have in common is the frequency with which debate hinges on semantics. The meaning of the word ‘information’ is often discussed, as the intangible nature of ‘information’ seems to represents a barrier to be overcome, amongst a profession which has had a long association with the printed word, and its storehouse - the library. The notion of ‘access’ rather than ‘holdings’, and the move away from physical resources to remote or virtual resources, is perhaps a stumbling block, albeit a temporary one, which will resolve itself in time.

5 Literature on convergence issues

5.1 Definition

The Library Association defined convergence as:

bringing together any combination of the following teaching and learning support services within a college or university: the library, open learning/access centres, data processing services, IT workshops, print units and other audio visual or media services.(65)

It is noteworthy that they use the somewhat dated concept “data processing services”, rather than computing services, and have not, at the time of writing, issued an updated version of this publication.

5.2 The literature

The Fielden Report explains the rationale for convergence; it makes sense to converge when there is “commonality of purpose and function” between library and computing services, and “information and information handing is at the core of many university tasks”. The Report identifies two types of convergence: operational, or informal, convergence, where the operations are brought together, and organisational, or formal, convergence, where services are “brought together for management purposes”.(66)

Fielden found little evidence of operational convergence, for example, where staff from computing and library services work side by side on a help desk - although operational convergence is possible without organisational convergence through joint planning by the heads of service. Operational convergence has significant implications for staffing, unlike organisational convergence. However, Fielden forecasts that more institutions will opt for organisational convergence and this will be driven by “personal and political factors within each institution”. (67)

The term “integration” is seldom used in the literature, although Brophy states that he is unclear about the difference between ‘convergence’ and ‘integration’. He sees the key issue as the delivery of an integrated product, so that the user is able to locate the service he requires with ease.(68) Sidgreaves uses the phrase “integrated services model”, when describing the convergence of the three centres at Polytechnic South West (now the University of Plymouth). The reasons he gives for integrating the various services highlights what is involved, and concur with Brophy’s comment:

...there was a need to bring the three Centres closer together, to co-ordinate and organise their services as one, to plan a balanced and efficient delivery across the various sites of the enlarged Polytechnic. (69)

The topic of convergence has been surrounded by controversy. (70) Changes in teaching and learning have been identified as key drivers, but technology is often seen as the primary driving force, and convergence tends to be regarded by some as an opportunity to cut costs, usually when a head of library or computing resigns or retires. The library association links the urge to converge to government aims for greater public participation in further and higher education, which in turn leads to financial restraints, as institutions are forced to re-examine costs.(71) The thrust from government cannot be denied but, in addition, innovations in information technology, in particular in the provision of electronic access to information, have had a significant impact on methods of teaching, learning and research, and this has also encouraged institutions to re-evaluate methods of service delivery, and to develop information strategies. (72)

Edwards uncovers a body of evidence which underpins the utility and practicality of taking the converged approach to service delivery. (73) Reasons for converging services include: the overlap of computing and library services; the change from centralised computer provision to the distributed end-user approach, and the increasing use of IT in libraries, causing the boundaries between computing and library services to become blurred.

In 1988 the British Journal of Academic Librarianship devoted a whole issue to the topic of convergence.(74) This publication represents the first significant treatment of the issues surrounding the delivery of computing and library services, and includes a series of case studies of institutions where various models of convergence have been effected. These comprise: the National Institute of Higher Education, Limerick; Carnegie Mellon University in the United States; Polytechnic South West (now the University of Plymouth), and the University of Salford in England.

Naylor, of the University of Southampton, provides an overview of the main

issues covered in this special issue.(75) He examines the significance of the wired-up campus and the role of the library - which provides the “information message” - and the computer service - which supplies the “information medium”. Once the Library is capable of delivering its’ message through the Computing Service’s medium, there is a call for organisational convergence to take place. Naylor also considers staffing issues, and argues that “a different kind of person may now be needed” in information services. Library staff, who were recruited prior to the introduction of technology, may have obsolete experience, whilst recent recruits could be equipped with the type of information technology skills required in the electronic library. He argues that a “broader ranging definition of the information custodian’s professional responsibility” is now required.

In 1988 a conference, exploring the key issues for the future information environment of the electronic campus, was held in Banbury, Oxfordshire. The published proceedings form a useful collection of contemporary theory and practice on this key topic. (76) Sidgreaves paper deals specifically with organisational structures, and the interfaces between, for example, information and administrative services. He notes:

In the majority of institutions of higher education...the divisions between libraries, computing centres and educational technology units remain rigidly defined, emanating as they do from hierarchical structures of management...(77)

Sidgreaves goes on to describe institutions where services have already been integrated, and notes that this is usually achieved by appointing one individual who has overall responsibility for the management and control of the service. He argues that the organisational model which institutions eventually select will, however, be determined by local variables, with some institutions retaining their book-based libraries, whilst others focus on access to information. He concludes that the challenges, for computing and information staff alike, are immense.

The supporting case studies in this collection exemplify current practice in “Electronic campuses”, they comprise: the Universities of Southampton, Edinburgh and Aston, and Leicester Polytechnic (now De Montfort University).

Prince and Burton undertook case studies of three academic libraries in order to assess the impact of Information Technology on their structure.(78) They argue for a new, non-bureaucratic, organisational model for libraries; one which is better able to respond to change. However, they note that Information Technology does not automatically lead to structural change and “successful innovation”. They also note that authority devolves to those with “technical expertise and competence” - creating a “hierarchy of skill and team working”. They recommend that the professional associations recognise the non-qualified or para-professional library staff who have taken on extra responsibilities due to automation.

Gardner, in a 1989 review of the development of the “electronic campus”, takes an in depth look at the United States where the concept evolved, and where progress is well ahead of the United Kingdom. (79) Gardner states that by 1988 “the question of the ‘convergence’ of computer centres and libraries was being widely debated” in the UK, and by 1989 the Universities of Aston, Salford, Southampton and Stirling had created new management positions to “exploit the growing synergies between the remits of computer centres, libraries, and other information service functions”.

More recently Lovecy examined progress on the convergence of libraries and computing services.(80) He refers to a recent survey identifying 57 universities in the UK, in which some degree of “administrative convergence” has taken place. (81)

He lists six key drivers for convergence: increased use of IT in libraries; reliance of libraries on networks; pressures on staff and financial resources; activities of CHEST; the change from the Computer Board to the JISC and the demand for information strategies. Lovecy also examines the changing roles of staff in libraries, and concludes that the work of subject librarians, and computer applications support personnel, is drawing closer together.

Dempsey, writing on campus institutional infrastructures, argues that the actual administrative arrangements, for example where the library, computing, and other services have been merged under one administrative head, is probably less important than:

the level at which planning is initiated, the extent to which it is seen to contribute to overall academic objectives, the adherence it wins from academic and administrative staff, and the actual level of integration of computing and information services planning. (82)

Geleijnse sees aspects of the matrix organisation being introduced into libraries leading to multiple reporting structures, but flatter management structures. (83) This makes the library director’s job more complex, but also more interesting. He advocates close liaison between the library and the computer centre, but not necessarily integration. The reasons he gives for striving for a close working relationship are twofold: firstly the library requires expertise that is “not specifically library oriented” (relating to standards, architecture, hardware and software), and secondly, library and information services have an impact on other services in the university, so a co-operative approach is necessary.

In 1994, Royan surveyed levels of convergence in institutions in relation to the recommendation in the Follett Report that each institution should formulate an integrated information strategy. (84) He reports that he had 87 responses from 76 separate institutions, all of whom registered some interest in the convergence of information services. From the survey he found five “broad patterns of convergent service management are apparent”. These comprise:

  1. Goodwill and commonsense
  2. Peer co-ordinator
  3. Common chairperson
  4. PVC/Deputy Principal
  5. Executive Director

The “Executive Director” approach had been adopted in 35 of the 76 institutions, and as eight other institutions were considering adopting it, it was found to be the dominant model. The “Executive Director” model meant that one person - an “information Supremo” - had been appointed as head of information services. Royan also found that the library was included in most integrated service models with five exceptions. Royan lists 17 different job titles for Directors - the most popular employing the term ‘Information Services’ (seven occurrences), with a further six appending the word “Librarian” or “University Librarian” to the title.

Macartney looks briefly at progress on convergence, and highlights the advantages of housing library and computing services in a single building. (85) During his term as librarian at the University of Hertfordshire a new building, to house both services, was built with funds which originated from the recommendations of the Follett Report.

It is noteworthy that the University of Hertfordshire recruited a new team to staff the new building; Job descriptions and skills were: “neither ‘library’ nor ‘computer centre’, but reflected the provision of integrated library, computing and media services”.

23. 6 Education, training and Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

There has been considerable debate surrounding the current content of “Library School” curricula, and how this needs to keep apace with anticipated future roles and skills requirements for the library and information profession. In 1994, Kinnell looked at the role of schools of library and information studies (SLIS) in the education and training of future LIS staff, in particular in the field of management education.(86) Here, the perspective is from within the library school, with the author defending SLIS course programmes against critics. Kinnell covers the topic of “role convergence and divergence”, and links the need for IT skills and resources to the need for links at the strategic and planning levels. She notes the: “overlap of the roles of the subject librarian and computer services information adviser, particularly with the advent of the Internet”. Kinnell goes on to highlight the need for skills in both the evaluation of the vast quantities of electronic information available, and in the management of teaching and learning support.

Rowley also looks at management development for information professionals. She reviews the provision under two government training initiatives: the Investors in People (IIP) scheme, and National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs). (87) NVQs, she argues, can provide a framework for linking individual training needs with “a broader organisational perspective of gaps in employees skills”, but she acknowledges that NVQs have been widely criticised for a number of reasons - one of which is their inability to take account of organisational structures and cultures. She goes on to evaluate the Management Charter Initiative (MCI), which provides standards for competencies in four levels of management but which also fails to address all the issues.

Feather reviews the trend towards competency-based education, and its impact on LIS schools in Britain and argues:

The problem for LIS educators, as for information professionals themselves, is to define the core body of competencies, skills and knowledge without defining themselves out of existence. (88)

Feather also considers the role of the paraprofessionals and technicians, and notes that technological change has resulted in the deskilling of certain core professional activities, such as cataloguing and classification; tasks which, in most cases, can now be undertaken by paraprofessional staff. He acknowledges that the “overlap” between “professional” and “non-professional” staff will persist for more junior professional staff in the foreseeable future.

24. Elkin, of the University of Central England, highlights the need to integrate IT courses into the core information management curriculum, so that new technology is not seen as separate from more traditional LIS skills. (89) She points out that the aim of the schools is to provide generic courses which emphasise skills and knowledge which are common to all occupational groups. All SLIS therefore continue to offer “core” courses in: information resources and services; information storage and retrieval; management; information technology; communication skills and research methodology. Elkin reports that speakers at conferences have voiced the opinion that these core LIS studies should be retained by the profession.

25. Elkin then turns her focus to the place of IT in the SLIS curriculum, and cites a report which lists the “core” IT curriculum, as currently perceived: computer hardware and software; telecommunications and other networking applications; on-line database access, and specific applications related to library housekeeping and information retrieval.(90) However, she highlights the need to ensure that the focus is not just on the new technologies, but on their “integration with, and implications for, the traditional and enduring skills of information management...” (91) She concludes by looking at Continuing Professional Development (CPD) for existing LIS staff, and suggests that the modular element of most library school courses facilitates attendance on a one off basis. This would enable staff to update a particular skill or they could attend in order to obtain a higher degree.

26. Parry argues that, in a world of fast changing automation and information systems, librarians are expected to be “ahead of the game”. (92) She states:

27. In converged services, many library staff, at all levels, are finding themselves asked to help with computer enquiries ranging from word processing to spreadsheets. These include the kind of problem where someone has managed to force a floppy disk into the wrong orifice in a machine. On the other hand, there are some who think it is amusing to hack into the library system and re-arrange all of your user-friendly menus.

28. Parry goes on to look at different ways for the individual to undertake CPD, other than by attending short courses, which are expensive. Amongst her suggested methods are: attendance at conferences; reading the professional literature (including selective membership of discussion lists on networks); learning new skills from others, and participating in professional groups. The institution can also contribute to the CPD of their staff, and she describes how, at the University of the West of England, project groups were set up to work on separate elements of the strategic plan. This gave staff the opportunity to exercise responsibility and find new ways of working.

29. In May 1995 the first British-Nordic LIS Conference for Researcher and Educators took place, with the aim of building on existing co-operation between British and Nordic LIS institutions. Niels Ole Pors, who heads the Royal School of Librarianship in Denmark, claims that the information studies programme at his institution has integrated IT fully into its single courses. (93) Pors agrees with Elkin in seeing IT, not as an end in itself, but as a tool of the trade. He sees the challenge for SLIS to be the outlining and planning of a “technology-based syllabus”, which can be used in both the public and the private sector, and of ensuring that both the traditional and the IT related topics are included in courses of librarianship.

30. Pors tackles some of the key issues for library schools. He asks to what extent library schools should be expected to teach elementary computer skills (such as word-processing and spreadsheets), and whether technology courses will have to replace traditional library courses, due to time constraints. One of the problems for the future of the profession, he argues, is the lack of a well-established knowledge base, which renders it difficult to transfer a professional identity to students. In addition, a diversified knowledge base means the opening up of the discipline to external theories and methodologies, which then makes it more difficult to measure quality, or assess the relevance of any new material.

31. Of particular interest is an article by Irene Wormell, who is also at the Royal School of Librarianship, Copenhagen.(94) Wormell argues that existing LIS education and training programmes are “too narrow to successfully address the new challenges of the profession”, and calls for a “multifunctional training programme”. This programme would place considerable emphasis on training which harnesses IT in an information context.

32. Wormell then reports on work being carried out by The International Federation for Information and Documentation/Education and Training Committee (FID/ET), in the area of identifying and developing new skills and competencies for information professionals. The committee identified a key role or “profile” for the modern information professional, and decided that “intermediary” or “information counsellor” was most appropriate. A working group and Task Force was set up in order to “make further progress in the development of a model for multifunctional information professionals”. The results of the FID survey: ‘the Modern Information Professional’ have since been released, and are available on the Internet.(95)


34. Enser, of Brighton University, examines the role of the library school and the information profession within the context of the Information Society.(96) He notes that the British professional LIS community is not clearly defined, but is represented by a variety of bodies including the Library Association, Institute of Information Scientists, Aslib, Record Management Society etc.. The boundaries of the LIS subject discipline have now become obscured - resulting in an identity crisis.

35. Enser also notes that advances in IT have affected computer studies departments:

36. Both LIS and Computer Studies departments now find themselves challenged by those advances in optical storage, digitisation, compression and telecommunication techniques which have brought multimedia and global information networks to the forefront of attention.

37. The renaming of departments of librarianship reflects the current emphasis on ‘information’ rather than on the library, which, Enser claims, has been compounded by the Higher Education Funding Council’s method of identifying Academic Cost Centres. The outcome of this is that less funding per capita is provided for students of Librarianship and Information than for students of Information and Library Studies.

38. Enser then proceeds to examine the titles by which information professionals may now be known; these range from ‘information consultant’ to ‘cyberarian’, with little or no mention of ‘information scientists’ and ‘librarians’. This is seen as indicative of the profession’s identity crisis, resulting in an imperative to redefine its role. He notes that additional challenges now face the LIS community, such as Continuous Professional Development and National Vocational Qualifications.

39. In 1993 Wilson examined the place of Information Technology in the library school curriculum. (97) He found that, in most teaching departments, IT was perceived to include the following: computer hardware; software; telecommunications and other aspects of networking; on-line database access, and specific applications in relation to library housekeeping and information retrieval. He provides some useful examples of IT courses at specific library schools, and provides some illuminating facts on the levels of computer competency amongst students on entry to courses. He concludes that resources need to be made available to develop staff who may be lacking in the current expertise to teach on these courses, and computer-assisted learning packages will be needed to cope with increasing student numbers.

40. 7 The image of the librarian

Atkinson reviews the literature surrounding the topic of how librarians perceive themselves, and how others perceive them, and argues that the library school plays a vital role in the shaping of this image.(98) He found that many surveys reveal the difficulty users have distinguishing between librarians and support staff. Librarians are reputed to dislike change, which renders them incompatible with the modern academic library, where change is now the norm. Atkinson argues that librarians are too absorbed in the technology, and their personalities and attitudes need to be broader in order to meet current user needs.

41. Dixon examines the personality types of current library school students, in an attempt to understand what attracts students to courses in library and information work.(99) She notes that the undergraduate student intake at Loughborough, (and at many other SLIS) is predominantly female. She also found that the most popular final year options are either humanities based, or focus on people-related topics, i.e. subjects which emphasise the caring aspect of librarianship. Where courses have a high technological input, such as the Information and Computing course at Loughborough, there is an improvement in the male to female ratio.

42. Dixon refers to the Library Association’s current career pack, which emphasises the need for “multi-skilled” candidates, who are capable of working in a “dynamic” sector. The career pack also refers to a career in information work rather than in libraries. Dixon cites a survey, which was undertaken by a Loughborough Postgraduate student, which found that Loughborough LIS students corresponded to the “investigative” personality type, which is one of six personality types identified by a psychologist. Dixon concludes that her evidence disputes the existence of the “fondly held” stereotyped image of the librarian, and that it is a myth which exists largely in the public imagination.

8 Complementary research under the eLib programme: IMPEL

Work carried out under the first IMPEL project, (Impact on People of Electronic Libraries) at the University of Northumbria at Newcastle, focused on the human aspects of increased electronic provision in academic libraries, and produced a wealth of useful qualitative data. (100) A member of the IMPEL team states:

As information and computing technology converge, resource sharing by means of electronically held, often networked systems has been recognised to offer LIS an effective (and cost-effective) way of responding to the changes which are affecting them. The shift towards electronic information provision....has profound implications for LIS staff.(101)

IMPEL found that there was an urgent need for training in basic computer literacy and IT skills amongst library staff, and staff expressed desire to receive training alongside their counterparts in computer services. In addition, IMPEL identified certain management constraints and problems, which were common to the six organisations being studied. These included an absence of any formal policy for the management of technological change, and a lack of IT expertise among LIS staff; the latter resulting in an “electronic elitism” amongst those who possessed the requisite IT skills. (102) The authors note that the progress of academic libraries has long been hampered by their traditional hierarchical structures, and suggest there is now an urgent need to find new organisational structures which are non-divisive, and which are capable of exploiting the convergence of information and computing technologies.

Other findings of the IMPEL project include an acknowledgement that, although services do not need to be organisationally converged, operations need to converge where services overlap (for example in Internet provision). Project teams are seen as a way of achieving this, provided that roles are clearly defined. The role of the library computer officer is singled out as worthy of further investigation. Library computer officer posts are characterised by an ability to communicate well, and they are a way of providing a vital link between disparate departments.

In their assessment of the future role of the librarian in the electronic library, the IMPEL research team perceive it to include the following tasks or roles: assessing the quality of information; providing support for remote users; organising the sharing of resources, and exploiting the technology. (103) However, they stress that their work covers the whole area of convergence, not only between library and computing staff, but also between library and academic staff, and library and Educational Development.

9 Conclusions


A consensus emerges which suggests that the converged model of service provision is both natural and effective for the delivery of services within the electronic campus. The term “marriage” is frequently used to describe the convergence of information and computing services, suggesting a natural partnership, with the work of LIS and computing staff drawing closer together, or being complementary. The imperative for change comes from: changing patterns in teaching and learning; innovations in technology; government policy, plus a degree of political expediency and opportunism at institutional level. The hierarchical and bureaucratic organisational structures found in Higher Education, are no longer considered flexible enough to cope with the pace of change and the current teaching and learning environment. However, these structures are still extant in many institutions. Libraries have also been charged with being “idealistic” in outlook, as opposed to their counterparts in computing services who are “pragmatic”. Electronic information systems are often attributed with the ability to break down hierarchies.

As yet no ideal model of convergence has emerged, but it is thought likely that this will be determined by the particular culture and circumstances of each institution. The most common model identified is that of organisational convergence, where a single individual, often with the title of “Director”, has been appointed as the head of information and other services.

Purpose built accommodation, to house information and computing services under one roof, has also been identified as a way forward for mutual co-operation and integration between services.

Skills Requirements for staff

The skills requirements for information staff in the electronic library has been much debated. A polarisation of opinion exists between those who argue for multiskilled staff who are capable of doing most things, and those who see the preservation of specialisms or the emergence of two types of library worker. Of the two types, one would fulfil a support function role, whilst the other would provide specialism in information sources. “Reskilling” in the area of electronic information systems is also widely mooted, as is an extension of the teaching or advisory role.

The contribution now made by paraprofessional or support staff and the requirement for them to be more highly skilled, has also come under scrutiny. Barriers between professional and non professional staff are gradually being eroded by technological change, but new career paths have not emerged, and hierarchies and inflexible ‘library’ cultures tend to prevail.

The debate on the education of LIS staff has mainly focused on two issues: “Library School” curricula, where the content of courses offered to those entering the profession has been examined for relevance to today’s information environment, and continuous professional development, or training, for existing members of staff in LIS. This latter group need to be able to keep up-to-date in a fast changing field, but are often thought to be neglected regarding training.

Problem areas

Problems which have yet to be resolved, and which impede progress towards the convergence of services, revolve around entrenched attitudes amongst staff in both library and computing services. At a more senior level fear persists that services are being converged because it is financially expedient to do so, with the appointment of a head from either the library or computing service, who may be perceived as lacking empathy with the needs and culture of the other service.

The required personality traits for LIS staff has received some attention, with one commentator suggesting there is a “mismatch” between the type of people attracted to library and information work, and the type required by modern services. The type of IT skills, levels of expertise, and emerging roles for staff working in an electronic information service have not yet been clearly defined. Once this has been done, it may help with the recruitment of staff, and help to establish a framework for the training of existing staff. There is an acknowledged shortfall in IT expertise, which extends to the schools of librarianship, where, although more advanced IT skills are gradually being introduced into the curriculum, there is a dearth of teaching staff

with appropriate expertise.


(1) Discussion lists: e.g. nls-forum; cristal-ed; diglibns.


2 NetLinkS:

(3) Adams, R. Staffing Requirements. In: Information technology and libraries. A future for academic libraries. Beckenham, Kent: Croom Helm, 1986, ch. 9, p.147- 160.

(4) Marsterson, W. Information Technology and the role of the librarian. Beckenham, Kent: Croom Helm, 1986.

(5) Ibid., p.35

43. (6) Bebbington, L. and Cronin, B. Courtship and competition on campus: the convergence of university libraries and computing centres. Library Review, 38 (2), 1989, p.7-16.

(7) Ibid., p.8

(8) Ibid., p.11.

(9) Collier, M. The role of information technology in the management of academic libraries and information services. In: Brittain, M. Curriculum development in information science to meet the needs of the information industries in the 1990s. Library and Information Research Report 70. London: The British Library, 1989, ch.2., p.4-15.

(10) Line, M. Library management and structures: a need to rethink? Journal of Library and Information Science, 23 (2), 1991, p.97-104.

(11) Sutherland, P. The management of integrated learning resources. Brighton: Council of Polytechnic Librarians, 1992, pp.40-66.

(12) Ibid., p.44.

(13) House, D. and Moon, C. The new university librarian. In: Harris, C. ed. The new university library: issues for the ‘90s and beyond. Essays in honour of Ian Rogerson. London: Taylor Graham, 1994, p.73 - 88.


Promoting people: a strategic framework for the management and development of staff in UK universities. London: CVCP, 1993. [The Fender Report]


Fielden, J. Supporting expansion: a study of human resource management in academic libraries. (A Report for the Management Sub-group of the Library Review).Bristol: HEFCE, 1994, p.15.


CVCP Report of a steering committee for efficiency studies in universities. London: CVCP, 1985. (The Jarrett Report)


Birchall, A. Deakin, A and Rada, R. Knowledge automation and the need for intermediaries. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 26 (4), December 1994, p.181-192

(18) Ibid., p.181

(19) Ibid., p.189

(20) Heery, M. New model librarians: a question of realism. Journal of Library and Information Science, 25 (3), September 1993, p. 137-142.

(21) Brophy, P. Networking in British Academic Libraries. British Journal of Academic Librarianship. 8 (1), 1993, p.49 - 60.


Mowat, I. Academic libraries. In: Line, M. (ed.) Librarianship and Information work worldwide 1992: an annual survey. London: Bowker Saur, 1993, ch. 11, p. 235-251

(23) Dempsey, L. Research networks and academic information services: towards an academic information infrastructure. Journal of Information Networking, 1(1), 1993, p. 1-27.

(24) Breaks, M. Networking. Information UK Outlook. Issue 5, April 1994.

(25) Ibid., p.9.

(26) Geleijnse, H. Human and organizational aspects of library automation. In: Geleijnse, H. and Grootaers, C. Developing the library of the future: the Tilburg experience. Tilberg, The Netherlands: Tilburg University Press, 1994, p. 115 - 135

(27) Heseltine, R. The challenge of learning in cyberspace. Library Association Record, 97 (8), August 1995, p.432-433.

(28) Lester, R. This time IT is for real! The Law Librarian, 25 (4), December 1994, p.181- 85.

(29) Foster, J. Networked Information: tools and training. The role of the librarian in bring these to end-users. In: Libraries and IT. Working papers of the Information Technology Sub-committee of the HEFCs’ Libraries Review. UKOLN: The Office for Library and Information Networking, University of Bath, 1993. p. 157 - 171.

(30) Fielden, J. Beyond Fielden. The changing role of Information Services staff. Relay, Number 43, (Spring 1996), p. 3-5.

(31) Priestley, J. Beyond Fielden. The changing role of Information Services staff. Relay, Number 43, (Spring 1996), p.6-7.

(32) Collier, M. The context of convergence. In: Oldroyd, M. ed., Staff development in academic libraries. London: Library Association Publishing, 1996, pp. 68-79.

(33) Sykes, P. Staff development for library assistants. In: Oldroyd, M. ed., Staff development in academic libraries. London: Library Association Publishing, 1996, pp. 81-92.

(34) Ibid., p. 87.

(35) Wood, L. Information Managers as trainers - the route to better practice. Information Management Report, May 1996, pp. 16-18.

(36) Bluck, R., Hilton, A., and Noon, P. Information skills in academic libraries. A teaching and learning role in higher education. SEDA Paper 82, Birmingham: SEDA, May 1994

(37) Corrall, S. and Lester, R. ‘Professors and Professionals’. On changing boundaries. In: Working in higher education. SRHE/Open University Press, 1996, pp. 84 -100.

(38) Corrall, S. Defining professional competence: skills and prospects for the information profession.

Paper given at:Vision 2020: Training for the new millenium. Circle of State Librarians Annual Study Conference. London: 4th November 1996.

(39) Creth, S. “The Electronic Library. Slouching toward the future or shaping a new information environment”. Evening lecture on the topic: Transforming libraries and librarians for the twenty-first century. Follett Lecture series: organised by UKOLN on behalf of JISC, 30 September 1996, Cavendish Conference Centre, London.

(40) De Vries, J. and Minnigh, L.: Information specialists in the future academic library: flexible tightrope walkers In: Helal, A. and Weiss, J. (eds.) Information superhighway: the role of Librarians, Information Scientists, and Intermediaries. 17th International Essen Symposium, 24 October - 27 October 1994. Essen: Essen University Library, 1995, pp. 13 - 26.

(41) Wager, G. The networked information environment - new roles for information professionals. Education for Library and Information Services: Australia, 12 (2), August 1995, pp. 25-32.

(42) Abell, A. Editorial: The Information Professional in 1996. Information Management Report, January 1996, pp.1-6.

(43) Ford, P. et al. Managing change in HE. A learning environment architecture. Buckingham: SRHE and Open University Press, 1996. ch.2, p.15.

(44) Ibid.

(45) Ibid., p.16

(46) Battin, P. The electronic library - a vision for the future. EDUCOM Bulletin, 19 (2), Summer 1984, p.12-17, 34.

(47) Ibid., p.17

(48) Ibid..

(49) Cimbala, D. The Scholarly Information Center: an organisational model. College and Research Libraries, 48 (5), September 1987, p.393-398.

(50) Higginbotham, B. Academic libraries and academic computing: rationale for a modern marriage. The Bookmark, Fall, 1986, p.13-16.

(51) Ibid., p.14.

(52) Hay, F. The subject specialist in the academic library: a review article. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 16 (1), 1990, p.11-17.

(53) Machovec, G. The Library and the Computing Center: convergence or coexistence. Libraries and Microcomputers, 9 (4), April 1991, p.1-4.

(54) Woodsworth, A. and Maylone, T. Woodsworth, A. and Maylone, T. Reinvesting in the Information Job Family: context, changes, new jobs, and models for evaluation and compensation. CAUSE Professional Paper Series, #11. Boulder, Colorado: CAUSE, 1993.

(55) Leonhardt, T. Keys to success for library paraprofessonal and support staff. Library Administration and Management, 10 (4), Fall 1996, pp.214-219.

(56) Atkins, D. et al. Educating human resources for the information and library professions of the 21st century. A proposal to the W.K.Kellogg Foundation from the Faculty of The School of Information and Library Studies. The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.



(57) Drabenstott, K. and Atkins, D. eds. Kellogg CRISTAL-ED Project: Reinventing education for the information and library professions of the 21st century. Interim Report No.1. Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1995.



(58) Ibid., 1.1.

(59) URL:

(60) Rowley, J. Organizing knowledge: an introduction to information retrieval. Brookfield, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 1992.

(61)A new paradigm for excellence in information services. 8 September 1996. Volume 41: Number 001. CRISTAL-ED mailing list:

(62) Abate, A. (12 September 1996) A new paradigm for excellence in information services. [email to], [online].


(63) E-mail discussion list: diglibns@sunsite.berkeley.EDU

(64) Ginsborg, M. (20 December 1996) Is Roy Tennant’s vision the right one for librarians?. [email to diglibns@sunsite.berkeley.EDU], [online].

Available e-mail: ginsborg@CLASS.ORG

(65) The Library Association. Response: Implications of Convergence for Academic Libraries. London: Library Association, Employment and Resources Department, 1992.

(66) Op. cit. [Fielden] paras. 2.25-2.31

(67) Op. cit. [Fielden] para 3.12

(68) Brophy, P. Networking in British Academic Libraries. British Journal of Academic Librarianship. 8 (1), 1993, p.49 - 60.

(69) Sidgreaves, I. The development of ‘Academic Services’ at Polytechnic South West. British Journal of Academic Librarianship, 3 (3), 1988, pp.136-146.

(70) Journal of the University, College and Research Group (Relay) 42, 1995.

(71) Op. cit. [The Library Association ]

(72) Sidgreaves, I. Convergence - an update. Relay. Journal of the University, College and Research Group, 42, 1995, p.3-6

(73) Edwards, C. Key areas in the management of change in higher education libraries in the 1990s: relevance of the IMPEL project. British Journal of Academic Librarianship, 8 (3), 1993, p.139 -177.

(74) British Journal of Academic Librarianship, 3 (3), 1988

(75) Naylor, B. The convergence of the library and the computing service: the central issues. British Journal of Academic Librarianship, 3 (3), 1988, pp.172-186.

(76) Brindley, L. ed. The Electronic Campus. An information strategy. Proceedings of a conference held on 28-30 October 1988 at Banbury, Oxfordshire. Library and Information Research Report 73. London: British Library, 1989.

(77) Sidgreaves, I. The Electronic Campus - an Information Strategy: organisation issues. In: The Electronic Campus. An information strategy. Proceedings of a conference held on 28-30 October 1988 at Banbury, Oxfordshire. Library and Information Research Report 73. London: British Library, 1989, pp.65-80

(78) Prince, B and Burton, P. Changing dimensions in academic library structures: the impact of Information Technology. British Journal of Academic Librarianship, 3 (2), 1988, p.67 -81

(79) Gardner, N. The Electronic Campus: the first decade. Higher Education Quarterly, 43 (4), Autumn 1989, p.332 - 349.

(80) Lovecy, I. Convergence of Libraries and Computing Services. Library and Information Briefings, Issue 54, July 1994.

(81) Royan, B. Survey of convergence in academic services (unpublished), 1993. [20]

(82) Op.cit. [Dempsey]

(83) Op. cit. [ Geleijnse]

(84) Royan, B. Are you being merged? A survey of convergence in Information Service Provision. SCONUL Newsletter 1, Spring 1994, p.17-20.

(85) Macartney, N. Convergence planning. Library Association Record Technology Supplement, 97 (8), August 1995, p.3.

(86) Kinnell, M. Human Resource Management and the role of the schools of library and information studies (SLIS). British Journal of Academic Librarianship, 9 (3), 1994, p. 191- 200.

(87) Rowley, J. Management development: new agendas for information professionals. Library Management, 16 (1), 1995, p. 5-10.

(88) Feather, J. and Mann, J. Education and training. In: Line, M. (ed.) Librarianship and Information work worldwide 1992: an annual survey. London: Bowker Saur, 1993, ch. 9. p. 201-213.

(89) Elkin, J. Educating the future professional. Relay Number 43 (Spring 1996), pp.8-10.

(90) Ibid., p.9.

(91) Ibid., p.10

(92) Parry, J. Continuing Professional Development. Putting it into Practice. Relay Number 43 (Spring 1996), 11-14.

(93) Pors, N. O. Curriculum development and students’ perceptions. In: Proceedings of the 1st British-Nordic LIS Conference for Researchers and Educators, held at the Royal School of Librarianship, Copenhagen, 22-24 May 1995.


(94) Wormell, I. Multifunctional information work - new demands for training? In: Proceedings of the 1st British-Nordic LIS Conference for Researchers and Educators, held at the Royal School of Librarianship, Copenhagen, 22-24 May 1995.


(95) FID/MIP, Results of FID’s Survey of the Modern Information Professional. URL:

(96) Enser, P. Beating the bounds of LIS. In: Proceedings of the 1st British-Nordic LIS Conference for Researchers and Educators, held at the Royal School of Librarianship, Copenhagen, 22-24 May 1995.


(97) Wilson, T. Information Technology in the curriculum: a review of the Departments and Schools of Information studies and Librarianship. In: Libraries and IT. Working papers of the Information Technology Sub- committee of the HEFCs’ Libraries Review. UKOLN: The Office for Library and Information Networking, University of Bath, 1993. p.299 -303.

(98) Atkinson, J. Image of the academic librarian: an analysis of the implications for the future through a study of the literature. In: Harris, C. ed. The new university library: issues for the ‘90s and beyond. Essays in honour of Ian Rogerson. London: Taylor Graham, 1994, p. 89 -99.

(99) Dixon, D. Why Library Studies? In: Proceedings of the 1st British-Nordic LIS Conference for Researchers and Educators, held at the Royal School of Librarianship, Copenhagen, 22-24 May 1995.


(100) Day, J. Walton, G. and Edwards, C. The human face of change. Library Association Record: Library Technology, incorporating Library Technology News, 1 (1), February 1996, p.18.

(101) Walton, G. Day, J. Edwards, C. Training needs for staff competencies in a quality library service: relevance of the IMPEL project. European Research Libraries Cooperation: Liber Quarterly, 5 (4), 1995, p. 389-400.

(102) Edwards, C. The networked librarian: managing change in the academic library. In: Proceedings of the Library Association Northern Branch Conference, November 1995.

(103) Day, J. Walton, G. and Edwards, C. The culture of convergence. Paper to be presented at the ELVIRA Third International Conference 30 April - 2 May 1996 at De Montfort University, Leicester.

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