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  • Providing research support one step at a time

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  • 1. University of Cape Town Library and Information Studies Centre 15th LIASA Annual Conference: libraries in dialogue for transformation and innovation, Cape Town International Convention Centre, Cape Town, 8-11 October 2013 Bridging the theory-practice gap in LIS education: a UCT experiment Jaya Raju & Gwenda Thomas
  • 2. A school of choice in Africa for Library and Information Studies Overview • Introduction • Purpose of the paper • Methodological approach • Conceptual framework: theory and practice in higher education • Bridging the theory-practice gap in LIS education: UCT Libraries • Bridging the theory-practice gap in LIS education: LIS School at UCT • Lessons, the way forward and conclusion 3
  • 3. A school of choice in Africa for Library and Information Studies Introduction • Recurrent tension between theory and practice in LIS – well documented (Chu 2010; Lynch 2008) • “Inclusive” rather than a dichotomous conceptualisation of relationship between theory and practice is a “holistic necessity for professional development” (Stigmar 2010) 4
  • 4. A school of choice in Africa for Library and Information Studies Introduction • LIS graduates entering a world of work (higher education) - transformed by “the revolution in scholarly communication” • These changes have dramatically affected all aspects of academic library operations (Davis & Moran 2005) • Do LIS schools “really understand the increasingly complex … academic libraries … in the digital environment…? (Barthhorpe 2012) 5
  • 5. A school of choice in Africa for Library and Information Studies Purpose of the paper • Universities globally restructuring themselves for efficiency purposes in a highly competitive higher education environment (Raju 2013) • UCT LIS School: organisational locus within the university libraries; academic home in the Humanities Faculty • Paper uses a conceptual framework to mount a critical evaluation of the implementation of this model 6
  • 6. A school of choice in Africa for Library and Information Studies Methodological approach • Evaluative approach • Evaluation as a research tool aims to assess the “impact of social interventions” within a particular “social context” (Babbie 2013) • ‘Evaluation indicators’ drawn from the experiences of Executive Director of UCT Libraries and the Head of the LIS School at UCT - qualitative element 7
  • 7. A school of choice in Africa for Library and Information Studies Theoretical framework: theory and practice in higher education 8 Theory and practice: from segregation to integration (Source: Stigmar 2010) theory practice theory and practice
  • 8. A school of choice in Africa for Library and Information Studies Bridging the theory-practice gap in LIS education: UCT Libraries 9
  • 9. A school of choice in Africa for Library and Information Studies LIS education at UCT: past & present • UCT School of Librarianship established in 1939 • University Librarian was head of the Library and the Library school until the mid-1970s • Senate decision to close the school in 2011 • LIS education re-established in 2012 as the Library and Information Studies Centre (LISC) with a three year window of opportunity • LIS School located organisationally in the UCT Libraries & offers its qualifications through the Humanities Faculty 10
  • 10. A school of choice in Africa for Library and Information Studies Re-establishing the partnership • The organisational model facilitated the way for a close relationship between academic project and practice • Vision developed over two years to grow the next generation of librarians able to enter the workplace with a sound understanding of scholarly communication systems, associated specialisations and contemporary issues • Resulted in some tough exchanges and debates to recognise and respect what was expected of both the Libraries and the LIS school – the social intervention and social context of the partnership 11
  • 11. A school of choice in Africa for Library and Information Studies UCT Libraries & the Library School: challenges of a new social context • Quality of the graduates needs to improve to meet the workplace requirements as determined by the practitioners • The student cohort would need to grow over the next 3 years and attract a different calibre of student if the LIS school is to be sustainable • Student, academic and practitioner research productivity would need to increase • National imperative to produce the next generation of academic librarians • Urgent need to address the theory-practice gap in LIS education 12
  • 12. A school of choice in Africa for Library and Information Studies Academic libraries are located in a new ‘social context’ • Academic Libraries are framed in & defined by all the cross-cutting influences of the knowledge economy & globalization; • They have become “unhinged” from their traditional frame of reference based on functions (user services, acquisitions, cataloguing); • Academic libraries find themselves between two missions: -an old traditional order focused on functions -a new transformational order shaped by globalisation, the knowledge economy, user expectations and institutional priorities 13
  • 13. A school of choice in Africa for Library and Information Studies Towards a transformational mission for librarians • R. David Lankes in “The Atlas of New Librarianship” (2011) advances that the new mission of librarians is: “to improve society by facilitating knowledge creation in their user communities.” • Shift from an old traditional order where library missions were function-based to a new mission shaped by 3 drivers of transformation: - knowledge creation - people and skills - using knowledge & skills to improve society to the benefit of all communities 14
  • 14. A school of choice in Africa for Library and Information Studies The “three pillars” of transformation are shaping the mission of academic libraries • LIS schools to LIS departments 15 PILLARS CRITICAL SUCCESS FACTORS PILLAR 1: KNOWLEDGE & INNOVATION Facilitate knowledge creation ACADEMIC LIBRARIES Academic library as a “commons” within the user community where knowledge is produced/created PILLAR 2: PEOPLE People & skills development USER COMMUNITIES Foremost, libraries are communities of users, physical or virtual ACADEMIC LIBRARIANS Librarians as facilitator, liaison, connector & disseminator of universal body of knowledge PILLAR 3: SOCIAL GOOD Improve society NATION & CITIZENS Body of Knowledge disseminated & used to bring benefit to all in society
  • 15. A school of choice in Africa for Library and Information Studies Scholarly communication system: core to the academic enterprise • Scholarly communication is more than scholarly publishing • It is sustained by both formal and informal networks • Scholars develop ideas, exchange information, build and mine data, cite and give credit, certify research, publish findings, disseminate results and preserve outputs • It is a vast and changing system • Central to the academic enterprise and therefore, • Central to the work of academic librarians ∼ACRL 2012∽ 16
  • 16. A school of choice in Africa for Library and Information Studies Towards scholarly communication librarianship: a new social context • Journal of scholarly communication & librarianship launched in 2012 • Recognises increasingly prominent role of librarians in shaping future of scholarly communication • Scholarly communication librarianship is becoming a core service area for academic librarians • Important that there is an institutional and intellectual home that becomes the centre for policy, direction and procedure to bring stakeholders together – librarians, academics, technologists, publishers and research funders • Scholarly communication librarianship is the “new librarianship” in a new social context 17
  • 17. A school of choice in Africa for Library and Information Studies 18
  • 18. A school of choice in Africa for Library and Information Studies Through the transformation lens: a reality check Transforming academic libraries in the global context SA academic libraries in a context of cross-cutting influences Global impact of new mission for academic libraries National imperatives to transform South African society Institutional strategic priorities and outcomes 19 Higher Education within the context of a transforming South African society and economy
  • 19. A school of choice in Africa for Library and Information Studies Strategic priorities Critical success factors Pillar 1: People & skills Produce next generation of academics for SA & the rest of the continent • Graduate & train next generation of academics for SA, the continent & beyond • Grow number of academics with PG qualifications Pillar 2: Knowledge creation Establish HEIs as leading, globally competitive, research-led institutions but with a competitive edge rooted in the African continent • Strengthen research & make SA globally competitive •Grow the body of African knowledge • Grow faculty research productivity • Increase research oriented degrees • Grow research intensive teaching-learning • Successful student education & graduation Pillar 3: Improving society Transformation in broader society to improve the quality of life for all communities across South Africa, & beyond • Diverse & talented workforce within an inclusive & nurturing institution • Deliver on high level knowledge & skills requirements of marketplace • Graduates who are critical thinkers & leaders & confident users of information HEIs Strategic outcomes: advancing transformation of South African society
  • 20. A school of choice in Africa for Library and Information Studies UCT Libraries: the challenge of the new social context • Transformational mission has placed Libraries & LISC at intersection of new librarianship and national imperatives for South African higher education • LIS School required to frame its curricula to embrace and advance scholarly communication librarianship • Libraries are confronted with the demands and complexities of technologies, digital environment and scholarly communication system 21
  • 21. A school of choice in Africa for Library and Information Studies Role of the educator in scholarly communication librarianship • New graduates have to be equipped for jobs in academic libraries • Educators need to understand the complexities of: • - technologies • - digital environment • - scholarly communication system • Curricula should include more content about IPR, publishing, data management to produce graduates who offer relevant services, lead discussions and conduct useful research 22
  • 22. A school of choice in Africa for Library and Information Studies UCT Libraries: the challenge of the transformational mission • Advance research and scholarship by: - develop the research workforce - partnering & engaging with researchers & scholars in the production, dissemination & presentation of knowledge - provide support at all stages of the research cycle from idea generation to research process & publication 23
  • 23. A school of choice in Africa for Library and Information Studies Roles and skills required to advance research & scholarship • Building new research information infrastructure • Optimising researcher access to resources • Developing digitisation strategy as integral part of supporting unique and distinctive collections (large scale digitisation as well as physical preservation) • Being a responsible steward of unique and local collections • Playing an integral role in integrating special collections in curricula 24
  • 24. A school of choice in Africa for Library and Information Studies Roles and skills required to advance research & scholarship • Investing in institutional repository development & open access hosting • Developing digitisation strategy to sustain local and unique collections • Providing leadership in research data management services • Providing leadership in metadata creation and management • Develop specialist skills in financial management, statistics, web design, spatial planning and project management 25
  • 25. A school of choice in Africa for Library and Information Studies Bridging the theory-practice gap: the LIS School at UCT • 2012 - radical review of teaching and research programmes • Firmly located within a strategic framework • Curriculum renewal informed by trends re-defining the LIS sector • progamme enriched by dove-tailing epistemological grounding with application input from specialist practitioners from UCT Libraries 26
  • 26. A school of choice in Africa for Library and Information Studies Bridging the theory-practice gap: the LIS School at UCT • Seamless access to expertise from Library specialists without any budgetary implications for the School • Positively influenced qualification outcomes and quality of entry-level graduates being produced • Curriculum designers - a close-up view of knowledge, skills and competencies required of practising professionals in a digital age information environment 27
  • 27. A school of choice in Africa for Library and Information Studies Bridging the theory-practice gap: the LIS School at UCT • School’s research too benefitted from its inclusive relationship with UCT Libraries • Proximity of the School to a practising environment transformed by technology - has impacted on the School’s research agenda • Steadily increasing registrations for research degrees focusing on new areas in scholarly communication in the digital environment • Cohort and team research projects 28
  • 28. A school of choice in Africa for Library and Information Studies Bridging the theory-practice gap: the LIS School at UCT • Champion to recognise the work and contribution of the LIS School • Not just ‘a bed of roses’ - challenges • Two different worlds informed by different priorities and with philosophical differences in our approaches • Respect for each other’s space, expertise and working cultures • Inclusive working relationship between the two domains 29
  • 29. A school of choice in Africa for Library and Information Studies Bridging the theory-practice gap: the LIS School at UCT • LIS School - significant strides • Student registrations and throughput rates • Exceeded projections in the School’s business plan on which its budget allocation is based • Robust marketing and branding • Attracting young graduates who have just completed bachelor degrees • Budget and other support from UCT Libraries 30
  • 30. A school of choice in Africa for Library and Information Studies Lessons, the way forward and conclusion • Inherent tension between LIS practitioners and educators/theory and practice - likely to continue • But “LIS educators and practitioners working together can ensure that tomorrow’s professionals will be well prepared to enter the field” (Davis and Moran 2005) • Evaluative accounts - drawn qualitatively from respective ‘head’ roles - does, despite inherent challenges, point to a positive trajectory 31
  • 31. A school of choice in Africa for Library and Information Studies Lessons, the way forward and conclusion • Lesson from this unique experiment: theory and practice, in any professional discipline, are best conceptualised ‘inclusively’ rather than ‘dichotomously’ • Whatever our prevailing ‘social contexts” in the institutions we find ourselves LIS educators and practitioners should make a tangible effort to bridge the theory-practice divide • “Theory and practice vitally interact, and one renews the other” – theory and practice are “tied inseparably to each other” (Boyer 1990) 32
  • 32. A school of choice in Africa for Library and Information Studies Thank you! Jaya Raju & Gwenda Thomas Library and Information Studies Centre/UCT Libraries University of Cape Town jaya.raju@uct.ac.za/gwenda.thomas@uct.ac.za 33