Challenges facing Academic Librarians with Examples from Lebanon


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This is a presentation given during Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar held on April 17, 2012 at Riyad Nassar Library, Lebanese American University, Beirut - Lebanon

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Challenges facing Academic Librarians with Examples from Lebanon

  1. 1. Challenges Facing Academic Librarians With Examples From Lebanon by Houeida Kammourié-Charara InfoCommons Librarian Lebanese American University Lebanese Academic Library Consortium Coordinator Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar RNL, Beirut, April 17, 2012
  2. 2. IntroductionThe invasion of digital information in our era is affecting and changing everysingle aspect of our lives; how we receive/provide information, teach/learn,interact with each other, and even how we communicate and play, etc.This tumultuous environment affected also libraries and librarians which cannotstay away from change.While change is inevitable, it is coupled with several challenges. Thispresentation discusses the challenges facing academic librarians in general withsome examples of Lebanese libraries’ experience in the digital world. Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 2 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  3. 3. Transformation of LibrariesThe "Great Age of Libraries,“ began in the late 19th century. This age wascharacterized by building huge collections and using scientific approaches tomanage them.In the last two decades, with the advent of Internet, there were expectations thatlibraries will die. They didn’t, instead they transformed from just being buildings; tobe “vast collections of online resources that users can access from campuses,offices, or coffee shops halfway around the world” (Strong, 2011).The digital information which was usually perceived as an additional format forresources, is currently evolving to be the only format.This shift is a response to the increasingly changing preferences of todays user tothe online form of resources. Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 3 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  4. 4. Collections“For many in the academic community, the phrase “transforming library collections”conjures visions of electronic access from anywhere to everything – books, journals,reference works, manuscripts, audio files, films” (Strong, 2011). Today all the attentiongoes to Electronic resources, which are relatively new compared to print publishinghistory.Exploring the change in collections deserve a thorough study, however it is worthnoting Ownership challenge: Libraries do own information (digital) that they purchase,but they no longer store it; Thus how to convince traditional librarians to spendmoney on materials that are not available physically in the library?Another aspect of libraries collections is the Open Access Resources which also needseparate discussion by itself. Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 4 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  5. 5. Librarians GenerationsLancaster identified four generations of library staff: – Traditionalists (born before 1946) – Baby Boomers (1946-1964) – Generation X (1965-1981), and – Millennials (1982-2000??) – all of who have distinctive motivations, professional expectations, and communication styles (Strothmann, & Ohler, 2010).Millennials are also known as Digital natives and this generation is apparentlygoing to be the majority in a decade or two.According to Lancaster Generation X are often characterized as technologicallysavvy, efficient at multi-tasking, they look for professional development and wantto have a voice in decision-making; they will leave organizations that fail to meetthose needs. X’s “generally show a marked dislike for organizational cultures basedon seniority and hierarchy and like to solve problems through teamwork andexperimentation” (Strothmann, & Ohler, 2010). Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 5 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  6. 6. Top Issues for Academic Libraries as Reported byACRL “Focus on the Future Task Force”Hisle listed 7 top issues facing academic libraries (ACRL report, 2003);Today all the challenges are still current, with more emphasis on some topics: 1. Recruitment, education, and retention of librarians 2. Role of library in academic enterprise 3. Impact of information technology on library services 4. Creation, control, and preservation of digital resources 5. Chaos in scholarly communication 6. Support of new users 7. Higher education funding Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 6 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  7. 7. Recruitment, Education, and Retention ofLibrariansACRL report stated that the need to find quality leadership for libraries is a coreissue. After recruitment, there is also the need to ensure education of newlyhired librarians and reeducating existing ones, by helping them acquiring skillsand knowledge that support their new roles in the digital information age,especially roles involving teaching and library promotion.Hiring librarians entails better understanding of their education; How relevant isa Master’s degree in Library and Information Science (MLIS) to academiclibrarianship?It is worth noting that low salaries and lack of diversity in the profession areproblems that have to be addressed collectively and need special attention. Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 7 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  8. 8. LIS Important DatesLibrary and Information Science (LIS) is becoming an increasingly technology-driven profession. It moves away from “simply redefining traditional library roles toa new and completely redesigned job profiles (Riley-Huff, & Rholes, 2011) 2000/ Kaliper report: High impact of technology in libraries 2000/ LIS programs to address more information problems 2004/ Markey: Improvements in the number of IT-related courses 2004/ Gorman: LIS faculty marginalized in favor of Information Science 2006/ Trend in filling librarian positions with professionals with no master’s degree in library science. 2006/ McKinney: Comparison between “ALA Core Competencies” and what is currently learned in ALA-accredited curricula 2007/ New areas of emphasis in LIS, including specializations such as Geographic Information Systems. Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 8 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  9. 9. LIS in LebanonWhile change in librarianship is obvious, “many LIS programs are still operating on atwo-track model by combining traditional librarians and information managers” (Riley-Huff, & Rholes, 2011).LIS is a major challenge for Lebanese Librarians at the national level. As far as we knowtwo MLIS programs are currently offered, one in the Lebanese University (LU) and theother one in Beirut Arab University; Assessment will be done in few years aftergraduates will join the labor market. One MLIS student graduated from LU and theother one is working on her thesis.In an email sent to Lebanese Academic Library Consortium (LALC) members RandaAlChidiac former LALC Chair sent a message notifying members about new MS andMA programs in Library Science at University of Balamand. Alchidiac, R., (personalcommunication, April 4, 2012). Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 9 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  10. 10. Retention of Excellent Professional Staff While hiring good caliber librarians is hard, retaining them is harder. “Of all a library manager’s responsibilities, none are more important than attracting, developing, and retaining excellent professional staff” (Strothmann, & Ohler, 2010). In Lebanon few academic libraries are competing to attract the best candidates. Sometimes they target expatriates or foreigners to fill in high positions. By neglecting retaining good employees, academic libraries administrators may find themselves loosing good staff, which sometimes is hard to replace, in a very competitive environment. The ACRL Recruitment and Retention Wiki (2009) summarizes the key factors in retention as: – Effective hiring, Collegial workplaces, Mentoring programs, Support for professional development, Good workplace communication, Good benefits besides salary, and Deliberate retention planning (Strothmann, & Ohler, 2010). Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 10 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  11. 11. Recognition of the LibraryProviding good benefits to librarians- thus helping their retention- is related to therecognition of the library and its important role in the university.Accordingly, it is important to increase the awareness among campus decision-makers, such as high administration, deans of schools, etc. of the libraries’ role inproviding valuable yet unique information.This can be done by promoting the library services, resources and facilities, and byproviding specialized, customized and personalized services, e.g., reports of usagestatistics for a particular discipline or across a certain timespan (Frumkin, & Reese,2011), or compilation of resources in a specific topic in a research guide, etc. Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 11 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  12. 12. Librarians RoleIn the digital age the librarians’ role as knowledge providers has become moresignificant than before; with the shift of libraries to online (both collections andservices), it become essential that librarians make a “conceptual shift byfocusing on their own skills and activities rather than on their libraries”(Plutchak, 2012) to cope with the digital change."Libraries are just buildings, or gatherings of objects, or an abstract diagram onan organization chart, but libraries dont do anything - people do” (Plutchak,2012). It is the librarians and their professional and paraprofessional colleagueswho get things done. Excellent Librarians made Great Library ReputationNowadays academic librarians don’t sit behind desks and wait for faculty,students and staff to approach them; they go to them instead. Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 12 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  13. 13. New Skills for LibrariansLibraries in the digital age need stronger technological type of librarianship.While professional positions in the past were monopolized by library schoolsgraduates, we are perceiving currently a trend in the academic libraries to hire ITpeople to fill in library positions that require advanced computer skills.Riley-Huff, & Rholes noted that not all librarians with technology roles start outin those positions, therefore a role transformation should be examined. Severallibrarians with more traditional roles have transformed their skills to be able toundertake new roles more technology centric.Plutchak stated that the easiest way currently used by libraries “in order toaddress the challenges of dealing with digital materials is to create one positionElectronic Resources Librarian (ERL) and get some smart and energetic librarianwho can handle everything associated with digital. And then the rest of us cancontinue doing the essential jobs that we are doing and not have to worry aboutall that weird stuff”. Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 13 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  14. 14. Role of Library in Academic EnterpriseLibrarians have to maintain the importance and relevance of the academiclibrary as the center of activities of the university. They also need to emphasizethe importance of their teaching role mainly in information literacy instruction.“We must find ways to promote the values, expertise, and leadership of theprofession throughout the campus to ensure appreciation for the roles librariansdo and can play. Librarians must demonstrate to the campus community that thelibrary remains central to academic effort” (Hisle, 2002).Librarians should market themselves as coordinators between all universitydepartments since they come from a wide range of academic backgrounds, andmany hold advanced degrees in disciplines in addition to a Master of LibraryScience. They are better placed “to recognize connections among disciplines,both in scholarship and in trends” (Pressley, & Gilbertson, 2011). Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 14 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  15. 15. Impact of Information Technology onLibrary ServicesThere is no doubt that instructional and information technology departmentshave a impact on traditional library services and sometimes there is someoverlapping. The best example to describe the impact of IT is shown clearly inthe Reference work.In todays world the reference “librarian can visually walk a user through a searchin an online database while simultaneously using a text window to explain whathe or she is doing” (Strong, 2007). She/he communicates with users via e-mail,instant messaging, video conferencing, chatting, etc.Online reference allows us to offer assistance 24 hours a day seven days a week.Reference departments at LAU are covering the online chatting during thelibraries working hours, excluding night shift currently. Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 15 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  16. 16. ServicesServices offered by the library make its collections accessible and available tousers. Within the invasion and aggressive competition of some discoveryinitiatives such as Google Scholar, libraries need to have their holdingsdiscoverable and accessible mainly through their Catalogs; therefore catalogshould be user friendly and enhanced with catalog enrichment tools.Since Digital native users are in a hurry; and they want the information yesterdayin a “one stop shop”; Therefore we need to have a place where they can do andhave: Searching/browsing the net; research assistance; printing, technicalassistance, meeting point, ILL/DDS, group study, coffee vending machines,comfortable seats, friendly staff, etc.All of the above have an answer in one word & one place: INFOCOMMONS Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 16 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  17. 17. Facilities:“Face-Lifting” of Library SpacesA major challenge facing libraries nowadays is providing library spaces that fulfill theneeds of the digital native users. In most of the times the libraries infrastructures donot accommodate new trends. The “increased emphasis on collaborative and grouplearning have created an increased demand for flexible learning spaces that provideaccess to the most up-to-date information technology and are “zoned” for sound andactivity” (Strong, 2007) .LAU RNL remodeled floor 8th in its new building (2006) to satisfy its users byproviding comfortable space where users can do research, meet, eat, and drink. Thisarea is called InfoCommons Area and a new position was created to manage this newspace.Lately RNL inaugurated three group study rooms in order to respond to an increaseddemand for study areas. A lot still to be done, but improving library facilities costmoney that is not available all the time. Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 17 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  18. 18. Creation, Control, and Preservation ofDigital ResourcesLibraries are challenged by “Methods to determine what should be digitized, tofind resources to do the work, and to develop appropriate bibliographic controlmechanisms for digital materials offer complex challenges” (Strong, 2007).The growth of digital information has simply exceeded libraries ability ofpreservation. There are a lot of valuable information currently published on blogs,wikis, and social networking media, some are not available in any other medium,such us the Arab Spring diaries. Strong stated that libraries should be allowed topreserve Web sites that are not commercially available, otherwise they wont beavailable for future generations if not preserved whether in institutionalrepositories are digital archives.We may add another challenge in this area of the world: Arabic script that is notfully OCR’d . Several attempts were carried out, but none, as far as we know, was100% successful. Al-Raida, which is a bilingual journal published by LAU issearchable in its English part but not in the Arabic one. Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 18 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  19. 19. Knowledge Management“Knowledge management is the process of capturing a company’s collectiveexpertise wherever it resides in databases, on papers, or in the people’s head anddistributing it to wherever it can help produce the biggest payoff” (Yaacob,Jamaluddin, & Jusoff, 2010).Many of the experience in the management of information knowledge and skillsof librarianship can be applied to knowledge management.The library’s challenge in managing and digitizing the knowledge can beundertaken by providing a repository of all of those knowledge resources, bothinternal and external. Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 19 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  20. 20. Knowledge Management ExamplesLAU Libraries started several digitization projectsthat cover unique knowledge, namely: – Tender Stitches - Ottoman Embroideries – Les Peintres du Liban: Collection containing selections from the works of three major Lebanese painters: Saliba Doueihy, Bibi Zoghbé, & Omar Onsi – Fuad Rifka: Collection of his personal papers donated to LAU, and – Lebanese American University (LAU)In addition to those collections the libraries aredigitizing all theses submitted after 2003 andmaking them available online. Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 20 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  21. 21. Chaos in Scholarly Communication“Librarians advocate the need for fair scholarly communication models ascopyright laws change or are reinterpreted and challenges to fair-use in a digitalcontext continue to be made ”(Hisle, 2002).Digital information is “regularized” via License agreements signed betweenlibraries and publishers. Very often those agreements are to the benefit of thepublishers. Few cases in the literature showed that librarians were able to imposetheir conditions through negotiations of the license terms.Mergers and acquisition between publishers/aggregators/vendors of theinformation industry is a substantial threat for libraries as it represents potentialfor monopolistic business practices.The last years witnessed significant acquisitions of small publishers by “big ones”. Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 21 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  22. 22. Support of New UsersThe rise of the Web as the first choice for student and faculty researchers, gavethem the feeling that they can find everything by using search engines such asGoogle, Bing and others.At the same time, libraries provide discovery tools, but literature and our dailyinteraction with students showed that discovery tools that we provide are notnecessarily where our “users start their discovery journey” (Frumkin, & Reese,2011).Here comes the role of librarians by providing appropriate services andresources to new users -so called cut-and-paste generation-; Hisle mentionedtheir lack of literacy; their flexible ethics regarding plagiarism and copyrightviolations. Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 22 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  23. 23. Support of New UsersThe multifaceted approach to helping students can be summarized by the title ofa course an undergraduate librarian offers: “How I Learned to Stop JustGoogling…Find the Really Good Stuff!” (Strong, 2011)Frumkin, & Reese noted that new users are bringing their own digital lifestyles totheir research workflows, which are not part of their academic library’s offerings.To attract those new users, libraries need to provide services and resourcescompatible with their expectations and digital lifestyles.Libraries need to bring all new technological devices to their users, and toprovide the information in the preferred medium. LAU Libraries are circulatingeBook readers such as AmazonKindle, Sony, etc. and mobile devices such asiPad’s in order to attract users. Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 23 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  24. 24. Support of New UsersMobile apps. are starting to pave their way in the majority of academic librariesin North America and we are seeing timid attempts in Lebanon.Several publishers are currently building application for mobile technology andsmart phones. We may discuss Mobile applications today with ScienceDirectdemo.It is worth mention the “Cloud-based technology” that is device independent.This cost saving system (while some challenges still remain), is here to stay. Thesignificance of this development to the academic librarian is a total shift tocomputers and the internet by everyone in the user community (Thomas,Satpathi,& Satpathi, 2010). Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 24 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  25. 25. Web 2.0: Social MediaWeb 2.0, also known as Library 2.0, is the user-centred web, “where blogs, wikis,social networks, multimedia applications and dynamic programming scripts arebeing used for collection, contribution and collaboration on the web. Theprimary principle is share the resources collectively”(Thomas, Satpathi, &Satpathi, 2010).It is important for librarians to experience Web 2.0 tools from a user’sperspective and use these tools in modernizing library services.Libraries that didn’t apply Web 2.0 yet, are facing the challenge of the arrival ofthe Web 3.0 or Semantic Web which is an extension to the Web that adds newdata and metadata to existing Web documents, extending those documents intodata.Where Web 2.0 is focused on people, the Semantic Web is focused on machines.“Semantic Web is smarter and can understand what you want”(Thomas,Satpathi, & Satpathi, 2010). Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 25 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  26. 26. Social Media Tools Libraries can use several social media to promote their services & resources:1. Twitter: To send tweets about library activities and news2. Facebook: To promote resources and announce activities and events; LAU Libraries page3. Picasa and Flickr: To share photos4. YouTube: To post videos about the Library, e.g. RNL YouTube video5. SlideShare: To share presentations (e.g. given in conferences), documents and professional videos6. Google Maps: To show conferences attended by librarians7. Pinterest is a pinboard-style social photo sharing website that allows users to create and manage theme-based image collections such as events, interests (Wikipedia), and many more.Several academic libraries have their own twitter and Facebook accounts whereinformation about library resources and activities are posted, e.g., LAU LibrariesFacebook page was created on November 11, 2008 and has now 1,170 Likes. Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 26 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  27. 27. Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAUApril 17, 2012 27 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  28. 28. Higher Education FundingDue to global economic crisis libraries were also affected by lack of fundingmainly for library programs, salaries, and resources. “Creative thought andaction will be required to compensate for the already low pay of librarians, aswell as the rising costs of materials and technology” (Hisle, 2002).Here again Lebanon is not an exception, professional librarians’ salaries rarely (ifnever) bypass the 5 digits in USD. As for libraries collections budgets “it isimperative that libraries demonstrate their value in relation to the investment ofresources that their institutions provide them”(Frumkin, & Reese, 2011).This challenge needs further investigation and cannot be covered in one slide. Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 28 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  29. 29. Role of Library AssociationsLibrary associations are playing a primordial role in educating librarians andproviding professional development opportunities to them at both global andinternational levels. The International Federation of Library Associations andInstitutions (IFLA), the American Library Association (ALA), and the CharteredInstitute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), have a lot of initiatives inthis regards.At the national level the Lebanese Library Association (LLA) has a great challenge inkeeping the professionals and paraprofessionals exposed to new technologies andtrends in librarianship.However this is not an easy challenge, since there is no planned yet systematicapproach on the part of LLA in its development program. It all depends on theenthusiasm of a few enterprising people (Thomas, Satpathi,& Satpathi, 2010). Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 29 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  30. 30. To Summarize• Library collections are changing, both in format and philosophy• Libraries buildings need to accommodate digital natives need• Academic libraries need to relate the value of their core services to their communities• Libraries are moving from collection-based organizations into service-based entities• Librarians need to acquire technical skills by increasing the number of technology courses in LIS• Libraries are in the first stages of understanding the importance of social media• The larger challenge is finding our way to our users in the electronic environment at their point of need (Strong, 2007). Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 30 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  31. 31. ConclusionFinally academic libraries nowadays need to expect and embrace change, with all thechallenges and opportunities that come with it; they must be prepared to deal with it,if they want to keep pace with the university they serve.This will lead us to the following question: Can a library survive without maintainingtechnological currency? According to Estabrook “Librarianship without a strong linkageto technology (and it’s capacity to extend our work) will become a mastodon.Technology without reference to the core library principles of information organizationand access is deracinated” (Riley-Huff, & Rholes, 2011).I cannot by mention Plutchak who said: The great thing about this is that we canexperiment like crazy. We do not have to worry about getting it "right" -Undoubtedly,many of our experiments will go nowhere, will be seen to be dead ends and wrongturns, but: Qui ne risque rien, n’a rien!!!!! Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 31 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  32. 32. Thank you Q&AA copy of this presentation will be available online on slideshare Please feel free to contact me @ Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 32 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  33. 33. ReferencesAlbanese, A. R. (2003, March 15). The top seven academic library issues. Library Journal, 128(5), 43. Retrieved March 20, 2012, from ProQuest database.Credo Reference Blog. (2010, March 16). Challenges facing libraries: Our Take. Retrieved April 3, 2012, from, J., & Reese, T. (2011). Provision Recognition: Increasing awareness of the library‘s value in delivering electronic information resources. Journal of Library Administration, 51(7/8), 810-819.Hisle, W. L. (2002). Top issues facing academic libraries: A report of the focus on the future task force. College & Research Libraries News, 63(10). Retrieved April 3, 2012, from, T. S. (2012, January). Breaking the barriers of time and space: The dawning of the great age of librarians. Journal of the Medical Library Association, 100(1). Retrieved April 2, 2012, from ProQuest database.Pressley, L., & Gilbertson, K. (2011, May). Librarians as experts: using the web to assert our value. Computers in Libraries, 31(4), 19-23. Retrieved April 2, 2012, from ProQuest database. Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 33 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara
  34. 34. ReferencesRiley-Huff, D. A., & Rholes, J. M. (2011). Librarians and technology skill acquisition: issues and perspectives. Information Technology and Libraries, 30(3), 129-140. Retrieved April 2, 2012, from ProQuest database.Strong, G. E. (2007). Challenges Facing California’s Academic Libraries. Retrieved March 29, 2012, from, M., & Ohler, L. A. (2011). Retaining academic librarians: by chance or by design?. Library Management, 32(3), 191-208. Retrieved March 20, 2012, from Emerald database.Thomas, V. K., Satpathi, C., & Satpathi, J.N. (2010). Emerging challenges in academic librarianship and role of library associations in professional updating .Library management, 31(8/9), 594-609. Retrieved March 20, 2012, from Emerald database.Yaacob, R. A., Jamaluddin, A., & Jusoff, K. (2010). Knowledge management and challenging roles of academic librarians. Management Science and Engineering, 4(4), 14-23. Retrieved March 30, 2012, from Academic Search Complete.Website:Webopedia April 15, 012. Elsevier LibraryConnect Seminar@LAU April 17, 2012 34 ©Houeida Kammourié-Charara