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Title: Educating the academic librarian as a blended professional : a review and case study
Authors: Corrall, S
Issue Date: Mar-2010
Source: Academic Librarian 2 : Singing in the Rain, ALSR 2010, Conference towards Future Possibilities, Hong Kong, 11-12 March 2010, conference proceedings, session 1A, p. [1-24]
Abstract: The challenges and opportunities facing academic librarians are continually changing as changes occur in the operating environment at both global and institutional levels. Key trends affecting their roles and skills include convergence of academic services, combining libraries with IT and/or other learning support services; awareness of information literacy and recognition of the teaching role of librarians; and a maturing role in institutional repository management and its suggested extension to research data management. The increasingly specialised nature of their work is reflected in the use of terms such as ‘para-academic’, hybrid librarian’ and ‘blended professional’ to highlight their boundary-spanning activities and identities.
The challenges and opportunities facing professional educators are similarly fluid. Professional education for librarians has to anticipate changes and developments in professional tasks, roles and expectations, both at the macro level of the profession as a whole and the micro level of different library specialties. Education programmes must take account of standards set by national and international professional bodies, in addition to reflecting the realities of professional work in the sector. Programme content should also be informed by research in the discipline, enabling the academy to influence professional thinking and practice, contributing to the development and positioning of the profession. The challenges facing educators are significant, with some employers and graduates questioning the value of academic preparation for professional practice, while others see both initial and continuing education as a worthwhile investment, but want flexible tailored provision, not just a standard offer. Educators are also struggling with their own disciplinary identities and relationships.
The Sheffield Information School has been providing education for librarianship since 1963, with a strong record in preparing graduates for academic libraries. The curriculum has developed in tandem with environmental changes, research discoveries, teaching innovations and practitioner feedback. New topics and electives have been added, new qualifications have been introduced at different levels and new programmes have been created for experienced practitioners wanting to enhance their skills and careers. New methods of teaching and assessment have been implemented, moving activities in the classroom or laboratory and assignments for individuals and groups closer to the real-world tasks undertaken in the workplace. In 2009 Sheffield initiated a fundamental review of its generalist and specialised library and information programmes, in an effort to simplify provision, improve access for part-time students and meet the needs of professionals interested in emergent specialist roles. The review has raised questions about the nature of our discipline and profession, including issues around core competence, professional identity, service contexts and career paths that are relevant to all librarians.
This paper uses the concept of the blended professional to focus a review of the evolving roles of academic librarians and discussion of their professional education. It reviews the evolution, identification and differentiation of hybrid specialist roles in academic libraries through the literature and then reviews the evolution and differentiation of professional education during the hybrid library era. The review of the literature suggests the need for an interactive planning model to support the strategic development of professional curricula in dynamic environments, enabling continual adjustment of module and programme content and delivery to meet changing needs and demands, but also encouraging periodic review of the total portfolio to identify potential overlaps and synergies. The paper concludes with a case study of the Sheffield iSchool, showing how a combination of continuous and holistic planning have supported the development of specialist modules, programmes and pathways that together offer a range of initial and continuing education options for academic librarians interested in developing careers as digital library managers or information literacy educators.
Publisher: Pao Yue-kong Library, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Rights: Reproduced with permission of the author.
Appears in Collections:Conference Paper

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