Pak-LIS News
May-Jul 2002, Vol. 2, No.5-7




The Paradigm Shift in Librarianship: Food for Thought

Professional News

Ch. Muhammad Ramzan, Chief Librarian LUMS, Gets Ph.D. in Library and Information Science
Dr. Ghuniul Akram Sabzwari Backs to the Pavilion
Father and Son attend the ALA Conference at Atlanta, USA
Digital Libraries: Trends and Needs in Pakistan
Dr. Naseem Fatima is appointed as member Research Proposal Evaluation Committee, University of Karachi
New Chief Librarian, Balochistan University
Lecture on Use of Computers in Libraries
KOHAT: Historical Building Converted into Library

Personal Announcements




Guest Editorial

Paradigm Shift in Librarianship: Food for Thought

Dr. Ch. Muhammad Ramzan, Chief Librarian, Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), Lahore

One of the many challenges in libraries today is to preserve their traditional strengths while integrating technology. Libraries in contemporary society are being changed by the manner in which digital technology organizes knowledge in the information age. Knowledge is being generated, collected, stored and organized in digital formats. Many internal and external factors are forcing a paradigm shift from organizing books to digitally managing knowledge as we enter the twenty-first century. The expansion of information management technologies has allowed a growing number of professional library duties to be performed by computer literate paraprofessional. Similarly, the enhanced use of computers and digital information has created a volume of available information and computer literate users that could no longer be handled by the predominant roles of the book paradigm regime.

According to Thomas Kuhn (1962), "a paradigm is a set of assumptions about the nature of things that underlie the questions we ask and the kind of answers we arrive at. As a result the learning of which prepares one for membership in a particular community committed to the same rules and standards of practice shift occurs." These most basic assumptions are undergoing sudden and often painful revisions within librarianship as a definable profession. A paradigm shift can only occur when the relevant community assents to change values of an accepted paradigm.

A book paradigm is defined as an archetype that identifies knowledge as existing in a physical object of the printed text in a book format, which can be catalogued, and its access controlled by the librarian, as it occupies a particular space in the library model. This book paradigm has a long history. Firstly, writing allowed us to communicate across both, time and space. Secondly, postal service enabled communication across the globe. Thirdly, books allowed us to access information when and where we needed it. Fourthly, the printing press dramatically reduced the price of bulk communication and made possible wider circulation of knowledge through cheap newspapers, pamphlets and poster than the handwritten books. Finally, libraries being the sole repositories of books allowed us to pass knowledge from one generation to the next. This formed the basis of modern civilization, more and more of what we knew of our heritage and ancestors came form the books they wrote, instead of just the words they spoke or sang.

With increase in the books and other printed materials, noted librarians, and library associations devised rules to manage the large collections. During the 1950s, libraries used handwritten or typed catalogue cards filed under strict filing rules. By the 1960s, cataloguing became automated due to the development of computers and the machine-readable format (MARC). Then the British and American Library Associations wrote a set of rules for organizing human ideas and knowledge called Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR) These rules include a format to control and standardize where the information used to catalogue a printed resource is located. For example, the main entry always comes from the data on the title page of printed sources. Similarly, the use of indentions were to distinguish title entry, statement of responsibility, and other bibliographic information. These standards were important to control the large printed collections.

In the 70s communication networks allowed printed resources to become available online in a digital format. By the mid of 1980 a transformation of the information landscape that can be called revolutionary, came with the progressive use of the telegraph, telephone, radio and TV. In 1985, the optical disc came in as a storage and distribution media. Satellite TV was another upheaval in communications technology that enabled global dissemination of knowledge. Finally, the Internet arrived providing excellent storage, and retrieval. It features the advantage of electronic distribution, and combines text, audio, and video far better than any of them. By turning each PC into a printing press, Internet has triggered an explosion in the amount of content available to users. This historical transformation in the medium of knowledge storage, organization, dissemination, and retrieval has drastically changed the role of libraries and librarians. Besides these changes, librarians have maintained a close association with the book rather than the world of scholarship and knowledge. For example, the word library means house of books, and the title librarian is an extension of the concept related with that house of books. This close identification with the library building is demonstrated when librarians refer to their profession by the title of the institutions in which they work.

The recent increase in digitization of information has been the greatest catalyst for change in the profession from book paradigm to the digital information paradigm, first with the advent of computers, then in the form of compact disc, and now with the software development present in the World Wide Web. Because of these developments, the ideology of the profession has come under tremendous pressure. A digital information paradigm holds that digital information does not exist in one tangible place and cannot be owned or controlled like a book. It lacks all the physical attributes of a book. Digital information is text and interactive software. It includes the audio and video technology presently used on the Internet. Librarians' attitudes and their technological adaptation behaviors are two crucial factors influencing a major paradigm shift in the profession. This shift is occurring from a standard built around the book to one built around digital information. Fundamental principles governing librarians today are reconfigured by this current shift from the book paradigm to the digital information paradigm. This paradigm shift is not just a matter of new forms of information design taking over the existing structure of organized knowledge, but the entire intellectual and institutional structure being redesigned.

The portrait of the librarian in early days, now acts as an obstacle to developing a new role within the new technological world of librarianship. The emerging outlines of a new paradigm are difficult to perceive, as the tools that developed the old patterns may obscure the new ones.

Barker (1994) has pointed out three phases in library paradigm evolution. In phase one, problems are solved fairly slowly, because patrons are reluctant to learn about the new unfamiliar paradigm. This requires a move in the role of the librarian from gatekeeper of knowledge to collaborator or instructor of the knowledge users. In the second phase, things happen rapidly, the paradigm becomes familiar and seems to work smoothly; nobody will consider using anything else. Library tools are changed and patrons learn to use the tools required by new digital paradigm. In the third phase, the curve of change flattens, the paradigm capacity for problem solving becomes saturated, and the beliefs and conceptions of librarians are changed. The communication between librarians and their patrons revolve primarily around changes in disseminating information. New problems unsolvable by the paradigm, appear and accumulate, and the conditions for another paradigm are formed.

As these tools change, information dissemination began to change depending on whether that information is retrieved from a book or a computer. The current situation demands a level of integrated access to knowledge and material that goes beyond the traditional materials of library research in either print or electronic formats. In this the librarians professional grounding in content expertise will remain important, but in a new way. There is and will be a growing need for professionals who can sift and sort through information, not only to locate specific pieces of information, but to put those pieces into context and to weigh and compare different items, identifying, authenticating and validating them. The ability to provide context adds value to both content and access, and can be provided only through consideration and understanding of both elements. As a result, the knowledge that a librarian can bring to bear to solve a problem can often go well beyond the traditional materials of library research in either print of digital formats.

Now the question arises whether we are changing ourselves to cope with the emerging paradigm challenges or waiting to become misfits? Are all the stakeholders in library profession (the librarians, library associations, library schools, and the Government and consumers of information and knowledge) aware of the new protocols and standard being enforced through the market place?[Contents]

Professional News

Ch. Ramzan, Chief Librarian LUMS, Gets PhD in Library and Information Science


Ramzan, Muhammad (April 2002) Utilization Levels and Librarians' Attitudes Toward Information Technology (IT) Application in Academic and Research Libraries in Pakistan. PhD. St. George University International (SGUI). Director Dissertation: Dr. Irfan Amir


This study investigated head librarians' attitudes toward information technology, its availability, degree of changes, and utilization levels in academic and research libraries in Pakistan. It also examined the relationships between librarians' attitudes and libraries' characteristics, and between librarians' attitudes and demographic and other variables through a set of hypotheses and research questions. Further, it reviewed and synthesized relevant literature on the extent of information technology and librarians' attitudes. A total of 244 head librarians working in academic and research libraries in Pakistan were surveyed by questionnaires distributed through mail or administered personally and through professional colleagues. A number of non-parametric (mainly Chi-square) and parametric (mainly Correlation, ANOVA, and Factor Analysis) statistical techniques were used to test the hypotheses and research questions.


The findings showed a significantly positive relationship between librarians' IT attitudes and levels of IT utilization. The analysis supported the hypotheses that the more positive the librarians' attitudes toward information technology, the more IT was used. The positive relationship between IT attitudes and IT utilization was further supported by a significantly positive relationship between IT attitudes and IT usage; between IT attitudes and IT-based materials; and between IT attitudes and degree of IT changes during the last 3-5 years. A significant positive relationship was found between librarians' attitudes toward information technology and their level of knowledge of information technology.


No significant relationships were found between librarians' IT attitudes and amount of IT available in libraries; amount of budget spent on IT; and size of libraries (in terms of collections, library members, and staff). A possible explanation for lack of any significant relationship between these variables is that librarians, even in small libraries can have high positive attitudes toward information technology, and vice versa. Similarly, no significant relationship was found between librarians' attitudes and type of libraries' parent organizations (government, semi-government, and private), libraries location (city, rural area), and gender of the librarians.


The eight variables that have significant relationship with librarians' attitudes are age, working experience, experience in computer use, frequency of IT use, computer use at home, duration of IT training, and awareness about potential of IT. The most significant relationship was found between librarians' attitudes and recency in IT training.


The study revealed that 23% of the respondents did not have any computers at their workplace, 44% did not have email facility, and 47% did not have Internet access, while 30% of the respondents did not have any library software. This reflects the rather discouraging position with regard to the availability and usage of even the most common IT tools. The position with relatively more sophisticated IT applications was even more discouraging as 68% of the respondents did not have a network server, 81 % did not have CD-Writers, 88% did not have barcode readers, and 75% had no online or web application. Seventy-four percent did not have microfilm readers, 72 % did not have fax, and 37% were without a photocopying facility.


The head librarians showed overall positive attitudes toward information technology. The findings with regard to overall positive attitudes were further supported by the fact that librarians showed a low level of agreement with negative statements.


The Factor Analysis indicated that IT expenditure, IT training, IT service levels and resource utilization, IT for survival of libraries, fear of IT, IT specialism (separate from librarianship), and IT rules and regulations are the key determinants of librarians' attitudes. These factors need to be considered to make the librarians' attitudes more positive toward information technology application in libraries in Pakistan.


While the application of information technology was low in the libraries, the study found that the librarians' positive attitudes could be leveraged to increase the libraries' potential to acquire and use new technologies, given the adequate training, financial resources, effective role in decision-making, and support from computer and other departments. [Contents]


Dr. Ghuniul Akram Sabzwari Backs to the Pavilion