Research Note

Islamic collections management: Training needs of Malaysian academic librarians

Aliyu Olugbenga Yusuf* and Basri Hassan**

Abstract: This study examines the training needs of librarians handling Islamic collections in Malaysian academic libraries. This is done through the distribution of a questionnaire and unstructured interviews with librarians working in the universities in Malaysia. Responses were gathered from librarians to understand their experiences, problems faced and factors that influenced their training needs. This study also presents and describes the varying and continuous changing skills, knowledge and abilities (SKAs) required of librarians handling Islamic collections. Furthermore, the study determines the existing gaps in skills, knowledge and abilities among the librarians. The study found that the factors that determine training needs of the librarians include library goals and objectives, individual job characteristics, library management supports and quality of services rendered by the libraries.

Keywords: Training needs, Islamic collections, academic libraries, abilities, competences, skills.

Introductıon

Islamic collections are unique and require special skills and knowledge to be effectively and efficiently managed. These skills and knowledge can be acquired usually through training, education, mentoring, teaching and so on. Training and development of workforce has attracted attention from researchers in various fields. Organisations and institutions invest continually for employees’ development in order to retain the best talent among them (Hjalager, 2000). Likewise, people working in libraries undergo training and development process. It is very important for librarians to acquire skills, knowledge and ability in order to enhance library goals and also remain viable.

Competence is the minimum level of performance expected of employees to carry out their designated task or roles (Chavan, 2012). Competence is the situation whereby an individual or group of individuals function effectively in the tasks considered vital within a given profession. Training is of great importance because of evolution in task and job descriptions and technological advancement as well as the change in human resource demand. Inadequate training may ultimately lead to incompetence. To enhance long-term competitiveness, organisations need to enhance human resource development to improve competence, performance and service quality employing training and development strategies (Hicks & Graber, 2010)

Librarianship as a profession has been undergoing speedy technological changes with continuous advancement in information technologies, particularly the Internet. In the past, the major concern was the “de-skilling” effect of information technologies; the concern now is the constant “re-skilling” that is required because of the rapid changes. This is despite the fact that, according to Ross and Nilsen (2000), there is an indication however, that traditional print resources still form the main source by which most libraries answer patrons’ reference questions.

Librarians’ skills and expertise make them uniquely suited to provide a wide range of support and assistance, from idea (conception) to the research question to archiving of collected data at the finalisation of the project, to researchers across the entire research process (Chavan, 2012). Corcoran & McGuinness (2014) states that library and Information Profession is recently experiencing changes as academic librarians’ roles and relevance are being questioned in this era where information seeking is fast moving, self-mediated and virtually online.

The advancement in ICT has also transformed the information seeking behaviour of library users and they demand and expect the services and programmes accordingly. Moreover, the changes in the industries along with social and economic developments have placed greater pressure on librarians, especially Islamic librarians, to redefine their roles, skills and capabilities through training and development. Islamic collections require librarians in charge to have special skills and knowledge to effectively and efficiently manage these collections. This is to overcome the problem of deficiencies in Islamic collection management (Wan Mamat, 2013).

Training

Training is very critical for organisational growth and development. Alipour & Salehi (2009) postulate that training is essential for the improvement, progress and well-being of any organisation. The need for this training encompasses all levels of organisations, from the national view where a country’s well-being is enhanced by training, to organisations where productivity, efficiency and proficiency is improved, down to the individual (work force/staff) whose skills are enhanced and as a result improve their position in the workplace.

Training refers to learning proficiencies intended to improve the short-term and/or long-term job performance of individual employees. In this respect, training is viewed as an on-going developmental process. Training needs to be linked with the organizational mission (Brinkerhoff, 1989). It is vital that when individual organisation plans their training activities, they provide the link with the organizational mission. Some authors also suggest that training should be considerd as investment decisions (Eurich, 1985), and they should be made after careful and thoughtful considerations.

Training is one of the most pervasive methods for enhancing individual productivity and improving job performance in the work environment (Alipour & Salehi 2009). Training will assist employees to successively learn and enhance new individual knowledge, acquire new skills, and continuously accept training to maintain the maximum work performance. Maintaining high level of competency is highly important for academic librarians, hence, competence is the ability to function effectively in the tasks considered essential within a given profession. This is as a result of numerous changes going on in the workplaces due to one reason or the other. These changes is actually affecting the degree of professional competence needed for successful performance of the job (Chan & Auster, 2003).

Training may be observed as remedy or means of rectifying flaws observed in staff performance, skills and competencies but, more importantly, it is also a tool that support and assist work force to keep abreast required skills, knowledge and abilities (SKAs) essential in an environment of constant changes. Librarians are sometimes not prepared with the required skills, knowledge and abilities by the education acquired in library schools. Thus, continuing training and practice is desirable for academic librarians to improve their required SKAs (Hook et al. 2003). Hence, provision of qualified and competent trainers is also stressed. This is requiring aid of proficient, trained, skilled, competent personnel in order to address current shortages in SKAs (Shepherd, 2010a).

Methods of training

Training of academic librarians is an essential and a continuing professional development process, which requires the commitments of both the management of the libraries and the staff. Training of academic librarians can be categorized as:

  1. On-the-job training. It remains imperative for academic libraries to develop the SKAs of its work force. It is not always easy to ensure that library employees have the appropriate training to enable them effectively and efficiently manage the required collections (Hook & Stowell Bracke 2003).

  2. In-house training. This is the program that provides developmental instructions to staff of libraries that would demonstrate how to work successfully with faculty and usually integrate information literacy into course schedules. To develop course-integrated instruction would require librarians to work closely with faculty, but also to have a deep understanding of the Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education.

  3. Workshop is also a means of training to develop and create an operational understanding of information literacy, SKAs required for academic librarians. The workforces develop common skills, knowledge and abilities with appropriate languages for information literacy (Shepherd, 2010b).

  4. Practical experiences are also seen as another means of training individual librarians. Although the method of evaluation of this method of training is through personal encounters, communication with clients, designing efforts within resource. Librarians achieved a lot of varied SKA through practical experience (Hung et al., 2012).

Training needs analysis

Training needs analysis (TNA) may perhaps be the first phase in the training strategy of an organisation including the academic libraries. It is very crucial to enhance professional advancement and needs of librarians. It is also very important that TNA be carefully and strategically planned, steered and have clear outcomes to ensure that training interventions are implemented effectively and that they lead to meaningful changes in service delivery (Chan & Auster, 2003).

TNA is an important stage in any project as in training. TNA usually takes place before the training activities commence. In any case, TNA continues even during the implementation of training because there may be a need to change some aspects and to revise plans. It may sometimes be difficult to understand how planning relates to actions, and how to keep both activities running alongside each other in a process that is working positively towards achieving the job goals (Vivien Martin, 2006).

The process of conducting need assessment is fundamental to the success of training programmes. Organisations that proceed to develop and implement training without initially conducting TNA are running the risk of either overdoing the training, doing insufficient training or even missing out the point completely (Kathman & Kathman, 2002; Gurtner et al., 2014). Regardless of acknowledgement of the significance of detailed and systematic TNA, major training programmes may be based on personal wants rather than identified needs. When this is happened, needs analysis is thereby based on trial and error or conducted in a fairly ad hoc manner (Anderson, 2006).

Though, librarianship processes have been influenced by the western approach, the introduction of library management is very subjective to western orientation (Wan Mamat, 2013). The classification systems adopted by libraries are the product of western division of knowledge. Thereby making subject on religion more focused on Christianity. The focus on other religions, including Islam, is shallow in terms of subject division.

Islamic librarianship is gaining popularity in the Muslim world and there is need for training and assessment to assist and enhance Islamic librarians’ performance and competence in handling Islamic collections in various libraries. Need assessment is a general term for a three-phase process to collect information, analyse it, and create a training plan for Islamic collection managers (Wan Mamat, 2013). There are increasing numbers of libraries handling Islamic collections in Malaysian universities, colleges, institutes, mosques etc. However, this study will deal with academic libraries handling Islamic collections in the universities.

Training of academic librarians/Islamic librarians

It is important to note that training in academic libraries should be a deliberate organizational strategy and not just a reaction to a problematic situation or action or a political decision based on managerial urge (Geoff Anderson, 2006). Training of librarians must also be seen to contribute directly and unambiguously to the academic librarians’ (SKAs). It must be perceived as a proactive process which anticipates trends and future changes and which prepares employees to meet them. That is to say that training effectiveness must cause behavioural change and SKAs improvements.

While training continues to impact librarians with required SKAs, training must also be about building on what is already known by the academic librarians. A proactive approach to training will actively seek out ways to help academic librarians further develop their existing strengths and encourage them to improve both the quality of their contribution to the libraries and their life at work. Such an approach about the nature of training needs analysis (Awale-ale, 2007).

Organizational training carried out recently is usually based on a traditional, mechanistic approach to adult learning which perhaps has its antecedents in the Industrial Revolution of over 200 years ago. This approach received a considerable boost from the vast industrial and military training needs thrown up by two world wars and from the introduction of mass production techniques into manufacturing industries (Geoff Anderson, 2006).

Othman et. al (2011) emphasises that for academic librarians to be successful and flourish in performing their job functions effectively, training is indispensable. Training is an essential tool for improving and refining the educational vitality of institutions through attention to the competencies needed by individual staff. Also, training should be seen as institutional policies required for promoting academic excellence.

According to McConnell (2008), changes in the library demands, requirements, job scopes and specifications may also create various forms of training needs. When organisation is robust with increased services, a high level of new employee training is required. On the other hand, when organisation economy decreases training generally decreases, but the training needs of existing employees often increase as employers attempt to reengineer work, transfer people, and meet performance goals with fewer resources.

Methods

This study adopted the survey method (questionnaire) of data collections from librarians handling Islamic collections in Malaysian academic libraries. Responses were gathered from librarians in five academic libraries: International Islamic university Malaysia (IIUM), University Malaya (UM), Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM), Universiti Kenbangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and Kolej Universiti Islam Selangor (KUIS). These libraries were purposively selected because, among all libraries in the country, they have high number of Islamic collections. The data gathered from respondents include their demographics which include: gender, age, level of education and field of study.

Also, the questionnaire requested information on the librarians’ competencies including the librarian’s proficiency in Arabic language (both spoken and written). In addition, librarian’s training requirements was also queried to investigate the factors that determine the training needs of librarians handling Islamic collection and finally the problems encountered by librarians handling Islamic collections. The questionnaire adopted the Likert scale to measure the competencies, training needs and the factors that determine the training needs of librarian’s handling Islamic collections.

The responses from the survey was later analysed using Statistical Packages for Social Sciences (SPSS) for both descriptive and inferential statistics. Descriptive statistics was used to show the percentage and frequency counts of the relevant information especially in the demographic section of the questionnaire. Correlation was also used to test relationships that exist between demographic information and some test of construct or competencies among the respondents.

Results

The analysis of librarian’s responses on gender distribution found that 27% of the total respondents were male, while 72% were female. Thus, there are more females among the librarians managing Islamic collections in Malaysian academic libraries. In terms of age distribution (see Table 1.1), the study found that most librarians handling Islamic collections are within the age range of 31-35 years. There were only 4 librarians within the age range of 41-50 years accounting for only 10.8 per cent of the total.

Table 1.1: Age distribution of sampled respondents

Age Range

Frequency

Per cent

20-25

26-30

31-35

36-40

41-45

46-50

4

7

12

9

3

1

11.1

19.4

33.3

25.0

8.3

2.8

Total

36

99.9

As earlier pointed out, our sampled respondents came from five major universities in Malaysia. As shown in Table 1.2, majority of our respondents came from Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM) followed by KUIS and IIUM. We could manage to get only two respondents each from UKM and UM. This is due to our inability to reach the respondents. A majority of these librarians are formally trained. Others are waiting for their turn to be called for on-the-job training. This is contrary to the study of Womack (2008: 217), according to whom, “studies of the educational background of academic business librarians have consistently shown that only a minority in the field have formal training in business or related disciplines at either the undergraduate or graduate level.

Table 1.2: Respondents by the university

University Library*

Frequency

Per cent

USIM

KUIS

IIUM

UKM

UM

12

11

9

2

2

33.3

30.6

25.0

5.6

5.6

Total

36

100.01

Note: *USIM= Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia; KUIS =Un Kolej Universiti Islam Selangor; IIUM=International Islamic university Malaysia; UKM= Universiti Kenbangsaan Malaysia UM=University Malaya.

Majority of librarians (41.7 per cent) in charge of Islamic collections are master degree holders. Very negligible number of the librarians holds a Ph.D. degree. In fact, we found only one respondent holding a Ph.D. (See Table 1.3). This concurs with the studies conducted by Fox (2007) which reveals that majority of the librarians in the studies are master degree holders. This study finds that librarians’ qualifications greatly affect their ability to handle Islamic collection. It was also gathered that the basic training required of librarians managing Islamic collections include: training in Arabic language writing and speaking, training on the knowledge of primary and secondary Islamic sources, and the knowledge of academic research, among others. Also, it is found that the librarian’s training needs are usually influenced by library goals and objectives, job characteristics, library management supports, quality of services rendered.

Table 1.3: Academic qualifications of the sampled respondents

Qualification

Frequency

Per cent

SPM

3

8.3

STPM/ Diploma

6

16.7

Bachelor

11

30.6

Master

15

41.7

Ph.D.

1

2.8

Total

36

100.01*

Note: Figures do not add to 100 because of rounding.

The respondents divisions and units vary form one university to the other. Taken as a whole, cataloguing division absorbed almost half of the total respondents 44.4 per cent followed by the Reference division with 28 per cent of the total respondents. Of the remaining respondents, 8.4 per cent work in the Acquisition unit and the same number works in the circulation units (See Table 1.4).

Table 1.4: Respondents’ divisions or units

Division/Unit

Frequency

Per cent

Cataloguing

Reference

Acquisition

Circulation

All Units

Information Retrieval

Knowledge Management

16

10

3

3

2

1

1

44.4

27.8

8.3

8.3

5.6

2.8

2.8

Total

36

100.0

One interesting finding is that 2 of the 36 respondents work in “all units,” meaning that they have no fixed unit to serve. They work in all the units/ divisions as required. This is due to the shortage of librarians in the Islamic collections in some universities. Most of the librarians handling Islamic collections are concentrated in the cataloguing division.

Table 1.5: Respondents work experience

Years of Experience

Frequency

Per cent

1-5

6-10

11-5

16-20

21-25

8

17

8

2

1

22.2

47.2

22.2

5.6

2.8

Total

36

100.0

The study found that the respondents vary greatly in terms of years they have been serving in the libraries of their choice. As shown in table 1.5, about 70 per cent of our respondents have been working for about 1 to 10 years. Indeed, those with a working experience of 6 to 10 years outnumber others. They account for about 47 per cent. There is paucity of librarians with good deal of experience, i.e. out of 36 respondents, only 3 librarians have the experience ranging from 16 to 25 years. No explanation is found for this finding.

Analysis

To analyse the competencies of librarians handling Islamic collections, respondents were asked about some of the variables that affect their job performance. They were given Likert scale questions on qualifications and other variables and their responses varied ranging from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.” Likert-type scales are useful for measuring latent constructs, i.e. unobservable individual characteristics such as attitudes, feelings, opinions, etc. The responses are analysed using simple statistics of the mean scores, percentages and standard deviation.

On the question of the effect of qualification on their job performance, the questionnaire asked the respondents to agree or disagree with the statement “My qualification have an influence on how I manage Islamic collections”. A majority (47.2 per cent) of respondents strongly agreed and another 27.8 per cent agreed that their qualification affect the management of Islamic collections. Only 8.4 per cent disagreed with this item. In other words, some 75 per cent of the total respondents agreed with the item.There is a very high level of agreement among librarians regarding the influence of qualification on the management of Islamic collections (M=4.111, SD= 1.06).

The questionnaire solicited answers to the training needs of librarians handling Islamic collections. First, the questionnaire queried about their proficiency in writing Arabic language and their proficiency in spoken Arabic. The responses are shown in Table 1.6. Only about 47 per cent of the respondents are proficient in writing Arabic language and another 33 per cent can speak but cannot write. The follow-up question asked the respondents if they felt the need for the libraries to provide training in Arabic language. Majority of the respondents, about 76 per cent, agreed that there is a need for such training. This will help the librarians perform such task as cataloguing of materials and also to assist the library patron’s projects. The remaining 14 per cent of the respondents disagreed with this item (M= 4.0).

Table 1.6: Arabic proficiency level of respondents

Competencies Level of Agreement (%) Mean SD

1 2 3 4 5

I am proficient in writing

Arabic language 8.3 16.7 27.8 44.4 2.8 3.167 1.028

I am proficient in

spoking Arabic 8.3 27.8 30.6 30.6 2.8 .917 1.025

Interestingly, about 60 per cent of the respondents denied that “they have attended a course on Islamic collection management”. Some pointed out that they have learnt by observing their elders doing the job or they were told by the knowledgeable librarians about how to do the job. Thus, an overwhelming majority of the respondent, about 88.9 per cent, felt strongly about the need for training on the knowledge of Islamic materials (M= 4.417). Though there were some disagreements to this item, none of the respondents “strongly disagreed” to this item. This knowledge will help the librarians to assist patrons on project and assignment and guide them on locating relevant materials. On the training needs on multimedia skills, 50 per cent of the respondents agreed that there is a need for such a training. Another 33.3 per cent agreed to the item. Overall, 83.3 per cent of the total respondents agreed that there is a need for training on multimedia skills (M= 4.027).

The study also examined the factors that determine the training needs of librarians handling Islamic collections. These factors include: Library goals and objectives, job characteristics, library management supports, quality of services rendered and library mission. The study also queried the respondents about the problems they encountered in handling Islamic collections in their respective libraries (see Table 1.7). They itemised the problems as follows: the management of Islamic monographs, serials, manuscripts, and multimedia. Also, cataloguing and classifications of Islamic monographs, serials, and multimedia pose problems. Likewise, most of the Islamic librarians faced problems in assisting the patron’s research (assignments, term papers, thesis etc.), which is due to Arabic incompetency.

Table 1.7: Problems faced by librarians in handling Islamic collections

Problem faced

%

t

df

Sig (0.05)

Management of Islamic Monographs

Yes

20

55.6

5.292

35

.000

No

16

44.4

Management of Islamic Serials

Yes

23

63.9

4.448

35

.3611

No

13

36.1

Management of Islamic Manuscripts

Yes

26

74.3

3.431

34

.002

No

9

25.7

Management of Islamic Multimedia

Yes

24

68.6

3.948

34

.000

No

11

31.4

Cataloguing and Classification of

Islamic Monograph

Yes

23

65.7

4.212

34

.000

No

12

34.3

Cataloging and Classification of

Islamic Serials

Yes

23

67.6

3.973

34

.000

No

11

32.4

Cataloguing and Classification of

Islamic Multimedia

Yes

26

74.3

3.431

34

.002

No

9

25.7

Supporting Patron Research using

Islamic Resources

Yes

21

61.8

4.520

33

.000

No

13

38.2

Using Tools

Yes

16

45.7

6.354

34

.000

No

19

54.3

With other Staff

Yes

15

44.1

6.465

33

.000

No

19

55.9

Support from Library Management

Yes

17

48.6

6.000

34

.000

No

18

51.4

Conducive Working Environment

Yes

15

42.9

6.733

34

.398

No

20

57.1

Cooperation from Colleagues

Yes

14

40

7.141

34

.000

No

21

60

Cooperation From Library Users

and Patrons

Yes

15

41.7

7.000

35

.000

No

21

58.3

Conclusion

From the findings, it is clear that libraries’ approach to “training” need to be improved upon in a systematic way especially as regards Islamic collections. It is clear that academic librarians have problems in cataloguing and classification of Islamic monographs, serials, manuscripts and others. These problems may be associated with the incomprehensiveness of Library of Congress classification (LCC) to represent the holistic view of the knowledge on Islam (BP).

Therefore, it is essential for librarians handling Islamic collections to improve on various skills on how to access, explore and use information in Arabic language. Such skills include computer skills, retrieval skills, information assessment and use competencies to assist them perform their job functions effectively. This is necessary due to the advancement that have taken place in the world of information.

It follows from our findings that library management should continue to deploy staff with Arabic and Islamic knowledge/ background to handle Islamic collections and encourage them to guide their subordinates adopting the mentor- mentee relationship/style. Also, the study suggests that the library educationist should include in the curriculum optional practical courses on Islamic and Arabic language proficiency, which will assist librarians intending to pursue career in Islamic collection management to effectively perform their job assigned.

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* Aliyu Olugbenga Yusuf is pursuing PhD at Universiti Malaya. E-mail: aliyu.olugbenga@live.iium.edu.my

** Dr. Basri Hassan is Assistant Professor, Department of Library and Information Science, Kulliyah of Information and Communication Technology, International Islamic University, Malaysia. He is also the Librarian of the IIUM Library. E-mail: basrihassan@iium.edu.my

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