Is librarianship a teaching profession or can a librarian be called a teacher? The profession of a librarian is regarded with confusion among the masses, and largely met with disregard by the educated community of Bangladesh.
Many consider a bookstore to be a library and the seller a librarian. On the academic front, librarians are not valued because "librarianship" is seen as a clerical position, instead of a teaching one.
Library professionals are equally responsible for allowing such a notion of librarianship to fester. Their lack of motivation to learn, inability to uphold professionalism, unwillingness to adapt to a changing world of information are the setbacks lowering the standards for the library profession. Similarly, it is this poor attitude that is reducing the status of librarianship among academicians.
In Australian schools and colleges, a qualified librarian is termed a "Teacher Librarian" who engages himself/ herself in curriculum knowledge and pedagogy in combination with library and information management skills. The roles of the librarian-teachers are to support and implement the vision of their academic communities through suggesting and building effective library and information services and programs that extensively contribute to the growth and development of learning and teaching activities.
Mary K Bolin, a professor of University Libraries at the University of Nebraska, has researched the status of Librarians in US research universities where she revealed that 80% of librarians among the grant universities are considered "Faculty members" and like many other universities in the US, the University of Miami has a professorial rank for the university librarians.
Librarianship in India has been accoladed and recognised as one of the most prestigious jobs and unlike Bangladesh, it is considered a teaching profession in almost every educational institution. Librarians are the teachers of different subjects like Theory of Knowledge, Linguistics, Indian Studies, and the like in India.
In addition, the librarian is a teacher who works with Principals and senior teachers in a school or college to ensure information literacy, formulate curriculum planning, and raise awareness among the teaching staff regarding the needs of the students.
Like any other country in Europe, librarianship is treated as a prestigious and lucrative job everywhere in the UK. In almost all educational institutions, librarians are there to provide learning and cultural experiences through teaching, group discussion, formal and informal lectures on information literacy, and research-oriented topics for the students and other faculty members concerning pedagogical knowledge.
In Canada, academic librarians enjoy the status of academicians as teaching and research are the core functionalities of most Canadian academic libraries. Librarians are expected to collaborate with faculty in research, promoting scholarship, and striving relentlessly to enhance the student experience regarding curriculum and information literacy skills.
In academic libraries, librarians are intensely involved in accomplishing the mission of higher education, exchanging information among the academicians, offering remote access to library services for the user community, and handling interlibrary lending procedures to invigorate the roles of the libraries as a major hub for teaching and learning.
The inception of library culture in Bangladesh started in 1850 during the British Colonial era with the establishment of four public libraries. Local landlords and influential educated communities used to patronise these libraries to stir up literacy campaigns among the common masses.
Though academic libraries in Bangladesh - including libraries of universities, schools, and colleges were set up more than a hundred years ago to expand teaching and learning initiatives - the growth and development of librarianship is still below the satisfactory level compared to other developed and developing nations.
The culture of "teaching library" and "librarian teacher", developed in the 1960s in Europe and later on in Asia. However, the roles and responsibilities are murky at best when considering the context in Bangladesh.
The librarians that are engaged in schools, colleges, and universities are more or less unaware and in many cases totally in the dark about their roles as "teachers". However, after many hurdles and struggles, school and college librarians got their "teaching status" back on March 28, 2021, following the creation of the librarian post under the National Education Policy 2010.
The fight for gaining the status of an academician at the university level, along with affiliated government colleges under the National University, is still a relevant and crucial issue for the Bangladeshi library professionals.
Librarians engaged in the university libraries play dominant roles in involving students in critical thinking, problem-solving, information seeking, and lifelong learning. Unlike schools and colleges, university library management and curriculum activities face numerous challenges, including installing teaching and research initiatives to keep pace with the demand of the 21st century.
Technological implications and the diversified nature of knowledge dissemination put the teaching profession in a constant state of evolution, that revolves around the growth and development of civilisation. This is a challenging and daunting issue that requires relentless effort and devotion. Librarians have to usher in a new era in the realm of knowledge along with the revolutionary changes in information and technology to take part in teaching and learning programs at the university levels.
Aktarul Islam is a writer, researcher and poet
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.