Attitudes towards the Internet: a survey of LIS professionals in Pakistan.

Author:Mahmood, Khalid


The development of the Internet during the past four decades has had a profound impact on society in general, and on the field of library and information science in particular. This technology has involved processes, functions, services, media and information resources: the library as a whole (Melchionda, 2007). Its use has changed the fundamental roles, paradigms, and organizational culture of libraries and librarians. Today, they are using it to provide library and information services to library clients. It is being used to provide access to electronic library collections, electronic reference services, electronic document delivery, and communicate with library users. Hundreds of discussion groups on various topics related to library and information work, electronic journals, and Web sites are also available on the Internet. Therefore, library professionals also have an opportunity to use the Internet for professional development and upgrading their skills.

Pakistan was connected to the Internet in 1993. According to World Internet Statistics, there were 18.5 millions Internet users in Pakistan in June 2009 with 10.6 percent penetration rate in the population. This technology has been spreading tremendously during recent years as the penetration rate was only 0.1 percent in the year 2000 and 7.2 percent in 2006 (Internet World Stats, 2009). As in other public and private organizations the Internet is common in libraries. The government has provided Internet connectivity to the libraries of all universities and other institutions of higher learning. Large public and special libraries have also been provided with this facility. For many years, library schools in the country have been training their students in using the Internet services like World Wide Web, email, chatting, etc. Some library associations have also organized Internet training sessions for practicing librarians. There are a number of email discussion groups maintained by LIS professionals (the largest one, Yahoo based 'plagpk,' established in 2000, has 2550+ members). The Internet technology is used by a number of LIS professionals in Pakistan but no study has been conducted to assess their response to this facility. This study is an attempt to fill the gap in literature.

Literature Review

Librarians were among the early users of the Internet. Libraries began automating and networking their catalogs in late 1960s. Later the Internet was found helpful in other library functions and services. It became more popular in libraries in the early 1990s when the World Wide Web was made available. A brief review of the literature related to the use and attitude of library and information professionals towards the Internet in various parts of the globe is presented here.

In 1992, Ladner surveyed 54 special librarians in various countries and found that 93 percent of them used the Internet for electronic mail. They found this technology useful because "it provides a convenient, timely, non-disruptive, and inexpensive mechanism for communication with their colleagues throughout the world." In the same year, Olson's survey of 130 university reference librarians in Australia revealed that 23% were of the view that the Internet had no value at all in helping them complete their daily reference tasks, while another 61% said that the Internet was only of moderate value in aiding them with their daily reference duties. Only 16% described it as 'very useful' (Olson, 1995). Schilling and Wessel (1995) surveyed reference librarians working in 103 academic health sciences libraries in the United States and Canada. Of all participating libraries 102 had staff access to the Internet but all reference librarians were not daily users of it. Commonly cited resources and activities which were most useful in daily reference routines included telnet (87%). Most were of the view that the Internet was useful in reference department daily routines (75%). In a study of 23 American catalogers, conducted by Long (1997), it was found that there were four broad areas in which catalogers used the Internet, (a) searching the OPACs of other libraries for bibliographic/ authority/ holdings information, (b) communicating with colleagues and experts in other fields, (c) access to a variety of cataloging documentation and publications, and (d) performing authority work.

Hollis (1998) interviewed six academic librarians in England to discover how much use was being made of the Internet for acquisitions work. The librarians did recognize the importance of the Internet and realized that there were benefits in using it to aid their daily work. Singh (1998) reported the findings of a survey of 83 Malaysian librarians. Ninety percent of them were using Internet for work-related purposes. All used the WWW, with the majority using it at least once a day, while 97% used e-mail, 62% used Telnet, 32% used FTP and 28% used newsgroups. A vast majority regarded the Internet as essential tool for librarians and felt that it had contributed to increased efficiency in their workplace. In a survey of 156 authors of eight electronic and print LIS journals, Zhang (1999) found that e-mail was the most used tool, while Web browsers were the second most used Internet tool. Next to these tools were mailing lists, Internet search engines, Telnet, online databases and newsgroups. FTP and Gopher were the least used tools reported. In a survey of 47 library professionals of 11 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Chisenga (1999) found that 72% had Internet access while 28% had access to only email facility. Eighty-one percent were participating...

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