Evaluation of medical librarians' level of information and communication technology skills based on MLA statements: a study in Iran.

Author:Farahi, Mina Tavassoli
Position:Clinical report


Over the past decade, information and communication technologies have revolutionized human society. Social institutions such as libraries and carriers such as librarianship as a service-oriented profession have been influenced by the rapid social, cultural and technological changes. Today, the library environment and its services are entirely different from a century ago (Burke, 2002). The digital revolution has affected digital libraries and electronic materials. When the Internet was introduced, and along with development in the World Wide Web, library services and librarians' roles were fast transformed. Information and communication technology (ICT) was entered into academic and non-academic libraries, during the 1960s. Libraries, at the beginning, employed information technologies to accelerate their daily services, reduce their operation costs, eliminate uninteresting and repetitive work, avoid duplications of effort, increase the range of services, and facilitate cooperation and the formulation of networks and resource sharing (Mohsenzadeh and Isfandyari-Moghaddam, 2009; Ramzan and Singh, 2010). Information and communication technology has alerted libraries in terms of services and resources. These changes include the prevalence of electronic media, accessing information instead of ownership of documents and intermediary services rather than end-user services. These have changed library users' expectations and hence developed dramatic changes in librarian's roles. Dastgerdi (2009) contends that librarianship has been affected by developing IT and needs new skills to be utilized in the knowledge-based environment. A survey on academic medical librarians in Malaysia by Shafique (2007) reported that the electronic environment at the 21st century will demand a range of skills from librarians. To meet the current requirements, library professionals must be able to perform various tasks coupled with the changes in technological environment. These technologies enable users to have on-line remote access to library collection twenty-four hours, and several users can reach the same electronic resources simultaneously within or outside physical library, which is easy and time saving.

In order to meet the increasing and changing needs and requirements of the users more effectively and efficiently in the new information technology-driven environment and to keep pace with the ever-increasing technological changes, the Library and Information Science (LIS) professionals including medical librarians should acquire knowledge and skills in information and communication technology (Safahieh and Asemi, 2010).

Iran as a developing country has employed computerized library systems and services in the late 1970s. However, this was renovated after a long time in 1980s (Farajpahlou, 2002; Safahieh and Asemi, 2010). Eliciting Iranian medical librarians' level of skills in different areas of information and communication technology is highly required to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of their skills in this area. Medical Library Association (MLA) is the only leading medical association that has released statements on ICT skills needed for medical librarians. Hence, in this study MLA's statements on ICT skills were used as a basis for evaluating the level of ICT skills of medical librarians in Iran.

Literature review

The advent of the internet and the World Wide Web has brought a new information and social environment dramatically different from the traditional library. This has resulted in a considerable research regarding many aspects and problems of the information technology in the new environment including the types, the education needed, the skills and qualifications required, and the degree to which the profession should change. A brief overview of the related literature follows so that the findings of our research are considered in a suitable context.

Some studies have focused on the level of librarians' ICT skills. For example, Babu, Vinayagamoorthy and Gopalakrishnan (2007) examined the ICT skills among librarians in engineering educational institutions in Tamil Nadu. They indicated that participants have acquired considerable basic skills in ICT, but they needed to concentrate more on network-based services and digital library. A study by Safahieh and Asemi (2010) investigated the computer literacy skills of librarians in Isfahan University in Iran. The findings showed that though most librarians had long experience of computer use, the majority of them did not have a good level of computer skills. They suggested that to cope with the computerized libraries, librarians should be equipped with the computer skills. Tavassoli Farahi and Gandhi (2011) compared Iranian and Indian medical librarians' competencies on IT basics including email; Internet; presentation and publishing; databases; system analysis and programming. They found that all the skills listed under IT basics were considered important by medical librarians in both countries. Kattimani and Naik (2013) in their study found that librarians had more skills on web design than operation of computers, creation of files and folders, radio frequency identification, library automation software modules, various operating systems, internet-related skills and search engines. Results indicated that financial restrictions, excessive load of work and negative attitude of the managers were major constraints on acquiring ICT skills.

Some studies have also confirmed the necessity of ICT skills for librarians. For instance, Gerolimos and Konsta (2008) investigated the qualifications and the skills of the librarian's profession through 200 job advertisements in the UK, Canada, Australia and the USA in 2006 and 2007. They identified 38 skills and qualifications through the job ads. The findings showed that degree in LIS and working experience skills were expected to be the ones with the highest percentage, followed by communication skill. According to Thomas et al. (2010), the modern academic librarians, besides the common and traditional attributes, should have the knowledge of technology and eager to learn and adopt new information technologies for the benefit of library users. Ameen (2011) investigated challenges and opportunities that librarianship has encountered in the twenty-first century due to the growing use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in Pakistan. The study suggested that libraries in developing countries were being meaningfully affected by the existing and future ICT developments in different areas. Huvila et al (2013) used the notions of Library 2.0 and Librarian 2.0 among library professionals in Finland as a...

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