A survey of senior secondary school libraries in Jammu and Kashmir, India.

Author:Ahmad, Sofi Zahoor


School libraries have always been an indispensable adjunct to education, a base for gathering innovative thinking, a stimulus to culture and an aid to self development (Onal, 2009). Morris (2004) contends that a school library serves as a center and coordinating agency of all materials used in the school. The IFLA/UNESCO School Library Manifesto (2000) while emphasizing the creation of strong and effective school libraries mandates that "for each country there should be work on developing links between school objectives and its library services." Thus, the contemporary school library has moved beyond the concept of mere an isolated facility for housing of books and other materials which has no role to play in the teaching-learning process in a school. Rather, it is seen more as the structure for integration of the library services with school's curriculum in the current world education scenario.

Traditionally school libraries offered conservative lending services and reading room facilities wherein students used to borrow books and browse through some newspapers and magazines. There was no concept of innovative personalized services. This state of affairs usually resulted in children's lack of interest in libraries. However, with the advancement of technology, school libraries came up with innovative programs and services for children that aimed at reversing this trend (Snowball, 2008). The integration of various school programs into school libraries have developed in to innovative hybrid library classrooms where students take full advantage of the library facilities and the resources (both technological and informational) for their course work. This activity/program brings the concept of school library in to school culture and increases student motivation with their active involvement in learning process (Houston & Spencer, 2007). The implementation of models like a community based school library has proved to be a success in relation to factors such as school participation, learner's participation in school activities during and after the school especially in areas where there is dearth of school libraries (Le-Roux, Hendrikz & Francois, 2006).

The information and communication technology revolution has helped every organization to improve its efficiency/productivity both qualitatively and quantitatively. The school libraries also fell in line with others to become not only the traditionally perceived learning environment as a physical space but also the virtual learning environment. With the advent of computers, the nature of school library management and services has changed phenomenally. In the developed countries school libraries are developing intranet sections in collaboration with big corporations to promote greater interest in library by making available latest and easily accessible information to the school children (Shenton & Johnson, 2007). Most of the schools have developed school library websites. Students are kept informed about various activities and programs of the school through these websites (Jurkowski, 2007). Educational digital libraries are becoming sources of innovative teaching resources in schools. The information sources like internet, digital and audio-visual media are complementing books in school libraries. Recent research has revealed that internet is the most preferred information source used by students for project in school libraries followed by digital information sources which are preferred over print and audio-visual materials. The main reasons identified for using different information sources by Shaheen & Kanagasabai (2007) are "accessibility", "ease of use" and "appropriateness."

Another important and innovative aspect of modern school libraries is the collaborative arrangements with public, college and university libraries. According to Lonsdale & Armstrong (2006), these institutions have huge resources at their disposal and can play an important role in improving the situation in school libraries by delivering the information literacy skills relating to use of e-resources particularly to secondary schools. The collaborative role of teachers in development and use of school libraries is also important at the school level. Mardis, (2009) contends that teachers have very specific information needs relating to mastering the curriculum content and the behavioral structure of their classroom for a diverse range of learners. However, research has shown that teachers generally did not use their school libraries and various information resources effectively, mainly due to the inadequacy of their school libraries in terms of educational material and did not collaborate with the school librarians in planning their lessons or other academic activities as pointed out by Mokhtar & Shaheen (2005). Since school librarians form an important link to the scheme of things in school libraries they, therefore, need to play an active and collaborative role in knowledge acquisition and dissemination to reverse this trend.

School library media specialists (school librarians) in developed countries design many school programs and successfully implemented them, especially in the area of library instruction to engage students in their own learning (Manuel, 2005). The US concept of a "School Library Media Center" with its integral role to school curriculum, literacy, information literacy and leisure reading support is not well known in other parts of the world, however, this is changing; due largely to an increased awareness of the need for information literacy education in schools. The need is now being felt that political, educational and library systems have to join forces in order to empower school libraries and stimulate reading skills and interest in reading (Raftse, Saetre & Sundt, 2006).

School Libraries and Secondary Education

The socio-economic and cultural development of a nation depends to a large extent on the achievements made by it on education and research. Libraries play a vital role in all stages of education especially in secondary and senior secondary education- the basic foundation on which the edifice of higher education is built. Libraries in schools are the natural supporting centres for individual's intellectual development and are particularly important today in view of the shift in emphasis towards individualized and heuristic learning. (Kumar, 1994) The change in instructional methods had been reflected in the function and role of libraries in learning process. This, renewed role of the library prompts it to provide documents and services for intellectual as well as recreational needs of individuals.

School library becomes a 'source and force for educational excellence' only when it functions as an integral component of the total teaching-learning process. The educational programme and library programme are interdependent and inseparable and have undergone tremendous changes since second half of the 20th century. India traditionally followed a textbook oriented system of education. However, in view of the changing philosophy of education and to bring changes in the education system, Government of India appointed an education commission (1964-66) under the chairmanship of D.S. Kothari. On the basis of its report, a new and uniform pattern of 10+2 system of school education was adopted in the country.

Although, libraries in higher educational institutions in India are well equipped and provide better facilities than their counterparts in schools; the school libraries are still not considered as an instrument of learning process. Even the available school library resources are not utilized to the desired extent. The integration of school libraries with the educational system from school level would lead to considerable quality improvement in teaching-learning process. Recently, the National Knowledge Commission (2005) appointed by the Government of India under the Chairmanship of Sam Pitroda envisaged the future road map for the growth and development of academic libraries by imbibing core issues such as, set up a national commission on libraries, prepare a national census of all libraries, revamp LIS education, training and research facilities, re-assess staffing of libraries, set up a central library fund, modernize library management, encourage greater community participation in library management, promote information communication technology applications in all libraries, facilitate donation and maintenance of private collections, and encourage public private partnerships in LIS development, etc. (http://www.knowledgecommission.gov.in/recommendations/libraries.asp). The recommendations of the commission have generated a lot of hope among the library professionals who see it as a remarkable landmark in the library development in India. The National Curriculum Framework (2005) of the NCERT also attributes great significance to the library method of teaching and learning in schools.

Having said this, however, the prevailing picture of school libraries in India is contrastingly different. A lot needs to be done in order to provide our schools with well organized libraries. Currently, the situation is such that a few books locked in a classroom are given the status of a library in absence of any standards and guidelines. With this in mind, an attempt is made to assess and analyze the existing scenario of school libraries in the country in general and, Jammu and Kashmir State in particular with an honest endeavour to help make conditions better for school libraries. This paper is aimed at this. It presents the preliminary findings of some aspects of a survey investigating the existing status of senior secondary school libraries in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. The research is part of a PhD undertaken in the department of Library and Information Science at University of Kashmir. The research elements discussed are an early stage in a...

To continue reading