ILS: towards an alternative qualification model for information and libraries in the African context
It is important for Africa to blaze its own unique path in terms of developing ILS qualification models that would be realistic and relevant to the African context and, importantly, add value to African library and information services which have a crucial role to play in the growth and development of the continent. Towards this end, a research project is currently being undertaken in South Africa where, as part of the project, work environments in other disciplines such as journalism, health care and engineering are being empirically investigated and compared with LIS services in terms of job functions and higher education qualification types required to fulfill these job functions. The intention is to see if perhaps there are any innovations, lessons or best practices that the ILS profession can draw from these disciplines in terms of staff structures in LIS services, job functions of incumbents, and qualification requirements defining these structures and functions. The purpose of this paper is to report on some of the preliminary findings in an initial and novel comparison involving public, academic and special libraries, and engineering firms, newspaper houses and health care services in an African city. The findings, in the main, reveal that other disciplines seem to embrace vocational institutions, such as universities of technology, in the work place much more than the LIS work environment. The paper recommends that African models in ILS education and training should break the traditional alignment with western grown qualification models. It needs to draw lessons from work place practices in other disciplines and from innovative work place behavior within the ILS discipline evident in the preliminary findings presented in this paper, and more fully utilize qualification products from non traditional university institutions which often are the only tertiary level institutions many African school leavers are able to access. At the same time African ILS qualification models should afford articulation means that provide opportunities for further education and development of these individuals. In reporting these initial findings the paper also interrogates issues such as vocational higher education institutions like the emerging universities of technology and the value and role of their ILS qualifications in the African context vis á vis those of the traditional universities, the role and contribution of the ILS paraprofessional to African LIS services, and the issue of articulation between higher education qualification types and the relevance of this for ILS education in Africa.