Libraries urged to innovate

Published: 29/03/2010 05:00



Unless academic libraries become proactive, visionary and innovative in the way they deliver services, hardly any students will be interested in exploring . . .

Librarians at Ha Noi University of Technology put books in order. A large number of the libraries are out-of-date and have inadequate materials and resources, poor infrastructure, unqualified library staff and ‘closed’ services.

According to Hickok, libraries serve as an e-resource gateway for a university and a vibrant centre for student collaboration, which train the rising generation to be ‘Information Literate’.

“However, most Vietnamese academic libraries are far from fulfilling either of those roles,” Mai said.

According to a report prepared by the Department of Higher Education under the Ministry of Education and Training in 2009, the network of academic libraries at universities and colleges generally failed to respond properly to students’ research and academic needs.

There were more than 1,700 libraries in 369 universities and colleges nationwide. However, a large number of the libraries were out-of-date, had inadequate materials and resources, poor infrastructure, unqualified library staff and ‘closed’ services, the report stated.

Ngo Hue city Minh, who is pursuing an MBA degree at Willamette University in the US, said when she was a student at the Foreign Trade University, she rarely spent any time at the library because of its inadequate collection and poorly designed space for studying.

Pham Thu Huong, who studied banking at the National Economics University, did not go to the library for similar reasons. She also said that she found interacting with librarians to be discouraging.

“Librarians seemed like they did not want to help us. I would choose to buy indispensable books if I could afford them, or I would like to search for electronic versions on the internet for those I couldn’t find. “

Mai said that academic libraries generally lacked a sense of independence because most of them came under the management of the university’s functional units.

“There has been no official regulation that stipulates the percentile of investment that should go to the library. Currently, universities make that decision on their own,” she said.

“Basically, libraries don’t have regular funding and can’t take the initiative in financial accounting.”

Mai also noted that their was an absence of a central office which could act as a focal point to resource analysis for the libraries.

No vision at all

“Currently, each academic library generally has to build their resources separately without having any co-operation or vision at all.”

Hickok, who obtained a research grant for an entire year to investigate libraries in Asia in 2005, observed that the last five years had been an exciting time for academic libraries in Viet Nam, where there have been incredible changes and improvements taking place.

In several public universities in the south, libraries had been engaging in a new stage of development by directing their focus to users’ needs and satisfaction, said president of Vietnamese Library Association of Southern Academic Libraries (VILASAL) Nguyen Minh Hiep.

“Since the early years of this century, VILASAL’s members have tried to adopt formal librarian skills that are congruent with international standards, which is ahead of many other libraries in the country.”

Hiep, who was also director of the HCM City University of Science Library, said his library was a pioneer in reforming services to be more student oriented.

In the north, Ta Quang Buu Library at the Ha Noi University of Technology is one of the few libraries that have been equipped with progressive facilities, wide spaces and more information resources.

After becoming public in 2007, it is now the largest library in Viet Nam capable of serving 3,000-4,000 patrons.

The library director Nguyen Van Thien said: “We always consider strengthening our information resources as a top priority, which is why we have formed partnerships with other libraries and outside donors and trainers in order to utilise the power of knowledge sharing.”

Thien said that antiquated perceptions of libraries will dissipate soon and that students being treated more as customers would become the norm.

“Bearing that in mind, we are adapting to this new approach,” he said.

According to Hickok, while more prominent university libraries have made impressive improvements, smaller and provincial libraries have not had the funding or training to make the same changes.

“So there are some academic libraries still using old or non-electronic catalogues that make libraries be like silent archives,” he said.

During his year-long visit observing Asian libraries, Hickok noted a key difference between libraries occurred at the management level. Directors, who were proactive, visionary and innovative, were transforming their libraries.

“Their spirit of ‘overcoming challenges’ was inspiring,” said Hickok.

More students are prone to conduct research on the internet, which has led experts to believe that the need for libraries maybe diminishing.

Hickok said students, who only use the internet alone and often copy and paste the first sites they find failed to capitalise on library’s services.

“It is vital that libraries promote themselves as leaders and partners in the internet revolution, so that students will use libraries and the Internet simultaneously,” said Hickok.

VietNamNet/Viet Nam News

Provide by Vietnam Travel

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