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More governmental support is needed for library education in the UAE said, Shaikha Al Muhairi, Head of Cultural Resources Centre, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority during the final session of the joint conference between Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) and the American Library Association (ALA) held at the Expo Centre on 11- 12 November.During a session that looked at Library Information Systems (LIS) education, Shaikha Al Muhairi said that academic libraries in the UAE needed government backed standardisation and accreditation, adding that there were no scholarships for LIS education in the UAE at all. “We have scholarships for almost every other subject but there are none for higher education, undergraduate or master’s degrees in UAE,” she said. “Government organizations can provide the budgetary support and the advocacy of librarianship as a profession. Currently, what libraries in the UAE need urgently are recognized industry standards; accredited educational programs tied to standards, and customized personal development opportunities.”The session called “LIS Developments in the MENA Region: Moving the Profession Forward” also heard from Dr. Lokman Meho, Director University Libraries, American University Beirut, Lebanon who gave an overview of LIS education in the Arab world. He said, “People used to ask why do librarians need an education and were surprised to learn that there were degrees for librarianship,” he said. “Thankfully things have changed since the 1950s as thousands of information centres, including libraries emerged and needed people to run them.” He said there is a huge disparity in the availability of LIS education in the region, with the UAE lagging behind with only one active course, in comparison Egypt has 22.
This has meant an over reliance of overseas recruitment and there were further problems of finding appropriate teaching resources in Arabic, he added. Dr Meho made a number of recommendations for improving the situation in the Arab region including provision of advance graduate-level LIS education as most LIS programs are still mainly at the undergraduate level; improve information technology infrastructure by providing more computer labs, equipment, and software, digitization labs, electronic and smart classrooms as many of these resources a currently shared with other courses; improve faculty-student ratio with more qualified faculty and less crowded classrooms and also, he said, there was a need for good, informative websites for the LIS programs as currently there none. “Those that are there are not doing a good job and we need to market or publicize the value and significance of the libraries and the profession as most students have never heard of the field before enrolling in the LIS programs. Most people are unaware of the many services that libraries offer,” he said.
In closing the session, moderator, Dr. Janet Martin, Higher Colleges of Technology, Abu Dhabi, said, “LIS education in the MENA region remains an important topic for the development of the library profession, and for the contribution possible to the development of knowledge-based economies here. It has been a wonderful two days full of discussion and collaboration. We must move forward together to set up standards and accreditation as without this the library field will struggle to move forward in MENA. The more we work together and share information the better. ” Also taking part in the session was Frederick Nesta, Senior Lecturer, LIS, University College London, —Ar-Ravyan, Qatar; Dr. Sajjad Rehman, Chairman, LIS Department, Kuwait University, and Dr. Jassim Mohammed Jirjess, Department Head of LIS, American University in the Emirates, Dubai, UAE. A parallel discussion looked at “Successful School Library Reading Initiatives” and heard from Wadha Al Daani, Al Ain Educational Zone, Mohammad Bin Khalid Generations School, Abu Dhabi, Mohammad Al AHasan, Emirates National School, Al Ain Campus, Abu Dhabi, UAE and Michelle Wardrip, Head Librarian, The English Modern School, Doha, Qatar on how they encouraged their young charges to read. The joint ALA/SIBF conference brought together 330 librarians from 18 countries to examine the latest trends and issues taking place in for professionals in public, academic and government libraries.