Role perception and the library worker in Australia: the role of library education in defining roles and tasks of librarians and library technicians

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The focus of this research is the examination and comparison of the education and training of professional (librarian), and paraprofessional (technician) library workers in Victoria since the introduction of the library technicians’ course in 1970. The impact of education on any overlaps in role perception, skills and task distribution within the work and education environments is considered, as are the historical precedents which have contributed to the educational environment. In particular this research has focussed on why, despite four decades of university-level education for the Australian library professional and paraprofessional, there are still uncertainties about what the core
attributes of the two industry groups are, why skills and roles can still not be clearly defined as professional or paraprofessional, what is the appropriate entry level for the profession and the role education has had in defining or blurring these definitions. Inevitably this leads to questions about the divisions which have been imposed on Australian educational structures, the nature of professionalism itself, and what constitutes education versus training. Such questions have required, not only investigation of the contemporary, but also the historical record. This research also provides a new context for the examination of Australian LIS education by placing it against a backdrop of national and international events and the broader educational environments and examines the impact of such outside factors on current concerns.

A number of themes or strands emerged as keys to developing an understanding of these issues. These themes and strands were developed through a study using qualitative, quantitative and historical research which involved a wide reading of the journal literature, comparative analysis of contemporary curriculum documents, statistical analysis and the distribution of a questionnaire to an identified group of LIS participants. These strands are:
* The historic and social imperatives: these are the historical and social
imperatives which have helped shape the structure and form of the education
model as it now stands in Australia and which have contributed to the dilemmas
which continue to face this model.
* The educational imperatives: those concepts and philosophies about the nature
of knowledge, learning and education which have influenced delivery and
curriculum both in the Vocational Education and Training (VET) and university
sectors in Australia, and the content and nature of that curriculum.
* The political and cultural imperatives: the broader agendas, both internally and
externally, that have been brought to bear upon the vision an industry has of
itself and the parameters which define it.
* The people: who undertakes education and training for this industry, and how
have they reflected the broader assumptions about the divisions which exist in
our education and training models.

This research provides insight into the many factors which have contributed to the continuing tensions between Vocational Education and Training and university education for the Australian LIS industry. It has also provided a new perspective on the development of these two sectors of the LIS industry in Australia. By placing LIS education in a number of contexts (historical, educational, pedagogical and international) it has been demonstrated that while the LIS professional group has had ambitions and aspirations of its own, these ambitions and aspirations have often been compromised or influenced by external agendas. This has resulted in a dichotomy between reality and ambition, and a disjunction between the educational structure favoured by those influential within the industry and those established as a result of these external factors. What this research also presents is the concept that library
technicians and their education have provided a foil for the professional group, so that both the workplace and education have been shaped by the role professionals and paraprofessionals perceive each other as playing in relation to each other. The consequence have been that at no time could one sector develop without giving due consideration to the nature of education and the role of the other. In terms of curriculum content questions have been raised, rather than conclusions drawn, about the key issue of pedagogy versus epistemology. To answer such questions fully further research into assessment and classroom practice would need to be undertaken. Issues of access and equity have also been examined in relation to the boundaries placed around the LIS
professional group and questioned. This research demonstrated that education has been used as the primary tool to shape the status of the Australian library profession and also to define roles and structures in the workplace.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Harvey, Bertrand, Principal Supervisor
Award date23 Dec 2007
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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