John Hickok, a librarian and instructor at California State University, visited more than a dozen major Filipino university libraries last year. The "report" below, reprinted with Hickok's permission, comes from the email he sent regarding his visits.
Hickok will be presenting a more comprehensive picture at Consal XIII. His report is entitled, "A 1-year Qualitative Analysis of Libraries in Southeast Asia: Commonalities, Challenges, and Opportunities for Regional Cooperation." By the way, if you have not yet registered for Consal yet, you may do so online. Payments, however, will need to be made offline.
- A strong commitment to automation & technology. Nearly all academic libraries have their online catalog Web accessible (or are in the planning process to do so) and many likewise with their e-resources.
- A strong commitment to reference service. Whether at a single reference desk or at multiple service points, librarians are always available for assistance.
- A professionalized status. The licensure/professional status of Philippine librarians is something to be proud of. It is indeed a characteristic that sets Philippine librarians apart from other Southeast Asian librarians.
- Innovations in services. These are almost always due to the creative, proactive efforts of the Library Director (rising above a status-quo attitude, even with challenges like limited budgets or such).
- Philippine student culture. As many library directors reported, student culture in the Philippines tends to be very oral and social, creating a challenge—students don't seem to want to read as much anymore (i.e., now just want quick cut-&-pastes); and students frequently want to "just borrow from other classmates' work" instead of researching information independently.
- Need for more continual user education. Nearly all academic libraries offer some sort of new student orientation (1-2 hour presentations/tours), or a presentation tied to a introductory freshman course (like an "English 1" type course). But often, that is the extent of user education. Continual user education endeavors (open workshops throughout the year, custom instruction sessions for lecturers' classes, or training brochures/Webpages custom-created for specific topics or majors), are less common at many universities.
- Need for more Subject-specialization endeavors. While some universities provide subject-specific reference in separate libraries, and some create subject-specific bibliographies, other valuable endeavors—like creating research guides for specific majors, or pairing librarians to departments/schools for subject-specific instruction sessions—are ideal for being developed.
The above challenges can also be viewed as opportunities.
- Student culture + user education. These two challenges are directly related to each other. By increasing/improving one (user education), the other (student culture toward reading/research) automatically increases/improves, as well. Certainly, there are valid concerns regarding continual user education (i.e., "but students don't come to workshops"), but with creative marketing and incentives, along with networking with instructors for endorsements, the success rate, and benefits realized, are dramatic.
- Subject specialization endeavors. Technology is allowing this to be much easier to achieve. Common objections to subject-specialization have usually been: "there is not enough staff for that" or "it is too costly to print such guides." But with databases/online catalogs/search engines being able to quickly generate custom lists, and Web guides not incurring any paper/printing costs, the opportunity for pursuing subject specialization endeavors is much more available.