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The LIS International Perspective: Real, Needed, and Supported

Nov 01, 2006

An international perspective of the library and information science (LIS) profession is increasingly important nowadays given global access to information, as well as the trend among libraries and information institutions worldwide to share information resources and collaborate. Through their discourse, in person and via the written word, information professionals across generations are contributing to the ever-evolving international perspective.

Associations, Schools, and Libraries Offer Support

The LIS profession has seen remarkable growth in international associations. Baldwin (1997) reported the number of international associations increased from 33 in 1973 to 76 in 1990. Besides IFLA (International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) which serves as the “global voice of the library and information profession” and whose members represent 150 countries (IFLA, 2005), ALA (American Library Association) supports development of libraries everywhere and global librarianship (ALA, 2001).

International librarianship has been part of curricula in American LIS programs. The University of Hawaii at Manoa, St. John’s University, and Dominican University offer courses titled “International Librarianship,” and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers the graduate course “Global Perspectives in Library and Information Science.” These courses prepare next-generation librarians to address issues in our global information society. Such issues range from information policy making and international information standards development, to technological advancements and their social, economic, cultural, and political impacts.

Libraries and information institutions are aware of the importance of the international perspective to the LIS field. LIS professionals are benefiting from exchange and training programs involving developed and developing countries. For example, Simmons College is helping prepare a new generation of Vietnamese librarians to run some of Vietnam’s largest university libraries. The Luce Summer Institute for East Asian Librarianship at the University of Pittsburgh recently staged a rigorous training program for mid-career Chinese-studies librarians and library managers from North American institutions (University of Pittsburgh, 2003). And the International Summer School on the Digital Library, held in Europe, has annually brought together information professionals from different corners of the world, including librarians whose tuition has been paid by donors such as Elsevier.

International Librarianship Literature Is Growing

A visible volume of published literature addresses international librarianship. A quick search on international librarianship and related topics revealed over 800 published articles locatable via scholarly literature. Search terms used were international librarianship/librarian, global librarianship/librarian, international/global audience, and international/global library. More on results of the search appears in the table.

International Network Is Growing

Advances in digital libraries in developing countries are considered key to construction of a global network of information resources. Since 2000, the Special Interest Group of International Information Issues (SIG III) of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIST) has sponsored an international paper contest on international digital libraries and information science and technology advances in developing countries. This competition helps maintain an international network of experts on digital libraries and information technology in developing countries. SIG III believes communication among nations is vital to the global discussion of information issues.

Since its launch, the contest has attracted more than 230 papers, by information professionals from more than 50 countries. Over 60 of the papers have appeared in LIS publications, including International Information & Library Review and Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. Publication of the papers has contributed notably to international librarianship literature – largely dominated earlier by contributions from industrialized countries (Bliss, 1993; Raptis, 1992). The contest has also drawn broad support. Since 2000, Elsevier, Basch Subscriptions, Haworth Press, the World Bank, the Information International Association, ASIST special interest groups and local chapters, LIS schools, and many LIS professionals and educators have helped underwrite the contest.

JOURNAL TITLE
NUMBER OF ARTICLES LOCATED
Libri..................................................................................... 10
IFLA Journal.......................................................................... 8
Scientometrics....................................................................... 7
International Information & Library Review
(Formerly International Library Review).......................................
5
Library Trends....................................................................... 5
College & Research Libraries..................................................... 4
Aslib Proceedings................................................................... 3
Information Processing & Management........................................ 3
Library Journal....................................................................... 3
Special Libraries..................................................................... 3
The Journal of Academic Librarianship......................................... 3
Zentralblatt Fur Bibliothekswesen.............................................. 3
Canadian Library Journal.......................................................... 2
Education for Information......................................................... 2
Habitat International............................................................... 2
Journal of Documentation......................................................... 2
Journal of Librarianship............................................................ 2
Journal of Library History, Philosophy
and Comparative Librarianship...................................................
2
Library & Information Science Research...................................... 2
Library Quarterly.................................................................... 2
Media Culture & Society.......................................................... 2
Program: Electronic Library and
Information Systems...............................................................
2
Wilson Library Bulletin.............................................................. 2
This table lists journals which per search results have published at
least two articles relating to international librarianship.

What This Augurs for Newcomers

Indeed, an international perspective has long been part of the LIS profession in its various platforms – its associations, literature, training, and education – and continues to shape the future of the profession.

Information professionals speaking to the international perspective can today find a range of substantive issues deserving discussion and can find numerous publications welcoming such discussion. The international perspective in the LIS field gains from contributions made by professionals across the globe. Newcomers are encouraged to add their voices.

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