In April 2011 Chiba University launched Academic Link, a new concept that aims to promote students' active learning. The university library is spearheading the institution's educational reform with this challenging and ambitious educational concept. The goal of Academic Link is to foster information and learning skills, which would facilitate students' lifelong learning to meet the demands of the evolving knowledge-based society. The hub of this scheme, the Academic Link Center, is composed of staff from the university's library, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Center and the Center for General Education. This mix of staff reflects the three major elements essential for educational reform: the provision of diverse content required for learning and education, the provision of ICTs to use that content, and the modernization of educational programs and teaching methods. We believe that such an amalgam is the key to a successful transformation.
We believe that librarians should move toward an active role in education and learning, and that this is one way — and perhaps the only way — to establish a solid professional foundation for librarianship in Japan.
Academic Link is notable because librarians are expected to play a prominent role — not the conventional role of collecting, organizing, storing and providing materials, but a new one directly connected to learning and education. The majority of university librarians in the United States are professional subject librarians holding faculty status; no one questions their direct involvement in learning and education. However, in Japan, where librarianship is considered clerical work, this is a huge challenge. Librarians in Japanese university libraries have implemented information literacy programs, but in many cases, they have stayed within the areas of traditional bibliographic instruction and have not always stepped into the core areas of learning and education.
What is the new role of librarians in Academic Link? Librarians will consult with students as they write reports, coordinate learning support and information literacy programs, train student assistants for learning support, and investigate the copyright clearance for educational usage of copyrighted materials. These activities are still fragmentary and need to be integrated into the core competencies of librarianship, hopefully through Academic Link activities. We believe that librarians should move toward an active role in education and learning, and that this is one way — and perhaps the only way — to establish a solid professional foundation for librarianship in Japan