Vol. 58 No. 5, 2009
# Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Received 18 April 2008
Reviewed 20 June 2008
Accepted 10 July 2008
students, teachers and librarians
in university libraries of Pakistan
Department of Library and Information Science,
The Islamia University of Bahawalpur, Pakistan
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to assess students-teachers-librarians interpersonal
relationships; and to assess student attitudes towards library staff attitudes, library services and user-
education programmes in the university libraries of Pakistan.
Design/methodology/approach – A multi-disciplinary approach is used. Questionnaires and semi-
structured interviews are utilised in the study together with discussions under interview conditions
with the experts.
Findings – The literature shows the librarians’ slightly negative attitude to relationships, but
interestingly students and teachers’ responses reveal a much more positive view of support and
accessibility by the library staff. The majority of students’ written responses point out more positive
interpersonal relationships than the literature indicated. Verbal responses show antagonistic attitudes in
some cases towards library staff. It is shown that interpersonal relationships are not as disappointing as
shown in the literature and the qualitative study of experts’ views, but still there is much to be done to
improve the meaningfulness of the educational use of the library by improving the interpersonal
relationships. It finds the factors affecting the successful interpersonal relationships as: lack of
professional training, collaboration and satisfactory working conditions seem to be crucial for the
meaningful interpersonal attitude.
Research limitations/implications – The study examines the interpersonal relationships in the ten
university libraries of Pakistan.
Practical implications – The information can be useful for librarians and information specialists for
developing positive working relationships. Librarians can play their role effectively in attracting and
educating the users to wealth of information contained in Pakistani libraries.
Originality/value – Very few studies on interpersonal relationship have been conducted in Pakistan.
The key points that emerge that interpersonal relationships play a major part in developing attitudes
towards library services and user education; antagonistic attitudes are evidenced in some cases towards
library staff in the verbal responses from students (strongly) and teachers (less strongly). The myth that
librarians are uncooperative with students and teachers is not well supported by the research.
Keywords University libraries, Interpersonal relations, Pakistan
Paper type Research paper
Changes in the field of education are having an effect on the provision of information.
Task-directed and problem-oriented education relies more on information than the
more traditional forms of education. As a result of all these developments, it is
becoming increasingly important for universities that researchers, teachers and
students have good access to information in whatever form, regardless of whether this
is via computers at the university or computers elsewhere (Carr, 2003). An important
question in university librarianship is the perception of teachers and students of
the attitude of library staff in dealing with them. This study seeks to analyse the
user–librarian interpersonal relationship with regards to library user education
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The literature and thequalitative studyof the experts’viewsundertaken for this paper
shows that librarians were thought to have a slightly negative attitude to relationships.
Research design and data collection
The data for this study were based on literature review, questionnaires, interviews,
observation, opinions, perceptions and comments by students, faculty and library
science specialists concerned with higher education libraries in Pakistan. It became
clear that a single positivist research strategy was unlikely to elucidate the problem
adequately, and that multiple strategies might be necessary. The data were collected
from the students, teachers and library professionals from ten universities in Pakistan
by using questionnaire and semi-structured interview techniques, with responses
receivedfrom200 studentsand 100 teachers.
In any civilised country of the world, it has been accepted as a basic right for an
individual to have access to information and education. From whatever angle – moral
social, cultural, economic or political – education has been recognised as a prelude to
growth, development and long-term progress of human society (Dhiman and Sinha,
2002, pp. 2-5; Bhatti, 2003, pp. 67-89). Libraries have always played a key role in the
development of an information literate populace that can participate as informed
citizens in ademocratic society.
In the changing patterns of librarianship worldwide, library professionals need to
play a very effective and enthusiastic role in supporting education and research. In
Pakistan the literature reports the lack of collaboration among the students, teachers and
librarians (Cannon, 1994, pp. 524-541; Bhatti, 2006, pp. 36-43). Anwar (1993, pp. 5-6)
indicated that the lack of interest and concern on the part of library staff for motivating
users. Khan also realised this problem by saying that it is rare for library staff members
in schools, colleges and universities to be involved in supporting teachers and students
and suggesting that they tend to keep their distance between each other (Khan, 1994, p.
There is no guidance in the academic institutions of Pakistan from librarians about the
use of libraries. The result is that the students remain totally ignorant about the use of
libraries; even after passing the MA examinations many of them do not know how to
consult the library catalogues, bibliographies, indexes, and other reference sources
in a research institute library it was found that ‘‘students are not satisfied with the library
The literature shows that in colleges and universities of Pakistan, both general and
technical, except in a very few cases, the librarians do not support teaching. There
seems to be a lack of co-operation among teaching and library staff to promote an
effective and independent use of library by the students. The potential consequences of
such a gloomy situation arerotememorisation and dependence on notes.Students have
not been inculcated into reading habits and into the tradition of consulting different
sorts of information (Khan, 1991, p. 22). The current position in college libraries is
highly unsatisfactory. The library has never been projected as a positive and effective
instrument for supporting the teaching programme of a college. It has always been a
victim of a passive attitude displayed towards it by the decision-making authorities,
librarians, teachers andstudents alike (Bhatti, 2006, p.38; Sadiq, 1994; p.62).
Because of their significant importance almost all educational institutions in the
modern age maintain proper libraries. Librarians can play their role in attracting the
users to the wealth of information contained in libraries. However, Nazir has stated
that librarians have made little progress towards realising the active role of libraries in
the educational process (Nazir, 1987, p. iii). Khan added to this by saying that to a great
extent, the low usage of libraries is due to the pessimistic behaviour of library staff
The question is how far have Pakistan’s library services in educational institutions
been developed to accomplish the purposes of the parent body and how commensurate
they are with the national objectives. Is it as has been suggested by one commentator
(Bhatti, 2003, pp. 25-32) because Pakistan has an educational culture that does not
consider libraries as a working element of the education system and which does not
provide its academic community with the opportunity to develop their reading habits
that the problem has developed? All of the stakeholders (the teachers, students and
university administration) need to be educated about the role of libraries, its importance
inthe universityeducation,its impact on the lifeofstudents, its value tothe teachers and
the researchers in their teaching and research programmes and the benefits which the
Sadly, students do not make sufficiently frequent use of the libraries that are offered
to them. They easily discover that the libraries do not contain the services and
resourcesthey require andtheybecome disillusioned. As Radfordstated;
Library users have two related types of information about librarians as they
contemplate initiating an interaction:
(1) An impression of the librarian presently attending the reference desk informed
by their approachand non-verbal behaviour.
(2) Previous experience with and/oropinions of librarians.
Anydecision to approach and initiate interactionwith the librarian is a function of both
types of information’’ (Radford, 1998, p.700).
Oneof thecontributory factorsisthatthelibrariansdonottaketrouble aboutlevelsof
readership in the libraries for which they have responsibility (Khan, 1994, p. 62). The
library staff is not totally accountable for the situation; the encouragement of library use
Bhatti (2006) and Mahmood (2002) emphasised the immediate need for the libraries
to establish an instructional programme in co-operation with the teaching staff and to
prove that the library is an effective instrument of education. A precursor to any such
development must be researchinto attitudesof students, teachers and staff.
Lack of formal training for librarians is the subject of considerable debate. It has
been observed that at the library schools the emphasis is on the theoretical aspects of
librarianship rather than the practical aspects. Ilyas (1997, pp. 22-29) declared it very
alarming that at present most of the library schools do not offer any separate courses
on information technology to meet the demand ofthe day.
Mahmood (1998, p. 128), notes, ‘‘There is a lack of enthusiasm and appreciation of
the need forcontinuing education at both government and professional levels’’.
Factors affecting the interpersonal attitude
The study found a number of constraints as preventing library staff in having helpful
and friendly attitudes to users. A major constraint suggested was the large number of
usersas compared tothe small numberoflibrary staff,library staff workload,theirother
job-demotivating factors (such as insufficient salary, dissatisfactionwith their status and
their inability to help the users due to lack of any formal and informal training system)
and inadequate resources in meeting their needs. This is partly supported by evidence
from the students’ interviews, but is not supported by evidence from the teachers’ and
Users’ perception of librarian’s attitude
The teachers’ questionnaire reflects a positive view of helpfulness (and approachability).
Only 11.0 per cent of teachers expressed dissatisfaction. Frequency counts showed that
20.5 per cent of teaching staff give them the highest rating, i.e. consider them very
A total of 24.7 per cent found the library staff helpful but busy. Good intent towards
teaching staff is therefore ascribed by 89.0 per cent. Analysis of the students’ results
showed that about 43.9 per cent of students find library staff attitude always very
A total of 34.2 per cent of students think that their library staff is helpful but often
busy, 12.3 per cent of students. Just 9.7 per cent of students consider the library staff
never helpful to them or have no opinion. Again, this is an exceptionally positive
response in the light of the negative attitudes shown in the literature search and in the
interviews of students. In the interviews and the questionnaires, several negative
remarks fromthe students about library staff weregiven.
Students’ interpretation of librarians’ approachability
Some examples of comments related to the approachability of the librarians can be
not able tohelp users; and
because theydo not guide properlyand do not give adequate instructions.
And on their attitude:
library staff is too lazy;
because they neverlisten to us;
theyarefulfilling the formalityonly;
I personally find them very arrogant; they have never been helpful with the
because they appear very rude and unfriendly and if you ask them something
theyanswerit backin avery hostile manner.
Teachers and students’
perception about the
attitude of the library
(n ¼ 100) (%)
(n ¼ 200) (%)
Helpful but busy
Do not know
And on their practical ability to provide a service:
very short in number and too busy in their routine work; and
I do not find the instruction given useful because this is not very applicable; this
is onlythe formalityand evenwe do not know how touse the catalogue.
It is necessary to identify the reason for the differences between the verbal and written
views. The interviews with experts and senior librarians suggested this is not only
because of the inability and inadequacy of library staff, either in qualitative or
quantitative terms. There might be other factors: over work, lack of proper planning,
not being service oriented, lack of communication among the service providers and
receivers, lackof anyreward and initiatives,orinadequacyof resources.
Lack of communication between the stakeholders
It could be inferred from the findings that, even though the library staff are ready to
help, satisfactory services are not rendered because of various factors (e.g. those
mentioned above) and because of a lack of propercommunication among the university
faculty and library community. In order to bridge that wide communication and
information gulf, authorities will have to take some serious steps. Adequate co-
operation,co-ordination and understanding areneeded infilling that information gap.
For examining their interpersonal relationships students were asked if they find it
difficult to ask library staff for help. The findings showed that 79.1 per cent of the
student sample did not find it hard to do so. Though figures are very high, this positive
attitude does not agree with the findings in the interviews of the 65 per cent students
who reported difficulty in requesting help – possibly because of the reported adverse
attitudeof the librarians?
Four reasons for this differencemightbe postulated:
(1) There might be a reliability issue in the sampling, with different respondents
for the questionnaire and interviews; however, this problem has not arisen with
(2) Bias might have been introduced by non-verbal signalling of an expected
response during the interviews; however, the verbal responses of students were
in close agreement with the verbal responses ofthe experts and the teachers.
(3) Students might be less willing to commit adverse comments to writing, though
the questionnaires were anonymous with little possibility of being viewed by
Professionalism and interaction
It was apparent that the librarian’s functions and roles were undergoing various
changes. To be sure, the more traditional tasks will remain, but new ones will be added
to them. It will be a matter of a shift in accent from the old to the new. As a
consequence, the librarian is going to have to comply with different work demands.
The students’ questionnaire sought information whether students, in using library
resources, are ever offered help by library staff without being asked. The results
(Table II) indicate that 13.5 per cent of students have often been offered help in using
library resources without being asked. And 25.1 per cent of sample think that library
staff seldom offers them assistance in using library resources effectively. Thus some