ICT training for LIS professionals
in Pakistan: a needs assessment
Department of Library and Information Science, University of the Punjab,
Lahore, Pakistan, and
Muhammad Ajmal Khan
National University of Computer & Emerging Sciences, Lahore, Pakistan
Purpose – This study is based on an assessment survey of continuing education (CE) needs for ICT
of library and information science (LIS) professionals. The particular purpose of this study was to seek
answers to the following questions: What are the ICT-focused educational backgrounds, as well as
personal and professional characteristics, of LIS practitioners in Pakistan? What are the preferences of
LIS professionals for ICT training including methods of CE, providers, incentives, suitable days/time,
methods of announcement, payment, and language? What skills or techniques do LIS professionals
need to learn?
Design/methodology/approach – A questionnaire survey was conducted on a sample of 200
professionals working in all types of libraries and information organisations in various cities of
Findings – LIS professionals showed their preferences in the areas requested and a series of
recommendations are provided based on the ﬁndings from the survey.
Originality/value – The results of this study are of use to the CE providers (i.e. library schools and
professional associations etc.) and will help prepare LIS professionals for leadership in the new age,
not only in Pakistan but also in other developing countries.
Keywords Communication technologies, Library automation, Training needs, Lifelong learning,
Paper type Research paper
In recent years, work for the library and information profession has become
characterised by fast-paced change and new skills requirements. This transformation
has been brought about by the constant emergence of relevant new information and
communications technologies (ICTs). Library and information science (LIS)
professionals are increasingly required to adapt their skills and practice in order to
gain an awareness of technological advances. As a result, the profession itself exists in
a state of ﬂux alongside these emerging technologies, with traditional roles being
increasingly subsumed by new skills and working environments and, therefore, job
descriptions (Ashcroft, 2004).
Thus, LIS professionals are now expected to be aware of, and capable of, using and
demonstrating emerging ICTs. There is a need for additional training to augment the
traditional skills knowledge base with a competency in ICT use. LIS professionals
must be ﬂexible and adapt traditional skills to incorporate the requirements of
technological advances. Given the current situation, wherein ICTs are being
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Received 3 February 2007
Revised 30 June 2007
Accepted 9 July 2007
Program: electronic library and
Vol. 41 No. 4, 2007
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
continuously updated or introduced and traditional formats are being replaced or
supplemented by digital formats (such as e-journals and e-books), it seems likely that
there will continue to be a need for regular training for LIS professionals. There is also
an increased focus on communication skills, with more players involved in the
electronic information environment. LIS professionals are being called upon to work
closely with ICT users and providers (including IT staff) and to work in collaboration
with others in the profession. Some groups of users lack the necessary IT skills to
obtain quality information and LIS professionals will therefore be called upon to act as
both educators and intermediaries. Given these circumstances, LIS professionals are
required to have increased teaching and communication skills (Ashcroft and Watts,
In order to respond to the ongoing changes in the LIS ﬁeld, professionals need
continuing professional development:
The shelf life of a degree is approximately three years and declining. Maintaining competence
and learning new skills must be at the top of every professional’s “To Do” list. It is an ethical
responsibility, to be sure, but also one that is pragmatic and critical for career success ...
Continuing professional education is no longer an option; it is a requirement of professional
practice (Weingand, 2000).
IFLA/UNESCO (2001) guidelines for development of the public library service deﬁne
training of librarians as a vital element of the activities of a public library. The
guidelines require every library to make a planned and continuous programme of
training for its staff. Moreover, large libraries should have a post of training ofﬁcer
responsible for the organisation and implementation of training and it is recommended
that 0.5-1 per cent of the library budget should be allocated to the training.
2. Review of literature related to ICT use in Pakistan libraries and
Computers were ﬁrst used in the Pakistan Scientiﬁc and Technological Information
Center (PASTIC) in 1968. PASTIC helped to produce the country’s ﬁrst Union
Catalogue of Scientiﬁc Periodicals and proﬁles of 100 scientists were developed so as to
offer a selective dissemination of information (SDI) service. By the 1980s agricultural
universities and research centres started using computers, e.g. Sindh Agriculture
University and the National Agriculture Research Council (NARC) Documentation
Centre, as well as other universities and special libraries (Haider, 1998).
During the 1990s the Netherlands Library Development Project (NLDP) for
Pakistan inﬂuenced developments signiﬁcantly. NLDP worked very closely with the
Pakistan Library Association (PLA) and contributed to introducing ICT in the
development of human resources, hardware provision, software development,
information networking, and curriculum development. This helped accelerate the
overall ICT environment and created awareness amongst librarians, removing their
hesitation. In addition, they provided a platform for further activities (Mahmood, 1996).
Many of the librarians of Pakistan completed their formal education before ICT was
included in the curriculum of library schools. They have not had much opportunity to
learn about ICT in a formal educational setting. The only way to orientate existing
librarians was by continuing education (CE). Mahmood (1998) counted 105 courses and
workshops held in various cities between 1988 and 1996 on using ICT in libraries. It
was also found that professional associations and foreign agencies were the major
ICT training for
organisers of these activities. Subjects covered in these courses range from computer
fundamentals to integrated library software packages and the internet.
Siddiqui (1992) asked public librarians of Punjab province about their continuing
education needs. “Computer applications in libraries” was found to be the most
demanded of 25 different areas of librarianship. In a study, conducted by Mahmood
(2002), librarians working in the institutions of higher education of Pakistan perceived
that ICT will be the most needed competency for future librarians. Out of a list of 75
competencies validated for academic librarians, seven belonging to the ICT category
were in the top 10 most essential competencies.
Ramzan (2002) conducted a survey of 244 librarians in academic and research
institutions of Pakistan, and 87 per cent had some knowledge about the use of ICT.
Overall, 76 per cent had attended some training programmes related to ICT while 97
per cent recommended that “Attainment of theoretical and practical IT knowledge
should be a component of library education in Pakistan”. Sharif and Mahmood (2001)
surveyed certiﬁcate holders of the PLA Computer Training Center, Lahore. Two-thirds
of the respondents were of the view that their ICT training helped them to ﬁnd better
jobs. The LIS professionals recommended that the centre should also offer training in
advanced concepts of library automation.
The ﬁve PLA computer training centres have played a pivotal role in training
working librarians in Pakistan. These centres were set up by the NLDP in the federal
and provincial headquarters of the PLA: Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and
Quetta. The aim of the centres was to provide training to working librarians as well as
to LIS students and a place for practise and the necessary infrastructure for the library
automation projects of the PLA. The Lahore centre opened in 1992. By January 1996
the centre had held 13 courses for 259 participants in a total of 120 weeks. The centre
also provided free consultancy services to libraries. Courses on computer basics,
word-processing, spreadsheet management, database management and library
automation were conducted at the centre. According to the donor agency, NLDP, the
Lahore centre was functioning extremely well and was totally self-sufﬁcient. Other
centres also trained hundreds of librarians in using ICT. Other CE activities for ICT
include courses conducted by professional associations. The PLA arranged various
courses, workshops, seminars and lectures on the topic of library automation. The
Punjab University Library Science Alumni Association arranged many courses on the
use of microcomputers in libraries. The NLDP invited automation experts from abroad
to conduct various courses in Pakistan. Pakistani librarians were also sent by the
NLDP to The Netherlands for advanced training in information technology. The topic
of the 15th PLA Conference in 1994 was “Information technology in Pakistan:
potentials and prospects”, and many papers on library automation were presented
Ameen (2006) argued for the important role of the component of ICT in LIS
education in Pakistan to meet the needs of the twenty-ﬁrst century. She recommended
that there should be better communication and sharing of knowledge among the
academics and professionals by using modern affordable ICTs to cope with the
challenge of developing competencies needed for the digital era.
A review of the past activities showed that some surveys were conducted regarding
general continuing education needs of LIS professionals, but their ICT-focused training
needs have never been assessed in Pakistan.
3. Research questions and methodology
This study was the ﬁrst assessment of continuing education (CE) needs for Pakistani
LIS professionals in the use of ICTs in libraries and information centres. The purpose
of this study was to seek answers to the following questions:
RQ1. What are the professional and ICT-focused educational backgrounds, as well
as other personal and professional characteristics, of LIS practitioners in
RQ2. What are the preferences of LIS professionals regarding ICT training
including modes of CE, providers, incentives for CE, suitable days/time,
methods of announcement, payment, and language?
RQ3. What skills or techniques do LIS professionals need to learn?
The research design for this study was the survey method using a questionnaire. On
the basis of a literature review a questionnaire was formulated. The expert validity of
the data collection instrument was established by seeking the opinion of some
professionals who were skilled in the use of ICTs in libraries and had been involved in
CE activities in Pakistan. The questionnaire was sent through e-mail using the oldest
and largest listserv of Pakistani LIS professionals. The listserv
(firstname.lastname@example.org) had 800 members throughout the country. After some
time, a reminder was issued. These efforts were successful in collecting only 137
responses. This study was the ﬁrst in the LIS ﬁeld in Pakistan in which a listserv was
used to collect data. Filling in a questionnaire through e-mail was new for LIS
professionals in a developing country. The reason for the poor response through e-mail
was the lack of an e-culture in Pakistan. Many LIS professionals have e-mail addresses
using free e-mail servers but do not use it regularly. Another reason for this response
rate was the lack of a research culture in the country. People do not co-operate in
research activities. The data collection was supplemented by distributing the
instrument to the participants of two ICT-focused CE programmes at Lahore and
Islamabad. This added another 63 responses. After having 200 usable responses the
data were put into SPSS software for analysis.
4. Results and discussion
4.1 Personal and professional characteristics of LIS professionals
The 200 LIS professionals surveyed belonged to 17 cities in all provinces and federal
areas of Pakistan and worked in a variety of institutions as shown in Table I. Some
were also faculty members of LIS schools.
Most respondents (72 per cent) worked in government institutions. The highest level
of professional education of a large majority (93 per cent) was a masters degree in
library and information science. The remaining 4 per cent and 3 per cent had
MPhil/PhD and bachelor degrees respectively. The respondents were also asked to
mention their education/training in using ICTs. A total of 58 per cent had received
some kind of such training. Their qualiﬁcations ranged from short certiﬁcate courses
to masters degrees in computer science or information technology. The length of
professional experience of the respondents can be seen in Table II.
ICT training for
The respondents mentioned that most of them had internet access, and of these 42
per cent had access at both ofﬁce and home, 50 per cent only at the ofﬁce and 8 per cent
only at home.
4.2 Modes of training
Respondents were asked to give their preference about different modes of training and
these are summarised in Table III. It is interesting to note that while most of the
respondents had internet access they did not particularly like web-based tutorials.
Rank Type of institution %
1 University library 51
2 Special library 18
3 College library 13
4 Other 7
5 Public library 5
6 School library 4
7 Information centre 2
Type of institution the
respondents belonged to
Rank Professional experience %
1 Up to 5 years 42
2 6-10 years 23
3 11-15 years 16
4 21 years or more 13
5 16-20 years 5
of the respondents
Rank Training method %
1 Workshops/courses 79
2 Hands-on training 57
3 Professional meetings 50
4 Tours of other institutions 41
5 Conferences/seminars 39
6 Lecture series 36
7 Web-based tutorials 21
8 Tele/video conferencing 14
9 Distance learning (self-study correspondence courses) 12
10 Other 3
Preference about training
4.3 Providers of training
Table IV details the preferences for providers of training courses and this veriﬁes the
4.4 Payment for training
As indicated in Table V, the majority of respondents (63 per cent) recommended that it
is the employers’ responsibility to bear expenditures of their employees’ training.
4.5 Suitable days/time
The response to a question on preferred timing for training is given in Table VI.
Rank Training provider %
1 Professional associations 69
2 LIS departments at universities 68
3 Employers 25
4 ICT vendors 14
5 Others 6
Who should provide ICT
Rank Who should pay? %
1 Employers 63
2 Sponsors/donors 51
3 Individuals 35
4 ICT vendors 18
5 Others 4
Who should pay for
Rank Time for training %
1 Evenings 46
2 Long training programmes (more than one day) 32
3 Weekends 31
4 Summer/other vacations 29
5 Short training programmes (one to four hours) 26
6 Week days 19
7 Medium training programmes (full day) 17
Preference about time for
ICT training for
4.6 Preferred language
When asked about the preferred language for ICT training, a large majority (86 per
cent) were in favour of English, 59 per cent thought that there should also be training in
Urdu, and 14 per cent recommended that there should also be training available in local
4.7 Mode of announcement
When asked about their preference on the mode of announcement and communication
about possible training programmes, 68 per cent recommended that a brochure should
be sent to their work place, 45 per cent favoured an announcement on a web site,
similarly 45 per cent thought postings on an e-mail or listserv was best and 26 per cent
preferred to hear about courses through personal communication from colleagues.
4.8 Employees’ encouragement
The respondents gave their opinion about how employers should encourage LIS
professionals to participate in ICT training programmes and this is shown in Table VII.
4.9 Subject contents of training
The respondents were provided with a list of 36 different ICT skills and techniques to
show their training needs. The analysis, as shown in Table VIII, reveals that a large
number of LIS professionals felt the need to train themselves in many ICT related
More than 50 per cent of respondents gave their opinion in favour of 24 topics. The
areas greatly in need (favoured by 75 per cent or more) included some technical
computer topics as well as specialist librarianship topics. The least needed areas
(favoured by less than 30 per cent respondents) included basic computer/internet skills.
This reveals that most of the LIS professionals in Pakistan already have some
knowledge about the basics of computers, word processing software, internet, etc.
Another notable point revealed by the analysis is the area of digital libraries. A total of
52 per cent of the respondents needed training in using digital libraries as compared to
78 per cent who wanted to be trained in their design and maintenance. The results also
show that a reasonable number of LIS professionals already have learnt online
database searching and use of optical discs. Only 35 per cent and 38 per cent
respectively wanted training in these areas.
5. Conclusion and recommendations
The results of this initial survey will be useful in planning a strategy for meeting CE
needs of LIS professionals in Pakistan. An overwhelming number of respondents felt
the need of continuing professional education in various areas of ICTs. Most of them
already had entry level professional qualiﬁcation in LIS. They already had internet
Rank Mode of encouragement %
1 Offering paid leave/time-off 51
2 Consideration for promotion 43
3 Increased salary/advanced increments 33
4 Arranging temporary replacement at work 11
How should employers
participate in training
access. Half of them had already got some training in using ICTs. They favoured
workshops/courses, hands-on training and professional meetings as training methods.
They wanted LIS schools and professional associations to organise such training
programmes but expenditure should be borne by the employers. They can spare time
in evenings and weekends to attend ICT training programmes. English and Urdu can
be the medium of instruction. Organisers of such programmes can use brochures for
publicity. Many of the ﬁndings of this survey are similar to the results of previous
studies in other developed and developing countries (examples are Anwar and
Rank Skill or technique %
1-3 Indexing servers (Zebra Server) with proxy clients 78
1-3 Digital libraries (designing and maintaining) 78
4-5 Administration of DBMS (MySQL, ORACLE, SQL Server) 77
4-5 Bibliographic formats (MARC, z39.5, Metadata) 77
6-7 Data analysis (research) software (SPSS) 76
6-7 Citation software (ProCite, etc.) 76
8 Networking (LAN/WAN) 75
9 Hardware troubleshooting, use of data shows 74
10-12 Database management system (WINISIS, MS Access, MySQL, ORACLE, etc.) 73
10-12 MARC Editors (MarcEdit) 73
10-12 Web Servers (Tomcat, MS IIS etc) 73
13 Barcode technology, RFID 70
14 Virtual/electronic reference service 68
15-16 Web designing/web editors (FrontPage, DreamWeaver, HTML, XML) 67
15-16 Data conversion utilities and copy cataloging 67
17 Interlibrary loan systems 65
18 Graphics software (Adobe Photoshop, Corel Draw, etc.) 61
19 Electronic document delivery 58
20-21 Desktop publishing (MS Publisher etc) 56
20-21 Digitisation (Scanner, Software, OCR) 56
22 File formats 54
23 Digital libraries (Use) 52
24 Data compression (WinZip) 51
25 Operating system (Administration) 46
26-27 Library management systems (For cataloguing, circulation, acquisition, serials
26-27 Library electronic tools (Electronic DDC, Classiﬁcation þ, LCSH, etc.) 43
28-29 Operating system (Windows, XP, LINUX etc) 38
28-29 CD-ROM/DVD (Use of multimedia encyclopedias, dictionaries and other
30 Spreadsheets (MS Excel, Lotus etc) 36
31 Searching online databases (online journals, bibliographic and indexing
32 Presentation (MS PowerPoint etc) 32
33 Web browsers 28
34 Internet (e-mail, discussion groups, search engines, WWW) 23
35 Word processing (MS Word, Inpage etc) 20
36 Computer basics 14
Preference about skills or
techniques in which
training is needed
ICT training for
Al-Ansari, 2002; Evaluation and Training Institute, 2001; Ramaiah and Moorthy, 2002;
and Saechan, 2001).
The following recommendations are based on the ﬁndings of this survey:
.It is imperative to evolve an ICT-focused continuing professional education
strategy at national level. The Government of Pakistan should take measures in
this regard through its Higher Education Commission and Department of
.The government should designate selected LIS departments and professional
associations to set up CE centres provided with hardware and software resources
and a recurring budget to conduct CE activities.
.Selected LIS teachers and librarians should be trained to designate them as
master trainers in different areas of ICT.
.The CE centres should periodically assess the ICT training needs of
professionals. Large libraries should also assess the needs of their staff.
.Libraries and information centres should allocate a regular budget for staff
training. The employers should also encourage staff to attend such programmes
by offering them incentives.
.Adequate publicity should be given far in advance so that the professionals can
plan their participation in CE programmes.
.Attention should be given to the location and timing of CE programmes. Efforts
should be made to have a location and timing that is most convenient for the
majority of the participants.
.Attempts should be made to obtain ﬁnancial support for CE programmes from
sponsors and donors. Particularly, this is beneﬁcial for those participants who
are supporting themselves without any institutional support.
.It may also be necessary for follow-ups to be carried out by organisers of CE
programmes to ascertain whether participants have put the knowledge to good
use in their organisations.
.There must be co-ordination between various CE providers in the country. The
employers, associations, LIS schools and foreign and local funding agencies
should share their experiences and plan CE programmes in collaboration with
1. A full copy of the questionnaire is available from the authors
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Khalid Mahmood can be contacted at: email@example.com
ICT training for
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