The Financial Express

National Library Day

4IR and the role of library professionals  

| Updated: February 06, 2022 20:39:04

4IR and the role of library professionals   

Bangladesh is celebrating 'National Library Day' on Saturday ( February 5, 2022). This year the theme for National Library Day is 'Commitment of Golden Jubilee-- Establish Digital Library' in collaboration with the Department of Public Libraries (DPL) and Ministry of Cultural Affairs. All library professionals in Bangladesh have been celebrating National Library Day each year on February 5 since 2019. 

Collection, organisation, dissemination and preservation of the learning-materials are the main functions of the libraries. In most cases library-materials are poorly organised and preserved manually. Quick dissemination of information is difficult as the traditional libraries usually are confined within a physical boundary. Getting a piece of information through manual searching is time consuming as well. Due to the 4IR, traditional approaches of the library systems are changing rapidly. Physical libraries are becoming lesser in number and access to knowledge in a digital space is increasing day by day. 

The 1st Industrial Revolution was the invention of Steam Engine. The 2nd Industrial Revolution was invention of Electricity. The 3rd Industrial Revolution was invention of Telecommunications. These three Industrial Revolutions substituted the human but not their thinking, whereas the 4th Industrial Revolution substitutes human thinking. The 4thIR was coined by the founder of the World Economic Forum (WEF), a former professor named Klaus Schwab.  In 2016 he defined the 4thIR as a technological revolution that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres (Schwab, 2016). The integration of the physical world with the computer world is rightly delineated in the example of 'genome sequence'. Now-a-days a genome sequence result can be acquired by using computing power in a few hours at a cost of less than one thousand dollars, while the first human genome project took ten years costing 2.5 billion dollars. Such integration opens a new avenue of knowledge, which was out of the scope of this domain before. This evolution of innovation takes place in the cyber-physical space, which is extensively known as Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) or Industry 4.0. Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Internet of Things (IoT), Cognitive Computing, Cloud Computing, 5G, Quantum Computing, Precision Agriculture, Smart Farming, Biotechnology and Nanotechnology are at the heart of this 4thIR. 

Scandinavian countries have prepared themselves to take advantage of 4thIR. They have integrated Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics in their education, starting from primary level to higher education with an objective to prepare the cognitive mind of their human resources to lead the 4thIR. But as of today,  the education systems in Bangladesh are far behind to equip the core subjects of 4thIR.

In a study report, Oxford University researchers in 2013 mentioned that out of 700 occupations in the world, 30 occupations have maximum chance of getting automated in future. Library profession is one of them. Question is whether LIS (Library and Information Science)  professionals may lose their jobs? LIS has 99 per cent probability of automation. In the last couple of years 'Amazon' has created an example assigning robots for sorting books, re-arranging shelves and bringing products to the workers. Thus it saves a lot of manpower and provides additional efficiencies. So does the 4thIR create an existential threat to LIS professionals? The answer is  'no'.  Those libraries that fail to understand or embrace technological innovation like new information systems, computers, internet, e-readers, Google, Google scholar etc. may, in fact, be left behind. So LIS professionals must as always stay abreast of trends in emerging technologies for adapting with the 4thIR. 

Bangladesh is now celebrating 50 years of Independence. We are also celebrating the 100th years of birth centenary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. In spite of substantial developments in many fields, development of Library and Information Science profession has got little attention in Bangladesh. As of today, Bangladesh has 01 National Library, 68 government public libraries, 1,603 non-government public libraries, more than 2000 special libraries, approximately 20,000 academic libraries (including schools, madrashas, colleges and universities) and 3,596 NGO-operated libraries. Overall, there are more than 40, 000 people  engaged as LIS professionals in Bangladesh. 

Not only the wisest among us, even the ordinary people in the society realises the need of the services of the Library and Information Science as the demand has been expanding rapidly throughout the country after the declaration of the present Prime Minister that one educational institution must have one library with a professional librarian. Following her declaration, demand for   skill-based professionals has increased. But the scenario of the supply side is very deplorable due to not having the skill development programmes available in the country. Each year less than 300 graduates pass out with Honours and Masters Degree from only 3 public and 1 private universities namely University of Dhaka, Rajshahi University, Noakhali Science and Technology University, East West University and Lalmatia College out of more than 150 universities in Bangladesh. Near about 3,000 students are passing out from 31 diploma institutions and 8 colleges under the National University. About 16,000 Assistant Librarians are working in MPO registered secondary schools across the country. They run the school libraries and are also engaged in teaching in classrooms. After a long movement, this government has given them teacher status.  It is a revolutionary decision of the government which boosted-up the dignity of the profession substantially.

A library is the best resource to save people from rumours and misinformation in a pandemic. With physical libraries being shut, librarians are active in providing online information services to the general public. Many libraries are conducting information literacy programmes alerting people about COVID-19.  Due to the pandemic, digital library services become very popular. But we are far behind this reality.

The level of librarian's knowledge regarding 4thIR is low. To increase their capacity, LIS professionals should be expert in computer literacy skills, library software handling/searching skills, new service innovation skills, automation skills, management skills, e-library services, digital library services etc. Most of them in Bangladesh require training on different soft skills including but not limited to adaptability, tech saviness,  data literacy, digital skills etc for surviving in the 4thIR.

In Bangladesh, as of today, library system is not equipped with appropriate tools enabling the realisation of the huge potential of 4thIR. Taking the above view point into account, Library Association of Bangladesh (LAB) as the apex body of LIS professionals is going to organise a two-day international conference on 'The Role of LIS Professionals in the fourth Industrial Revolution' on February 10-11, 2022. This conference will create enthusiasm in the area of LIS education and research, and will hopefully attract young generation to this profession. 

Finally, the present scenario of the LIS professionals in Bangladesh is not encouraging. Still some problems are sure to cope-up with the 4thIR. To resolve these problems following suggestions can be considered: a) There should be exclusive budgetary provision for training the LIS professionals; (b) Status of the LIS professionals must be upgraded; (c) The library authority should adopt new technologies in the libraries so that their staffs can be familiar with the new technologies to face the challenges of the 4thIR; (d) All libraries including but not limited to school, college, madrasha, university, NGOs, public, non-public, special etc. should be automated; (e) An integrated network of the LIS professionals should be formed forthwith; (f) Orientation of new users should be made a regular exercise so that they can be acquainted with the use of different e-resources within local and other networks; (g) Countrywide library education must be launched from the secondary school level; (h) All academic institutions should have a library with a professional librarian complying with the declarations of the present Prime Minister; (i) Their grade, rank and level should be well-fixed for reducing discrimination; (j) Vacant posts of all LIS professionals should be filled through following proper recruitment  procedures.   


Professor Dr. Md. Nasiruddin Mitul is Dean, School of Undergraduate Studies & Professor in Library and Information Science, National University, Bangladesh. [email protected]


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