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November is now concluded, and with it my country visit to Thailand.
Thailand shares many of the same library characteristics as the Philippines and Malaysia. Like these two countries, there is a big push to have computers and the Internet in academic libraries, and most large universities have them in place. Additionally, the country enjoys these other strengths:
1. Increased librarian training. There are several universities throughout Thailand with library science degree programs, producing new librarians each year.
2. A strong showing of online catalogs and databases. All major university libraries in Thailand have online catalogs with Web access, and many use commercial software, e.g., Millenium. An emphasis on subscribing to databases — as much as budgets allow — also is apparent. For example, larger-budgeted universities have many of the same big-name databases as CSUF — ProQuest, ScienceDirect, etc., and smaller-budgeted universities at least get general databases, such as EBSCO.
3. A move toward greater Web information. While most libraries still only have basic information on their Websites, many of them have acknowledged the potential for more and have Web guides or tutorials in the planning process.
However, Thailand has some library challenges as well. For example:
1. Information literacy/library user education. Only a few of the approximately 15 universities I visited had library/IL training required in the curriculum of new students. The other nine did not, and proactive outreach (regularly scheduled workshops, soliciting faculty for instruction sessions, etc.) to make up for this, was not too frequent. There are many reasons for this phenomenon: faculty and administrations not acknowledging IL, faculty having the stereotype that “only faculty teach; librarians just manage collections,” and the nature of undergraduate education — mainly just objective testing for four years, with little independent research assignments or expectations.
2. Librarian subject specialization. Unlike the U.S., where a subject bachelor’s degree plus an MLIS is common, the usual situation in Thailand is to study library science exclusively (i.e., a bachelor’s in LIS, then on to an MLIS). While this produces many well-trained librarians in library issues, these new graduates often lack subject backgrounds. This makes the opportunities for being liaisons to faculties/departments and offering subject-specific instruction sessions less common or likely.
3. Primary/secondary library preparation. Having or emphasizing libraries at the primary/secondary level is decided at the local level; there is no national requirement. Thus, with small budgets, the majority of schools (about 80 percent) often have no organized library, no separate librarian, and/or no library education in the curriculum (how to read a call number, how books are organized, etc.). This means when many Thai students arrive at a university, their library skills are lacking.
These and other challenges are formidable, but not impossible to overcome. There are a lot of exciting efforts being done in Thailand. For example, UNESCO (Bangkok Division) recently hosted a nationwide conference on IL in school libraries and is planning follow-up training workshops soon. And the IL-integrated curriculums at those universities that are requiring it serve as exciting models for other universities.
I hope November was well for you all, and I’ll be back in touch again at then end of December with my next country report.
Regards from the field,