Putu Laxman Sanjaya Pendit: Taking librarians to the next level
Paper Edition | Page: 28
Many people here would describe being a librarian as merely a clerical profession, mingling only with books and a few people and not financially promising.
Putu Laxman Sanjaya Pendit, usually called Putu, is an expert in library science and admits he is familiar with the stereotypes and wants to do something to change them.
He dreams of a librarian who is a “walking encyclopedia” for not only book borrowers but also society at large. This resourceful librarian would be able to offer people what they wanted through a wide array of knowledge about textual references, both digital and printed.
Putu cited the roles of librarians in many European and other developed countries who have stepped forward from what was merely known as a behind-the-desk profession to become reliable public sources for references.
Writers who want to pen a book or researchers on a quest to gain more knowledge are generally the ones who contact librarians. In this case, the librarian’s role isn’t only finding the right books, but also to offer insightful opinions.
Even though he now resides in Melbourne and teaches at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), Putu is more than willing to go back and forth between Indonesia and Australia to fight for his cause.
However, he fully realizes that the path is not easy. Improving self capacity has always been the hardest thing for those who are still struggling with their economic conditions.
Up until now, fairly speaking, being a librarian isn’t what most people have in mind if asked about their favorite profession.
One of the reasons is because the job, according to many, offers work but little benefit. The government has also been accused of contributing too little in solving this problem.
“That is why we are regularly organizing self-improvement programs and seminars to encourage librarians to stand out and pursue the same ideal,” Putu told The Jakarta Post in recent interview.
Early this year 3,291 people were listed as civil servant librarians, meaning they were working at state-owned institutions, with 44 percent holding an undergraduate degree.
However, the actual number could be double or even triple due to the fact that there are many librarians who work at private institutions and aren’t yet registered.
Aside from the Indonesian Librarian Association, there are dozens of similar associations for librarians across the country.
The government is now planning to screen the librarians through a competency test. This test would then help authorities decide a librarian’s competency level and thus could affect their monthly salaries.
Putu thinks that improving capacity should be a librarian’s ambition. In his opinion, librarians should be proactive in upgrading skills so there is no need to wait for a third party to act first to settle what has become the librarians’ homework.
Besides, once a librarian has succeeded in improving him or herself and thus proven to society that he or she is reliable, various benefits must follow.
Through discussions, comparison studies and lots of exchanging of minds, Putu and a group of librarians who share the same concerns have developed a clear conception of librarianship. According to their idea, in the future, schools of library studies would produce two types of librarians.
The first is library technicians whose main task is most of the clerical duties. The technician will be responsible for daily book maintenance and building efficient databases. A three-year educational period is considered enough. Those who graduate will be granted a diploma.
The second profession is a librarian, but not as we know it. The librarian will no longer tackle the daily maintenance of collections. Instead, he or she will focus on mastering knowledge about collections and expanding self capacity. He or she is expected to be curious so they can provide proper suggestions to people when needed.
In order to catch up with modern life, a librarian is also expected to master digital databases, knowing where to find credible sources on the Internet.
Therefore a longer study period is required and those who graduate from this major will hold an undergraduate degree.
Putu acknowledges that this all may sound too ambitious, but he reasons that only by serving people that way can a librarian contribute maximally to society.
The concept will also allow a library technician to “upgrade” himself to become a librarian after certain conditions, such as seniority and intellectual capacity and after passing a series of tests, are met.
When asked how far the country is from that ideal, Putu says we are halfway there.
“We have achieved something but then realize that there are so many things to pursue in front of us,” the father of two daughters said.
He then elaborated that the future of information will rely on three professions, IT engineers as technology providers and maintainers, journalists whose role is to distribute information, and librarians who provide assistance to those who seek it.
“IT engineers have for a long time realized the need to expand ideas, skills and maintain integrity as well as journalists. Their roles have been widely acknowledged by the public. Now it’s the time for us to do the same thing,” he said.