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Focus on libraries in Brazil

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Article Sections

  1. Introduction
  2. Public and school libraries
  3. Academic and specialist libraries
  4. Educating librarians – and the public
  5. References

Educating librarians – and the public

The first librarian training course was created by the National Library in 1912. In 2007 there were 38 schools of librarianship and library science, of which 14 were at master's and eight at PhD level (Belluzzo and Rosetto, 2007). Library education is available in some form in 13 states. Brazil, along with Argentina, has the highest number of library and information science training courses in Latin America.

The commonest way into librarianship is to study at undergraduate level. Courses tend to follow the European and US pattern of library education, although the name has not been changed, as in the US, to "information science".

One problem which library education in Latin America faces is the lack of available professional literature in Spanish and Portuguese. The REVISTAS (REd VIrtual Sobre Todas las AméricaS, which roughly translates as "Journals – a virtual network across the Americas") tried to identify professional journals and link them via digitization (Johnson, 2008).

CAPES has been heavily involved in the training of librarians, particularly in the use of databases with which they may be unfamiliar. This is done at regional training sessions so the librarian can pass on the knowledge to those with whom they are working.

CAPES, however, also has an educational role which is over and above product training: people need to be educated to use the content and to search the portal. As in the West, there is a tendency for people to bypass the librarian and believe that everything they need can be found on the Internet, perhaps on Google Scholar. Librarians need to be trained so that they can in turn train the user in research methods.

Information literacy

In general, therefore, people tend to be unfamiliar with research libraries and the virtual tools they offer, so the first task of general information literacy training is to get them into the library so they can be introduced to digital resources and library techniques.

This is not only the case with scholars: many undergraduate students may never have been in a library, still less have any idea how to undertake proper research. So, it is important that librarians get them into a library for training in research methods and in the tools available.

Two librarians working at a private university, Centro Universitário da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro, describe how they proactively tackled information literacy (Fatima and Santo, 2006). They found that the majority of new students had great difficulty in using and applying ICT, little idea of how to do academic research (copying was common), or how to do research on the Internet. Furthermore, many did not have a proper environment for study outside the university.

They developed a user training and information literacy programme aimed at students in their first semester. The programme covered the catalogue, use of databases, library services, the various "physical" documents available in the library, and use of the Internet. Much of this is similar to western information literacy, however, this course also includes instruction in use of e-mail and appropriate library behaviour.

There are still challenges in developing a good country-wide structure of libraries, but progress is being made. There is a strong political will, seen in support for organizations such as PNLL and CAPES.

Providing that will continues, there is no reason not to be optimistic about the future development of libraries and the librarian profession in Brazil.