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The employers of library and information science graduates are many and varied in nature. Designing an LIS educational program for diversified needs and expectations of the employers is very difficult. Library schools are always expected to get input from the consumers of their product about their changing expectations and needed skill set of the graduates. IFLA guidelines (2000) and ALA standards (2008) for LIS educational programs also acknowledge the employers’ right to know whether a given program is of good standing. They recommend the involvement of employers in planning and evaluation of program goals/objectives and curriculum. They also recommend their participation in governance of the programs.
Department of Library and Information Science at the University of the Punjab, Lahore is the oldest LIS education provider in Pakistan. It initiated a certificate program for librarians in 1915 in the British regime. After independence, this program was converted into a postgraduate diploma. A master program was started in 1974. Since then more than 1500 students got master degrees and are serving various types of libraries, information centers and library schools throughout the country. Lahore is the second largest city of Pakistan having an approximate population of 10 millions. A large number of LIS graduates are working in Lahore. The second largest cluster of the graduates of this department is Islamabad, the country’s capital 288 kilometers away from Lahore. Other graduates are mainly working in university and college libraries in cities and towns of all sizes in the Punjab province. The remaining professionals serve some organizations in other provinces and even in abroad particularly the oil rich countries of Middle East.
The Higher Education Commission of Pakistan is responsible for revision and recommendation of a common curriculum. It has set up a National Curriculum Revision Committee for LIS consisting of representatives from all library schools and some working librarians. The last revision made by this committee was published in 2002. This committee is only a recommendatory body and it is up to the individual universities to implement the curriculum as such or further revise it. The Department of LIS at the University of the Punjab immediately implemented the new curriculum. After some time, the senior professionals, particularly from large university and special libraries, started to insist for further revision and effective implementation of the LIS curriculum. Flaws in LIS education has been a common topic in professional gatherings and seminars. Practitioners were criticizing the quality of education by claiming that library schools were not keeping pace with the technological and environmental developments in libraries. They were feeling difficulties in finding manpower possessing required knowledge, skills and attitude. Even graduates with good grades were lacking in some basic skills. Keeping in view the situation this researcher conducted some surveys to assess educational needs of entry level and experienced manpower (e.g., Mahmood, 2003 and Mahmood & Khan, 2007). Meanwhile, this author got an opportunity to become head of the department. He decided to conduct a thorough review of the MLIS program and design and implement a new curriculum. The review and design process included seeking practitioners’ feedback through an LIS listserv, a questionnaire survey of the alumni, a detailed literature search, a review of course contents of LIS schools all over the world available on the World Wide Web, and two focus group interviews of senior librarians considering them the potential employers of the department’s graduates. This paper presents an account of the focus groups conducted for this purpose.