Research Information:FOCUS ON THE MIDDLE EAST
‘Vibrant and complex’ research scene
Carolyn Kirby interviews Myrna Tabet, head of the information literacy program at Qatar University
Please introduce yourself, your institution and your role My name is Myrna Tabet, I have a bachelor degree in law, a diploma in copyright and law and a masters’ degree in library and information science from the Catholic University of America (in Washington, DC).
I have been the head of information literacy and staff development unit at Qatar University Library in Doha, for the past five years. Prior to joining Qatar University, I worked at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon for about nine years. I started the department with a small yet solid partnership with the Writing Classes and the program grew to include the various Colleges at Qatar University. To date, we are a total of four full-time staff and teach about 300 sessions per academic year. We collaborate with other constituencies on campus and provide tours, orientation and training sessions to faculty members.
How do libraries address information literacy needs of their users within the region? Typically, universities in the Middle East adopt standards and trends from American and European universities. They have pioneered guidelines and assessment tools in academic libraries to address changes brought by the advent of the internet and digital databases. Qatar University uses the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) competency standards, performance indicators, and outcomes for the creation and measure of its information literacy programs.
The academic libraries play a major role in educating first-year students about the role, mission and proper usage of the libraries. Many countries in the Middle East lack proper
26 Research Information FEBRUARY/MARCH 2016 Video content sponsored by Taylor & Francis
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‘This drastic shift in scholarly communication has led to major change in the role of the libraries’
school and governmental libraries and their community relies on bookstores to buy and read books. Therefore, the information literacy staff introduce students, often for the first time, to Basic Library knowledge (such as classification systems, borrowing privileges, plagiarism) at the university. Libraries adapt and revise the standards and address these issues and concepts particular to the region. For example, to accommodate the needs of students enrolled in Arabic track programs at Qatar University, we have developed information literacy sessions in Arabic that focus on using Arabic language databases, selecting and citing information sources.
Are there any information literacy issues which you feel are specific to the region?
Research in the Middle East is vibrant and complex and has some particularities that need to be addressed by the information literacy programs. Research is produced in English and
Arabic languages and the libraries need to select, acquire, provide access, and teaching aids to materials in both languages.
Scholarly communication in the Arab region is not easily spread, open access to academic content is also not widely available. Few are the database providers of Arabic language articles and only recently we started witnessing some changes in the databases’ interfaces that were deemed poor.
Information literacy programs must help users understand that the sophistication and importance of the available content is distinct from how easy it is to use a database. That is, just because it is an easy database to search does not mean it’s a database with scholarly information (it can contain popular, and trade sources as well).
How are the needs of your users different to information literacy needs in other parts of the world (cultural, economic etc)?
The research needs of our users nowadays are similar to users in other parts of the world in many aspects. Users prefer remote, online and instant access to information. However, what differs are the research topics. Usually researchers link their topics to the local scene where research is not extensive nor
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