Towards Behavioral Approaches to Library Practice: A Model for Integrating Social Skills Training in Nigerian Library School Curricula
Studies indicate that many librarians, including Nigerian librarians, lack strong communication and social skills. The introduction of behavioral science courses in the curriculum of Nigerian library schools is recommended as a remedy. Besides, these courses would enhance the clientcentered
approach to Nigerian library practice. This article describes the authors use of cooperative learning strategies to enhance students perceptions of the social nature of learning, information seeking, and use. The experience of the author suggests that these strategies could be integrated into library school curricula with positive gains in students cognitive and social skills.
In his keynote address to the National Conference of the Nigerian Association of Library and Information Science Educators in 1994, Matthew Ajibero called for the introduction of behavioral science courses in the curriculum of Nigerian library schools (1995). His observation was motivated by the need to inform library practice with knowledge of human information behaviors. Behavioral studies in library and information services range in focus from organizational behavior and communication processes to studies of the personalities, attitudes, and behaviors of librarians and users (Fine, 1984). The need to integrate these perspectives in library education is underscored by the emerging clientcentered service philosophy in library practice (Agada, 1996). Some library school curricula today reflect this philosophy by offering courses such as psychology of information use, group dynamics, diagnostics of informationseeking behavior, and organizational behavior and change. At the University of Pittsburgh, for example, behavioral courses constitute
an information counselor track, a specialization devoted to preparing students to adapt behavioral approaches to library practice. Ideally, instruction in these courses ought to be laboratory intensive. However, the integration of practice rehearsals has proved problematic (Cronin and Martin, 1983). Often, more emphasis is placed on the theoretical knowledge necessary to analyze and explain psychological phenomena than on the skills and attitudes for intervention in the processes involved. Consequently, students lack opportunities to develop appropriate social skills dispositions in library school.
This article describes the use of cooperative learning strategies to impart social skills to library school students. Specifically, it discusses the use of the Group Investigation method to teach a course in psychology of information use. It is believed that this approach could serve as a model for integrating
affective and psychomotor domains in library school instruction. With qualified faculty, these strategies can be readily adapted to library school instruction in Nigeria, especially as they do not entail expensive investments in instructional technology.
The need for social skills training
Defining social skills
Although it has roots in assertiveness training, the social skills movement today has an emerging emphasis on all positive or prosocial behaviors, thereby encompassing a larger social matrix (Staub, 1979). Social skills have been
defined as the extent to which one communicates with others in a manner that fulfills ones rights, requirements, or obligations to a reasonable degree without damaging the other persons similar rights (Phillips, 1978). They are said to promote positive, goaldriven (Phelps and Austin, 1987), and effective problemsolving (Rich and Schroeder, 1976) behaviors. Consequently, they were made popular during the behavior modification movement of the 1960s and 1970s as requisites for personal and professional competence, particularly in the helping professions.
Special skills have also been conceptualized as multidimensional constructs consisting of behavioral, cognitive, and affective components (Lorr, Youniss, and Stefic, 1991). The behavioral aspect includes the ability to speak and respond to others in a convincing and effective manner. The cognitive aspect consists of knowing appropriate things to say and when, the ability to perceive the other partys intentions, and predicting the likely consequences of ones behavior. Similarly, the affective dimension relates to the ability to take the viewpoint of the other person and to respond effectively to his
perceived emotional experience. These dimensions implicate such related skills as assertiveness, empathy, and cognitive flexibility. These skills are requisites for effective question negotiation, information counseling, and other clientcentered approaches to mediating information seeking and use (Agada, Weaver, Kantamneni and Stalling, 1994; Penland, 1971).
Social skills are increasingly being construed in the literature of social psychology as abilities emanating from personsituation interactions, rather than innate personality traits. Many librarians are socially skillful. However, they may not be reflective of their interactions with clients. Increasing their awareness of the dynamics of interpersonal behavior in the various contexts of their work would enhance selfreflection and systematic approaches to social interactions. Those who exhibit poor social skills may be diagnosed as lacking in knowledge of appropriate options and their applications
in their behavior repertoires (McFall, 1983). Social skills differences may be cognitive in origin, with conditioned anxiety, skill deficits, and cognitive distortions affecting skills development either singly or in combination (Bellack, 1979).
Social skills can be learned, unlearned, and relearned (Argyle, 1978). Consequently, assessment and training procedures need to be based on knowledge of behavioral repertoires, cognitive constructs, task goals, environmental props, and rules (Argyle, 1979). Studies of training methods suggest the use of multiple approaches including modeling, directed role playing, behavior rehearsal with coaching, behavioral assignment, and cognitive restructuring. These methods may be implemented in formal or semiformal environments, as in school instruction or work settings, respectively (McFall and Lillesand, 1977; Phillips, 1985).
Librarian personality studies
The need for social skills training stems from the suggestion that librarians, including Nigerian librarians, are in the main introverted, reserved, and lacking in effective communication and social skills (Agada, 1984, 1987, 1994). Apparently, the profession tends to attract people who lack an appropriate service disposition, preferring to work with things, rather than with people. This disposition may be attributed to professional socialization; the cognitive and affective processes by which professionals adopt the attributes, skills, and values consonant with their group cultures (Agada, 1994). The profession has expressed concern over the lack of effective social skills among librarians. Consequently, many advertisements for library students and workers call for candidates with outgoing, assertive, and sociable personalities, as well as an interest in working with and helping people (Cronin and Martin, 1983). However, such advertisements assume that the pool of candidates who seek recruitment to library schools and libraries represents the
full spectrum of attributes and skills in society.
Classical occupational choice theories suggest anticipatory socialization, whereby candidates selfselect themselves into professions where their attributes, skills, and values are deemed appropriate for practice and congruent
with those of incumbents (Holland, 1966, 1985). Cognitive and social learning theories, on the other hand, conceptualize personal attributes, skills, and values as functions of personal and situational variables (Magnusson and Endler, 1977; Bandura, 1986). This perspective stresses the interactions between professionals and their job demands and environments as responsible for shaping their stereotypical profiles (Schneider, 1978). Bandura introduced expectancy and reinforcement values in the analysis of interactions between persons and their career environments (1986). According to this model, the use of goals and competence standards in instruction provides selfefficacy and expectancy values for socializing students into adapting personal attributes and skills deemed desirable, while extinguishing less desirable ones. Based on a series of longitudinal studies, Agada surmised that student librarians in Nigeria might be socialized by their library school experience into conformity with the stereotypical librarian profile. He therefore called attention to the influence of library education on students attributes, skills, and values (1994). This need is underscored by the fact that Nigerian librarians practice in environments that are at best indifferent to library development.
Besides the usual problems of low budgets and status which afflict the library profession worldwide, the absence of indigenous historical models of library practice seems to selfperpetuate in Nigeria. Inadequate resources place severe limits on service effectiveness, thereby eroding any incentives for investing in library services. This situation has been blamed in part on the nature of the Nigerian librarian. According to Ifidon, Nigerian librarians have been too shy, too reticent, and too slow to take action on matters of the moment. .
The clientoriented service philosophy
The challenge to Nigerian librarians to rationalize their services compared to other public services takes on an added dimension under the current structural adjustment of the national economy under IMF and World Bank regimes. The attendant instabilities in social structures, policies, and legislation call for professionals who can articulate the mission and operations of the library to be in sync with national development priorities. The emerging clientoriented service philosophy in librarianship provides a framework for such a proactive stance. This philosophy requires that librarians engage in sustained dialogue with their constituencies in order to develop fine sensitivities to their needs. This orientation requires that more emphasis be placed on the behavioral approaches to service in library school curricula. Instead of starting with the common core of cataloguing and classification, for instance, programs ought to begin with teaching how to analyze communities and
diagnose information needs (Cronin and Martin, 1983). Such preparation would provide the framework for appreciating the historical and cultural bases for the structure of current service traditions. This approach would also empower students to design systems and procedures, including cataloguing codes and classification schemes, which are flexible and responsive to the unique needs of their immediate clientele. This orientation is lacking in most library education programs today. Apparently, Nigerian library schools are no exceptions. In his assessment of the current library school curricula, Musa Auto observed that most library school graduates in Nigeria run the risk of becoming socially and professionally irrelevant to their communities. .
Methods of social skills training
Social skills training in librarianship
The significance of social skills for library practice has not been reflected in the design and pedagogy of library school curricula. Their programs have remained biased to technical housekeeping skills, apparently leaving social skills development to students individual initiative or to chance. However, a few library school dissertations have explored the use of experimental methods to enhance students interviewing, counseling (Jennerich, 1974), and assertiveness (Sukiennik, 1978) skills, as well as attitudes towards behavioral approaches to librarianship (Minner, 1981). In her 1974 dissertation, Jennerich used the microcounseling training model to teach interviewing and counseling skills. The requisite social skills were broken up into specific units which were learned and rehearsed by actors in simulated situations. The use of live people in immediate situations enhanced the authenticity of the learning situation and potentials for transfer. Videotape technology was used to monitor skill acquisition, coaching, and feedback. Besides these studies, there has been little exploration of the pedagogy involved in integrating social skills into the library school curricula. Consequently, their adaptation in library school instruction has been few and far between. This resistance or indifference may be attributed to the erroneous belief within the profession that social skills cannot be taught, or to a misconception of social skills training as psychotherapy. Cronin and Martin identify two approaches for imparting social skills training in libraries. One approach entails introducing a package of skills deemed necessary in virtually any culture or context (e.g., how to appear approachable and listen with interest). The other requires identifying subsets of skills that might be useful when relating to particular user groups in a type of library. They further suggested the introduction of a core course unit devoted to social skills training in the library school curriculum (Cronin and Martin, 1983). Such a suggestion assumes that social skills can be taught without regard to context.
Different professional settings call for unique constellations of social skills on the part of the professional. For instance, the social skills of a used car dealer differ markedly from those expected of a reference librarian, even as they respond to identical queries for information on cars. In order to identify and impart skills relevant to particular library contexts, social skills instruction ought to be integrated in regular library courses, rather than taught as isolated units.
The rest of the article describes the authors experience of integrating social skills within the framework of a behavioral course in library school. The experiment was based on the use of cooperative learning strategies. Cooperative learning strategies consist of social interactions between students based on equal partnership in the learning experience, as opposed to fixed teacherlearner roles. These strategies utilize crossmodeling and role playing (Bandura, 1971), and foster the active processing of information (Reder, 1980) and cognitive restructuring (Sharan and Sharan, 1994). Moreover, the social context created by the cooperative approach enhances intrinsic motivation and positive affect on the part of participants (Slavin, 1990). These attributes have high potentials for transfer to interpersonal and team activities in professional practice. For instance, evaluative studies indicate positive postexperience effects on academic achievement and social skills (Sharon, 1980).
Academic course context
A cooperative learning project was designed to teach communication and social skills as well as some fundamental topics in information use (e.g., human information processing). An experimental unit in social skills training was integrated in psychology of information use, a core course at Emporia State University Library School, in Kansas, USA, between 1993 and 1995. The course description indicated that students would review basic concepts in the cognitive and communication sciences, and examine how they apply to the planning of information services for a population with varying cognitive, learning, and communication styles . The cooperative learning project was based on a course objective which sought that students understand [their own] unique style(s) of information processing and relate that understanding to the cognitive styles of others.  It was felt that participative and studentcentered learning would be an effective instructional strategy to transfer the skills of interviewing, mediation in information seeking, and attendant dispositions. The project was designed to foster openness and systematic reflection on the part of students. For example, they applied theoretical models to critique individual and group roles in seeking and sharing information, and managing group processes.
The need for clear and specific instructions is emphasized when cooperative learning strategies are used to impart social skills to children (Adams and Hamm, 1996). Since the students in this case were adults (many already have library jobs), the instructor adapted the discovery (Bruner, 1975) and experiential (Dewey, 1933) learning approaches to the project. Thus, although clear objectives were set for the project, the guidelines for implementation allowed for initiative on the part of students. The instructor kept intervention in the students processes to a minimum, thereby forcing them to impose their own structures to facilitate individual, task, and group roles, and goal attainment. They thereby learned from monitoring and evaluating their own experiences.
The project objectives, and instructional and evaluation modes, varied from semester to semester to accommodate class size, structure (weekends or week days), time constraints, and the experiences and input of previous participants. Needless to say, features of the project were added, modified, or deleted with
each use. In all cases, however, the projects entailed up to ten hours of independent research and group discussions. The instructor observed the group processes for a few minutes at a time. No attempts were made to direct the discussions, except to respond to students queries. The projects terminated with debriefing sessions with the instructor. Participants kept a journal of their Expert Group interactions, noting and explaining significant verbal and nonverbal behaviors. They also submitted reflective papers based upon their perceptions and evaluations of the project. These sources as well as their course evaluations formed the bases for the project evaluation. The social skills processes monitored included establishing group goals; playing leadership and other roles (e.g., gatekeeping, harmonizing, summarizing) as necessary; negotiating individual and group responsibilities; responding to cues initiated by others; diffusing conflict; bringing group processes to closure; reflecting on and interpreting self and others behaviors. The cognitive skills included defining a topic (e.g., the brain and mind); analyzing it into its component subtopics (e.g., mental models within the brain and the mind Expert Group topic); reviewing the literature on the assigned subtopic; preparing a paragraph explaining the scope and content of the subtopic; giving two presentations,
both repackaged to ensure effective communication and diffusion; using strategies to check for group members understanding of the topic presented; and evaluating presentation content and strategies.
The Group Investigation Method (Sharan and Sharan, 1994) was adapted to structure the group processes. This method required that students use interpersonal and study skills to attain specific learning goals. Students cooperated in carrying out their investigations and in planning how to integrate and present their findings. They also jointly evaluated their academic and social skills. The activities were organized in a tenstep sequence.
Step One: Cognitive Styles of Learning Group members: Students were assigned to Learning Groups of four members. Each member chose a topic for investigation. The options were the brain and the mind, human developmental stages, artificial intelligence and virtual reality, and human creativity and problemsolving.
Participants were to investigate the implications of these topics for understanding information needs and seeking behaviors. At this meeting the students got to know each other, and shared information on their preferred learning and communication strategies. These strategies reflected their cognitive and problem solving styles. Individuals who differ in their cognitive styles are said to approach similar information processing situations in different ways (Riding and Cheema, 1991; Mitroff and Mason, 1983). Group members were administered the Learning Style Inventory (Kolb, 1984) to ascertain their learning styles. This inventory identifies four major learning styles: (i) concrete experience, i.e., oriented to feelings derived from specific experiences; (ii) reflective observation, i.e., oriented to watching, listening and seeking meaning through multiple perspectives; (iii) abstract conceptualization, i.e., oriented to logical analysis of ideas, systematic planning, and intellectual understanding of problems; and (iv) active experimentation, i.e., oriented to learning by doing. The validity of the inventory was discussed, particularly in relation to members reflections on their preferred learning modes and related experiences. Implications for presenting information to them later in the semester were also explored.
1. Ifidon, 1979, p. 53.
2. Auto, 1995, p. 83.
3. Agada, 1995, p. 1.
©1997 John Agada.
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