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Vocational and paraprofessional library and information studies (LIS) education is made available to Polynesians via distance education through the University of the South Pacific (USP). As an LIS degree program is not presently offered in the South Pacific, many librarians are trained abroad in New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom, the Philippines, Canada and the United States.[1] In addition to the programs taught at USP, nearby in Melanesia the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Papa New Guinea (UPNG) offers an Information and Communication Sciences program for information managers (formerly a Library and Information Studies and Media/Journalism Studies program). [2] Courses at UPNG include: “Marketing of Library & Information Services”, “Archives Management”, “Outreach Library & Information Extension Services” and “Information Literacy School Course.”[3]

While distance education is an excellent option to train those living in small island states who would otherwise not have access to educational opportunities, there are challenges in providing such. Geography, that is the vast distances between the island states in Oceania, makes for high costs and slow delivery in the provision of distance education programs.[4] Furthermore, the diversity of cultures in the Polynesian region often complicates the matter further: in addition to language barriers (the majority of Polynesians do not speak English as their first language), the fact that each of these nations come from different histories, governments, and laws affects access to the Internet and the World Wide Web thereby challenging access to online resources.[5]

The University of the South Pacific (USP)

The first academic program in librarianship, the Fiji Certificate in Librarianship, began in 1972 at USP. According to the USP website: “it was the only library qualification offered in the region and emphasised basic library practices.”[6] Over the next twenty years, the program was revised and changed, leading to the Diploma in Library/Information Studies in 1991 and a Certificate in Basic Skills in Library/Information studies in 1998. The programs offered by USP, which are only offered in English via distance education, “address the realities of Pacific Island libraries, most of which are poorly developed, and in particular are under-financed, under staffed, with poor physical facilities, inadequate collections, and a lack of access to the Internet and other sources of digital information.”[7] Furthermore, courses “emphasise conventional library skills and knowledge in, for example, collection building, cataloguing, and information skills relating to print resources.”[8] In 2003, Paula H. Jones (Coordinator, Diploma in Library/Information Studies, USP) noted that with increased Internet access in the region, not only were the USP programs offering more digital options, but the course material was evolving as well to address increased Information Communications Technology (ICT) in libraries (more automated systems and access to digital information).

In addition to the certificate and diploma programs at USP, an Information and Library Studies Minor was approved in 2010 to help increase career opportunities and build local capability.[9] According to the USP website, “candidates for the Minor are expected from academic, NGO, corporate and government libraries, as well as teachers with library responsibility.” The minor and diploma programs at USP are the highest local library qualification available in this region.[10] Most recently, the USP began working towards getting approval for an LIS degree and is continuing to investigate the feasibility of such.[11]

Archives and Records Management

On the topic of archival training in the South Pacific, Sam Kaima wrote: “Training for archivists and record managers in the region has been neglected in the past, and continues to be so, as the governments are more concerned with developmental projects rather than basic normal routine procedures that policy makers feel are not important to the nation.”[12] As with librarianship, archivists and records managers in the South Pacific are often trained overseas.[13] While training has the power to improve standardization in archival methodology and practice throughout Oceania[14], the vast regional differences in culture and legislation, in addition to limited resources, again make it difficult for these small island states to achieve such.

Professional Development

In addition to the USP and overseas LIS programs, regional library associations such as the Pacific Regional Branch International Council on Archives (PARBICA), the Pacific Islands Association of Libraries, Archives, and Museums (PIALA), and the Asia and Oceania Section of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) are all major contributors to LIS training in Polynesia. For more information about the activities of these organizations see: professional associations.


  1. Williams, E.B. (1998). Information Needs in the Pacific Islands: Needs Assessment for Library, Archive, Audiovisual Collection and ICT Development in the Pacific Islands. A Report Prepared for UNESCO, Apia, Samoa.
  2. University of Papa New Guinea. (n.d.). School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Retrieved June 2012.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Jones, Paula H. (2003). Shaping Oceania’s libraries: library training as an agent for change. The New Review of Libraries and Lifelong Learning, 4(1): 94.
  5. Ibid.
  6. The University of the South Pacific. (2007). History of Programmes. Retrieved June 2012.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. The University of the South Pacific. (n.d.). Library and Information Studies Minor. Retrieved June 2012.
  10. Ibid.
  11. The University of the South Pacific. 20012. Library and Information Studies@USP Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved June 2012.
  12. Kaima, Sam (2000). Education, Training and Need for Standards for Archivists and Record Keepers in the Pacific Region. Fiji Library Association Journal, 43 & 44, 17-26.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Ibid.