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The 5-step plan that is helping Indonesia elevate its academic libraries

January 11, 2023

By Linda Willems

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The initiative was the brainchild of a grass-roots organization established to boost the skills and perception of the country’s libraries and librarians.

Back in the 1990s, if you asked anyone in Indonesia’s research community what the role of their institution’s library was, they would probably answer “to look after our university’s books”, says local librarian Mariyah Muri.

She explains: "At that time, there were gaps between functional librarians and lecturers, little cooperation among libraries themselves, and a lack of university library management training courses."

This resulted in few, if any, professional or personal growth opportunities for librarians, and low awareness of the value they could add to Indonesia’s Tri Dharma (Perguruan Tinggi), a term used to describe the country’s three principles of higher education — education and teaching, research and community service.

To combat these issues, at two key Indonesian library meetings in 1999 and 2000, librarians at state and private universities formed a plan. They agreed to develop a new organization — the Forum PerpustakaanPerguruan Tinggi Indonesia (FPPTI), known in English as the National Library Association of Indonesia.

This non-profit organization was to be a collaborative effort, managed by librarians for librarians. It would provide the support and training that members needed and increase recognition of librarians’ roles in universities.

Fast forward 20 years, and, according to Mariyah, who now heads up the FPPTI, while there is still work to be done, the skills of Indonesia’s librarians have undergone a positive shift, as has their reputation. Here she describes the various steps that are helping the FPPTI achieve its ambitious goals. She also shares best practice tips for other countries interested in following a similar path.

FPPTI Management Team

FPPTI Management Team. Credit: FPPTI

Step 1: Collaboration

The motto of the FPPTI is networking, sharing and caring. And, for Mariyah, this approach has been vital. "Librarians can develop when they are part of networks that can elevate them - they cannot operate in silos of their own institution. Then the act of sharing brings in other perspectives that can help them grow. And caring means supporting librarians and libraries that are still lacking in confidence and skills, without hoping for anything in return."

Step 2: Growing the organization

All librarians at higher education institutions in Indonesia are eligible to join the FPPTI. When it launched, the organization contacted the leaders of universities around the country to introduce the initiative and its goals. This enabled them to recruit librarians and establish branches of the FPPTI by province. Mariyah explains: "The needs of provinces often differ, and this approach ensures that individual branches can focus on meeting their region’s unique or specific requirements."

The FPPTI also hosted themed events for librarians, sponsored by partners such as the National Library of Indonesia, publishers and universities. Initially, these events were managed solely by the FPPTI’s central administration team, but provincial branches are now also very active in this area. Themes to date have included ‘the role of librarians in a digital environment’ and ‘using software to manage a digital library’.

These tactics have seen membership of the FPPTI grow steadily, and today it supports 1,221 university libraries in 24 provinces.

Step 3: Providing training

In 2022, the FPPTI introduced a university library accreditation course in cooperation with the National Certification Body of Indonesia and the National Library of Indonesia. The goal of the training is to improve the quality of university library management and services. Mariyah says: "We see this as an absolute must to increase the competence of librarians. Participants who complete the course are in a good bargaining position to increase their role in their university. And our hope is that it will help to standardize the capabilities and conditions of libraries and librarians across regions."

In addition, the FPPTI organizes:

  • Technical guidance training (BIMTEK) for higher education libraries

  • Technology-based information literacy for 3,400 librarians in 34 provinces, in collaboration with the National Library of Indonesia

  • Outstanding librarian competitions; for example, the IALA (Indonesian Academic Librarian Awards) and the ALIA (Academic Library Innovation Award) programs

  • Assistance with the development of institutional repositories (IRs)

Creating digital ecosystems webinar

Creating digital ecosystems webinar. Credit: FPPTI

Looking to the future — the FPPTI’s long-term goals

According to Mariyah, although the organization has come a long way, there is still much it would like to achieve. Plans in the pipeline include:

  • Continuing to grow the quality of university libraries, along with the skills of librarians themselves. "The number of accredited university libraries is still quite low," explains Mariyah

  • Securing a role in the campus digital ecosystem, especially in supporting Indonesia’s Independent Learning Campus Merdeka (MBKM) policy

  • Supporting librarians to act as research collaborators and minimizing the gap between librarians and lecturers

    • "Librarians should be working with professors and students to enhance learning and research both at home and abroad."

  • Enabling librarians to pursue PhDs

  • Providing opportunities for collaboration with various types of libraries across the world

    • "This not only advances the growth of libraries and librarianship in Indonesia, but is important in the face of global changes," she adds

Step 4: Nurturing networks

To build and maintain connections between members, the FPPTI hosts a series of events, including:

  • The National Conference (MUNAS) and the Regional Conference (MUSWIL) – both held once every three years

  • The annual National Coordination Meeting (Rakornas)

  • The annual Regional Coordination Meeting (Rakorwil)

  • And a variety of semi-annual coordination meetings

They also maintain an active social media presence, particularly on Instagram @fppti_pusatopens in new tab/window and YouTube fppti pusatopens in new tab/window.

Step 5: Sharing best practice

This year saw the organization launch Jurnal FPPTIopens in new tab/window, a peer-reviewed journal that publishes original scientific research results and review articles on academic librarianship in both English and Bahasa Indonesia.

Mariyah says: "We see this as a way to share ideas and lessons learned that can help to strengthen libraries and librarianship in Indonesia."

She adds: "Our first issue was published in July, discussing issues such as journal accreditation, social media as a tool for library promotion and information sources, and information literacy. We have received constructive feedback and huge support for the journal. In the near future, we plan to apply for a national journal accreditation to maintain our reputation."


Portrait photo of Linda Willems


Linda Willems

Freelance writer and owner

Blue Lime Communications

Read more about Linda Willems