Tag Archives: Librarianship

Report: The impact of technology on the future of libraries and librarianship

The Office for Information Technology Policy just released a report examining technology and its impact on the future of libraries. Checking out the future: perspectives from the library community on information technology and 21st century libraries discusses a broad range of topics that will interest the entire library community. 

Topics discussed, taken from page 3 of the report:

•• Will the library continue to provide a physical space for individuals to advance their knowledge and skills and access vast tangible and digital collections, while also serving as a community center designed to foster communication and collaboration, as well as an online virtual destination offering an entry point to networked digital services and materials?
And will the library emphasize one of these roles at the expense of the others? For many, the library has been a quiet place for study and solitude, providing an opportunity to interact with individuals engaged in similar pursuits in a communal but not social sense. Is this type of environment, historically central to the library’s mission, endangered if
libraries evolve into community centers or portals to the virtual worlds of the future?

•• How will future library professionals organize, store, and distribute information? How will school (and other) librarians support information literacy in physical and digital environments?

•• What will a book look like? A database? A scholarly journal? What new forms of information may develop?

•• Will metadata tagging, advanced search algorithms, and networked books significantly alter the way library users find, absorb, even “read” information?

•• Will print on demand alter the notion of categorized collections lining shelves in the stacks? Library professionals today are discussing the amount of space that will be devoted to physical materials in the 21st century.

•• Beyond the physical confines of a building, what role will libraries and librarians play as the arbiters of information quality? Will the profession of librarianship endure?

•• Should librarians become experts in informatics, social networking, e‑government, civic participation, and community development? Or, as some fear, will the librarian become a luxury that communities, schools, and universities cannot afford, replaced by a computer, a network, or a business? Will the quality, credibility, and integrity of information suffer as a result?

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Filed under Our Profession

Librarianship: A job or a profession?

I suppose this is a bit of a rant that I’d like to share. As a disclaimer, I do want to state that I’ve met many amazing people in this profession. However, those individuals who really stand out to me are the ones devoted to librarianship.

Being a relative newcomer to the profession, I often hear remarks such as “you’re still young”, “wait until you get older”, “you’re not jaded yet” from staff. I have chosen to use my words carefully in this regard. These comments tend to come from staff and non-professionals, not librarians. It surprises me that staff members would concern themselves with how much time I devote to the profession. My profession.

When I’m met with sarcastic remarks, my first reaction is to say something like, “of course you wouldn’t understand, it’s just a job to you” or, “I chose to go to school for this”, or even worse “I’m a professional, you’re not”. I would never actually say this given that it’s not only inappropriate but incredibly UNprofessional. However, I am tempted.

I applaud librarians who have been in the field, those of you who are not so new, and yet who continue to contribute to our profession. I don’t just work in a library, I AM a librarian, and it is part of who I am. I enjoy contributing to the profession and am sorry that staff who work in libraries can’t appreciate that. I hope that when I become too jaded or “old”, that I’ll be wise enough to retire.

In the end, I guess it boils down to this: Do you see what we do as a profession and yourself as a professional, or is it just a job?

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Filed under Our Profession, Professional Ethics

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul: That’s Not Professional Conduct

When we attend library school, we are united by our interest in joining the library profession. As a team of soon-to-be professionals, we work in groups to discuss current issues facing libraries; we collaborate on projects and talk about emerging trends. We are comrades and colleagues.

Unfortunately, when we enter library land, we tend to follow our interests and grow away from each other. Whether we choose reference, cataloguing, youth services or readers’ services, we follow our passion and feel that the area we have chosen is vital to the services that libraries provide. Because of this passion and dedication to our own area of librarianship, some professionals come to the conclusion that their interests and their services are more important to the running of the library than another area of librarianship. As a group of professionals, we no longer look at the importance of librarianship as a whole, but divide it into smaller parts, which results in an “us or them” mentality.

This problem is further exacerbated by budget cuts and library closures. In an effort to save their own job, librarians become even more divided as they seek to devalue another library service so that they remain “safe”. In essence, they are attempting to rob one area of librarianship to sustain another.

Unlike reference staff or readers’ services, cataloguing is a silent public service. As long as we are doing our job well, things run smoothly and therefore, we attract little to no attention. As a result, we are often forgotten. Most patrons are not even aware of our existence.  As such, we are hard pressed to defend ourselves to the public we serve when the services we are providing are denigrated by front-line staff. What is more disturbing is that many front-line librarians attempt to devalue our services and commiserate with patrons when they complain about Dewey or the library catalogue.

Is it really very professional to put down colleagues in order to make our own services more attractive? As professionals, we should be making ourselves aware of the importance of each service provided in the library – whether we like it our not. I have to admit, I dread the thought of sitting at a reference desk, and I certainly wasn’t interested in pursuing a career in children’s services. However, I discovered something while attending graduate school.  I may not like performing those aspects of librarianship, but they are a vital area of the profession and as such, it is important to understand them and why they exist.  Embrace the diversity of services that we offer – it is those services as a whole that we should be working together to protect.

As professionals, we should not be denigrating the services that our colleagues provide due to our own dislike or ignorance.  To bad-mouth one area of librarianship is to devalue the whole of our profession.  I suggest that in doing so, it exhibits a lack of professional conduct.

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Filed under Our Profession, Professional Ethics

Librarianship can be a struggle when it’s your second career

Most of us who come to the library are often starting our second career. Prior to becoming a librarian, I had not only managed a law firm, but had operated my own private music studio.

At times, the transition that you must make can be difficult. I often find myself wanting to take on more responsibility. In particular, coming from a management position where I was responsible for a staff and making vital decisions in the operation of a business to offering suggestions and hoping that my supervisors give me the go ahead can be difficult.

I think many librarians coming from other backgrounds struggle with changes in their role as a new professional. Many of us are lucky to have a supportive department. I am also fortunate to have an extremely understanding supervisor who gives me quite a bit of freedom to try new things. However, not everyone finds themselves in a desirable situation.

Frustration in a new job can be an unfortunate bi-product of our past experiences and skills. This is especially true if we are coming from successful positions. Eagerly looking forward to a new profession and taking with us all of the transferrable skills we are bringing to the table, it is easy to forget that we are new to the library world.

Don’t feel discouraged if you feel frustrated. The library world is small, and sometimes it just takes time to become better acquainted with the profession and the professionals in it. The transition to a new profession can be hard. Experiences and skills that you bring to your new position are important. However, you must remember that you are new. Your employer is not aware of all of your talents and your level of commitment until you have a chance to exhibit it. Be patient, stay dedicated and get active.

Although I have an artistic background, most of my professional experiences have occurred in a business setting. When I started my new position, my skills in business and marketing were not buried. Instead, I looked at my new role and considered the best ways to contribute with my existing skills and interests. As a result, I feel that I am constantly building upon my existing knowledge base, rather than creating a new base. Working in a library has also allowed me the freedom to use more creativity. However, my professional fulfillment does not stem solely from my position (although I love my job!).

I am dedicated to librarianship. When my day ends and I go home, my “job” does not end. I read professional journals both in librarianship and outside librarianship. One of my favourite publications is the Harvard Business Review. I also enjoy reading my husband’s law journals. They give me an entirely different perspective on how information is perceived and what is happening in the legal field that may impact us. I write articles for journals and volunteer to write book reviews. I carry my business card everywhere and make it a point to explain to politicians, lawyers and yes, even neighbours what I do and why it’s important. I email authors of journal articles to comment on what they’ve written and to establish professional contacts. I also volunteer for positions in special interest groups (SIGs) in our professional associations, attend talks and participate in discussions forums (like having a blog and reading blogs!)

For those new to the profession, stay focused on why you chose librarianship. I encourage you to get involved in associations and volunteer positions. I also urge you to read your professional journals. Staying current and demonstrating a willingness to succeed in your new profession will soon overcome any frustration you initially felt when entering librarianship.

And, by the way, welcome to the profession! I think it’s a decision you’ll never regret.

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Filed under The Cataloguer