Tag Archives: Professionalism

Professional “Thank You” Not Required?

Quite often I receive emails from students in MLIS programs asking for advice. This can be as simple as help with a paper, a cataloguing question or long-term career advice. Sometimes these emails also involve in-depth questions regarding the future of cataloguing, areas of the profession that are growing, my professional opinion on certain topics or participation in studies, research or interviews.

Receiving these emails on an almost monthly basis, I continue to take the time to answer them, thoughtfully providing responses, direction, opinions or, when I have no answers, other resources or individuals that I believe will be helpful. However, what always stands out when helping these individuals is that I rarely, if ever, receive a “Thank You”. It’s easy to send an email. Easier than picking up the telephone or writing a letter. While I am not so long in the tooth, I had it drilled into me from an early age that a simple Thank You letter goes a long way. And, to me, it does. When a new professional wants something, how easy it is to send a quick email or text. And then — “ding”– their smartphone goes off when they receive a text or email back, providing them with answers to their queries. But how much effort does it take to send a simple “Thank you” in return? Apparently, a lot.

Within the past two weeks, I received two requests for assistance. And, given my ongoing experience with young professionals who are used to instant gratification (in this case, quick and “easy” answers with no thought to the professional’s time on the other end), my knee-jerk reaction was to say “no”. How terrible of me. Why should these students face the consequences of their peers’ actions? So, of course, I am taking the time to do it. Why? Because I am a professional who believes in mentoring and growing the profession through working together, sharing information and building relationships. Because, for every 1 out of 30 young professionals who take the time to say “Thank You”, I know that perhaps, one day, I will meet or read about that young individual making a difference in our profession. And, by some small chance, maybe I made a positive impact in their career choices and path.

However, I do find the lack of a professional “Thank You” troubling. Why are our young professionals not learning about how to conduct themselves professionally? Should they have to be taught about professional conduct (which in this case, seems more like common courtesy) at the graduate level? Should we be addressing this behaviour at conferences? In the classroom? While I am not sure where this needs to be addressed, we certainly need to take note of this or someday, an aspiring mover & shaker may write an email that is never responded to; never answered because the respondent no longer takes the time to respond to emails and is no longer interested in mentoring or sharing their expertise. What a shame that would be.

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What is professionalism?

In view of my last post – and the contradicting sentiments reflected in the comments, I thought I’d explore the concept of professionalism and professional conduct with the express purpose of how an attitude of superiority or arrogance can assist/impact professions and professionals. My last post centered on personal conduct and professionalism in how we handle our achievements, not the attitude or traits of any particular profession. This post continues with that theme.

However, rather than just my own opinion, I thought I’d also include some interesting thoughts and online articles about the subject. I’ve used some examples throughout various professions, including the medical profession, because they were mentioned in the comments. This is by no means an exhaustive list of ideas or thoughts, simply a quick look at what others are saying about professionalism from a variety of fields.

PROFESSIONALISM
Professionalism…How do I get one?

“So, what is professionalism if it’s not power lunches, golf, drinking with the boss, and business suits? A general, raw view of professionalism is, “a focused, accountable, confident, competent, motivation toward a particular goal, with respect for hierarchy and humanity, less the emotion.” What this means is that you leave out the outbursts and emotional thralls that accompany stressful situations and success. You maintain focus, with a sense of urgency, and accept responsibility on a path toward a specific goal. In the process, you maintain respect for your superiors, peers, and subordinates as well as respect them as human beings.”

Professionalism Initiative: The University of Kansas School of Medicine

This is an interesting article because it also lists the elements of professionalism. In one of its introductory passages, a bold and encouraging statement about what it is to be a professional is provided. The characteristics that are presented can be directly applied to our library professionals, if we choose to accept them.

“In addition to competence in their field, all medical professionals must strive to retain those humanistic qualities – integrity, respect, and compassion – that constitute the essence of professionalism. The core of professionalism thus includes altruism, accountability, excellence, duty, service, honor, integrity, and respect for others. These qualities apply to all aspects of the professional’s life, including the relationships between medical professionals, between specialties, and between professional organizations.”

Also, they directly address the attitude of arrogance in the medical profession:

“Arrogance – Arrogance is an offensive display of superiority and self-importance. Unfortunately, by their nature, medicine and science can foster arrogance in the medical professional. The training is long and arduous with a seemingly endless mass of knowledge, which at times feels impossible to master. Students of science are thus prone to assume an air of self-importance, having survived such an initiation. Arrogance destroys professionalism by reducing the individual’s ability to think for himself or herself, making empathy for others difficult and removing the checks and balances of self-doubt.”

Also of interest in this document is a section on descriptors of unprofessionalism [emphasis added], which includes a lack of effort toward self-improvement and adaptability as described below:

“Medicine and academic science demand continuous personal growth and improvement. Resistance or defensiveness in accepting criticism, remaining unaware of one’s own inadequacies, resisting changes, not accepting responsibility for errors or failure, being overly critical, being verbally abusive during times of stress and displaying arrogance are reflections of a poor professional attitude.”

Turgay Kivrak, a senior developer in Amsterdam recently blogged about arrogance as well in his post Arrogance, Humility and Software Development. I encourage anyone who is interested in the negative impact of arrogance to read this post.

Kivrak’s post appeared on the 23rd of January, but I was not aware of it until this morning. There is a similar theme to my post, Don’t Let it Go to Your Head. In particular:

The feeling you have when you see the greatness of your work and your thought should not lead to arrogance, you should be thankful to have that gift, keeping in mind that it is given to you to use in benefit of humans.

If you look at life, you can also easily see every extraordinary thing given to the human is supposed to be used in benefit of others and if he uses it for himself, like arrogance, he pays a lot for it. So, even if you are gifted, there is no excuse for being arrogant

Kivrak provides a list of additional resources on the topic:
Success, Arrogance, Rise and Fall
Humility
Extreme Humility

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Don’t let it go to your head

You feel untouchable – everything is going well, opportunities are being presented to you and everyone knows it. STOP RIGHT THERE.

Everyone knows it? One of the most interesting lessons I’ve learned in my relatively short life is that nobody likes a braggart, an “I’m soooo busy” type of person that they are now too good for others. After all, they don’t have time now, do they, because they are so much in demand?

In one of my former jobs while attending graduate school, I was working as a legal assistant and office manager. The assumption by those who reigned over the office assistants found it challenging to believe we had ideas, thoughts, feelings or achievements and successes of our own. They were too busy expounding on their own worth and wealth of opportunities. There was also another set. The set that was happy in their lot as legal secretaries and none too pleased that I wasn’t. It was not a place, where, even among my own co-workers, stories of my successes were welcomed. Many times, this was not the result of jealousy, but a simple matter of angering very kind individuals that enjoyed their position who were put off by my distaste of the same position.

I never forgot the lessons I learned in that job. Today, I share my successes with those that care, not those who are trapped by close physical proximities (ie. uncontrolled circumstances) and have to pretend to care. I also know that, while I may be extremely excited about what I’m doing, there are always others doing more – and often doing it without the need for acknowledgement.

There are some truly amazing professionals (and we’ve all met someone like this) that have accomplished and contributed so much to our profession, and yet are the most humble and down-to-earth individuals we have ever known. They ask questions, understanding that they still have much to learn.

An attitude of superiority and contempt for others only takes you so far. At some point, the opportunities will run dry and no one will want to work with you. More importantly, no one who used to care will listen.

While I think all of us can reflect on moments when we were so excited by an event or opportunity that we ran around telling everyone and enjoyed the “big head” moment for a while, we can also remember taking a step back and feeling a little embarrassed by our behaviour – especially if it resulted in a “know it all” attitude resulting in hurt feelings.

I will never forget how very small I was made to feel at times in my former work as a legal secretary. Because I chose not to share the fact that I’d published or was earning an MLIS, those “know it alls” knew nothing at all.

Whether you’re a manager, co-worker or friend, it is important to remember that being humble is also a virtue. We are all, unfortunately, replaceable and, eventually, forgettable, whether or not we like to think so. If you are doing well in your career, there is no need to hide it, but there is a need to remember that it is how you deal with your successes that determines if you’re a professional.

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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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Information Ethics : Our Standards, Responsibilities and Duties as Librarians

As many of you are aware from reading this blog, my husband is a lawyer. One of the areas he is most interested in is professional ethics, discipline and self-governance. While his interests are mainly focussed on professional ethics surrounding the legal profession, much of what we discuss together involves all professionals, our responsibilities, and how we conduct ourselves. Like lawyers, we serve the public and, as a result, are public figures. We hold a position of trust in the public eye.

Having developed an interest in professional ethics through our discussions, I have been reading articles on our own profession, and our responsibilities. The following excerpt is from an article I recently came across called Information Ethics: The Duty, Privilege and Challenge of Educating Information Professionals – University of Pennsylvania.

In our increasingly complex, multicultural, and information-intensive society, many critical issues related to information access and use are misunderstood, inadequately considered, or even ignored. These issues may involve balancing individual and societal needs (such as in protecting both an individual’s privacy and the public’s right to know); resolving conflicting views about library collection policies between librarians and parents of schoolchildren; resolving disagreements between individual archivists and retention policies concerning electronic records; understanding one’s own view of what is ethical; or many other topics. In a growing number of instances, decisions concerning information access and use are placing information professionals in sensitive, and sometimes vulnerable, positions.

Knowing how to create, find, manage, access, preserve, and use information effectively provides a form of power to the information professional, whether it is through speed of access to needed sources, the ability to hack into a system, or complex skills to find and create new multimedia information resources. Information professionals, as well as those who rely on them to provide a wide array of services to help people work more efficiently, compete with others, or improve the quality of their lives, must recognize and understand that with power comes responsibility. Like those who acquired power from their knowledge of how to split the atom, librarians, archivists, and other information professionals must learn to understand the possible and real consequences of their actions, reflect on the alternative choices they may make, and determine how best to use their power and act responsibly.

Individuals seeking to become professional librarians or archivists, or seeking to work in other types of cultural heritage institutions or information-related organizations must first learn to develop and hone their own individual sense of ethics, live an ethical life, and be educated about ethical issues in their professional life. In addition, the information professional must learn how–and be ready–to make ethical decisions and take ethical actions (Hammond, Keeney, & Raiffa, 1998).

What I find most intriguing about this article is the emphasis on the creation, retrieval, management and access to information. I have specifically chosen this excerpt because of the current movement among cataloguers to push for a larger cataloguing curriculum in library education. Cataloguing is more than just a skill set. What we do requires a high degree of professionalism. We make decisions regarding political correctness versus access, censorship, labeling, personal opinions, and much more. Information ethics is heavily imbedded in cataloguing. Before the information is ever accessible or organized for the public, it passes through our hands. As a result, our profession carries with it a large amount of responsibility.

While I am hopeful that increasing awareness in our professional responsibilities, as well as our skills and knowledge, will assist in developing a higher level of education among current library students, I am also bringing attention to ethical standards because I believe this area of librarianship has been neglected. I also believe that in an increasingly information-centered world, our ability to outline exactly what our code of ethics is and how we govern ourselves will become even more important.

As a result, I hope to explore this topic further in future posts and look forward to any feedback from you in this regard.

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