Part of the whirlwind excitement of a 3 week class is cramming in a semester’s worth of intellectual growth and edification into a mere 21 days. It is an appropriate indicator of the importance of critical thinking, if nothing else just to organize my disjointed and random thoughts. My mission in this 3-part blogging exercise is to try to develop a microcosm of a learning process. I have taken in lots of information, so let’s see if I can reguritate it into the form of knowledge. We’ll assume the wisdom will come at some point later in the future.
On the issue of professional responsibility to community involvement, I have considered many different perspectives. Our exercise this week to look at the ALA’s website and links to resources on ethical issues got me thinking about this as well. I poked around quite a bit in the section on advocacy and noticed just how strenuously the ALA promotes this as a core value for the profession.
I have never been very politically active in the past. I tend to take a somewhat Jainist position of doing no harm and adhering to personal responsibility. If I take a longer view on the issue, I do admit that pursuing a professional route requires greater responsibility for issues relating to the profession. By saying I am a professional and a graduate of an ALA-accredited school, I am therefore guided by certain shared principles of behavior. If our professional principles include advocacy and outreach, they must therefore be part of my ethical grounding. Does this mean I must be involved in the issues, a representative library voice in the community? Alfino and Pierce think so in Information Ethics for Librarians. Perhaps it differs depending on the institution. Public librarians often seem to take much of the onus of responsibility for advocacy efforts. Is this because they are more central to the community, while the rest of us are off in our ivory towers (or archives, or schools, or museums)? Should we all really share in the efforts equally? Should we all be marching outside the capitol when library funding issues come up? Should we all be writing to our senators and editors? Probably yes. The Professional Librarian’s Guild suggests that we should be radical (non-neutral) proponents of intellectual freedom and “strongly oppose the commodification of information which turns the ‘information commons’ into privatized, commercialized zones.” That sounds a bit ambiguous to me, but I do absolutely wish to be voice for intellectual freedom and equity of access.
As we become professionals, we become guardians of the profession. While that’s a frightening thought, it’s nonetheless part of the deal. Kathleen Pena McCook also promotes our community involvement on the Librarian at Every Table discussion list:
“Librarians have an important role to play in building community in neighborhoods, towns, cities, counties, states and the nation. People have great faith in libraries as fair and trusted institutions and in librarians as the honest and diligent keepers and disseminators of the human record.”
My professional involvement to this point has included association and committee memberships, reading and thinking about the issues, and activity on discussion lists. Along with my blog feeds, I subscribe to nexgenlib, newlib, ARLIS-L, and VRA-L. I find blogs and discussion lists to be useful tools for different reasons. From blogs, I gain a great deal of information about trends and an in-depth view of how people are thinking about the issues. I get inspired to pursue different paths of research. From the discussion lists, I mostly get a sense of how different constituencies (new librarians, library students, art librarians, etc.) are thinking and conversing about the issues. As a distance ed student, it’s one of the ways in which I can get more of a sense of community. Lest I begin to drown in information, I have avoided joining more specific groups such as autocat, even though the discussion interests me.
All of these components of involvement indicate that I do consider involvement beyond the boundaries of the job to be an important aspect of professionalism. I’ve started thinking about the various ways in which I will fulfill my professional responsibilities in the years to come. Beyond the things I have already mentioned, I would like to find more opportunities for continuing education. I’m excited by the fact that there are now so many (mostly) freely available podcasts on a variety of topics. Some of these resources include the SirsiDynix institute, College of DuPage, AMIGOS, and other random useful stuff librarians have put online. I also really enjoy conferences. There is something about the immediately close-knit, like-minded community that is created for 2 or 3 days that I find really inspiring and invigorating. I would like to become more active in my association memberships, such as the state library association’s New Member’s Round Table.
I assume that at some point in the not too distant future I will take a role in the management and administration of a library. I have thought quite a bit about how I would like to develop my management style to integrate within an organization. I would definitely like to avoid micromanagement, and, as Michael Gorman puts it, try to have an organization that is as flat as possible. Coming from the perspective of a paraprofessional, I can definitely relate to the issues affecting staff. I think I would be very receptive to input and concerns from all levels.
Another important responsibility inherent in professionalism is mentoring. I would like to continue to learn from people who are established in the field. My present job involves working very closely with professionals in all areas of the library, and this has been immensely helpful to me. In particular the chance to share ideas through committee work is invaluable. I hope that when I start my first professional job I will have someone to show me the ropes and introduce me to the organization. Likewise, I would like to be a mentor for others after I have a few years of experience. However, most of the time mentoring opportunities are informal. I think we all have something, some unique expertise or perspective, to teach each other, and mentoring is an ongoing process. That’s one reason why social networking has the potential to be a powerful tool, not just for our patrons, but for us as professionals. We can learn from each other through blogs, wikis, and websites. We can find out what projects others are working on and what discoveries they have made. We can collaborate and combine our efforts in new and innovative ways.