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The Free Range Librarian recently had an interesting post about “Standards 2.0″ in librarianship. Obviously “2.0″ has become a catch-phrase for any forward-looking idea. I’m working on “Heather 2.0″ right now.
What is interesting in Schneider’s post – which ends up being kind of a manifesto and what we should be aiming for in the application of current standards and the development of future standards in librarianship (such as collaborative models and looking at standards as works in progress rather than ending points) – is that we have entered a gray zone where these issues are less and less clear cut. In large part this is due to the other 2.0 buzzwords. The OPAC of the future aims to be collaborative, integrative, and branch out to the larger world online. Standards don’t play very well with these goals. Particularly (notoriously) clunky library standards such as the AACR slam right into a brick wall when faced with collaborative and interactive models of information retrieval and display.
It will be interesting to see if RDA changes this environment at all (this is a good overview from Ariadne), but librarians are not known for being particularly flexible in this regard. Or any regard, really. The article mentions that RDA is about “simplicity”, but it’s also about other un-2.0 things like “structure” and “consistency”. On the other end of the opinion spectrum, RDA was also criticized for its lack of structure and standards by – surprise, surprise – Michael Gorman in the December 2007 issue of American Libraries. Gorman reacts to user-generated metadata and uncontrolled vocabulary as though it were the devil’s work, as though any catalog not ordained by Lubetzky and written in the stone that is the AACR2 will burst into flames imminently.
Maybe we could just leave the standards in their present form, call it AACR2.0 to make it sound like the future, and make everyone happy. In other words, implement the same cosmetic and meaningless changes that have hindered forward motion in librarianship for too long.
I’m attempting here no small feat – to distill my observations and philosophies of the last few weeks into one cohesive code. During the course of my perusal of the various library codes of ethics, it dawned on me that this would be an ideal way to create a succinct structure for the more meandering and disjointed observations and declarations of my previous posts. In particular I was inspired by the short and sweet statements laid out by Rich Gause of the University of Central Florida in his “Philosophy of Librarianship” and wanted to attempt something similar.
My distillation is even shorter, if not sweeter. I took some time looking at the various resources we have explored in this course, including the ALA Code of Ethics and Library Bill of Rights, Fay Zipkowitz’s Case Studies, Mark Alfino & Linda Pierce’s Information Ethics for Librarians, Michael Gorman’s values, Ranganathan’s 5 Laws, and the code of ethics of the American Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. I came up with 5 statements based upon what I saw to be the most striking, essential, and personally applicable facets of these various resources within the context of the thinking I have done about my own professional development and philosophies of librarianship.
My Professional Ethics of Librarianship:
1. We have a responsibility to care for the cultural resources entrusted to us by our communities.
2. We have a responsibility to provide equal access to unbiased information for all patrons to promote literacy and the opportunity for lifelong learning.
3. We have a responsibility to continue learning new skills, thinking critically about current issues in libraries, and reaching out to the community and colleagues.
4. We are organizers of information in order to make information more accessible through effective subject analysis, cataloging, and classification principles.
5. We must be responsive to our patrons and our communities.
I feel that these points get to the heart of why this profession continues to be relevant and essential to an information-driven society. These are the philosophies I try to keep in mind when I consider the course of my career and prioritize my goals at work and in continuing education.
WWALD? (what would a librarian do?)
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.
As part of my Ethics & Critical Thinking course this summer, we have been asked to develop personal manifestos about our belief systems and involvement in librarianship. I decided to approach it as a three part series as I continue to read and develop my ideas about these issues.
This is my last semester of classes, so it is particularly appropriate that I take a long hard look at what I wish to accomplish professionally. I think what initially drew me to librarianship was the aspect of organizing information, in the same way I could have become a zoologist or entomologist. I am excited by taxonomic systems. However, I’m also the kind of person who always wants to be learning something new. Because – and I do truly believe this, I’m not just trying to be cheesy – the library is the “people’s university” it is the ideal place for self education. I’m passionate about that, so I’m passionate about libraries. I’m passionate about EVERYONE having that same opportunity to pursue multivariate interests in well-organized, carefully selected, and multifaceted collections.
In considering Michael Gorman’s core values in Our Enduring Values, there are several that stand out for me most prominently. As part of my personal motivations as described above, literacy & learning and equity of access are certainly essential components of my beliefs. Stewardship is another very important value to me. While I am interested in the organization of databases and virtual information, I am also compelled by the preservation and dissemination of artifacts. I find museums to be equally inspiring institutions for learning, based upon the preservation, contextualization, and display of objects. These objects can be bibliographic or they can be aesthetic, but either way they inspire thinking beyond their physicality and require stewardship. As Gorman points out, cultural resource professionals have the role of “preserving the records of humankind”( 59). That’s a tall order, but it’s something that makes me feel proud to play a part. Kind of like Noah Wyle in The Librarian: Quest for the Spear.
I’m keeping my mind open right now as to where I can unfold my library wings. I like academic libraries, but I don’t like the bureaucracy of huge systems. I think I would prefer an environment where I can perform a variety of work, both technical and public services. I have considered both community colleges and small public libraries for this reason. I love cataloging and metadata, but I also love reference. I suppose my dream job is to be an art librarian or visual resources curator. I am looking at possibilities in both libraries and museums, as I see the skills of library and information science applying to both types of institutions. Even if my title is not Librarian, I will still be applying the same knowledge and experiences in one form or another.
As to the issues of professional development, I do try to be as involved as possible in the larger realm of online and in person social networking. I’ve joined several professional organizations and attended a few conferences. I try to stay at least only slightly behind the curve with new technologies and Web 2.0. Obviously I have taken on blogging, and while at the moment I feel like I’m blogging in a vacuum, hopefully I will develop more insightful things to contribute as I go along and will see my observations become part of the biblioblogosphere. I’ve put up an online portfolio, which will be elaborated as I have the time to work on it.
At this point I feel like more of an observer than a participant in the field. I’m trying to soak up as much information as possible in the form of library blogs, websites, articles, and tutorials. My favorite library(ish) blogs include The Annoyed Librarian, Lorcan Dempsey’s blog, Tame the Web, and Webware. I may try to develop an article if I find a unique focus and useful contribution to the field. One ethical dilemma I try to avoid is submitting redundant, lackluster, or regurgitated information just to get published. Seeing my name in print is not my primary motivation, and I don’t see myself in a tenure-track position facing “publish or perish.” I like blogs for that reason. Here I can air my thoughts and observations and work through my questions without the pressure of criticism. Of course, you could drop me a comment and tell me my observations are dull and frivolous. That’s ok, I can take it.
I spent the weekend in Minnesota for Mother’s Day, and made a few observations about the public reaction to the profession of librarianship.
It started when I was renting a car. First I was asked if I am a professor at the university, which I choose to take as flattering. When I said I work at the library, for some reason she responded, “Oh, so you do the filing or whatever?” Now, I’m not quite sure in what context she meant “filing”. Like the card catalog? Or is it her impression of the library that we all stand around alphabetizing files all day?
The next day I was chatting with a friendly guy outside a coffee shop. He asked about the Michael Gorman book I happened to be reading, which invariably led to a question about why in the world I would voluntarily read such a thing. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for Michael Gorman, but Our Enduring Values isn’t the biggest page-turner in the English language. Anyway, the mention of my chosen profession led him to respond, “Oh, so you get to read all the time”. Hahaha! As I told him, I’ve had less chance to read (other than reams of library journal articles) since starting library school than ever before in my life. But honestly, there are many people who conjure up (for whatever bizarre reason they have cause to do so) images of librarians sitting around reading the latest bestsellers all day long. Because what else could we possibly be doing after the filing is done?
I was a bit concerned by these casual interactions, but the most disconcerting thing was that I was not really surprised. We know that’s what most people think about us. What will it take? A marketing campaign? A documentary? Perhaps YouTube has the potential to save us, though as Joe Janes pointed out in his MPLA keynote address this year, thusfar we have used it in rather pathetic and half-hearted replications of traditional library videos. I have seen a couple cool ones lately, one of them actually a music video. It may not do much to dispel stereotypes, but at least we look darkly mysterious and omnipotent rather than bored and without purpose.