Mid-Semester Analysis and Reflections

This semester has been very challenging. Remembering how to balance school and work – and then adding a family and house into the mix – proved interesting, but I have it figured out. This semester I took two classes, LIS 6010 (Introduction to the Information Profession) and LIS 6080 (Introduction to Technology). I have enjoyed both classes and learned a lot along the way. I will be including a budgeting assignment from my LIS 6080 class in my E-portfolio on the advice of my professor.

The two assignments that stand out in my mind from LIS 6010 are the ethics assignment and the discussion board about defining professional/professionalism. I feel like both of these assignments really made me think about things as a librarian; they both provided me with core knowledge of librarianship that I have since referred to in my occupation. Since I am currently employed as a Library Assistant, I did not expect to learn a lot about how libraries work. This was not the case; however, and I have referred back to both of these assignments throughout the course of my daily work to better understand policies and procedures.

I have included the PowerPoint presentation that I created for my ethics assignment. Please feel free to view it. I am very proud of my work.

 

Below is my response that I posted to the discussion board defining professional/professionalism. This was a tough assignment for me to complete. It really made me think.

Post 1 of 3

Well, here goes nothing. Let me start by saying that I feel like I’m on a high wire without a safety net. I am handling this first part of my discussion all on my own without referring to any outside sources. So, what does “professionalism” mean to me? Be forewarned, my definition of “professionalism” coexists with what I define as a “profession” and being “professional.”

Let’s just say that professionalism is the way that anyone handles themselves in a work situation. I was raised with the belief that everyone (and I mean everyone) is created equally. No one person or profession (as long as it’s legal) is more valuable than another. It takes all of us working together to make this thing here on earth work. At first glance, this belief may seem like it’s not really related to professionalism, but for me it is. I’ve tried to detach from this belief to answer this week’s post, but it keeps coming back to me.

If professionalism means that someone possesses a certain level of knowledge and holds a skill set that lends them to performing their job at the highest level possible, can’t this apply to all jobs? For example, if I have to return something at Target and the person handling my return has no idea of what they are doing and treats me poorly, I will say that they lack professionalism. They are non-professional. If I return something at Target and the person handling my return takes care of my “problem” with ease – not complaining, working efficiently and providing great customer service, I will say that this person has a high level of professionalism. Simple enough. The person employed at Target who is trained to be professional and who handles my transaction is much more valuable to me than any doctor or lawyer ever would be in this same situation. I’d love to see my doctor try to return my Target bikini quickly, efficiently, and with a smile on her face. Not gonna happen. My point being that anyone has the potential to be a professional in their given job; people who are professionals in one profession are non-professionals when trying to complete a job that they are unfamiliar with. Simple enough.

Here is the part of the equation that I am grappling with. Is formal education a prerequisite to being a professional? What about all of the other characteristics mentioned in Dr. Maatta’s lecture? Can one work in a profession without being a professional? Can that same person exhibit professionalism? Is the Target employee who has no education higher than a high school diploma (I realize that I am stereotyping here and that many Target employees probably hold an MLIS degree) capable of being a professional within the profession of customer service, and exhibiting professionalism?

At this point, I personally feel that if the value is there (i.e. someone has life experience, is naturally talented/gifted, has been trained, is simply very good at what they do, etc.), the person exhibits professionalism within a given profession, and is a professional. That would mean that I consider all of us currently employed working as librarians as professional librarians working within a profession and exhibiting professionalism –  as long as we’re darn good at what we do. I say this with great reservation. I respect the research and information compiled by other professionals and want to consider it before I make my final stand. I also want to thank Christian for sharing the information that he did in his post regarding levels. This is an important point to recognize.

I have my second post almost complete. There’s so much to consider. I cannot guarantee that my second post won’t contradict this post. This post comes from my heart. My next post will come from my head. I’m hoping my third post will be a balance of the two.

Post 2 of 3

Are we as librarians professionals? That is the question. I cannot believe how much I have struggled with this answer this week. My heart wants to say unabashedly yes, but I’m not so sure.

I’ve researched this question online only to find myself more confused. Some say yes, others no. Mary Ellen Quinn stated in American Libraries:

Although it seems that the question of whether librarianship is a profession might have been settled when Melvil Dewey declared it to be one back in 1876 (the same year the American Library Association was formed) the debate goes on (2010, p. 50).

The best way I could answer this question was to break it down into pieces. To do this, I am using the slides that Dr. Maatta developed for this week’s lecture. Dr. Maatta titled her slides “Characteristics of a Profession” and credits Bob Kizlik with the material she used to develop her slides.  I will cover all 12 characteristics in this discussion, offering my input as to why I think librarianship/library and information science does or does not exhibit each characteristic.

“Professions are occupationally related social institutions established and maintained as a means of providing essential services to the individual and the society” (Maatta, 2013, p. 6).  Librarianship fulfills this characteristic. We work in libraries, which are directly related to our occupation. Through these buildings and in the role we serve, we are helping society as a whole and individuals within that society. While some may argue the point, the majority of society would agree that we do provide valuable services.

“Each profession is concerned with an identified area of need or function (for example, maintenance of physical and emotional health, preservation of rights and freedom, enhancing the opportunity to learn)”  (Maatta, 2013, p. 6). Again, I feel that librarianship fulfills this role. One only needs to look as far as Ranganathan’s  Five Laws: Books are for use; Every reader his book; Every book its reader; Save the time of the reader; A library is a growing organism. This is a profession using “laws” to identify our main purpose.

“The profession collectively . . . possesses a body of knowledge and a repertoire of behaviors and skills (professional culture) needed in the practice of the profession; such knowledge, behavior, and skills normally are not possessed by the nonprofessional” (Maatta, 2013, p. 6). This gets touchy. Does holding a Master of Library and Information Science degree make one a professional? Is an MLIS the source of our knowledge? Are “librarians” without an MLIS considered nonprofessionals? Does working in a library as a non-degreed “librarian” make one a professional? This all seems so subjective to me.  My personal opinion is that working in a library and receiving training from degreed librarians does lend itself to making an individual a professional. The knowledge, behavior, and skills are learned. My Branch Head, Amy Churchill, has mentioned previously that when she hires, she looks for people who have skills that cannot be taught. She is referring to people who are outgoing, quick-thinking, organized, good multi-taskers, and great communicators. She feels that anyone can earn an MLIS, but it is these inherent traits that make someone valuable to the library system (A. Churchill, personal communication, May 23, 2013). Makes me think – are any of us professionals?

“Members of the profession are involved in decision making in the service of the client” (Maatta, 2013, p. 6). This is a no-brainer. We make decisions to help our patrons every day. Whether it’s a book recommendation, putting a request through, or helping with research, we make decisions for and with our patrons numerous times a day. This characteristic goes on, however, stating, “These decisions are made in accordance with the most valid knowledge available, against a background of principles and theories, and within the context of possible impact on other related conditions and decisions” (Maatta, 2013, p. 6). When I think about this in terms of a doctor or lawyer, I see it clearly. It all seems a bit heavy for librarians. True, we do adhere to Ranganathan’s laws, but does the context that we work within hold any notable impact? Librarians are not required to carry malpractice or professional liability insurance like doctors and lawyers. Is this because our decisions do not impact others on a level intense enough to be deemed professional? After all, librarians are not even licensed.

“The profession is based on one or more undergirding disciplines from which it builds its own applied knowledge and skills” (Maatta, 2013, p. 6). Again, I refer back to Ranganathan’s Five Laws. Librarianship is a disciplined field. We have built professional organizations and accredited curriculum around these laws.

“The profession is organized into one or more professional associations which . . . are granted autonomy in control of the actual work of the profession and the conditions that surround it . . . “(Maatta, 2013, p. 6). There are numerous library associations on both national/international and state/regional levels. For this discussion I will focus exclusively on the American Library Association (national level). As Online Computer Library Center, Inc. (OCLC) stated in its web biography, “Dewey changed librarianship from a vocation to a modern profession. He helped establish the American Library Association (ALA) in 1876; he was its secretary from 1876-1890 and its president for the 1890/1891 and 1892/1893 terms” (“How One Library Pioneer Profoundly Influenced Librarianship,” n.d.). The American Library Association (ALA) has grown to play an increasingly important role in libraries and librarianship. “ALA addresses issues at a federal level for our members, including civil liberties, intellectual freedom, privacy, copyright, government information, library funding, federal library programs, and internet access” (What ALA Does section, para. 4, n.d.). The ALA website goes on to explain, “ALA works for its members by offering conferences, continuing education, certifications, and employment services. We promote the profession by setting standards of accreditation for library schools and by recruiting new library workers.” (What ALA Does section, para. 5, n.d.)

“The profession has agreed-upon performance standards for admission to the profession and for continuance within it” (Maatta, 2013, p. 7).  To support my belief that librarianship fulfills this characteristic, I turn to the Library of Michigan. On their website, the Library of Michigan explains the qualifications required to meet certain levels of librarianship. Level One requires a master’s degree from an accredited library school and four years of paid library work. Level Two requires a master’s degree. Level Three requires a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university and completion of the beginning workshop offered through the Library of Michigan. Level Four requires a high school diploma, completion of the beginning workshop offered through the Library of Michigan, and one-year of paid library work (“Certification,” 2009). This same bit of information, however, does not perfectly fit the characteristic that, “Preparation for and induction into the profession is provided through a protracted preparation program, usually in a professional school on a college or university campus” (Maatta, 2013, p. 7). One can achieve a Level One certification from the Library of Michigan without attending a college or university.

“There is a high level of public trust and confidence in the profession and in individual practitioners, based upon the profession’s demonstrated capacity to provide service markedly beyond that which would otherwise be available”  (Maatta, 2013, p. 7). To confirm that librarianship does, in fact, include this characteristic, I turn to my personal experience working at the adult reference desk. I receive numerous compliments and much gratitude for the job that I do every day. People do value us. They trust that we will give them the right answer and because we consistently do provide accurate information, our patrons have confidence in us. My patrons tell me this on a consistent basis. It is this feedback that I am basing my claim.

“Individual practitioners are characterized by a strong service motivation and lifetime commitment to competence” (Maatta, 2013, p. 7). The fact that many of us already hold positions in libraries but are still seeking an MLIS seems to confirm this characteristic. We are constantly bettering ourselves and are motivated to provide the best service possible. By nature, librarians are learners. We value education and appreciate academia. In addition to these inherent personality traits, we are guided by the American Library Association’s Code of Ethics. For a complete listing of the code of ethics, please visit this link: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/proethics/codeofethics/codeethics.

“Authority to practice in any individual case derives from the client or the employing organization; accountability for the competence of professional practice within the particular case is to the profession itself” (Maatta, 2013, p. 7). We receive our authority to help patrons and disseminate information from our home library. In addition to receiving authority from the library, we must also have permission from our patrons. Because our patrons are coming to us and asking us for help, they are passively giving us this authority. Our competence can be measured by Ranganathan’s Five Laws, the American Library Association’s Code of Ethics, our patrons, and our home library – to name just a few sources.

“There is relative freedom from direct on-the-job supervision and from direct public evaluation of the individual practitioner” (Maatta, 2013, p. 7).  In my experience, I am not ever under direct supervision. Our reference desks are staffed by one person at a time – there isn’t ever any overlap. My supervisor never observes me. Our patrons love to offer their compliments and criticism, but we are still quite shielded. Rarely does anything positive or negative result from our patrons’ kind, or not so kind, words.

Breaking down the characteristics of a profession helped me a lot. I am very proud to say that after a thorough analysis I do believe library and information science is a profession.  Librarians are professionals. Let’s hope that we all exhibit a high degree of professionalism.

American Library Association (n.d.). What ALA Does. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/membership/whataladoes

Library of Michigan (2009, October 1). Certification. Retrieved from http://www.michigan.gov/libraryofmichigan/0,2351,7-160-18668_18685-226645–,00.html

Maatta-Smith, S. (2013). Professionals & Professionalism: What Makes Library & Information Science a Profession? [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from https://blackboard.wayne.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-4099460-dt-content-rid-2629061_2/xid-2629061_2

Online Computer Library Center, Inc. (n.d.). How One Library Pioneer Profoundly Influenced Librarianship. Retrieved from http://www.oclc.org/dewey/resources/biography.en.html

Quinn, M.E. (2010, November-December). The MLS Project. American Libraries, 41 (11-12), 50+. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA243960196&v=2.1&u=lom_pls&it=r&p=GPS&sw=w

Post 3 of 3

Why is our profession important? Richard E. Rubin stated in Chapter One of The Portable MLIS: Insights from the Experts, “Libraries are not important; they are essential” (2008, p. 3). I may be a bit biased, but I have to agree with Rubin. Of course, this begs the question, “Why are libraries essential?” Jennifer Johnston stated in her article titled “Perspectives, Insights & Priorities: 17 Leaders Speak Freely of Librarianship”:

Those of us working in libraries immediately realize their importance to communities: they store special collections and government records; allow the public free information access; offer a central gathering place for people and organizations; and serve as cultural and educational centers where individuals, students, children, and families can meet a famous author, get help with homework, or learn to read (2006, p. 414).

This quote only begins to touch on what libraries offer their communities. We are vital places. We collect, record, organize, house, and disseminate information. We offer free access to all of this information, along with free computer use. People can gather for a variety of reasons inside our buildings. We offer valuable programming to our residents – some fun, some informational, and some educational. We have resources available to our community that no one else offers. No one.

With the current economy, I think that libraries serve a more important role than ever. The American Library Association (ALA) recently released the “2013 State of America’s Libraries: A Report from the American Library Association.” ALA detailed the following:

Libraries offer resources often unavailable elsewhere during an economic “recovery” that finds about 12 million Americans unemployed and millions more underemployed. Three-fourths of public libraries offer software and other resources to help patrons create resumes and employment materials, and library staff helps patrons complete online job applications (ALA Library Fact Sheet 6, 2013).

We, as librarians, know our profession is important. Do others? The answer to this question is a resounding yes. In his article “Why Libraries Matter and How We Can Save Them” David Morris claimed:

Almost two thirds of us carry library cards. About half of us visit a public library at least once a year, many of us much more than once. Library use varies by class and race and by age and educational level, but the majority Americans—blacks and Latinos and whites, old and young, poor and rich, high school dropouts and university graduates, use the public library (2011).

We are valuable to our communities. For a fun experiment, visit http://www.saginawlibrary.org/wp-content/service_worth.php and calculate a library’s worth. A library’s value, be it monetary or otherwise, is what makes our profession important.

American Library Association (n.d.). (2013). ALA Library Fact Sheet 6. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/tools/libfactsheets/alalibraryfactsheet06

Haycock, K. and Sheldon, B. (2008). The portable MLIS: Insights from the experts. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Johnston, J. (2006). Perspectives, Insights & Priorities: 17 Leaders Speak Freely of Librarianship. Libraries and the Cultural Record, 41(3), 414+. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA152694692&v=2.1&u=lom_pls&it=r&p=GPS&sw=w

Morris, D. (2011, May 6). Why Libraries Matter and How We Can Save Them. The Public Library Manifesto. Retrieved from http://www.yesmagazine.org/happiness/the-public-library-manifesto

I have a good grasp on library work in general coming into this program because I have real-world library experience. The school work I am doing now is more of a compliment and enhancement of the knowledge I currently possess. There have not been any big surprises and I still think and feel very much the same as I did at the beginning of the semester. Please do not misconstrue this as me minimizing the impact that my coursework has had on me; instead it has enlightened me in ways that I would not otherwise have experienced. It is making library work seem new and fresh. It has been great to be surrounded by positivity in my field. As I move forward, I will continue to seek out areas that are not familiar to me so that I can continue to grow and learn. I have a genuine thirst for knowledge and finding answers – I am, after all, a librarian.

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