Saturday, 4 August 2007

More on the library workforce

Thank you to my correspondents for their comments. I think that if we can assume what Dana suggests, and what I suggested, that has quite some implications for library education. There is a core area of librarianship, which Dana loosely describes as censorship, access and classification. It would be good for educators in particular to set out what they see as this core. The other players are employers, and of course librarians.

Librarian Idol suggests that there is a wide variety of people and motivations in librarianship, and that is absolutely right. Just to ask the question "What makes a good librarian?" uncovers as many answers as "Why did you become a librarian?" I have always argued, for example, that working in libraries is a good job for introverts - there is a lot of work away from customers, the work with customers is often pretty defined with clear boundaries, and the environment is relatively safe. But in addition to the diversity, there should also be an identifiable and agreed common core of knowledge, culture and values.

Part of the current task of library education is to determine in consultation with employers and our professional association (representing us as members) just what this common core might be. A further role is to determine what skills and capabilities are required by employers and how these will be acquired - through formal education, or on the job, or some combination, different in the case of different capabilities. Consulting with people who are young enough to remember what they studied and old enough to be working might be a significant part of this - the new graduates, for example.

Let me know what process you think we should take to work our way through these issues.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

there should also be an identifiable and agreed common core of knowledge, culture and values.

Absolutely!! I see ALIA, as the professional organisation for librarians, as the body that should be setting these professional values for the industry. When I was studying, my course spent a fair amount of time talking about the importance of the professional organisation in establishing the moral principles and values of the profession, and as a result, when I entered the workforce on a professional level, I was extremely idealistic, with my principles firmly established from professional reading.

And now, bit by bit, I find myself needing to negotiate these values, in order to work better within organisational strategies, which feels painfully like compromising professional standards - and maybe it is - but (some) other librarians are perfectly comfortable with it because "that's the way it works".

And yes, I'm sure we'd love to see a consistency in professional values, but I think that, in many ways, our diversity in culture tends to dictate our values and priorities when it comes to delivering library services (even when it comes to fundamental issues such as censorship and equal access to information).