Blogger and Professional Librarian Ryan Deschamps has entered a conversation with himself, as referee and contender, in the battle of: “Ten Reasons Why ‘Professional librarian’ is an Oxymoron” [Libraryjournal] [otherlibrarian]. He raises questions that Librarians often hear when other’s challenge librarianship as a profession. As such, Ryan states that “Each librarian needs to respond personally to the following 10 things to claim their status as professional.” It’s a challenge/exercise from which all librarians can benefit. I’ll tackle his 10 statements from the viewpoint of a relatively new private law firm Professional Librarian.
1. Librarians Have No Monopoly on the Activities They Claim
In my experience, the library has had a pretty good monopoly on our activities. Cataloging, ordering, routing, storing, organizing, accessing, retrieving, verifying, & updating are just some of the verbs we monopolize when it comes to caring for the physical library collection and our attorney’s need. This doesn’t even include: training, contracting, negotiating, searching, maintaining, testing, & providing, verbs for duties as e-content/database managers. No one else performs these tasks. While budget & adminstration, other departments cover too, but not with library services in mind.
2. There are No Consequences For Failing to Adhere to Ethical Practices
How about getting fired? There are legal onfidentiality/privacy and HIPAA requirements that exist not only in law firms but in all libraries. Often libraries employ their own set of privacy rules that are in place for patron protection.
3. Librarianship is Too Generalized to Claim Any Expertise
By nature, generalist is what we are, but in practice we quickly become specific. I chose the law, or the law chose me, other’s go into school media, adult services, health, art, academia, etc. The general knowledge makes us fit for specifics.
4. ’Librarian’ Assumes a Place of Work, Rather than the Work Itself
Law libraries are always shrinking and in some cases there is no physical collection. In short, the services we provide do define us. We are more than the sum of our books.
5. Peer Review in Librarianship Does Not Work Because There is No Competitive Process to Go With It
There is competition in the information field. Law firms could/do outsource information needs but find that the cost and time are more and the quality of work often lessened. Librarians learn their firm and the people. We know how to best serve our patrons, save on cost, and consistently do so in time efficient ways.
6. Values Are Not Enough
Not to get too philosophical but without values who are we? Our society is built on values. Librarians put their values to practice, i.e. quality information, freedom of information, right to access, etc.
7. The Primary Motivation for Professionalization is the Monopoly of Labor
That argument is a bit weak, the first library schools were designed to enable an emerging profession and ensure that they had proper training and backgrounds for the job ahead. This is no different from teachers, doctors, lawyers, etc.
8. Accredited Library Schools Do Not Adequately Prepare Students for Library Work
I couldn’t disagree more. The library field is quite diverse and having a background in the concepts, applications, and history is necessary. Librarianship is a dynamic field and library school prepared me for it. Take a look at a library school course catalog for more information.
9. Competing Professions Are Offering Different Paradigms to Achieve the Same Goals
Other departments often come to the library for assistance. They know our skill set and the product we provide; other departments don’t do what we do. They have their own jobs on which to focus and do not pretend to be librarians. Afterall who wants bad, incomplete, & neglected information that took several hours to Google and search? Attorneys and other departments want their information right and they want it now, so they come to the library.
10. Nobody Can Name a ‘Great’ Librarian