Competency B

Describe and compare organizational settings in which information professionals practice.

Statement of Competency

Competency B demonstrates a librarian’s ability to distinguish between and evaluate the different kinds of work environments where a LIS professional may be employed.

Traditional Settings

Traditional settings are work environments where information professionals perform activities that are typical of what librarians do such helping clientele find information, catalog collection materials, or curate and preserve valuable items. The Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012) on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website lists the industries that employed librarians the most: elementary and secondary schools (38%); local government, excluding education and hospitals (29%); colleges, universities and professional schools (17%); information (5%).

Traditional libraries come in different kinds: academic, public, private, medical, government, and special libraries. Other information centers such institutional repositories, archives, museums, and records management centers also offer job opportunities.

Non-traditional Settings

Today’s MLIS graduates are not limited to brick and mortar libraries anymore because they come out of graduate schools with skill sets that can be applied to a variety of jobs. Some LIS professionals are employed by publishers, online content providers, and software developers. They serve as consultants, marketers, trainers and other positions where the insight of a trained information professional is needed.

Most instructors in schools of information also hold a Master’s or PhD in library and information science. These individuals embody Article VIII of the ALA Code of Ethics by “fostering the aspirations of future members of the profession” (ALA, 2008). Interestingly, they may straddle the traditional and virtual work settings.

According to the American Library Association (2014), the advances in technology and influx of information necessitates the expertise librarians have and it is not unusual to find librarians working in the private sector as information brokers, knowledge management specialists, usability engineers, taxonomists, database administrators, and system analysts, to  name a few.

Comparison of Organizational Settings

Each library is unique. But in the most basic sense, they can be divided into two categories: public and private. Public libraries are those that are funded by the government, such as a local library, libraries in state-run colleges, or the Library of Congress. Private libraries are those that can be found in privately-owned institutions such as for-profit universities, hospitals, corporate, and law offices.

These libraries vary differently in terms of mission, clientele, collection, and location, usually based on the community they serve. In spite of these differences, most organizational settings employing information professionals have the same goals: providing access to information, delivering exceptional customer service, and curating the content that is relevant for the community they serve.

For the purpose of this statement of competency, I will provide artifacts that illustrate three examples of organizational settings: academic, virtual, and institutional repository.

Justification of Evidence

Academic Libraries

  1. Issues and Trends in Academic Libraries (LIBR 200 – Information and Society)

Academic libraries are sought after work environments for many reasons: the prestige of being associated with an established institution, the chance to achieve faculty status and tenure, and the support for professional development and research. The mission of all academic libraries is to support the scholarly pursuits of the host institution’s faculty and student body. An academic library has multiple departments to support different degree programs. Each department may have a subject specialist. Large universities usually have a network of libraries in colleges throughout the campus for the convenience of the users. The biggest responsibilities of academic libraries are to manage their collections and to keep them relevant and focused on the degree programs of the host institution (Budd, 1998, p. xiii).

Funding for libraries in state universities come from the state government and donations (e.g. from alumni). Private or proprietary colleges operate on a business model and derives their funds from tuition payments and corporate investments. The artifact on academic libraries I have included comes from my contribution to a group presentation on issues and trends in academic libraries. In particular, I examined the challenges faced by libraries in for-profit schools.

Academic librarians are expected to have a commitment to information literacy and devoted to student success. Promoting scholarly excellence can be quite challenging because the institution’s policy does not always allow for guaranteed funding for much needed programs. There is also the added pressure to conduct scholarly research and publish papers. In my experience, for-profit schools do not require this but librarians are expected to be a team player in attracting and retaining students. As the name suggests, a for-profit school’s aim is gaining dollars, not spending them. And one of the places that always gets short-changed budget-wise is the library because it does not generate income. Although no school can be accredited without a library, it is usually not appreciated or valued as it should be.

This organizational setting is very familiar to me, having worked in one for 7 years. One of my duties is to give library orientation classes to incoming freshmen. Because of budget restraints in recent times, many libraries are under-staffed. Librarians have to wear many hats, from working at the front desk, answering virtual reference question, collection management or technical support for integrated systems.

In my presentation, I have named three issues prevalent in these libraries, namely: a lack of understanding of what the purpose of a library is, a lack of library advocates within the organization, and a lack of properly credentialed librarians, for example, I was only a library assistant yet performed the duties of a librarian. Another issue I was particular concerned with is the unreasonable investment on digital resources in an effort to seem cutting edge. In a study conducted by Woody, Daniel and Baker (2010), they concluded that students prefer actual textbooks to ebooks despite being technologically savvy (2010, p.945).

Academic libraries always align their mission with their host institution. Depending on the school’s bottom line, the working atmosphere in an academic library could be rewarding or frustrating.

Virtual Setting 

  1. Embedded Librarianship: An Advancing Trend (LIBR 200 – Information and Society)

I chose to discuss this type of work setting because when I first started getting interested in librarianship, it was the possibility of working virtually that prompted me to apply to graduate school. Therefore, my first term paper’s topic was on embedded librarianship and it is my evidence for this type of work environment.  In this paper, I examined the challenges faced by embedded librarians. With the widespread use of computers, librarians found themselves with an immediate need to upgrade their technology skills (Lewis, 2010, p. 106). It was a challenge to keep up with quickly transforming technology and assisting students on how to manage this deluge of information.

Nowadays, librarians are also marketing researchers in addition to providing customer service. Knight and Loftis (2012) believes that “…the embedded librarian is someone who takes an extraverted approach” (p.365). So not only are librarians serving clients but also find ways to market our available services.

Embedded librarianship can be physical (the librarian is on-site working through the internet) or virtual (working through the internet in a remote location). This has happened over the past couple of decades with the wide acceptance of the internet, the rising popularity of online classes, and librarians’ intrepid use of virtual tools like email, instant messaging and social media. According to Kesselman and Watstein (2009), the success of the virtual librarians is no different from their on-site counterparts: they need strong, traditional library skills and understanding their clientele’s needs.

More often than not, manning the virtual reference desk becomes an added responsibility that is usually rotated among librarians if there are more one, or assigned to a part-time librarian. Walker (2007), in her review of Radford and Kern’s (2006) work titled “A Multiple-case Study Investigation of the Discontinuation of Nine Chat Reference Services, noted that one of the observations made in that study is “Staffing problems included insufficient questions to keep staff interested; however, concerns about extending service hours and thereby putting additional pressure on existing staff were also raised (Walker, 2007, p. 98).”

Most virtual librarians work in colleges and universities as part of the staff. I often responded to reference questions via phone or email. Being able to function in an online environment is a big plus to me because I was able to use this knowledge to secure online work myself as a graduate student assistant.

Last summer, I was privileged to meet with some of the reference librarians at the National Library of Medicine and the Library of Congress, and they answer hundreds of inquiries from all over the world every day. My own virtual internship as a bibliographic editor for a Canadian e-journal, Architecture MPS, also shows geographic location is not a hindrance to the LIS job hunter.

The virtual setting should be treated just a like a physical work environment. The policies and practices, although more challenging without having a face-to-face encounter, professionalism should still be line with the library’s mission and guidelines for service for its clientele. Working in a virtual setting also requires the ability to quickly find references, establish an easy rapport with the client, and enough technical savvy to deal with issues in a timely manner. And as with physical libraries, like protecting privacy and ensuring security are de rigueur.

Institutional Repositories

  1. Unique Challenges of Institutional Repositories (LIBR 284 – Seminar in Archives and Records Management: Tools, Services, and Methodologies for Digital Curation)

Institutional repositories are institutions whose mission is to provide long-term access to managed digital resources to its designated community, now and in the future (Trusted Digital Repositories, 2002, p.5). In my Tools, Services and Methodologies for Digital Curation class, I learned that this is not just the domain of archivists. Librarians and archivists can partner up to provide access to material by digitizing and/or preserving them.

In my project management class, I learned about the processes in an institutional repository. Now that most universities are encouraging their researchers to store their research on-site, as opposed to relying solely on publishers, the librarians’ role includes teaching researchers how to manage their research data and iSchools are beginning to include research data management in their curricula (Library Connect, 2014). The operation of institutional repositories is a complex process that require project management skills to make it truly successful. In running institutional repositories, the librarian also has to deal with data management plans, teach users about copyright and handle publisher issues. They also embed the required metadata to make this data discoverable.

Recently there is an increasing push for universities to have their own repository and librarians who work in this setting have to be familiar with metadata conventions, best practices for preservation, decide which legacy equipment to keep, and maximize access to digital objects. Institutional repositories still follow the established codes and guidelines of its parent institution. As with many libraries, institutional repositories also have to uphold the intellectual rights of authors and prevent clients from infringing on established copyrights.

My personal interest in this particular setting is the idea of being to assist in the management of either research data or collections that would never have been accessible to the world. When institutional repositories give open access to research data, it facilitates the sharing and re-use of knowledge, especially with less fortunate countries who cannot maintain their own repositories. This philanthropic nature appeals to me very much.

Institutional repositories encounter the same challenges other libraries deal with – budget, staffing, and keeping the library relevant to the whole community, not just researchers. Of course, these libraries also share the same ethics, guidelines and principles that libraries are known for.

References

American Library Association. (2008). Code of ethics of the American Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/proethics/codeofethics/codeethics.

American Library Association. (2014). Non-traditional jobs for librarians. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/educationcareers/careers/paths/jobtypes/privatesector

Budd, J.M. (1998). The academic library: its context, its purpose, and its operation. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.

Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2012). “Librarians – Work Environment.” Occupational Outlook Handbook.  Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/librarians.htm#tab-3

Davis, J. Y., Adams, M. & Hardesty, L. (2011). Academic libraries in for-profit schools of higher education, College & Research Libraries, 72(6), 568-782.

Lewis, D. (2010). Reference in the age of Wikipedia, or not… in Reference Renaissance: Current and Future Trends, 3-16. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1805/2127

Kesselman, M. A., & Watstein, S. (2009). Creating opportunities: embedded librarians. Journal Of Library Administration, 49(4), 383-400. doi:10.1080/01930820902832538

Knight, V. R., & Loftis, C. (2012). Moving from Introverted to Extraverted Embedded Librarian Services: An Example of a Proactive Model. Journal Of Library & Information Services In Distance Learning6(3/4), 362-375. doi:10.1080/1533290X.2012.705165

RLG. (2002). Trusted digital repositories: Attributes and responsibilities. Mountain View: CA: RLG, Inc.

Walker, S.T.  (2007). Low volume, funding, staffing and technical problems are key reasons for discontinuation of chat reference services. Evidence based Library and Information Practice 2(3): 98.

Woody, W.D., Daniel, D.B. & Baker, C.A. (2010). E-books or textbooks: Students prefer textbooks. Computers and Education 55, pp.945-948.