I entered the sphere of librarianship at a time of great change, when technology was starting to overtake the traditional print resources. Non-digital natives resisted as much as they could but it became my personal mission to facilitate the transition. Before long, I became aware of my own limitations as a library assistant. To be able to fully encourage information literacy, I had to learn more myself.
When I began my MLIS program in 2012, it had been almost 25 years since I was in a degree program. The decision to enroll in the iSchool was not an easy one because I was aware of the incredible time and monetary commitment. Already possessing a professional degree in architecture, it didn’t make sense to my college friends why I enrolled in a master’s program that is so totally unrelated. But sometimes, this is the fate of immigrants – to start over, literally.
Previously, as a substitute teacher, it saddened me that in this country with its resources, information literacy is not quite up to par with the developed world. I wondered why school children struggled in an information-rich environment. However, having spent another 7 years at a university library made me realize that the problem is not unique to small children. Adults of all ages were trying to make sense of the fast-changing pace of information. I realized that I was in a position to help people overcome whatever is hindering them from taking advantage of the resources that are available to them.
In the past decade, the role of librarians as information professionals have become even more important. Competency O is an expectation that someone earning a degree in library and information science will “contribute to the cultural, economic, educational and social well-being of our communities.” My understanding of this competency is we as MLIS graduates are not only expected to master the various competencies but also take those skills and become a world citizen by assisting community members with their information needs, facilitating learning, promoting cultural acceptance, and fostering an atmosphere that is engaging and welcoming, no matter what kind of library or information center we may find ourselves in.
The world of information has become so vast and its reach immeasurable. As an information professional, I expect my client engagement to be as varied as the people of our world. In order to successfully execute my role in this information universe, I have to lean on certain philosophies as foundations of my professional practice.
I believe that my work as a librarian can make an impact in the way people access the information they need to make their lives better and enrich their knowledge. Based on my experience, information seekers do not always know how to create a search strategy and often get frustrated by the most basic searches. As a librarian, I can use my search skills to assist patrons as well as teach them how to conduct future searches. Therefore, I believe that it is my responsibility to promote information literacy by assisting patrons develop their ability to use information to function in society, achieve their goals and develop their knowledge and potential (ALA Committee on Literacy, 2015, Paragraph 1).
I believe that education and lifelong learning should be encouraged within the profession to ensure that the service we provide as information professionals are always current and relevant. It has always been my personal goal to provide the highest level of service and continue studying to improve my knowledge or learn new skills.
I am proud to be in a profession that facilitates the meeting of great minds, where people can create and innovate, and develop skills necessary to thrive in our fast changing world. It is my goal to continue my involvement with professional organizations and contribute to the betterment of the profession.
I believe in the role that libraries as defined by IFLA: “They can indeed become community centers where people, including poor people, immigrants, and diverse populations of all kinds find materials and participate in local culture and civic affairs to actualize their potentials and develop their communities” (Kagan, 2005, p. 1).
Libraries have a social responsibility to help citizens understand societal problems by informing and educating them on these problems, encouraging them to examine issues from different points of view. Libraries connect people to other people, provide safe havens for kids, and enable older adults to engage in a digital world. Libraries reach out to all members of the community through bookmobiles and outreach programs (ilovelibraries, 2015, Paragraph 4).
A study by Public Library Technology found that 92% of public libraries provide services for job seekers (Harris Interactive, 2011, p. 4, 10-11). This opportunity to freely access information is a hallmark of the American way of life and libraries and librarians have always protected the citizens’ freedom to read while concurrently ensuring user privacy and confidentiality.
I believe that there should be a continued effort to promote and support free access to government information (except for information that could threaten national security) such as the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA). The act requires U.S. government agencies to allow access to journal articles that stemmed from research underwritten by U.S. taxpayers. The sharing of information will help advance science and improve lives and welfare of the people of the United States and the world (SPARC, 2013, Paragraphs 2, 4).
I support ALA’s access policy that all information resources that are provided directly or indirectly by the library should be readily, equally, and equitably accessible to all library users (ALA, 2015, Paragraph 2). According to a 2012 poll conducted for the ALA, the results show that 94% of respondents said that libraries play an important role in giving everyone a chance to succeed because they provide free access to materials and resources and 84% agree that libraries are critical to our democracy because they provide free information regarding local, state and federal elections. However, the National Confectioners Association reports that Americans spend nearly 3 times as much on candy as they do on public libraries and 18 times as much money on home video games as they do on school library materials for their children (ALA, 2010, p. 3, 6). How can we reconcile seemingly skewed situation?
I believe that it is my responsibility to advocate for the libraries of all types and demonstrate its value by showing professionalism and expertise. I can also take advantage of advocacy resources such as the Legislative Action Center (LAC) to educate users and elected officials regarding library issues.
Ilovelibraries, an initiative of the American Library Association underscores the central role of librarians: “Librarians are information experts, selecting books relevant to the community, creating helpful programming, and connecting people to information.” Even though most people have access to information through the internet, the value of a librarian cannot be dismissed. Author Neil Gaiman stated it quite succinctly: “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one” (ilovelibraries, 2015, Paragraph 3). I believe that as a librarian, I can provide invaluable service to my community by facilitating access to information at point of need.
ALA. (2015). B.4.2 Free access to information. American Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/aboutala/governance/policymanual/updatedpolicymanual/section2/50natinfosvc#B.4.2
ALA. (2015). Core values of librarianship. American Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/intfreedom/statementspols/corevalues
ALA. (n.d.). Libraries: The place of opportunity. American Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/sites/ala.org.advocacy/files/content/advleg/advocacyuniversity/advclearinghouse/libs_opportunity.pdf
ALA. (2012). Quotable facts about America’s libraries 2012 reference book. American Library Association – Office of Library Advocacy. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/offices/sites/ala.org.offices/files/content/QF2012_annotatedFINAL_2.pdf
Harris Interactive. (2011). ALA January 2011 Harris Poll quorum results. American Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/research/sites/ala.org.research/files/content/librarystats/2011harrispoll.pdf
Ilovelibraries. (2015). Promote literacy. Ilovelibraries. Retrieved from http://www.ilovelibraries.org/what-libraries-do/promote-literacy
Ilovelibraries. (2015). What libraries do. Ilovelibraries. Retrieved from http://www.ilovelibraries.org/what-libraries-do
Kagan, A. (2005). IFLA and social responsibility: A core value of librarianship. Libraries, national security, freedom of information laws and social responsibilities: IFLA/AIFE world report, 33-43.