Compare the environments and organizational settings in which library and information professionals practice.
The most common public fallacy regarding the library science profession is that librarians check in and sort books. The myth goes on to picture the librarian as an eccentric, shushing, glasses wearing, stacks dwelling individual obsessed with strange, far removed from life classification systems like the Dewey. Such stereotypes dominate the landscape of public opinion when it comes to the library science profession and yet the contemporary librarian is often far removed from such behaviors, instead inhabiting a high tech world of software, community outreach, education and research in a work environment which is increasingly keen to telecommunication and online collaboration. Contrary to popular misconceptions many librarians have come to loathe these outmoded norms, with figures like Peter Morville helping to crystallize a new ethos which is technology centered; the quest for “ambient findability” and the eradication of information silos at the fore.
That being said, the environments and organizational settings in which the contemporary librarian works are alien to the public understanding. Informational professionals have in a sense evolved past being book keepers and now operate as the engineers and managers of complex information retrieval systems. As Web 2.0 challenged the traditional model of library and replaced it with a grand junction of findable knowledge, librarians took up many mantles: community advocate, information guide, interrogator, graphic designer, programmer, multimedia expert, teacher, educator and social media expert, to name a few of many. Librarians must instruct the new generation in sound information retrieval, a real danger in the contemporary age being exposure to bogus information overload.
And that can only be said of traditional positions of the librarian: be they in academia or in public libraries. It would surprise many in the public to know that specialist librarians are employed by law firms, hospitals, corporations, prisons, archives, governments and private collections. They can act as curators, teachers, consultants, appraisers and professional researchers. Information specialists maintain or design media centers and have in the contemporary age become much more involved with the preservation and dissemination of special records, audiovisual materials, computer resources and artifacts, spun and stimulated by digitization and digital access demand. MLIS holders can act as information analysts and court officials. The diverse work portfolio of the information professional called for the U.S. News & World Report to title library and information specialist as the best job of 2008. Current trends indicate continued growth and a competitive market as information specialists have become critical in the management of new, rapidly expanding and often ill preserved information retrieval systems the public has come to expect and demand (Bureau of Labor Statistics). While the traditional librarian stereotype has perhaps become outdated and obsolete, the library profession has only expanded and taken on new importance in society.
It follows naturally that amidst such breadth of work environments come a variety of organizational models and methods. The key to competency in this subject is not only an awareness of the various professional paths and duties of the information specialist, but an effort to experience the gamut of vocational option. In this regard I believe I am proficient: not only have I written at length on the environment and organizations of the information profession, but I have also had first hand experience in the private sector and academia, and even as a telecommuting contractor for the state educational system of another sovereign state.
I have had the good fortune in my time at San Jose State University to experience and academically critique a variety of environments and organizational settings in the information profession.
My first piece of evidence is the paper An Analysis of Management Methods and Institutional Design at Patchogue Medford Public Library, which I co-wrote with Daniela Matei. This paper examines the organizational format of a public library in New York state, the plant environment (including color photos), management decisions and plan. Essentially the paper covers the various types of library administration and critiques an individual library with statistics, SWOT analysis and interviews. I was responsible for: interview and aggregation, abstract, paper formatting, template, preparation and presentation, SWOT analysis, introduction and plan, figures, physical plant observations and statistics. I also contributed to the section on management analysis. The paper also involved on-site analysis and reporting, which was performed by myself.
My second piece of evidence is a visitation report to Special Collections and University Archives at Stony Brook University, also in New York state. I visited the archive, analyzed the plant and provided a critique of the design. I also conducted an informal interview with the head of the institution via email, further enhancing my awareness of behind the scenes issues.
My third piece of evidence is a report concerning a “walkabout” I conducted in a nearby town in order to gauge the environment in which a public library could operate. The intent of the report and journey was to chronicle the economic, sociopolitical, ethnic and social dimensions of the library which serviced the community. This was a piece of work drafted for Wayne Disher’s management class; it was Professor Disher’s idea that a good manager must have a first hand knowledge of the community environment, a belief I also subscribe to. The short report reads as a story, and is a stream of consciousness writing chronicling my survey of the community.
I partook in 4 different internships thus far, all with radically different organizations and environments:
Yuba College, a small community college in North Western California. I designed a digital repository for the college library.
Dubai Women’s College (DWC), a state sponsored women’s college located in the United Arab Emirates. I developed the education and history collections.
Credo Reference, a private company focusing on reference services for students, headquartered in Boston. I was involved with a series of “information literacy” tasks.
Stanford University’s Special Collections & University Archives, a prestigious research university located in California. I helped convert finding aids to EAD stubs and worked with the archival database.
My fourth piece of evidence is a final report concerning my internship at the DWC. It chronicles the sum of my experiences as a telecommuting national working for a state sponsored educational system of another country thousands of miles away. My work was unique as an intern: I was essentially a contractor or consultant, and was given immense freedom to operate and fundamentally improve the college resources. I feel this experience significantly lends to understanding the full scope of this competency.
Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition. http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos068.htm
Kneale, R. (2009). You Don’t Look Like a Librarian: Shattering Stereotypes and Creating Positive New Images in the Internet Age. Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc.
Morville, P. (2005). Ambient Findability: What We Find Changes Who We Become. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly Media.
Rubin, R. E. (2004). Foundations of library and information science (2nd ed.). New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.