I am a librarian. Or at least that’s what I hope to be. While I’m not sure how I feel about the debate between the “Information Paradigm” and the “Library Service Paradigm” (Rubin, 2010, p. 90-94), I do see the debate between a more traditional, service-oriented professional stance and a more technical one going on all around me in classes, blogs, and recent professional debates (see the recent unrest caused by the declaration of the head of the McMaster University Library that he would not hire any more librarians, instead focusing on technical and IT personnel – Rogers, 2011). This disturbs me frankly, but has generated great debate about the nature of our field which needs to happen if we are to evolve and mature into the 21st century.
Bell argues for creating unique patron experiences and building relationships with patrons as key to ensuring the survival of our institutions (Bell, 2009). While I would argue the longevity of the profession is perhaps more important the continued survival of libraries as places and that the two are not entirely linked, I agree with his fundamental argument which is built around service provision. Service provision is about people, meeting their needs in a way that makes them want to come back to your resource again and again.
I believe that at the heart of librarianship is a dedication to service; to promoting the public good and advancing the cause of democracy through an informed public (Rubin, 2010, p. 105). I guess I’m a classic Millenial, I want my work to mean something beyond a paycheck. Is that such a bad thing though? I feel overwhelmed by the speed of technological change in our society and its implication for our field, but I’d hate to see the heart of service and caring, of education, drummed out of our profession for the sake of technical expertise and perceived efficiency. Then librarianship would cease to be the field I was so excited to join and I’d be out looking for something else again. The question for me then, is how to balance the need for technological savvy and evolution with the heart of service and education that has been the hallmark of Librarianship since its inception? It’s not a question I know the answer to yet, but it’s one I try to keep in mind as I work my way through entering the field.
When all else fails or I’m struggling through my coursework, this phrase always comes back to me and gives me a little push: “Libraries serve humanity” (Rubin, 2010, p. 409). Amen.
Bell, S. (2009, September). From gatekeppers to gate-openers. American Libraries, 50-53.
Rogers, J. (2011, April 8). This is NOT the future of librarianship. Attempting Elegance. Retrieved April 26, 2011, from http://www.attemptingelegance.com/?p=1031
Rubin, R. (2010). Foundations of library and information science (3rd ed.). New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers.