Professionalism

June 7, 2010

There was some discussion here (and here) last month about what makes a librarian a “professional”. There was a lot of discussion on Ryan’s post (120 comments- that’s a high profile post). But a lot of the issue is semantics and your definition of “professional”. It’s taken some time for me to distill my personal response and I acknowledge I was pushed by our challenge.

What is it about “the degree” that we expect it to confer a professional status? What differentiates “Librarians” from those variously called para-professionals? Why do we think librarians are just as “professional” as engineers, doctors, lawyers, or geologists? Why do we worry when we hear about librarians being replaced by administrative staff in a corporate library?

My 2C:

I expect that anyone with the degree and the role of librarian has a problem solving role. Being a librarian, we know isn’t about shelving books, but connecting people to information. But the “professional”  bit is about using our problem solving skills to constantly improve our services, to make the best of limited resources, to evaluate what are the best services for our clients, to be able to keep informed about best practices and new services and then apply the information.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t think our “para professionals” don’t or can’t contribute to that process. But it means that I expect a professional librarian to be able to. And that I mean to be treated like a “professional” is to be given the opportunities to contribute to any change process.

It also defines what I expect of any “Librarian” degree. I expect that anyone with the degree has been evaluated on their research, evaluation and problem solving skills as well as been given some context in using those skills in application to a library setting.

And because problem solving involves making changes being a professional means being able to adapt and be involved in change processes.

And because problem solving means being able to gather up all possible solutions before evaluating them why does “lifetime learning” keep coming up as a wish for fellow librarians? We wouldn’t expect doctors or lawyers to know everything and stop learning as soon as they graduate. Professional librarians don’t either.

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