...compare the environments and organizational settings in which library and information professionals practice
Meaning and Importance of Competency
Library and information professionals practice in a variety of environments and organizational settings. Traditionally, libraries have been divided into four main types: public, school, academic, and special. Each of these types of libraries serves a different clientele, from the general public in the case of public libraries to more specialized groups such as K-12 students in school libraries; undergraduate and graduate students, researchers, and faculty in academic libraries; and groups that share a common interest or specialty, such as doctors, lawyers, or corporate employees, in special libraries. Each group has its own unique information needs, so the services provided by these libraries can be quite diverse, although the underlying function of providing information to library users can be found in all of these settings.
Another way in which libraries differ is in how they are funded and operated. Public libraries usually receive funding through tax revenues raised within clearly delineated geographic areas such as cities or counties; they may also receive funding through donations from their users and through grants. School libraries are usually funded through allocations made to individual schools by school districts (for public schools) or through tuition (for private schools). Academic libraries usually receive funding from their parent institutions, which may receive some tax revenues and also receive funding from tuition and fundraising activities. Special libraries’ budgets usually derive from the budgets of their parent institutions, usually corporate structures of some kind. Depending upon the type of environment and organizational setting in which one works, an information professional may be assigned a variety of different tasks and responsibilities and may be evaluated based on varying performance criteria.
Graduates of Master’s programs in library and information science have a diverse skill set and may be found working not only in libraries but also in archives, corporations, and non-profits. They work in IT, digital asset management, Web design, indexing, and many other roles in both physical and virtual environments. Some LIS professionals enjoy the luxury of working from home! They are expert at organizing and finding information, planning, connecting with people both in person and online, designing innovative physical and virtual environments, and balancing the interests of both creators and consumers of information. And now, with the rise of the social Web, blogs and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are leading us—librarians—to forge new connections with one another and with individuals in our own communities and throughout the world. New paths are opening to us. New careers and new ways of doing business in the library and in society are offering new opportunities for growth and change.
Preparation and Evidence
To demonstrate my ability to compare the environments and organizational settings in which library and information professionals practice, I will begin by discussing my background as a user of libraries of all sorts and as a paraprofessional in two different public library systems. I will then present three assignments that I completed for courses in the online School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) at San Jose State University (SJSU). My first piece of evidence is a research paper on the problem of theft in libraries and strategies for prevention and response. My second piece of evidence is a comparison of the collection development policies of two libraries, a large public library system and a community college library. My third piece of evidence is a research paper on the roles and responsibilities of libraries of all types in educating users about copyright issues and solutions.
As a lifelong library user, a student in SJSU’s SLIS program, and someone who has worked in public libraries for over six years, I am familiar with the various environments and organizational settings in which library and information professionals practice. I started using both public and school libraries as a young child. Throughout my K-12 years, I became familiar with the Dewey Decimal System, bibliography, basic information retrieval, and basic research. I also developed a strong value of literacy and a deep love of reading, writing, literature, and books of all sorts. During my undergraduate years at the University of Puget Sound, I used the campus library on a regular basis. During this time, I became familiar with the Library of Congress Classification System and used the library’s OPAC stations, databases, computer lab, and interlibrary loan services.
My own library career started at the Battle Ground Community Library, my hometown branch of the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District in southwest Washington State. Upon graduation from the University of Puget Sound in 2001, I was fortunate to be hired there into a full-time position as a Library Assistant I. Within a couple of months I was promoted to Library Assistant II. In our small branch, everyone helped out with everything. Much of my work revolved around assisting with the organization and flow of library materials. During this time I grew proficient with the Dewey Decimal System, developed skill in customer service and in using the library’s ILS, and developed efficient practices around the movement and handling of physical materials. I also received training in the use of the library’s print and online reference collections, basic mending of books and other media, and various software applications. I provided reference and reader’s advisory services, honed my information retrieval skills, and participated in the planning and putting-on of community programs. I was fortunate to receive excellent training in many of the basic principles of public library service, including intellectual freedom, patron confidentiality, instruction, and outreach.
After a few years working outside of libraries, in 2007 I was hired as a Library Associate II in Borrower Services at The Seattle Public Library (SPL). In 2008, around the same time I decided to pursue a graduate degree in library and information science, I had the good fortune to be selected to participate as a protégé in the formal mentoring program at SPL. I was partnered with the Library’s Youth Services Manager at the time. Together we set goals that included learning about the various career paths available to me as a future library professional. Thus I had the further good fortune to participate in a series of conversations with information professionals from a variety of positions and organizational settings, including children’s, teen’s, and adult services librarians at SPL and other public libraries, technical and collection services librarians, an information architect working for a local retailer, and a freelance information specialist. I learned a lot about the many career paths available to me as a future professional and got to hear insiders’ perspectives on the work they did in their various work environments.
In addition to my experience working in public libraries, my knowledge gained from use of school and academic libraries, and my conversations with professionals working in a variety of environments and organizations, in 2011 I worked on a special database project for Holland America Line, a cruise and tourism company headquartered in Seattle, WA. In my contract position, I created a database of approximately 5,000 trivia questions, edited existing questions for grammar, clarity, and content, classified questions using a pre-defined taxonomy and controlled vocabulary, researched questions and verified the accuracy of their answers, identified gaps in subject categories, and created assignments for the trivia writer. This position gave me knowledge of one type of work available to freelance information specialists or those looking to supplement their income or skill set. Moreover, throughout my MLIS program, I have taken courses which have broadened my perspective and helped me learn about the many environments and organizational settings in which we, as library and information professionals, practice. The following pieces of evidence demonstrate my ability to compare these environments and organizational settings.
First Piece of Evidence: Research Paper, LIBR 200
In the fall of 2009 I took the course “Information and Society,” in which students explored “the complex social, economic, historical, and technological developments that influence the impact of information on society” (Bontenbal, 2009). For our culminating project, students in the course were assigned to write a research paper analyzing a significant issue confronting information professionals today. I wrote my paper on the problem of theft in libraries and archival collections. In my paper, I discuss the problem of theft in libraries of all kinds, including public, school, academic, and special, and also examine strategies for preventing and responding to theft. I have included this paper, “The Problem of Theft in Libraries and Strategies for Prevention and Response,” as evidence.
Early in my paper I discuss the historical background of the issue of theft in libraries. In this context, I provide examples of library theft cases in a variety of settings throughout history, including public libraries, academic libraries, the Library of Congress, and even the ancient Egyptian library of Ramses II. As institutions that have traditionally housed collections of important and valuable books, throughout history, libraries of all sorts have been the targets of theft.
In the section of my paper entitled “The Vulnerability of Libraries,” I discuss libraries at risk of being targeted for theft. Drawing on evidence from the professional literature, I describe theft as a problem that occurs in libraries and archives of all kinds. The vulnerability of libraries is connected to the value of their collections and the motives of the perpetrators of theft, who include not only library users but also insiders such as employees, volunteers, and vendors. While collections vary from one type of library to the next, most library collections do include items of significant value which can be sold for a profit, ranging from rare books and manuscripts and audiovisual materials such as CDs and DVDs to computer equipment and out-of-print books. In addition to collections, other library assets which may be targeted by thieves include coins from copy machines, office supplies, and furniture—items which may be found in all different types of libraries.
In the section of my paper dedicated to strategies for managing the issue of theft, I discuss ACRL’s “Guidelines regarding security and theft in special collections.” While the guidelines were written primarily for special collections in the U.S., many of the topics discussed pertain also to general collections and to special collections throughout the world. The guidelines offer many practical suggestions for preventing and responding to thefts, and they can be applied in a variety of settings. In fact, all of the strategies for preventing and responding to theft which I discuss in my paper, including building design, employee training, and the implementation of internal control measures to prevent insider theft, can be applied in virtually any type of library.
Second Piece of Evidence: Comparison of Two Collection Development Policies, LIBR 266
In the spring of 2011 I took the course “Collection Management.” One of our assignments was to write a short paper comparing and contrasting two collection development policies found on the Web. For my paper, I compared the policies of two libraries with a presence in my local community: the X Library System (XLS) and the Y College Library Media Center (YCLMC).*
In my paper, I note that the collection development policies of the two libraries are very different; the XLS policy is very detailed, specific, and lengthy, with a different organizational structure than the YCLMC policy, which is short and succinct. I attribute the differences between the two policies to differences in the purposes and functions of the two libraries. Since XLS is a multi-branch public library system serving a diverse and geographically dispersed population, its collection development policy reflects the complexity of the service population and the library system itself, whereas YCLMC, serving a much narrower population of college students, and aiming primarily to support the college curriculum, has a simpler and less detailed policy. My comparison of these two collection development policies in light of the different purposes and functions of the two libraries demonstrates an awareness of and ability to compare the varying environments and organizational settings in which library and information professionals practice.
Third Piece of Evidence: Research Paper, LIBR 281
In the fall of 2011 I took Mary Minow’s Seminar in Contemporary Issues on the topic of Digital Copyright. I wrote my final paper for the course on the rights, roles, and responsibilities of libraries and library professionals in the Creative Commons age, arguing that libraries and librarians should take an active role in educating their users about copyright issues and solutions. In this paper, I offer a comparison of potential copyright infringements in a variety of library settings, including public, school, and academic. I also offer arguments from across the spectrum of professional literature in support of my assertion that libraries should actively educate users about copyright issues and solutions. I discuss ways in which Creative Commons licenses can, should, and are being used in school libraries, academic libraries, and public libraries. I discuss ways in which various libraries are proactively educating their users about copyright and Creative Commons. I conclude by arguing that librarians should join in the advocacy efforts of organizations such as ALA and IFLA, which are advocating for change in copyright laws in the digital age.
Regardless of where my life or career take me, I know that as a graduate of the Master of Library and Information Science program, I am equipped with a broad range of skills that will allow me to work in any of a diverse number of environments and organizational settings. Each library has its own unique culture, and libraries are evolving just as we as individuals and as communities are evolving. As an information professional, I know that I need to remain flexible, adaptable, creative, and experimental. I need to be open to new possibilities and to new ways of working. The ability to communicate and collaborate will be two of my greatest assets. With this mindset, open to challenges and tolerant of mistakes, I will be able to succeed in whatever environment I find myself in.
Bontenbal, K. (2009). LIBR 200-14 Information and Society Fall 2009 Greensheet. Retrieved from http://slisapps.sjsu.edu/gss/ajax/showSheet.php?id=667.
*NOTE: Out of respect for the organizations evaluated in my Comparison of Two Collection Development Policies, I have removed, changed, or obscured names and other identifying information.