Statement of Professional Philosophy
My background and goals
I started working in libraries in 2001, shortly after earning my Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from the University of Puget Sound (UPS) in Tacoma, WA. I had started college as a creative writing major, intending to pursue my lifelong love of writing and literature, but during the course of my undergraduate education I discovered a new passion for philosophy, a discipline that challenged me to think critically and to develop my own values and ideas. As I approached my college graduation, like many young people, I felt excited and inspired by my liberal arts studies but unsure of how to translate my background in the humanities into a career. I knew I would most likely pursue a graduate education, but I wasn’t sure which field to commit myself to. As the daughter of an immigrant and an American of multicultural heritage, I also felt a desire to explore my own family history and personal identity. So I decided to spend some time after college working, traveling, learning independently, and experiencing life in the real world. I set a goal to travel to Iran, the country my father is from, after working and saving enough money to finance my trip.
My first full-time job after college was as a Library Assistant at the community library in my hometown of Battle Ground, WA. In the two years I worked at the Battle Ground Library, I discovered a passion for library work. I have always enjoyed learning and teaching, and one of my favorite jobs was my two-year stint as a Peer Writing Advisor in the Center for Writing and Learning at UPS. My library work was similarly enjoyable. I had the opportunity, as a paraprofessional, to provide reference assistance using online and print resources, to help teen, adult, and ESL patrons with reader’s advisory and research questions, and to assist students with school assignments. I particularly enjoyed working with other library staff to plan, promote and put on library programs and outreach events. Perhaps most importantly, the values of public librarianship resonated strongly with my own. As months passed, I began to consider a career in librarianship. However, I’d promised myself that I would first become acquainted with the people and culture of my father’s country, so in July of 2003, I left my job at the Battle Ground Library to visit Iran.
During a month of travel with my father, I visited the capitol city of Tehran, the palaces of Isfahan, the bazaar in Shiraz, and the ruins of Persepolis. We bought bread in tiny villages, visited shops and modern shopping malls, enjoyed dining out and visiting local attractions, and met a diverse array of Iranian people. We spent 10 days in Mashhad, my father’s home city, spending time with our family, visiting the tombs of famous Persian poets and the library at the Tomb of Imam Reza. Through these experiences, I gained a new appreciation for and love of my Persian heritage. In addition, immersion in a vastly different way of life heightened my sensitivity to the challenges of building community in this global age.
When I returned to the United States later that summer, I moved to Seattle, WA. I found a tough library job market in the Seattle area, so I worked in customer service for a local company and volunteered and took courses at Richard Hugo House, Seattle’s community center for writers and readers. In 2007, I was hired by The Seattle Public Library (SPL) as a Library Associate II in Borrower Services at the Central Library. Returning to library work was like a taking a breath of fresh air. During the time I had worked in the corporate sector, I had often felt discord between my own values and those of my employer. At the public library, I felt a sense of harmony in knowing that my work supported intellectual freedom, learning, literacy, and the common good—pursuits upon which I place the highest value. I decided that the time was right to pursue a Master’s degree in library and information science, and I enrolled in the SJSU SLIS program in the fall of 2009.
When I enrolled in the SLIS program, my goals were to pursue public librarianship, to develop technical skills, and to get a broad education which would prepare me for a highly competitive job market. During my course of study, I have deepened my interest in public librarianship while simultaneously developing diverse new interests in the field of library and information science. The impact of technology on life in the 21st century is a topic that fascinates me, and I see great potential for new and innovative programs and services that utilize technology to advance the mission of libraries; therefore, in my studies in the SLIS program, I have loosely followed the Digital Services and Emerging Technologies track. However, by combining techno-oriented courses such as “The Hyperlinked Library—Emerging Trends, Emerging Tech” and “iPad Applications and Implications” with courses such as “Design and Implementation of Instructional Strategies for Information Professionals,” “Collection Management,” “Reference and Information Services,” and “Digital Copyright” (courses from which, among others, I have drawn the evidence that you will find in this e-Portfolio), I have received a well-rounded education and a solid foundation upon which to build my future professional career. My areas of interest now include public libraries, Library 2.0, instruction, participatory services, social media, digital services, information retrieval, ebooks, copyright and licensing, information architecture, usability, leadership, innovation, and entrepreneurship. I look forward to continued research and learning in these areas.
As I have progressed through the SLIS program, I have also gained valuable work experience and developed professionally as an SPL employee. Working in Borrower Services in a direct public service capacity from 2007 to 2011 allowed me to develop excellent customer service skills, familiarity with library circulation and automated systems, and in-depth knowledge of library policies, procedures, programs and services. Participating in SPL’s formal mentoring program in 2008 allowed me to build relationships with a variety of library and information professionals and to receive guidance in support of my professional goals. During my tenure in Borrower Services, I provided support to the Interlibrary Loan department, gaining familiarity with ILL procedures, OCLC applications, and copyright, and served on SPL’s Program Support Team, Public Services Staffing and Scheduling Analysis Work Group, and Strategic Plan Preparing Team. All of these experiences helped me to develop strong communication and collaboration skills and to gain new perspectives on library management and operations. In addition, during this period I attended various trainings and professional development activities, including the 2009 Washington Association of Library Employees (WALE) conference and the 2011 eBooks: The New Normal digital summit. In June of 2011, as an American Library Association (ALA) Spectrum Scholar, I attended the Spectrum Leadership Institute at ALA Annual in New Orleans, where I received training in leadership, professional development, personal learning networks, and diversity. All of these experiences, combined with my education in the SJSU SLIS program, have contributed to the development of my professional goals and philosophy.
In November 2011, I was fortunate to be promoted into the role of Library Associate IV in SPL’s Quick Information Center. In this role, I provide basic reference services, one-on-one computer skills instruction, and technical assistance to patrons at SPL’s Central Library. This experience has reinforced my awareness of the vital role that public libraries play in addressing the digital divide and in providing access to information and services to our most vulnerable populations. I have also come to recognize the vital importance of developing high quality public library instruction programs, which will enable our diverse communities to make effective use of the resources and tools that we offer. Although many different forces contribute to education and skills gaps among different segments of our communities, libraries play a fundamental role in helping to bridge those gaps. Thus, one of my primary areas of interest now is information literacy instruction in a public library setting. In addition, I see an important need for the design of effective staff training to enable staff to provide the quality and level of instruction needed by the community. I believe that libraries should be learning organizations through and through. I hope I have the opportunity to explore these interests in more depth in a professional position at SPL.
Since I began working in my current role in Quick Information, I have also been appointed to the Library Innovation Team, which developed out of SPL’s most recent strategic planning process. As Innovation Team members, my colleagues and I serve as innovation facilitators, advisors, administrators, promoters, seekers, sharers, and evaluators. I am thrilled to be taking part in this exciting project that supports our library’s commitment to “fuel Seattle’s passion for reading, personal growth and learning,” “expand Seattle’s access to information, ideas and stories,” “empower Seattle’s distinctive communities and vibrant neighborhoods,” “build partnerships to make a difference in people’s lives,” and “foster an organizational culture of innovation” (SPL, 2012). I look forward to new opportunities for organizational growth and positive change that will come about through our team’s work. I am also eager to collaborate with and learn from my teammates and to develop new skills, including project management, facilitation, and interest-based problem solving.
In addition to my studies in the SJSU SLIS program, my experiences working at SPL, and the various professional development activities I have participated in, I have actively engaged with the SLIS community through my involvement in SLISConnect, our student and alumni organization. SLISConnect came about over the past year through a merger of two groups: the SLIS student group, LISSTEN (Library and Information Science Students To Encourage Networking), and the SLIS Alumni Association. I served as Vice President of LISSTEN during the 2010-2011 academic year and stayed on in the same role as the organization merged with the Alumni Association, forming SLISConnect, in the fall of 2011. In February 2012, when the former SLISConnect Student President resigned, I assumed the duties of that position. Since taking over as SLISConnect Student President, I have worked closely with other officers to develop our organization’s mission, vision, strategic plan, officer job descriptions, communication practices, online presence, and social media policies and procedures. I have helped coordinate both in-person and virtual events in support of our mission and goals, including a March 2012 staff presentation and tour of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle for SLIS students and alumni. I have facilitated meetings, planned for elections, recruited new officers, and supported current officers in carrying out their duties. I have built connections between students, alumni, and faculty in the SLIS community. In short, I have learned, collaborated, managed, planned, and led. The experience, skills, and personal and professional connections that I have developed through my involvement in SLISConnect have helped make me a stronger leader and professional.
My journey to librarianship has taught me a lot, both about the foundations of our profession and the role of libraries in society, and about myself, my values, my skills and abilities, my interests, and my vision for how I can best contribute to society. After completing my MLIS, I intend to pursue a career in public librarianship; ideally, I would love to begin my career in SPL’s Virtual and Instruction Services unit, providing virtual reference services and information literacy instruction to our local communities and working as part of the blog or social media team. I would like to continue in my role as a member of the Library Innovation Team and to participate in future strategic planning initiatives. I would also like to be involved in designing, planning, implementing and evaluating new programs and services, such as a local knowledge-sharing video and podcast series (see Escondido Public Library’s LibraryYOU project), a public media lab, community oral history projects and writing and publishing projects such as Sacramento Public Library’s I Street Press, and live-action gaming such as the New York Public Library’s “Find the Future” live-action and online game. I think that any of these projects, adapted and customized for our local community, would offer tremendous value to the people of Seattle.
In the future, I intend to stay involved with the SJSU SLIS community through my involvement in SLISConnect. After graduation, I will be taking on the duties of SLISConnect Alumni President. I also plan to stay engaged with the professional community through further involvement in associations such as ALA, writing for the professional literature and blogging, and attending and presenting at conferences such as ALA Annual, Internet Librarian, and Public Library Association (PLA). I also hope to contribute to the growth of the profession by participating in research projects, promoting intellectual freedom, celebrating diversity, encouraging the heart, and mentoring students and new professionals.
My professional identity and philosophy
My professional identity and philosophy have evolved in relation to the various experiences I have had as a library employee, a student, and a human being. I have used libraries in various capacities for nearly my whole life, and I have known, worked, and studied with many library professionals who have influenced my outlook on libraries, library services, and the roles of libraries in society. I expect that this will continue throughout the rest of my career. Libraries—and the world in which libraries exist—have experienced tremendous change throughout the centuries and over the past several decades in particular, and more change is sure to come. As the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus is reputed to have said, “Change alone is unchanging” (Heraclitus, n.d.). Therefore, I acknowledge now that my identity and philosophy will continue to evolve over time. For now, I will focus on identifying the values, commitments, and areas of interest that will guide my continued learning and professional development.
Public libraries and intellectual freedom
Public libraries play vital roles in their communities and serve users at all stages of life. The responsibilities and opportunities to positively influence the lives of individuals and the life of the community are tremendous. Libraries help to build communities, by allowing every individual the opportunity to read, to learn, to participate, and to have a voice in our democratic and diverse society. I myself have benefited from the education, ideas, stories, and values that I have encountered as a library user, and I want to facilitate these types of experiences for the community of which I am a part as well.
Some specific activities I expect to undertake as a public librarian include community outreach, development of programs and services, collection development, instruction of employees and users, and customer service. I hope that in my role as a librarian, committed to intellectual freedom and recognizing the humanity of all users, I will be able to make a difference in people’s lives. One concept that I have encountered through my studies of Library 2.0 and Michael Stephens’ Hyperlinked Library Model that has strongly resonated with me is the notion of “encouraging the heart”: “Encouraging the heart is satisfying the needs and wants of our users – something libraries have always done. The need for self-actualization, inspiration, basic human curiosity, and support for learning are all part of this concept” (Stephens, 2011, p. 7). By encouraging the hearts of others, my own heart is encouraged. To me, this is a key measure of success.
Instruction, training, and staff development
Information literacy instruction is a key component of what library and information professionals do. In my public library experience, I have observed firsthand the range of knowledge and skills of library users in locating and using information and in using the technological tools and applications necessary to achieve their various objectives. Public libraries play a key role in addressing the digital divide by providing access to computers and other information and communication technologies, but many users lack basic skills necessary to utilize these tools to their full potential. In addition, as more and more basic human services, such as job applications, applications for unemployment benefits and social services, and even fee-free banking, move online, those who lack computer literacy are put at an even greater disadvantage. Therefore, it is not enough for libraries to provide access to computing technologies; we must also provide high quality, responsive instruction to our users.
In order to provide the level of instruction that is needed by our communities, library staff must be thoroughly trained. Grassian and Kaplowitz (2009) point out that, although “librarians have always taught people how to use libraries and information sources,” “until relatively recently…few library schools have supported this role through either full-length credit courses or continuing education” (p. xix). Furthermore, many paraprofessional employees who are called upon to provide basic one-on-one instruction may have had no formal instructional training. It is therefore of the highest importance that libraries, as learning and teaching institutions, develop internal training and staff development programs to support their instructional efforts in their communities. I am interested in undertaking efforts in this area in my future career.
Leadership, collaboration, and professional development
In his book Developing the Leader Within You, leadership expert John C. Maxwell states that “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less” (1993). From this perspective, it becomes apparent that each and every person has the capacity to grow into a powerful leader. Although I did not think of myself as a leader before embarking upon my studies in the SLIS program, since that time, I have been called upon to serve in a leadership role on multiple occasions and I have therefore made deliberate efforts to grow and develop my concept of leadership and my leadership abilities. I believe that leadership should be cultivated in staff at all levels of our organizations. By nurturing the skills and abilities of all staff, we will achieve greater success as information organizations.
Leadership and collaboration go hand in hand. Leaders exist only in the context of groups of people who undertake and serve collective missions. Our work is accomplished through the joint efforts of many, and great leaders develop great teams, communicate a vision that resonates, and model the character and integrity that are necessary for success. Therefore, leaders must be skilled communicators, excellent planners, strong advocates, and people of character and integrity. In order to continue to develop as a strong and effective leader, I am committed to continued learning and professional development throughout my future career.
Library 2.0 and the Hyperlinked Library Model
For my final course in the SJSU SLIS program, I elected to take Dr. Michael Stephens’ Seminar in Information Science on the topic “The Hyperlinked Library—Emerging Trends, Emerging Tech.” In this course, as I describe in Competency H, students are examining “various theories of library service, the social use of information, the advent of social networking tools, the creation of online collaboration and communities via those tools and their adoption by libraries as well as the rise of Library 2.0 thinking, a service philosophy born out of discussions of Web 2.0 and participatory library services” (Stephens, 2012). This course has been one of the most interesting and valuable courses I have taken in the SLIS program. Some of the concepts of the Hyperlinked Library Model that we are studying include participatory service, planning for emerging technologies, transparency, reaching all users, user experience, learning and new literacies, mobile and geo-social information environments, the commons and digital curation, and reflective practice. As part of my work for this course, I have been developing a blog on the WordPress platform in which I reflect on these various concepts and tie in knowledge and experience gained in other courses and in my work and life experience. I have learned a great deal and am excited about applying this knowledge in my future work. I intend to continue my blog after completing the SLIS program. In this way, I will contribute to the growing professional library blogosphere, participate in conversations taking place in the online realm, and develop my vision for the future. I am also interested in participating in continued research in these areas, which may lead to contributions to the professional literature. What I am most excited about at present is contributing to the development of new library programs and services which exemplify the concepts of participation, transparency, usability, and learning.
My contribution to the well-being of our communities
Competency O of the SJSU SLIS Statement of Core Competencies states that “Each graduate of the Master of Library and Information Science program is able to contribute to the cultural, economic, educational and social well-being of our communities” (SJSU SLIS, n.d.). I believe that this e-Portfolio demonstrates my competence in this area. As representatives of institutions which uphold the essential freedoms of our democracy—intellectual freedom and the freedom to read—we have a great responsibility, as library professionals, to contribute to the well-being of our communities. In my discussion of my professional philosophy above, I have expressed a commitment to certain values and pursuits, including public services and intellectual freedom; instruction, training, and staff development; leadership, collaboration, and professional development; and the concepts of Library 2.0 and the Hyperlinked Library Model. Each of these represents an area in which I have the capacity to contribute to the well-being of our communities.
My contribution to the well-being of our communities carries through many of the work experiences, course assignments, and professional development activities that I discuss throughout this e-Portfolio. At SPL, I provide direct public service to a diverse cross-section of Seattle residents, including people of all ages, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds. By providing services that support the community’s access to and use of library resources, I contribute to the learning and literacy of our users, which is an essential precondition of cultural development; to the economic well-being of our communities, by providing access and assistance with educational, job, business, and financial resources in our print and online collections; to the educational well-being of our communities, by providing access to programs and services that promote lifelong learning; and to the social well-being of our communities by promoting intellectual freedom and social justice and providing responsive, helpful, and respectful services to each and every patron, regardless of background. Other ways in which I contribute to the well-being of our communities include my work in SLISConnect and my participation in professional associations.
Grassian, E. S., & Kaplowitz, J. R. (2009). Information literacy instruction: Theory and practice (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.
Heraclitus. (n.d.) Retrieved April 11, 2012 from Wikiquote: http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Heraclitus
Maxwell, J. C. (1993). Developing the leader within you. Nashville, TN: Nelson Business.
San Jose State University School of Library and Information Science. (n.d.). Statement of core competencies. Retrieved from http://slisweb.sjsu.edu/slis/competencies.htm
Stephens, M. (2011). The Hyperlinked Library. Retrieved from http://dl.dropbox.com/u/239835/StephensHyperlinkedLibrary2011.pdf
Stephens, M. (2012). LIBR 287-10 Seminar in Information Science Spring 2012 Greensheet. Retrieved from http://slisapps.sjsu.edu/gss/ajax/showSheet.php?id=4435
The Seattle Public Library. (2012). Strategic planning: Goals and objectives. Retrieved from http://www.spl.org/about-the-library/strategic-planning/goals-and-objectives