Librarianship Values

10 Apr

"Helping hands of group of people"
I have been thinking a lot the past week about librarianship values. A conversation around drinks on Tuesday evening following a talk by Stephen Abram lead to a discussion on this subject. There was mention of the lack of leadership from LAC BAC at promoting librarianship values like fair copyright laws at a federal level. It was hinted that this could be a consequence of the fact that the present Librarian of Canada at this institution is, in fact, not a librarian with a MLIS degree but rather a bureaucrat. We also discussed the issue of web programmers not understanding why librarians are opposed to the idea of including for-profit advertisement on their public library websites. This was the first time that I had participated in a conversation on this topic and it was stimulating to think about belonging to a group of professionals who share a common set of values.

So it is understandable that later this week I was thrilled to notice the theme of librarianship values surfacing as I analyzed the data of my research project. Although, I am still analyzing the data from the fifty surveys I received from staff at public libraries of the province of Quebec, one interesting relationship that I have succeeded in statistically proving (with a p value of .03) is that library staff with a MLIS degree are significantly more likely to have a positive attitude towards serving users with visually impairments than library staff without a MLIS. I do not wish to generalize that library staff without a MLIS cannot be helpful and willing to serve users with disabilities; however, this statistical significance emphasizes the strong commitment to service of all user-groups that is an essential value shared by professional librarians.

In order to explore more the theme of librarianship values, I have started reading the book Barbarians at the Gates of the Public Library by Ed D’Angelo. This book emphasizes the historical importance of public libraries to educate, promote democracy and defend the public good. Although, book reviews on GoodReads.com point out certain flaws in this book, I am still learning many interesting facts about the historical importance of public libraries and the set of values that librarians have promoted over the past century.

This leads me to more questions about where and when professional librarians acquire this set of values. Is it part of our two year Master degree? Are people who already have these values drawn to complete a Master in Library and Information studies? I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

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2 Responses to “Librarianship Values”

  1. Marie April 11, 2010 at 3:17 pm #

    I think the librarianship values you speak of are not specific to librarians or MLIS graduates, but perhaps the MLIS helps us to find concrete ways to ‘channel’ these values.

    Personally, my wanting to become a librarian comes from a desire to help people gain better access to information and to defend the right they have to access it. I had this before starting the MLIS, but I’m now more knowledgeable about how it can be done in the real world. Especially when it comes to patrons with disabilities (since you address this more specifically), the MLIS teaches us (or it should, anyway) what their needs are and how the library can meet them. So if library staff with a MLIS degree have a more positive attitude than other staff about doing this, it may only be because they were somewhat trained on how to address these issues?

    This is all hypothetical though, I have yet to work in a public library. 😉

  2. Jason Hammond April 26, 2010 at 3:27 am #

    I’d say that for a substantial number of librarians (but definitely not all), these values are quite innate. We’re the type of people who want to help people, we’re empathetic, we believe in the “big picture” social good that is achieved by giving people access to information and knowledge.

    Perhaps in different circumstances, some of us may have taken different paths and become nurses or social workers or pastors or other professions that share these characteristics. But for whatever reason (anything from a strong love of books to a random encounter with someone who points us towards the MLIS), this is where we end up.

    I would actually argue that there is very little emphasis placed on core library values during the course of completing the MLIS (or at least that was my experience. I got a lot more reinforcement from fellow students than professors.)

    Have you read “Revolting Librarians Redux”? Lots of good stuff in there to make you think.

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