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.
I am in the final crunch of my last semester of my MLIS and I am finding really cool information for my research project on library services to users who are visually-impaired or blind. I wanted to share with you this extremely quotable quote from a public librarian in Hamilton.
“Libraries must fully accept that service to disabled persons is a right not a frill. They must become more flexible and willing to redirect resources from existing services to new services for all clients, not just those who can read print.” Beth Hovius, Librarian at the Hamilton Public Library, Ontario, Canada.
Hovius, B. (1996). Serving People with all kinds of disabilities : what has been achieved and what is still necessary. In Massis, B.E. (ed.), Serving Print Disabled Library Patrons. (pp. 48-59). Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland.
This semester I have been accepted by a faculty committee to conduct a 6-credit research project. The School of Information Studies at McGill does not require any research for its Masters program and apparently it is rare that students choose to do independent research despite it being offered. I think that it is disappointing that more students are not interested in completing research on a particular topic that interests them. Last year, my Intro to Research Methods professor, Catherine Guastavino, made a lasting impression on me during a speech on the importance of research in librarianship. She argued that it is research that allows practitioners to better understand certain phenomena in libraries as well as identify potential methods for improvement.
I have had no experience conducting research unless you count my grade 7 science project on “What Stains are the Hardest to Remove?”. However, I am passionate about many topics that I feel are not properly addressed in library school. I decided that one poorly addressed topic of growing importance in libraries is the service offered to visually impaired persons. Approximately 816,250 (3.2%) of Canadians aged 15 and older reported having some type of seeing limitation. This should be of great concern to librarians since visually impaired users are the group that requires the most alternatives to traditional print. However, less than 5% of published Canadian material is available in formats accessible to this user-group. The gravity of this problem will escalate steadily within the next 10 years as the generation of the baby boomers ages, therefore, increasing the number of persons suffering from diseases associated with loss of vision such as age-related macular degeneration.
While doing my preliminary lit review and through conversations with librarians, I have come to the conclusion that there have been a lot of improvements recently to accessibility such as databases like Ebsco creating specific platforms for visually impaired users and the availability of audio books such as Playaways. However, I have developed the hypothesis that librarians lack the knowledge of these improved resources as well as the knowledge of how to appropriately address this user-group which consequently prevents the librarians from offering quality service. My research project over the next 7 months will attempt to explore whether librarians are able to identify resources relevant to serving users who are visually impaired as well as if they are aware of the appropriate behaviour and attitudes to adopt when dealing with this user-group. Wish me luck and if you know of any references that might be relevant to this topic I would appreciate hearing from you!