Saturday 25 February 2012

What started as an introduction...

Hi everyone!

Its Holger here… I’m new to the committee and also to Sydney in general! Actually now that I think about it I’m fairly new to librarianship, having only finished my degree in July at QUT in Brisbane. I have been in Sydney since November, working as a reference librarian at the Law Courts Library. This means we do research and information literacy education for the Judges and staff of the Supreme and Federal Courts. One of the things I absolutely love about my position is that I see the effects that my work has on society directly and immediately. Quite often I will be working on a hefty piece of research for a Judge and then read about the case in the papers in the following days. Often it will mention a point of law that I had the privilege to help clarify for the Judge.

I am also only 24 and so rather junior around the library, though I must admit it is fun being the “baby librarian” of our team! It allows me to bond with our younger clients and engage them both professionally and socially!

I am still marvelling at how lucky I got to find a position that has allowed me to not just pursue my professional interests in reference and information literacy, but to turn them into passions! I also got the opportunity to join ALIA Sydney as an event officer. After our first meeting I was impressed by the variety, passion and most of all ambition of the committee for 2012. It really is inspiring to be surrounded by people that truly believe in the profession of librarianship and want to support it.

The issue of librarianship as a profession has really been interesting me of late. Last week I attended the admission ceremony of two friends of mine that are now qualified lawyers. It was an impressive ceremony, full of pomp, splendour and wigs! What really interested me however, was the fact that they were required to swear an oath and sign a code of ethics. This is of course necessary as they are making decisions and providing services that often have a massive and immediate impact on people’s lives. It is the same for doctors and other such professions. There may be a perception that the services we provide impact people’s lives less than other professions and this is true to a degree. However, I think that it is just that the influence is less direct. We do still change lives and society through the services we provide, whether we are in academic, special, public or any kind of library.

Take a look at this definition of a profession and think about its application to librarianship.

The fact that we don’t require membership to our peak body (obviously ALIA) is both a strength and weakness of the profession. It makes it harder to regulate the profession and ensure that standards are the same across the board but also ensures that those that are engaging with the profession are the ones that are truly passionate. I also see participation in professional development as an ethical obligation to our clients, as we must ensure that our skills will always allow us to find the best possible information. The fact that we can’t really enforce professional standards, only reward those who meet them (through the ALIACP qualification) is a problem for the profession.

ALIA does already have a professional conduct policy which is a great start for dealing with these issues. It is a certainly a document that should be used to build upon when creating a more detailed study. The fact that it was last updated in 2007 means that the time is ripe for a re-examination of the situation. It would be an incredibly interesting project to survey best practice from other library associations (CILIP and ALA have fairly substantial documents) and from other professions. A study of professional ethical best practice could be used to bring the discussion of librarianship as a profession to the fore.

I think the main reasons I am so interested in these issues are my dedication to quality client service, the fact that I majored in philosophy (taking an interest mainly in ethics) in my undergraduate arts degree and most importantly of all, my pride in librarianship!

There is so much more to say on this topic but I am already sorry for the size of this post… It was meant to be an introduction and became a rant. Oh well, I will save the intro for next time.

Let me know what you all think about this, or anything else for that matter! Leave a comment, throw us a tweet or just come and accost me at one of our events! The next one is Think Big, Act Small: Sustainability in the Library and it will be fantastic. I’m afraid it’s already sold out but if you missed out, start thinking about the next one… I believe it will be a 20x20 style evening and will be a lot of fun.

Always a pleasure…



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