As a former journalist, I know how important information is to the world and the people in it. I also know how much information there is and how difficult it is to find and evaluate all that information. But people often take information and their access to it for granted. This is where my professional philosophy on librarianship comes in. My belief is that information is power. Without access to information, people cannot succeed. Indeed, they can easily be discriminated against or otherwise pushed to the side by those in power. My professional philosophy is underpinned by this belief in the importance of information and that everyone has the right to access that information.
How librarians can contribute to this belief begins with information literacy, a hot-button topic in librarianship that I think it is often misunderstood. Some people view information literacy as merely the ability to research a topic to fulfill a specific purpose, generally to write a research paper. These people see it as only for those college students who are forced to take a session with a librarian intent on helping them write perhaps their first research paper.
But information is more complicated than that, and so is the concept of information literacy. To me, information literacy covers all aspects of how a person interacts with information. A person is information literate if they are able to find that piece of information that is key to accomplishing their goal. But it also involves someone’s ability to scan through the news headlines of the day and judge which are from reliable sources. It involves whether someone has the knowledge to ethically use information, even if it is in an environment as unregulated as social media. As a librarian, my goal is to encourage my patrons to interact with information in a way that helps them and even makes the world of information a better place. To some this may seem like a pie-in-the-sky dream, something that already overstretched professionals can’t be worrying about. But to me, the movement to bring information literacy out of the the classroom and bring it into our everyday lives is essential to our profession’s future. In fact, our ability to help people be discerning in their consumption of information is what sets the library professional apart from Google.
Essential to this goal is a second aspect of my professional philosophy: the importance of learning. I am a lifelong learner and I believe everyone can and should be one. Learning is essential to an individual’s growth and for the development of humanity as a species. By learning, growing and improving, we all become better people and can contribute to the betterment of our fellow man. Indeed, without this inclination to learn and grow that many librarians hold, the profession might not have survived. Librarians have the unique ability to stand in the knowledge gap, providing access to resources, as well as encouragement for patrons to seek to expand their experiences.
But we shouldn’t just expect people to come to us in the library. The third aspect of my professional philosophy is that the key to our future is the importance of collaboration – collaboration with each other, with other libraries, and especially with other organizations in the community. By reaching outside ourselves, we will be able to spread our knowledge with others. At the same time, we can continue growing our own knowledge by looking to experts in others fields. In the process, we will better benefit our patrons.Finally, libraries are swiftly becoming relied upon as community centers, as safe places to gather, to learn and to get things done. We need to embrace that aspect of our identities and welcome all members of our diverse communities into our libraries. By building a welcoming and supportive library community, one that values diversity as well as learning, collaboration and information literacy, libraries can become the example that brings about change throughout the world. It may seem like a huge responsibility, but it requires only a small first step of building change within our own walls.