Well, since my classmate Bracken boldly posted his Informational Career paper on his blog, I guess I will too. Mine feels kind of dumb next to his–he’s got core competencies under his belt that I’ve never even heard of–but then, I’m in graduate school to learn. If I already knew everything, I wouldn’t be here. It’s always been hard for me to admit what I don’t know, so I think it must be good for me to stick a pin in my inflated ego and admit I don’t know squat.
My Informational Career: The View From Here
Currently, my long-term career goal is to serve as a public librarian, specifically in the areas of reference, readers’ services and children’s librarianship. As the field of library and information studies continues to expand at an exponential rate, it is clear that being a librarian means being a perpetual student. Lucky for me, I have been gifted with an insatiable curiosity and a deep love of learning. Yet, while these qualities prove useful for fueling professional enthusiasm, many other skill sets are required to support a successful library career. I have some experience working in library settings as well as experience with research and records management through my employment as a grants coordinator for The Salvation Army. More than a lifetime is required to become familiar with all the useful reference resources, but I am prepared to dedicate the rest of my years to the challenge. Additional skills such as presentation, readers’ services, cataloging, collection development, and many others will require the same diligent attention. Though the journey is long, I believe the rewards are great.
I have some library service experience from my work as a shelver and circulation clerk for the Tulsa City-County Library (TCCL). This experience allowed me to become familiar with the TCCL online catalogue and the Dewey decimal system of organizing nonfiction resources. Of course, the majority of my time was spent ordering and shelving returned library resources, checking library resources in and out for customers, creating new customer records, issuing new library cards, updating customer contact information, processing fines for late items, and placing hold requests for customers.
My experience with library reference resources is very limited. I have used Academic Search Elite and the EBSCO Databases to locate resources for college papers. In addition, I have utilized the Foundation Directory at the Central Library to research grant opportunities since I have been working in the grant writing field. Yet there is a vast array of resources available online and through the public library of which I am not even aware. As my professors and classmates recommend various online resources, I bookmark the websites and explore them as quickly as possible in a frantic attempt to absorb and retain knowledge of useful resources for library customers. Of course, I realize that the task of collecting online resources is endless, as hundreds more become available everyday. However, my duty as a public librarian is to stay abreast of the reference resources available as best I can, so that I can quickly guide customers to the information and resources most likely to meet their needs. One of the core competencies of public librarianship is “keeping up-to-date with new practices, trends, and standards in the field by reading journals, attending professional meetings and conferences, and discussing current issues with experts” (www.librarysupportstaff.com). I think attending to listservs and the blogs of colleagues will also be useful in expanding my awareness of new developments in the field.
As I have a Bachelor’s degree in English literature, it cannot be a great shock to those who know me that I am hopelessly addicted to fiction. From the classics to comic books, I rapidly absorb every piece of fiction that comes my way. I love giving and receiving book recommendations, analyzing novels for allusion and symbolism, and I can think of no more enjoyable form of employment than providing readers’ services. Thanks to the recommendations of classmates, friends and professors, I am currently exploring readers’ advisory websites such as LibraryThing, GoodReads and NoveList to learn the pros and cons of each resource. I believe this field of library service is one at which I can truly excel.
Another set of skills I need to build involves developing and presenting educational programs and story time programs for library customers and their children. Public speaking typically inspires me with fear rather than excitement, but reading stories and singing songs with children is less intimidating to me than speaking in front of adults. Perhaps I am best suited to serve as a children’s librarian. I need to continue to practice my public speaking skills as well as practice developing and presenting community education programs that might be needed in a public library, such as cultural events or computer applications classes.
Core competencies for public librarians include the ability to present information efficiently in an understandable format and the ability to use “simple examples, illustrations and analogies to explain concepts” (www.librarysupportstaff.com). I have sought to follow these guidelines through undergraduate presentations as well as speaking engagements involving my work for nonprofits. Somehow I inherited the position of the United Way internal campaign coordinator for The Salvation Army, so every fall I exercise my public speaking skills by offering presentations about Salvation Army services provided in the Tulsa Area. This task has been a valuable opportunity for me to step out of my comfort zone and stretch my information provision abilities. As the child of an elementary school teacher, I have learned that different people have different learning styles. When preparing community education programs, I must endeavor to cater to all learning styles with a variety of visual aids and audio resources, and well as hands-on learning activities, as appropriate.
Cataloging procedure and building library collections are two areas of which I am completely ignorant. I am uncertain if reference and children’s librarians in public libraries do much cataloging, but I think it could only be beneficial to know how to catalog new library resources. Certainly the size of the public library system dictates whether its reference and children’s librarians are involved in cataloging and collection building. Nonetheless, knowledge of these activities can only enhance my employment opportunities.
An educational objective listed on the University of Oklahoma School of Library and Information Studies website is the ability to “demonstrate professional attitudes regarding scholarship, professional ethics, intellectual freedom, and access to information in a democratic society.” Admittedly I know little about the underlying theory and current issues involving intellectual freedom, but standing on the threshold of comprehension, my gut reaction is to feel strongly protective of our first amendment rights and the freedom to share information. Open source and open access applications have caught my interest, and I want to learn more about their current and potential uses. I did not know the meaning of open source software a month ago, but I am drawn to the democratic values embodied in open source, and curiosity is leading me to further investigation. If all my other information organization skills are merely nascent at this time, at least my natural curiosity will serve me well.
Another valuable skill set is the ability to “design and implement information products and services that respond effectively to changes in an increasingly multicultural, multiethnic, multilingual, and global society” (OU School of Library and Information Studies). I am very much a product of the white, middle-class culture in which I was raised, and therefore I must constantly struggle to look beyond the world view of my upbringing to other cultural perspectives. One means of making this effort is to continue my study of Spanish and other languages. I have taken a couple basic Spanish courses, but lack of regular usage has made retention difficult. Nevertheless, I have always enjoyed studying languages, and my Latin studies make Romance languages particularly accessible to me. Perhaps by seeking opportunities to serve in public libraries centered in largely Hispanic communities, such as the Martin Regional Library in East Tulsa, I can expand my Spanish vocabulary and improve my conversation skills. The Hispanic population needs to have equal opportunities to access library resources, as do all minorities, and public libraries need additional support in serving these populations.
Education and the stewardship of information are among the noblest of professions, in my opinion. The gift of education has the power to benefit the recipient long after the giver is gone. Yet I tend to agree with Michael Buckland that knowledge cannot be shared, only “information-as-thing” (1991). I can only provide others with representations of my information-as-knowledge, and those representations are information-as-thing (1991). My audience bears the responsibility of processing and internalizing the information I provide, for I have no influence over their assimilation of information into knowledge. The message I transmit may or may not be the same as the message my audience receives. The only way I can perpetuate knowledge and education is to promote the organization and accessibility of information and to encourage and assist others in their information quests.
My educational and employment experience has provided many skills useful to a career in library and information studies, but much more information and experience is required. I have an affinity for readers’ advisory work, and some experience presenting educational information, but my knowledge of reference resources hardly scratches the surface of the materials in existence. My knowledge of cataloging, collection development and creation of metadata is negligible. I have many skills to develop and many concepts to learn, but I look forward to the opportunity. I want to promote community education, information stewardship and intellectual freedom, and the most viable means of doing this seems to be contributing to the field of library and information studies.
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