Statement of Competency 2
Competency 2: Describe and compare organizational settings in which information professionals practice.
The library and information science field encompasses professions in a variety of organizational settings. Library and information professionals share some common ground, including the curation and care of information in its various formats, and the provision of access to these materials. In serving the information needs of their patrons, librarians become “advocates on important issues, such as the right to read, academic and intellectual freedom, digital rights and copyright, and censorship” (Hirsch, 2017, p. 43). Librarians and information professionals are employed in a range of organizational settings, each of which has its own characteristics. Three types of information organizations are public libraries, school library media centers, and special libraries.
Public libraries have long been cornerstones of local communities across the country. A public library “provides lifelong learning opportunities through access to books and media in all formats, as well as a wide range of programs and services- all designed to meet the community’s needs for education, information, and personal development” (Pena McCook, 2015, p. 70.) Today’s public library services are extremely diverse, offering a range of services such as “literacy programs, access to technology, downloadable digital media, cultural events, and programs to meet the needs of … job seekers, recent immigrants, and veterans” (p. 71). United States public libraries are under the jurisdiction of the municipal government, county government, or library district, and have legal rights granted by state laws and local laws (p. 74). Library boards of directors oversee staffing, budgeting, policies, and planning. The federal government funds public libraries through the Library Services and Technology Act. The public library enjoys an excellent reputation as an essential fixture of every community. Services are particularly important to poor, weak, or neglected members of society.
School libraries are distinctive due to their focus on children in K-12 educational institutions. The traditional role of a school library is to enhance the curriculum and provide academic resources for children. Modern library media centers also provide resources and tools to access and create information, a space for quiet study and collaborative learning, and support inquiry-based, connected learning (Harlan, 2015, p. 53). One of the distinguishing features of school librarianship is its teaching aspect, which is clearly a core responsibility in a school setting. Teacher librarians also serve as program managers, promoters and instructors of reading and literacy, digital literacy specialists, and school curriculum generalists. Policies and practices are developed with school community members, aligned with the school’s mission, and subject to approval by the school board. Funding is obtained from school budget allowances, in addition to grants and other advocacy efforts.
Dee, Abram & Hunt (2015) point out that special libraries “uniquely focus on diverse and specialized resources with a limited scope, serve specialized and limited users, and often deliver technologically advanced specialized services” (p. 82). A significant challenge in delivering these services in the age of information, therefore, is to manage information overload by “filtering for information that is useful (relevant, accurate and timely)” (Financial Times & Special Libraries Association, n.d.). Special Librarianship requires a high level of education, as well as knowledge and experience in a particular area. Special librarianship demands the skills that are fundamental to all information professionals. A supplemental set of professional and personal competencies is also desirable. In addition to a master’s degree in library and information science (MLIS), special librarians usually “have a second subject-related master’s degree with expertise in their organization’s subject areas or extensive continuing education and training” (Dee, Abram & Hunt, 2015, p. 84). Special libraries are “hosted in corporations and other specialized environments” (p. 85). They may be funded publicly or privately, and policies and procedures vary depending on the structure of the institution.
The following examples of my work demonstrate my skills in Competency 2:
- Skills, Knowledge, and Competencies in Special Librarianship, a paper from INFO 204 (Information Professions)
- Organizational Analysis of Buffalo & Erie County Public Library: Part 1, a paper from INFO 204 (Information Professions)
- School library strategic plan, a professional school library consultancy project
My mastery of Competency 2 is supported by this INFO 204 (Information Professions) assignment. The paper discusses distinguishing features of special libraries, including their narrow focus and the typical characteristics of patrons. Professional requirements for working in special libraries are outlined, and desirable personal competencies, proficiencies, and experiences are examined. New trends and technologies are identified, and their effects on the profession are explained. The diverse and growing set of skills required for management positions are explored, and future challenges are discussed. Skills for special librarians are analyzed in terms of their transferability to other occupations. This assignment was completed relatively early on in my degree. As the program progressed, I gained a wider perspective of how special librarianship is differentiated within the broader aspect of the profession. I feel that this analysis provided me with knowledge essential in choosing a career path. Although I am not currently working in this capacity, I feel that the paper was a valuable initial inquiry. This work demonstrates my understanding of key features of special libraries and related professional roles.
This group project from INFO 204 (Information Professions) provides evidence that I have mastered key concepts of Competency 2. It is the first of a two-part project that analyzes goal setting theory in terms of strategic planning for the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library (B&ECPL). Five group members collaborated in both parts of the project. In Part 1, I was responsible for the environmental scan of trends affecting strategic planning (pages 14-22).
The environmental scan examines demographic trends, economic trends, political and public policy trends, technological trends, trends in public libraries, and competition from other sources of discovery. My work on this section of the project has given me important insights into considerations for public libraries. The experience I gained when researching trends affecting the B&ECPL provided me with fundamental skills for developing public library programs, collections, and services. I now know how to research key factors that affect library planning. Public library development relies on public funding, and responsible management must demonstrate an understanding of the local community and the issues that affect the evolving information needs of its members. This assignment has provided me with the structure for conducting necessary research, and a foundational understanding of some of the complex roles and responsibilities in public librarianship.
Professional Consultancy Project: School library strategic plan
This paper is part of a strategic plan that I created for an international school library in Switzerland. (The name of the school has been deleted for purposes of privacy.) The school is an exclusive private institution for pre-school through high school children. I offered the administration a plan to revitalize the library, beginning with the creation of a school library website. I proposed the website as part of an overall vision, with a four-step strategic plan. Details of the four-step plan include the development of electronic information resources, a library satisfaction assessment plan, the initiation of information literacy instruction, the incorporation of new and emerging technologies, and the redesign of the library space.
My strategic plan incorporates my knowledge of the existing administrative and financial structure of the school; the mission, goals, and values of the school; and an understanding of trends in education and school libraries. I included images and graphics to convey my ideas in a visually appealing way. This project gave me invaluable experience in the field of school librarianship. It demonstrates my understanding of the role of a modern school library, how the school library supports educational objectives, how to make progress methodically, and how to appeal to key stakeholders.
The plan was embraced by the school. I developed a website as an INFO 298 independent project, and it was launched in March 2017. In April 2017 I was hired as the school librarian, and I am now carrying out all my plans, and then some. Our library has undergone dramatic changes in the past months, and now has 43 student volunteer helpers (out of a student body of 350).
The above evidence demonstrates my mastery of Competency 2. My work shows that I understand the differing characteristics of public libraries, special libraries, and school libraries. Each type of library addresses its own sort of patrons, relies on specific funding sources, has a distinct relationship to governing bodies, and requires a particular skill set. Regardless of the type of institution or area of specialization, the basic mission of librarianship is to connect individuals with information. I have proven that I understand the role of the information professional in various settings.
Abram, S. (2015). Librarianship: A continuously evolving profession. In Hirsch, S. (Ed.), Information Services Today: An Introduction (Chapter 5). Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.
Dee, C. R., Abram, S., & Hunt, D. (2015). Information centers: Special libraries. In Hirsch, S. (Ed.), Information services today: An introduction (Chapter 9). Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.
Financial Times & Special Libraries Association (n.d.). The evolving value of information management and the five essential attributes of the modern information professional. In SLA. Retrieved from http://www.sla.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/FT-SLA-Report.pdf
Harlan, M.A. (2015). Literacy and media centers in the twenty-first century. In Hirsch, S. (Ed.), Information services today: An introduction (Chapter 6). Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.
Pena McCook, K. (2015). Community anchors for lifelong learning: Public libraries. In Hirsch, S. (Ed.), Information services today: An introduction (Chapter 8). Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield.