Monday, December 7, 2009

Retro-Progressiveness for Librarianship

An interesting book has come out today from a library science professor at U of T's I school. Professor Juris Dilevko believes that

anyone wishing to work in an academic, research, or public library must independently pass a series of essay-type subject-specific examinations in about ten to fifteen fields or areas of the arts, social sciences, and sciences. In addition, he or she must be able to read and speak at least one non-English language fluently.

While I admit I have not read the book (it was just published in November), Dilevko's premise seems to me to be bit far-fetched. The idea for example, that anyone can pass exams with essay-type questions in 10-15 areas of law is extraordinarily difficult-if not impossible-in this day and age. Take the subject of law for instance. There are so many different areas of law that law librarians have to at least have a basic understanding of. It used to be that they could have a good general knowledge across a wide spectrum of the law. Now, we're lucky if we are competent in one or two areas.

I do agree with his idea that professionalism has devolved to a point where people are more concerned with credentials, careers, and the accumulation of power and prestige. However, the notion that we should not be obsessed with being professionals is missing the mark. I do not believe we are obsessed with being professionals, it is just that that is the nature of the beast. We are professionals, who handle information, and we use our knowledge-in many cases-for the social good. There have been many times when I have helped patrons who have no knowledge of the law find information on their topic. I won't try and explain the law to them-that is something I cannot and will not do as a librarian-but I will at least show them where to go, and who to turn to for further help.

It would be an interesting book to read, but I'd be worried about what I would think afterward.

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