Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thing 16

Thing 16 is about advocacy, speaking up for the profession, and getting published.

Advocacy and speaking up for the profession
First, I just want to draw a distinction between speaking up for libraries and speaking up for the profession of librarianship. For this Thing, although the title says "the profession" they seem to be actually talking about speaking up for libraries, so I'll start with that.

Advocacy for libraries....

Although there are non-librarians who do actively advocate for libraries, the people who most depend on the services we provide are people who lack money, power, or even the ability to get through a regular day without a struggle. These aren't people who attend "save the libraries" rallies, or write editorials, or speak up at public meetings. The people who depend on our services the most are the least likely to actively advocate for libraries, so we need to do it ourselves.

This should happen every day - by publicizing what we do, by increasing our presence in the community, reaching out to all our users including those whose interactions are primarily through their computers or phones. At the risk of sounding all corporate, I would even go so far as to say we should be branding ourselves. Branding sticks. Let's not wait until we need to justify our existences to tell everyone what we do. Tell them when times are good so they remember when times are tough.

....for the profession

We are continually trying to fight layoffs and prevent the deprofessionalization of librarianship. But if we really want to prove that libraries need to be run by professionals and successfully fight to keep our jobs there are two things I think we need:

1. Required professional development. Once we get our MLS degree we are never again held accountable for updating our skills and knowledge. Why aren't there requirements for us to keep our professional credentials like in other fields? It's hard to convince people that our knowledge is valuable when we aren't keeping it updated. Obviously some of us do, but a lot of us don't.

2. A national union. Other professions have them, yet we are all stuck in piddly little local unions with teachers, public works employees, and others who often don't understand our value. How can they effectively advocate for us? It seems like the ALA is in a perfect position to do this and although the organization does work to promote libraries and librarianship, I think they could be doing it in a more meaningful way.  

Getting published

Mostly I think there's nothing I can say that someone else hasn't already said, and probably more articulately. But I have my little blog with its modest readership and I'm happy to confine my thoughts here.

Someday maybe I'll come up with an aspect of librarianship about which I feel like I have something unique to say - perhaps the same topic I'll eventually present on - and then perhaps I'll try to write something to submit for publication.