Friday, September 16, 2016

My Professional Librarianship's philosophy

Introduction of my Professional Philosophy: Intellectual Freedom, Access, and Service 

 It is difficult to name one thing librarians do that does not involve ethical implications. Intellectual freedom certainly is the most commonly recognized philosophical belief for these ethics-based decisions. Interestingly enough, it is viewed as a core responsibility of librarianship and listed in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but a uniform definition of intellectual freedom is yet to be found. In responding to the ever-changing political and sociological environment, the American Library Association has revised the interpretations ofintellectual freedom seven times. As a concept in librarianship, intellectual freedom indicates the right of freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of information seeking, accessing, retrieving, and receiving, regardless of age, race, background or belief.  Free access of information is another central philosophical concept I fully embrace for librarianship. Information resources of different formats, or methods of delivery, should be readily and equally accessible in any library without the interruption of regulation and restriction, regardless of a user’s financial, political, and religious background. The library, as an institute of information, has the responsibility to support information access by supplying materials in subjects for a wide range of values, in multilingual materials for diverse communities, and in unfiltered Internet services for unobstructed research.  My concentration of librarianship is public library services. 

The essence of public library services is to serve the public. Unlike specialized libraries where services are limited to privileged groups, a public library, stealing Lincoln’s words, is the library of the people, by the people, and for the people. Special libraries such as the Royal Library of Alexandria in ancient Egypt only hosted distinguished international scholars of antiquity world; in modern time the Huntington Library in up-scale San Marino, California, welcomes doctorate-level researchers in the Humanities. But public library reserves no exclusiveness; it has a completely open and fair policy. No library has offered greater quantity and quality services to the bulk of the population than public libraries, for public library opens its door to each and every person in all walks of life. 

 ALA posts six core values for its Public Library Association. The main initiatives are: to be responsive to community needs, be open to new ideas, expand revenue for lifelong learning, and open the door to any individual who otherwise has no access to academic or research libraries. In addition, public libraries should be responsive to patrons’ education needs, information needs, and entertainment needs in person, by phone, and online. Public libraries also provide absolutely free services and programs to the general population regardless library users’ cultural, racial, and financial background. Public library services are the most democratic within the library profession. And I am proud to be one of these noble and yet humble professionals. Public libraries do not exclude.   

C. Theories and practices  Theoretically, public libraries offer unobstructed information access points for users, and advocate intellectual freedom. Public libraries are where people can pursue lifelong learning, and enjoy the cultural heritage of our society in the most democratic of surroundings. This is where individuals can seek assistance and find information for intellectual or financial growth. Nevertheless, in reality, the complexity of social, financial, and political changes hampers the application of advocacy into action. For instance, free access to libraries for minors is always problematic, as well as inadequate collections for minorities, and economic barriers of information access for the illiterate population. Development policies affecting access and acquisitions will impact librarians’ beliefs in intellectual freedom and service ethics, too. Censorship, confidentiality, copyrights, and governmental intimidation can all be barriers to practicing honest public librarianship. 

social, cultural and economic dimensions of information use
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The need for information is inherent in human nature, and its use shapes human civilization. Information is power and recent history shows that it can be beneficial or harmful depending on how it is used. The manipulation of financial information contributed to the current economic crisis. The blockage of information by the governments of China and North Korea oppresses of those countries. Yet, the explosion of social networking on the World Wide Web has altered how many members of society connect to and communicate with each other, largely in a positive way.   Information use impacts society.Information has impacted human society in the past, it is impacting the world now, and it will continue to influence people in the future. 

Think about our country’s decennial census mandated by our Constitution. How important could it be that the project of collection of enumerated population started since when Thomas Jefferson was the Secretary of State in 1770 and will begin again next year. Why is it so important we need to know how many native Indians now live in a particular county of a particular state? Use of census information, together with many other information sources, impacts society in every way; it defines the allocation of federal funding for construction, it regulates the electoral votes, and it guides the direction of our future. Information truly influences society in every aspect and has multiple dimensional, socially, culturally, and financially. Information professionals, including librarians, work on the front lines of this dynamic environment of information.  My first evidentiary paper explains the economic impact of information on Pholoane, a rural village in South Africa. The citizens of Pholoane still carry on the oral tradition that has existed for generations. This village has no written language. When maize, its primary agricultural crop, was threatened due to lack of proper care, the village had to rely on modern information to ensure its survival.   A training program developed by the Lebowa Agricultural Corporation (LAC) helped solve the problem. The program succeeded because it involved the participants in their own training and addressed their unique way of using information. The trainers in the LAC program first tried to understand the way of life and values of the people of Pholoane by gathering oral information from members of the community. They then tried to teach them more modern farming techniques in a way that still respected the village’s unique traditions. This evidentiary filedemonstrates how information is passed along in an oral tradition and how modern information was successfully incorporated into that tradition for the benefit of an entire community.  My second evidentiary paper presents a case of how to a university library used its resources to benefit a community much closer to home. Authors Vlator, Goldsmith, and Fonseca, of Ellender Library at Nicholls State University in Louisiana, report how their academic library is trying to increase its patronage. Nationwide, commercialism has invaded libraries as more of them have introduced coffee shops. The authors argue that this essentially turns the library into a living room and detracts from its core mission of lifelong learning. Rather than serve lattes, Ellender Library started hosting events and exhibits that emphasize information use. The library offers dozens of these outreach programs each year, often combining the resources of the library, volunteers and other local institutions. The library has found that these events are highly anticipated by both students and local residents, who, after attending them, often become regular library users. In this way, the library has become the social and cultural home of the community. No coffee needed. Information is multi-faceted.   Information use is thus multi-dimensional. Earlier this year when Los Angeles Philharmonic announced 

Gustavo Dudamel as her new Music Director, Angelinos interpreted the information as the most exciting cultural event of the community. But soon, media read the news as a financial strategy to rescue the failing music industry. Some scholars refer the appointment of a wild, young, charismatic Venezuelan maestro as a symbol of social and demographic switch of metropolitan structure of Los Angeles. Library profession needs to understand the flexibility, possibility and ambiguity of information.   Information use also involves past information, present information and/or future information. My ideal future project in library environment will be a project using historical information and contemporary technology for the future generation. I would like to work with the Burbank Historical Society to digitize its archival collection. Each community has its own cultural heritage and digitization is one way to ensure the long-term preservation of the print and photographic materials that document it. Visiting the Burbank Historical Society’s photo collections at Gordon R. Howard Museum years ago, I was very impressed by the vast records of community’s social, cultural, and economic heritage. The photo galleries of early movie industry and aerospace industry were particularly striking. This project would use the technology of the present to preserve information from the past for future generations. I see this as my way of contributing to the social, cultural and economic heritage of the city I have been proud to serve. 

Proper planning is a key element to ensuring that a library service or program is effectively carried out. An architect’s blueprints are the design a contractor follows to build a new building and that a civil agency uses to monitor the progress. In a library, a plan is the blueprint administrators and staff use to develop, review, evaluate, and improve programs and services. But a clearly articulated plan alone does not guarantee success. It must be carried out by an efficient and effective marketing, advocacy, and careful management. Modern business management encompasses planning, organizing, staffing, controlling, and directing an organization toward the achievement of its goals. It is this business mentality, introduced into the library environment in the last century, which ensures the effectiveness and efficiency of the modern library.  The modern library is not a bibliographic museum. It is an entrepreneurial organization that offers services and programs to the community. Because of this important role, the library can no longer follow a passive management model. It must be run by people who combine the tools of the library profession with those of business management. It must sell itself the way a business sells its products. In order to do this, the library must consider its patrons, just as a business considers its customers. The library accomplishes this through marketing and advocacy, or the deliberate process of voicing the concerns, ideas and needs of targeted customers. 
Information retrieval systems have one simple and straight forward purpose: to provide access to collected records. The Sumerian library kept a key to their cuneiform tablets so that locating a particular tax document was possible. Before the automation era, access to information in libraries was through manually-typed card catalogs. Today, information retrieval systems such as Online Public Access Catalogs and online databases store enormous records organized by fields, searchable by keywords, subjects, assigned vocabularies, and selected index terms.  Each information system, old and new, is designed by experts for a specific user group, requiring precise search methods, and can be extremely easy or difficult to use. To better serve library users’ information needs, librarians evaluate and teach information literacy on a daily basis. Understanding the design, structure and query methods of information retrieval systems is an essential professional skill all librarians should have in order to effectively retrieve relevant data for the information needs of the customers. 

Library profession has a complex relationship with Information Technology (IT) profession. Large portion of library operation in modern era depends on technology. Librarians constantly need support from IT staff. Unfortunately, there is a genuine communication problem between these two professions. ITs think librarians know not much about technology, and librarians believe IT staffs are ignorant in information. The truth is that we, librarians, have been acquainted with technology for decades. In the beginning, Library automation system incorporates what used to be independent and separate functions of Circulation, Reference, Technical Processing, and Administration into one integrated scheme. Automation system of library simplifies and expands library services significantly. Then, Internet revolutionizes library services in unprecedented way. Reference particularly forever changes her service tradition. Instant gratification from Google, Yahoo, and wiki steal great amount of conventional reference inquires by phone or in person. Finally, digitization, Web 2.0 theories and application models for professionals continue the third information technology revolution. Information technology and the way telecommunication dictates the transmission of information are dynamically evolving; library services and programs will be deeply connecting and depending on the future development of IT. Librarianship inevitably too will have to include technology as part of professional competencies. 

Every academic discipline produces a high volume of literature each year. Yet, quantity does not always translate to quality, and often, the published articles do not adhere to a high standard of research. In theory, research is prepared for a reason – to solve a problem, to address an issue or to develop a proposal. Without the proper methodology behind it, research lacks reliable data and valid conclusions. Librarians constantly conduct systematic and critical reviews of published research. They also plan, execute, and apply their own research to implement and evaluate services and programs in their libraries. Thus, library professionals must have a strong foundation in research methodology.