Are you a professional?

Hey everyone,

Hope you had a great weekend!

I was just reading Megan Ingle’s post “Who says I am a professional?” this morning, and it got me thinking – what makes you an information or library professional? Do you view yourself as a professional?

Is it something you confer upon yourself or is it once you become professionally registered through LIANZA or a national library association?

For one of my papers through the Open Polytechnic, 72370 Information Issues, we were required to reflect on how we felt as information professionals at the end of the course. I remember putting most of my emphasis on “growing into an information professional”. I felt that I had come a long way, but that I had an equally long way to go. As an information professional (and indeed any professional), you need to keep on learning and growing – you can never know it all!

I think being an information professional is a lot about attitude – if you are teachable, curious, willing to learn, explore, and reflect – you will be an excellent information professional. You cannot remain static and be an information professional.

There are different ways of doing this – whether through a formal registration program or informally through online interactions, face-to-face events (like conferences and meet-ups), etc…

So what are your thoughts? Are you an information professional? And how do you know?

Abigail 🙂

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Official website for New Professionals Network in New Zealand. Administered by: Abigail Willemse LIANZA Library Life Editor @ajwillemse91
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13 Responses to Are you a professional?

  1. Cath Sheard says:

    It’s not just librarians who struggle with this question; try asking a bunch of artists what makes an artist a professional!
    For me, as with artists, it is partly an attitude thing – do you always do your best work? Strive to improve? Constantly look for opportunities? Focus on lifelong learning? See librarianship as a career, not just a job?
    I have staff who do fabulous work but, for personal reasons, only want a job, not a career. That means some of the choices they make will probably mean they never see themselves as professionals.
    What do others think?

    • megingle says:

      I like your artist analogy Cath 😉 I also agree that in the LIS industry, there’s some people who love what they do, but it is a job not a career for various reasons. And there’s definitely a place for great workers, whether or not they call themselves professionals.

      • Very true – I think it does depend on whether people see it as a job or as a career. But I think you can still be a professional in either of those two camps. I guess I was thinking of “New professionals” as people new to the information profession, as individuals with a unique set of professional skills to offer in a variety of different situations.
        Abigail 🙂

  2. I think in the eyes of the LIS world in New Zealand, you’re an information professional when you move from a library assistant position to a librarian position. When you are no longer an ‘assistant’, you are expected to be committed to librarianship as a career, expected to be concerned about increasing your professional development, and expected to contribute to the librarianship in your country.

    One major difference between Megan Ingle’s career path and mine is that I finished my MIS last year, but I’ve been working full-time in libraries for the last 6 years, and in what’s termed a ‘professional librarian’ position since 2009. So, I would say I became a professional librarian when I got my role as an ‘Information Librarian’ – a role that expects you to have a library qualification and have shown that you are committed to librarianship as a profession.

    Having said that, I am in the process of applying for professional registration, and I recognise the importance of this as well. It further shows your commitment to meet a quality standard and to ensure that you are staying up to date with issues, changes and opportunities in the library & information sector. I do believe that new graduates should become professional registered. However, two reasons why I can see why people may not do that are:
    1. It’s hard to justify when people think they are ‘just a library assistant’.
    2. Some employers pay for the professional registration scheme, and some don’t.
    3. Only some employers are requiring or preferring professional registration. If it became more of an expectation (as it is for senior staff within Auckland Libraries, for example), then I think we would see much greater sign-up to the professional registration scheme.

  3. megingle says:

    I’ve been wondering if there are different viewpoints depending on which sector you work in, such as academic vs. public libraries – the ratios of qualified/not-yet-qualified/won’t-ever-get-qualified staff. Does this possibly change the viewpoint of the employers/employees?

    It seems as though there are usually more qualified staff in non-public libraries, and I wonder how that colours the view of “professional” vs. “not professional”.

    • That’s an interesting point, Megan. I work in an academic library and the concept of Professional Librarian is quite strong in this sector. There is also often a clearer delineation between Professional roles (requiring degrees) and those roles that don’t need that.

      Having said that, where I work, the so-called library assistants do reference services work, and the so-called professional librarians do circulation, so any such barriers are muddled. However, I’m about to go and formally teach two lots of students today how to find information for their assignments – something that most library assistants wouldn’t do. Of course, all of us help people find information on a one-to-one level. In the public library sector, perhaps professional registration is a greater sign of being a ‘professional’. I agree that studying for a library degree shows commitment towards librarianship. However, if your role doesn’t require that, are you a professional?

      • I also understand the tension between the library assistant and the librarian position. I have nearly finished my degree, but have only been hired in library assistant positions so far. In the scope of those positions, I am not required to do in-depth reference queries (but refer them onto a ‘librarian’), but sometimes I feel that I am able to handle those requests because of my knowledge gained through study and work experience. It’s a tough line, particularly as a lot of library students start in the assistant positions (and in some smaller libraries with only a manger and library assistant, a library assistant position may have more power and responsibilities than in other libraries) – how are these people who have existing knowledge supposed to practice their skills and transition into those librarian roles?

        I would also agree on the differences between sectors – different libraries do have different focuses, and their patrons also perceive them differently. As a general rule, I think people often do see public libraries as having more of a community focus and being a community space with a focus on reading for recreation & enjoyment, as well as personal development, rather than offering a professional service (such as an academic library offers to students). This is a gross generalization, but a common one, I believe 🙂

        Abigail.

    • Tracy says:

      I would agree in some workplaces that the distinction between librarian and library assistant can be a bit muddled. I worked for a number of years with the title ‘library assistant’ however the duties were more aligned to that of a librarian (teaching, reference queries, reference consultations etc).

      In defining ‘what is a professional’ as well stating librarian, would it be beneficial to include some of the tasks involved too? As with the example above, some library assistants do in-depth reference consultations and/or teaching and may find this forum useful for their own PD.

      Any thoughts?

  4. Michelle says:

    Interesting discussion! I think it is about many things, and there is not strict definition or difference between a non-professional and a professional. However, I think commitment, values, and professional development and learning all play a big part.

  5. raindoglibs says:

    I’ve been wondering about the professional vs. non-professional. I have the Post Graduate Certificate from Victoria University (which I really loved), I know is not enough to qualify for professional registration though.

    You see, I work in a large library service where there are a lot of masters qualified librarians and I often wonder to myself ‘would it not be better to consider study outside of the MLIS?’ perhaps in IT or maybe teaching? With a concentration of MLIS-ers at work a touch of something else might be a good thing. For me a different branch/discipline of knowledge would be something new and perhaps more versatile career wise, for the organization this approach would give them a broader set of “professional” skills to call on. Taking this path of interdisciplinary cross-pollination though it would seem I’d never be able to officially call myself a library ‘professional’.

    Yesterday I watched a TED Talk by Simon Sinek called ‘How great leaders inspire action’ (http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action.html) it’s quite well known, perhaps you’ve seen it already? In any case he makes a statement which stuck with me – ‘it’s not what you do, it’s why you do it’. Could it be applied to our debate? Are you a professional for the reasons you work in the information sector? As Abigail said it’s all about attitude, keeping on learning, being involved in the field.

    Remy

    • Hi Remy,

      Thanks for your contribution – I also know what you mean about deciding what to study next! I am nearly finished my BA (LIS & The Humanities) through the Open Polytechnic, and have considered doing my Masters through Victoria. But people I have spoken to both from Victoria and the Open Polytechnic have advised me that it might be better to either do an MA by thesis (so I could do some substantial research in the LIS field) or do a Masters or post-graduate qualification in another discipline (I was also thinking IT or teaching!). It’s tricky to know – a lot of library jobs say you should have a degree and a masters in library studies, but my undergraduate degree IS a degree and it is a professional library qualification (i.e. eligible for LIANZA professional registration).
      I also think some cross-pollination would be good, but understand your quandary.

      As Tracy also mentioned, there is a lot of cross over between library assistant and librarian roles in different libraries, and it can also be related to what we do. So I think it could be in part what we do, and our attitude towards it 🙂

      Abigail.

  6. fred says:

    Hi
    I see myself as a professional even though I only have the minimum library qualification and am not registered.

    I love my job, love promoting libraries and what we do but have no interest in furthering myself academically. Mostly because I’m not academically minded. I have to work twice or thrice as hard as others just to pass courses papers (and even then I have been known to fail!)

    For me it’s about being passionate about what I do, doing my job well and all the other skills that I bring to the job rather than a piece of paper or registration that says I can do the job.

    Am enjoying all the different discussions you are having.

    • Hi Fred, thanks for your perspective. I do agree with you; I think it is about being passionate what you do, and doing it the best you can do. There have been some great discussions, right? I’m really enjoying all the interaction generated by this group!

      Abigail.

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