This post was originally published on my Plone E-portfolio at San Jose State University School of Library and Information Science.
I admit that while contemplating my professional philosophy that I was unsure what this exactly meant. Working on each of these competencies helped me to search and give meaning to my professional philosophy and my conception of librarianship. During my search, I realized that my professional philosophy affects my conception of librarianship, my professional goals, and how I understand Competency O.
While contemplating my professional philosophy and Competency O, I realized that my understanding is shaped not only by my experience in the MLIS program but also by my experience as a teacher. This is where I learned the value of diversity. Diversity as related to the library environment can have a variety of meanings. From a librarian standpoint, diversity means utilizing a variety of methods and tools to deliver knowledge and understanding to users/students. A diverse user/student population is very important. It has been my experience that the more diverse the population is, the more multi-dimensional the community becomes.
While examining the courses and coursework I completed during my SLIS program, I realized a quote by Alexander Hamilton was a recurring theme in my work. In Federalists #21 he notes, “the wealth of nations depends upon an infinite variety of causes.” Among these are the “genius of the citizens [and] the degree of information they possess…”(quoted in Wills, 1982, 101). This brings me to my professional philosophy and is summed up in two words: intellectual freedom. For our nation to remain “wealthy” it is imperative that our citizens have unfettered access to information.
The concept of intellectual freedom is also at the core of my conception of librarianship. The American Library Association defines intellectual freedom as
the right of every individual to both seek and receive information from all points of view without restriction. It provides for free access to all expressions of ideas through which any and all sides of a question, cause or movement may be explored. Intellectual freedom encompasses the freedom to hold, receive and disseminate ideas. (ALA, Intellectual Freedom)
Therefore, it is the responsibility of librarians to ensure that access to information is not inhibited regardless of race, culture, gender, or socio-economic status. As demonstrated in competencies F and I, this can be accomplished by drafting and or revising collection development policies and other library policies in order to ensure accessibility. Realizing that cultures vary from community to community, it is also important to reach out to the community in order to obtain and maintain knowledge of what their needs are, whether they are social, cultural, or economic.
Contributing to the “cultural, economic, educational and social well-being of our communities,” is an intricate aspect of providing library services. As Fish (1992) notes, “any public library worthy of the name is responsive to the community it serves” (34). This is true whether the institution is a public library, an academic library, or an archive. There are many ways librarians and libraries contribute to the “cultural, economic, educational and social well-being of our communities.” In the realm of culture, we contribute by ensuring our collections are a reflection of the people we serve. This is accomplished through providing materials in languages other than English. In a public library this should occur in the branch closest to the community and culture in question. Providing cultural materials at the academic library is just as important and fits in well with the idea of a liberal education. In the archive, such cultural holdings help to preserve “historical memory” and understanding.
From an economic standpoint we must ensure free access to information. Remembering that the “wealth of the nation” is dependent upon the degree of information our citizens possess, we must guard against the potential of allowing the dichotomy between the “haves and have-nots” from widening. As Gregorian (2007) warns, “such a society [can allow] a privileged minority [to] control access to critical resources such as education, healthcare, knowledge and information, and economic opportunity, as well as to political participation. In particular, they can control access to technology [emphasis added]” (47). Librarians must combat this through creating, implementing, and enforcing policies that ensure access to information and technology, regardless of economic status. With such diligence the social well being of our communities will remain intact.
In sum and as Gregorian (2007) so eloquently points out:
A library is a learning and a reading place, but it is also a gathering place, a meeting place, a place where cultural events happen, where children sit in reading circles with other children of every race, ethnicity, and class, where both children and adults are taught to read, where immigrants learn English and bridge the distance between the "old country" and their newly adopted land. (47-48)
Contributing to the “cultural, economic, educational, and social well-being of our communities” will remain an important aspect of my professional life regardless of the setting I find myself in. I will take this philosophy with me as I pursue my career whether it is in an academic library, a public library, or an archive. It will undoubtedly influence where I seek employment, as I want my career to be in a place where intellectual freedom is not just a concept or a phrase framed on a wall. The institution where I spend my career will take intellectual freedom and cultural diversity seriously and be as committed to it as I am.
American Library Association. (2007). Intellectual freedom and censorship Q & A. Retrieved March 20, 2008 from https://www.ala.org/ala/oif/basics/intellectual.htm
Fish, J. (1992). Responding to cultural diversity: A library in transition. Wilson Library Bulletin, 66, 34-37. Retrieved March 23, 2008 from the WilsonWeb database.
Gregorian, V. (2007). A sense of elsewhere. American Libraries, 38, no10, 46-48. Retrieved March 23, 2008 from the WilsonWeb database.
Wills, G.(Ed.). (1982). The Federalists Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. New York: Bantam Books.