Vast Active Library and Information Science blog. From a recent library science graduate in Wellington, New Zealand. A focus on reference and current awareness tools and issues, especially free, web-based resources.

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Thursday, May 08, 2003
Is librarianship a profession?  
Main topic of debate in this week's 520 (Information in Society) class was whether librarianship can be considered a profession. The lecturers' party line was that it most definitely is, citing various authorities including the Australian Council of Professions to justify this. Problem is that librarians don't, IMHO, fulfill at least some of the requirements of the ACP. For example, crucial to their definition of a profession is that there exists a strong professional body, which enforces a code of ethics on its members. And I can't see where that happens in New Zealand. LIANZA membership is voluntary. They have no power to strike me off for poor reference service or inaccurate cataloguing, as a doctor or lawyer can be struck off.

Another part of the definition includes 'and are accepted by the public as possessing special knowledge and skills'. Sadly, I doubt that the general public does have this opinion of librarians. I think the image of us as dusters of the shelves, or (worse) control freaks who deny users access to 'our' collections, is still quite prevalent. My father's embarrassed to introduce me as a librarian, for those reasons. I don't think everyone recognises librarians as possessing a special body of skills and knowledge. (It's made worse by the lack of distinction, in most people's minds, between librarians and para-professionals. Even my classmate Bruce, who as a MLIS student should understand the difference, complained that a "librarian" at Wellington Public didn't know anything about cataloguing. Turned out that the librarian was really a library assistant, there do to shelving).

Rebellious currents are also surfacing in the class, led by Amy and Heidi, against the topic for our final assignment, which requires us to argue from the premise that librarianship is a profession. Neither agree with this.


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