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Librarianship: A Service Profession for More Than a Century

There are a variety of forces that shape the future of librarianship[1], however, the overwhelming value that that connects all librarians past and present is the concept of service, whether these libraries be academic, public, school, or special libraries.


100 Year History

"Perhaps the most distinctive feature of library and information science," Rubin writes, "is the purpose of the field to communicate knowledge to people . . . This activity is the sine qua non of the profession."[1] For over 100 years, the field has been devoted to service; it arose out of the nineteenth century concept of philanthropy and was considered to be a feminine profession, it is exemplified the kinds of jobs well-suited to women as they began to struggle to ender the workforce.[1] Angel Out of the House[ref]Add book refrence[/ref] was a critical assessment of this trend to move women's role out of he house in a service capacity to jobs in philanthropy out of the house--i.e., service to the community. Today, individuals (both men and women) who feel called to service professions such as "nursing, social work, teaching, medicine, law, and the clergy"[1] can consider librarianship among their professional choices.

Green and Dewey on the Value of Service

The library profession takes the quality of service and the value of service seriously. The American Library Association (ALA) outlines in its RUSA Guidelines[1] service qualities and the procedures that should be followed when providing reference service. Green, Samuel A. (Samuel Abbott), 1830-1918. specifically stated when the profession first organized, the types of personal qualities conducive to providing service that should be found in librarians--openness, approachablity, sensitivity, consideration for privacy--[1] But this character was also tied to the philosophy of the philanthropy movement. That is, it meant the willingness of the librarian to help others--patrons--to achieve self-refinement and improvement through the vehicle of quality service.

How Ranganathan's 5 Laws Apply to Library Service

In 1931 Ranganathan, S. R. (Shiyali Ramamrita), 1892-1972.[1] "proposed five laws of library science that have remained a centerpiece of professional values and that reflect his deeply held conviction that the library is dedicated to service of people."[1] These rules are: 1) "Books are for use"[1]. Books should be available to all and it is the job of the "keeper of books", or librarian, to service them, or to ensure the preservation of materials and the acquisition of a wide variety of materials.; 2)"Books are for all." It is the duty of the librarian to have "excellent first hand knowledge of the people to be served . . . and that library selectors should emphasize materials that were strong, well written, an well illustrated"[1] so that librarians provide quality materials that address the needs and interests of its users; 3)"Every book its reader."[1] Open shelving and free access to materials is a goal of librarianship, and as a service, librarians, Ranganathan suggested, could "set up displays of selected materials," create special reading areas," as well as create evaluative tools such as readers advisories. This section particularly emphasizes "library services", a term used today to describe special services to patrons, such as storytime; 4)"Save the time of the reader."[1] A librarian's role as service provider can be identified in several key areas librarianship, particularly cataloging and reference, where readers can find information more quickly due to structured organization of materials, pointed direction to specific materials, and instruction on how to use these materials, respectively; and 5)"The Library is a growing organism."[1] The "inevitablity of the growth of collections"[1] requires librarians to sercie those collections, including acquiring new materials: acquisitions, then is a key service to keep up with new technologies and changing user needs and interests.

Service: Past and Present

The past and present value of service remains a central focus of librarianship, as it should be. Accross the variety of types of libraries, this value remains steadfast, though the methods for implementing it differ based on the types of materials and specific needs of the unique users.



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