Exploring the Practice of Librarianship

Ask a roomful of librarians why they entered the profession, and they’re likely to tell you they enjoy developing and managing strategic plans. Or they’ll say they always wanted a job defending against budget cuts. Or they like explaining the nuances of copyright to co-workers, creating concept maps to help future engineers identify the best database for their research, or teaching students how to better use Google.


Managing projects and people, developing plans, explaining legal concepts, using technology, and teaching new skills aren’t the kinds of tasks that draw people to librarianship, but librarians can’t succeed without these abilities. That’s the message of the September-October issue of Information Outlook, the theme of which is “The Practice of Librarianship.”

From Rajesh Singh teaching his LIS students at St. John’s University to create strategic plans for information organizations to Hal Kirkwood experimenting with concept maps to help engineering students select the optimal database for their research to David Stern reviewing remote service technologies that can help librarians collaborate with each other and their clients, the September-October issue explores the roles that SLA members fill each day and the challenges they face in performing their normal duties.

Catherine Lavallee-Welch, director of the Murphy Library at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse, sums up the practice of librarianship for many SLA members in her interview in the September-October issue.

“In higher education, we have to deal a lot with budget cuts and the ever-rising prices of resources,” she says. “That’s where prioritizing and strategizing are important. Of course, when you are an administrator, a director, you have to deal with a certain amount of office politics. You have to make sure that you communicate the value of your unit to the rest of the organization and that you can advocate properly for resources.”

Kayleigh Ayn Bohémier and Melanie Maksin, in their article about teaching Google workshops to students at Yale University, offer another perspective on what day-to-day librarianship entails.

“The process of designing and implementing workshops has been iterative, and there is no perfect session sequence,” they write. “Even within sessions, Google update releases can lead (and have led!) to last-minute shifts in how we plan to teach the content. As with teaching most skill sets, we need to continue to adapt and engage with our users to continue meeting their needs.”

Strategizing. Prioritizing. Designing. Implementing. Teaching. The practice of librarianship is not exactly the stuff of visionary career planning. But the rewards of librarianship—helping people find and use information to conduct research, create innovative products, start or expand businesses, manage programs, argue a case, develop new medicines, grow more food, or just complete a high school science project—more than make the daily tasks worthwhile.

To learn more about the practice of librarianship, read the September-October issue of Information Outlook. Not an SLA Member? Join SLA today!

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