The Birth of a Library Scholar (Introduction)

       Firstly, happy Labor Day 2011 to all my fellow Americans!  As I intend this to be an ambiguously profession web-log page, I feel it appropriate to acknowledge the holiday as it’s so significant to the work force in this country.  My professor for my “Management Principles…” class made it a point to discuss the historical resonance of this federal holiday and what it means for professionals everywhere.  That being said, I encourage all who stumble across my blog account to regard Labor day with full reverence for those who fought for labor laws as they exist today.

       Today also marks the dawn of my second official week as a graduate student at Syracuse University, and, accordingly, the beginning of my development as a professional librarian.  Even though I only had two class sessions in the first week I learned a lot about the nature of information industries like libraries and I’m starting to assume what I believe is the recommended mindset of a Library professional.

       The most interesting thing I took away from my managment class was the differentiation between business models and the consequentiality thereof.  The first model was described as the typical “business school” model that characterizes typical capitalist constructions: profit-driven business tactics.  Specifically, all strategizing as a corporation are driven by the objective of maximizing profit.  The second model was described as a “public administration school” model wherein the conservation of resources is the primary motivating factor in business decisions.  I’m very unclear on the specifics of this and none of my research has served to clarify the nature of this particular aprroach for proper analysis.  In any case, the most relevant business model pertains to the information industry and is the model reportedly heralded by the iSchool at Syracuse and that is the customer driven industry.  Herein, the primary focus of an organization is the creation of customers.

       Although the source of the information was naturally biased towards the latter model, I think it appealed to me based on the intrinsic suggestions that an organization is to develop a relationship with the people they cater to in order to make their service better.  The distinction between this model and the other two is so crystal in my mind that I’m beginning to look at every business through this lens.

       In my class on reference librarianship, my professor introduced the terminology used to describe the people that use the library and the preferences that bounce between the terms.  Users, Patrons, Members and Owners.  For the sake of this blog entry, I’d like to take a closer look at the distinction between viewing the public as users/patrons vs. members.

       To me, it seems that the relationship that a person has to the library as a “user” is only in that instance of he/she using the library facility.  There is no rapport nor appreciation beyond that isolated transaction.  even with the term “patron,” there is the implication that the person is simply a repeat “user.”  But my conception of a “member” suggests that the person’s relationship to the library extends beyond any isolated transaction.  There is a sense of loyalty, appreciation and trust.  The “member” would feel that he/she is known by the staff, feel responsible for keeping the facility clean, make plans to return to the library in advance of having a specific need, support endeavors and attend events.

       In an effort to synthesize what I’ve learned so far in the two classes, I’ve concluded that the function of the library is to provide service to “users,” but the objective is to create “members”; to create a community of people, whose information literacy they feel a responsibility to nurture and cultivate.  In my opinion I think both the terms “user” and “member” are valid and that librarians shouldn’t go out of their way to cultivate info literacy in everyone who comes in needing assistance.  I’m not sure my reference professor would agree with that and I’m also sure that there are many professionals much more learned that I who believe that all users are members.

       Throughout this stage of my education, I will continue to explore this concept of customer-creation priority and the user-member dichotomy.  In the meanwhile, I’m curious to see if anyone has any immediate insight on these topics.


About darrenjglenn

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