“So what are you going to do with that degree?”

       I was just discussing my Master’s program with an acquaintance last night and was asked my intentions regarding my MLS.  The day before I was at lunch with my fellow library scholars and a physics student, the latter asked us all the same question.  Before that I had a (two-way) interview with Upstate Medical Libraries in which my interests within the Library Science field were inquired.

       By now I’ve come up with a sort of standard answer, consistent in it’s detail, enthusiasm and thought-provoking nature.  I hadn’t realized how–perhaps overly–thorough this response had become until Sunday when hearing the simpler and more matter of fact answers from my classmates.  Don’t get me wrong:  my initial attraction to the field was almost purely my desire to become certified in an occupation that was a little obscure but certain.  I wanted a job.  And the prospect of working in the academic sphere was very tempting to the natural academic in me.

       But I realize that committing to one of the best graduate programs in Information Studies in the country requires more than mere bibliophilia.  Yes, I am determined to garner experience as an academic librarian at a university (that’s not a state school).  But the field has so many enticing nooks and crannies, that I can’t help but explore where I may find a greater calling.

       Specifically, the fields of medical librarianship and law librarianship appeal to me.  Coming from a Comparative Literature background, I have a consistent eth0critical lens that I feared would be muted in this particular field.  And yes, I’ve had to starve that part of myself in my grad education thus far.  But the ethical dimension behind the questions of access to information seems to be forever relevent.  If our bent is truly to create customers, then having a pluralist and open nature as an institution should be an objective of the library towards that end.  This issue comes to a head in medical and legal libraries because both portals (to lift wikipedia language) of information can be critical to just about anyone, yet people with certain nationality, economic, linguistic and academic backgrounds seem to have more convenient access to the information they need.  The implication seems to me to be a call to remedy the uneven access to medical and legal information so that anyone can avoid critical situations.

       Long story short, I’m interested in advancing accessibility to medical and legal libraries.

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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.

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About the Author

“SO TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR ACADEMIC BACKGROUND.”

My name is Darren J. Glenn.  I’m a graduate student in the Library and Information Science program here at Syracuse University.  I graduated Binghamton University last August with a degree in Comparative Literature.  I also studied German language.

 

“WHY DO YOU WANT TO BE A LIBRARIAN?”

There are multiple dimensions to my decision to pursue a career in librarianship.  On a personal level, I’m a total bibliophile and I love that sort of bookish, smart, productive atmosphere of the library (as a destination).  In terms of particular missions as a librarian, I’m a firm believer that knowledge is power and that a career in Librarianship can put me in a position to level access to information and facilitate the path towards equity.  Also, I think it’s a very practical certification to have.

 

“WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF WORKING IN THE FUTURE?”

No idea.  I definitely want experience in a law library, and I am very interested in working at an academic library.  Ideally, I’d love to work in a University Law Library.  I do foresee my mission to expand access to information requiring involvement with public libraries however.  I’m wondering if there is anyway for me to bridge these gaps.

 

“WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO LEARN THROUGHOUT THIS PROGRAM?”

Aside from gaining tremendous amounts of experience as a librarian, and making connections with future library directors and scholars, I’m hoping to gain an intimate understanding of some of the core aspects of librarianship–aspects that are quite vague at the moment.

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