Throughout my academic career at St. John’s University I have learned about many different aspects of librarianship. Some of the core professional values regarded as essential within the field of librarianship also corresponds with the values and ideals that I uphold in my daily life. Prior to enrolling in library school I was struggling with the decision of which career path I wanted to follow. I wanted to make a change and help my community. I thought that in order to make this feeling and idea a reality I needed to study something within the humanities field. I was reminded of the passion I have for archival librarianship and quickly enrolled at St. John's. I didn't initially connect for myself that librarianship was exactly the profession I needed to help catapult me into a career that stimulates social changes, bringing my personal desires and career interests full circle.
During my first semester I was introduced to the ideas of social justice within librarianship. I learned that librarianship promotes democracy and advocates for egalitarianism. Librarians stand by the belief that it is a basic human right to have access to information in all its mediums--that information can come from books, the Internet or by making and creating the mediums ourselves. They believe in cultural diversity and equal human opportunity. These concepts are evidenced by the existence of the Code of Ethics of the American Library Association where these principles are established. These very values motivate me deeply to follow through thoroughly with my education.
One of many highlights for me during my first semester was hearing R. David Lankes speak at the St. John’s University DLIS Fall 2014 Symposium. Though I had not heard of him prior to hearing him speak I was genuinely inspired by his words and ideas. One of his main discussions dealt with how the public views the library and librarians. He proposed that we as librarians should change the primary focus from the physical collections within the library to focus on the community. He argued that our mindset should change from “How much stuff do we have?” to “How much good do we do?” This was an idea that resonated with me very strongly. I have always been deeply connected to my neighborhood and in my spare time I volunteer there. It never occurred to me prior to that moment that I could take the skills I already posses and apply it to ways that can benefit my community. As R. David Lankes has stated many times before “the mission of librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities” (2012). I want to become a part of my libraries collection and begin to inspire other people within my community to do the same.
The first edition of the Code of Ethics of the American Library Association was introduced in 1939 and while it continues to serve as a guideline for the profession, it is not enforced (American Library Association, 2006). These principles are important for librarians to learn during the course their study because it provides librarians and other information professionals with a guide. Doctors, lawyers, teachers and social workers all have codes of ethics and they are challenged daily but most people are not aware of all of the ethical conflicts that can arise in this field. If I am ever faced with an issue that challenges my professional values I will to refer back to the code of ethics as a source of guidance. This will provide me with a better frame of reference to help resolve the situation or at least diffuse it. If I am faced with an organizational challenge I will communicate to the proper people who will best help in resolving whatever issues I have come across. No matter what the scenario may be I will always remember that communication is key when faced with any challenge.
As I continue to grow within this field, I plan to use my personal philosophy as a reminder as to why I decided to take on this path to begin with. Not only does my philosophy key in on my own attachments to this field, it serves as a record of all of the ideologies and values I share with the profession. My personal philosophy statement will be a continuously evolving document - as I grow, so will my philosophy. As time goes on I plan to reevaluate my thoughts and perceptions about this field as consistently as I can. I plan to do this because as people grow, they change. As I sit here I want to make sure that the values that are instilled in me are do not change drastically in the future from what they are now. If the day comes where I no longer feel the way that I currently do and have, it will be time to step away from the profession and seek out a new career goal.
As I near the end of my academic career within the DLIS program I am left to ponder what goals I might want to achieve in the near future. I aspire to be a leader--someone who can inspire change and growth even if it's only on a microcosm level. Now that I have been introduced and am well on my way to becoming part of this inspiring community I know that librarianship is the place to be to make this goal a reality. Two years ago I did not think that entering the field of archival librarianship would inspire me in the ways that I wanted but now that I am more aware of the mission of librarians I can safely say that archival librarianship is the perfect marriage between my two goals. I want to help preserve the past so we able to know our social heritage and archivists do this by ensuring the preservation of evidence for accountability, individual rights, and social justice (Jimerson, 2007). As Jimerson noted “the right to know is also a collective right, drawing upon history to prevent violations from recurring in the future” (p. 264). While I entered librarianship with a different goal in mind (to preserve the past), I have been introduced to a new additional goal: inspire change for the future.
American Library Association. (2006) Code of Ethics of the American Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/proethics/codeofethics/codeethics (Accessed December 11, 2014) Document ID: 615b49c6-2ba0-1f64-f914-6bfb9b240357
Jimerson, R. C. (2007). Archives for all: Professional responsibility and social justice. The American Archivist, 70(2), 252-281. Retrieved November 10, 2014, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/40294571?ref=no-x-route:33ff2910c9210a1a6f10f47e57213735
Lankes, R. D. (2012, September 20). What we do and why we do it ...but mostly why we do it. Retrieved December 10, 2014, from http://quartz.syr.edu/blog/?p=1752