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Locating librarianship's identity in its historical roots of professional philosophies: towards a radical new identity for librarians of today (and tomorrow)

Gray, SW; (2013) Locating librarianship's identity in its historical roots of professional philosophies: towards a radical new identity for librarians of today (and tomorrow). IFLA Journal , 39 (1) 37 - 44. 10.1177/0340035212472946. Green open access

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Abstract

‘Librarian identity’ is a contested arena, seemingly caught up in a values-war between traditional principles of ‘citizenship’ and late 20th century’s shift to a democracy of consumerists. New professionals may be wary of associating with established systems of their own professional hierarchies when professional associations may be perceived as not having paid enough attention to how this shift in values has been effected, yet this is the key question to address: how has this shift towards ‘information management/consumption’; the library member now as ‘customer’; and new models of library provision by private or social enterprises, impacted on the profession’s identity as a whole? What does it means to call yourself a Librarian in the 21st century? This paper will trace the roots of the philosophy of Librarianship, in its changing shapes, to establish how professional identities are formed, ranging from Edwards and Dewey’s originating ‘librarian’ as book keeper/cataloguer or library ‘economiser’; through to Otlet and Shera’s ‘Documentationalist’; Ranganathan’s librarian ‘helper’; and present day incarnations such as Lankes’ librarian as ‘community knowledge creation facilitator’. Incorporating historical analysis of the roots of librarianship’s philosophies, this paper develops a thesis relating to how modern day librarian professionals, practicing in non-traditional areas and ways, may be helpful in suggesting a route out of the LIS echo-chamber of identity crisis, alongside the evidence of librarianship’s historical trail. It is proposed that by investigating librarianship’s underlying philosophies, and by listening to those who may not necessarily have traditional library qualifications or work in traditional settings, but who work as members of the profession in information and info-literacy skills, a way to forging a new identity can be observed. Examples of member/non-member outreach and activities are provided to illustrate how this new identity can be shaped to rise, phoenix-like, in a radical new, engaging, and engaged form.

Type: Article
Title: Locating librarianship's identity in its historical roots of professional philosophies: towards a radical new identity for librarians of today (and tomorrow)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1177/0340035212472946
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0340035212472946
Additional information: © The Author(s) 2012. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page(http://www.uk.sagepub.com/aboutus/openaccess.htm).
Keywords: philosophy of librarianship; library history; librarians; library profession;
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1392998
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