bird of maps

competency B

compare the environments and organizational settings in which library and information professionals practice


There are a great many needs for information to be organized and accessible, which grants librarians and information professionals infinite opportunities to apply their skills and offer these services. Upon learning about the Library and Information Science degree, most people generally expect that graduates would work in libraries. This is true, but not universally so. In my view, librarians represent one type of information professional, which I view as individuals who manage collections of information and facilitate access and retrieval of the collection's contents. Information professionals who do not work in libraries can often be found in archives or cultural heritage institutions, and data centers. Or perhaps they may be participating in corporate knowledge or web-based content management roles, or practicing database administration or informational organization consultancy, to name a few possibilities.

Despite the wide range of opportunities, information professionals and librarians participate in the same fundamental practices. They provide a service to a specified user group by supporting the organization, access, and retrieval of a collection of materials and resources. The specifics are determined by the needs of their users, the goals and mission of the institution, the medium in which the information appears, and specific items in the collection.

It has been accepted by the profession that there are three categories of libraries: public, academic, and special. Public libraries are open to everyone, and have the responsibility of fulfilling the needs of their communities of users while promoting intellectual freedom. Often, public libraries offer educational programs for adults and children, and strive to remain integral to the community at large. Librarians working in public libraries will participate in providing reference services and in planning programs for library users. They will collect and use information about the community that they serve to develop a collection of resources and materials to match what users want. Keeping this collection organized and accessible will require public librarians to provide reference, circulation, technical and web-based services.

Academic libraries are generally associated with higher education. Yet it is also necessary to recognize school libraries that serve younger students. At both levels, this type of library operates to serve a group of students in order to facilitate learning and the acquisition of knowledge. Many resources included in higher education academic libraries will be associated with professional journals and scholarly articles, which are obtained via electronic databases, print journals, and institutional consortia. Some academic libraries are specialized in particular subjects or fields of study. For example, I spent two years working in UC Berkeley's Biosciences and Natural Resources library, in which the collection is managed to serve students of the Life Sciences.

Academic librarians have a unique role in providing instruction in research skills and information literacy, in addition to providing general reference services. Since academic libraries are tied to a larger institution, it is also common for them to be charged with maintaining the institution's scholarly output and historical archives. Increasingly, institutions are developing digital repositories to store and distribute intellectual output, and librarians are poised to serve as the managers of these information storehouses.

The third category of libraries is perhaps the most broad: the term special library is applied to libraries that do not fall into the previous two categories. They can include corporate libraries, law libraries, libraries focused on a particular topic, institutional and personal archives, and any other manifestation of a collection of informational resources. Special librarians, like public and academic librarians, must also maintain and develop collections to meet the need of a user group, but it is likely that these groups - and their needs - will be fairly specific. It is not unusual that the services of special librarians also include large doses of archival and preservation work. Individuals working in special libraries may also exhibit increased flexibility in the use or development of metadata schema, in order to meet the needs of users and to organize and access a collection most effectively.


I have been fortunate to have already gained work experience in several types of libraries. To demonstrate my competency in comparing the environmental and organization settings in which librarians practice, I am submitting my personal resume. My first professional library experience was in a public library, and was followed by positions in academic libraries and a private, corporate library. These experiences have provided me with excellent points of reference regarding the differences in the services provided in each of these library types, as well as the role of the librarian in supporting their subsequent user groups.

To demonstrate my competency in comparing the environments and organizational settings in which information professionals practice, I am submitting a blog post that explores different branches of information management. The post was inspired by a lecture I listened to that was delivered by a Records Management consultant, in which the lecturer points out differences between information professionals, librarians, and archivists. I report on his observations and also make an argument that there is, perhaps, a forthcoming branch of information management that is based on preserving digital information.


With the evidence that I have provided, I have illustrated my competency in the ability to recognize the differences in the environmental and organizational settings in which library and information professionals practice. I will apply this knowledge appropriately in my future professional experiences. I hope to expand my knowledge of such settings by participating in organizations that are supporting digital collections and that are investigating digital preservation practices for the accessibility of these resources in the future.