bird of maps

professional philosophy


A statement of professional philosophy serves as a guide and reminder of your professional beliefs and values. Articulating these things is a useful exercise in figuring out where you would like your career to take you. The resulting process of self-discovery has made this segment of my eportfolio the most challenging to write. Yet, having been given the opportunity to examine my professional attitude and style through the lens of the field of library and information science has proven to be a revelatory task.

I think it is also important to recognize that one's professional philosophy is dynamic: just as my education and previous experiences have contributed to my current outlook, my future experiences will do the same, and a professional philosophy that is open to change is far more useful than one that is not. This is particularly true in library and information science, a field that has witnessed tremendous change over the last decade. If suffering from somewhat of an identity crisis, librarians and information professionals have been very adaptive to how information is created and disseminated.

At the heart of civilization is the exchange of information. Information comes in many forms and performs infinite functions, and it is what drives human progress at all levels. From education to entertainment to business to politics to social interactions, information leads to understanding, and is thus the cornerstone of knowledge. I am of the belief that every individual is capable of creating their own opportunities in life, and access to information is the precursor to opportunity and advancement.

Librarians and information professionals are in service roles. The overarching characteristic of the field that is true regardless of institution is to enable access to information. The specifics will lie in how that information is organized and maintained. My first job in a public library awakened me to the vast fulfillment to be found in putting someone in touch with the information they are looking for. Providing this service to a community of users is the information professional's raison d'etre, and can be done directly, or indirectly by creating collections of resources that are relevant to our users - be they physical books, digital books, databases, journals, or even simply access to the Internet.

We add value to the collections we build by organizing it to facilitate effective retrieval. The most familiar examples of this are the classification systems used by libraries to organize books physically, with corresponding, searchable card catalogs. Indeed, the arcane card catalogs were really databases in analog form. Yet technologies since the card catalog have given us more ways in which we can store, organize, and retrieve, and re-organize information. The types of information that we can associate with a physical item or a digital object has expanded, and we are able to create metadata schema to cater to the particular needs of users or tasks. I find this aspect of information science thrilling, because this level of organization allows us to expand and customize our services. Competency G will provide more insight to my thoughts on representing and organizing information, while I discuss how this process can be catered to specific user groups in Competency I.

A type of metadata of particular interest to me is that created by the information users themselves. Drawing from my experiences with websites that utilize social tagging, wikis, and my participation with the Open Library project, I recognize that the masses can successfully organize chaos by utilizing tools made available to them. And I am of the belief that allowing people to interact with collections of information in such an intimate way is an extension of our role in making information accessible. How better to help people find what they are looking for than to let them participate in how it is organized? It is for reasons such as these that I strive to stay familiar with new technologies and follow technology trends in order to keep abreast of the innovate ways in which information is delivered and how people are able to interact with it. In Competency H, I further examine the significance of doing so.

Connecting people with information is a major component of the services that librarians and information professionals provide, but there are other important duties and responsibilities. Resisting censorship and supporting intellectual freedom are fundamental values of the profession that I intend to support professionally and personally. I discuss these values in more depth in Competency A, but I will reiterate my conviction that openness in the exchange of and access to information is beneficial to society. Openly advocating these issues is how I plan to contribute to the cultural, economic, educational and social well-being of the communities I participate in. Access to information enables societal understanding, and the power with which to make informed decisions.

It is also deeply important that as information professionals, we recognize that we become the stewards of the resources we collect, and we must take responsibility for making them accessible now and in the future. During an internship with the California Digital Library, I was introduced to the community of information professionals who are researching and developing ways in which we can ensure our digital assets will move forward with us as technology advances. Without constant vigilance, our digital information is at risk of becoming inaccessible in alarmingly short periods of time. I track what I learn about this new field in my blog, so that I may someday be prepared to participate in a position where I can contribute to digital preservation practices.

My background is in science, where the process of discovery relies upon posing a question and observing how varying factors determine the answer to that question. Professionally, one should frequently ask if what they are doing is effective. In my future positions, I know that the values I stated above, and my personal sense of responsibility to my colleagues and patrons will be the constant factors that are present each time I pose that question. From here, I plan to pursue a career in information organizations that execute innovative ways of providing access to information. I intend to leave enough flexibility in this goal to allow me to be inspired by the possibilities of how this can be done.