Deepening the Conversation

thinking about questions of authority, technology, learning, and 2.0 in academic libraries

My Philosophy of (academic) Librarianship


I was tasked with writing my personal philosophy statement. I started with some very bold assertions, and then buried them in a fair amount of explanation, and I’m no longer certain that my philosophy reads as radical…. Libraries work best with open communication and collaboration, within the library and across campus. Librarians are educators. Information literacy is the way to make self-sufficient users. I’m not sure if that remains visible in the statement. What do you think?

I believe the library is the beating heart of campus, by which I mean that at its most perfect, the library is the nexus of student learning and research, of faculty research for scholarship and teaching. The library is also at its most perfect when professors and other units on campus work with the library – and allow the library to work with them – to support student learning and research through communication and collaboration. First-year programs, senior seminars, learning communities, and the first research-level class in the major are all improved when librarians can work with other members of the campus community to create library resources that meet community needs and create community resources that help meet library goals. Outreach, programming, collection development, reference services, information literacy instruction and technological innovations work best when librarians are part of the campus intellectual and service community.

As a librarian I am an educator, and I have areas of subject expertise to share with the campus community. While librarianship is a service profession, the service being supported by an academic librarian is education, and I fulfill my service role through assisting the entire campus community to fulfill our communal educational goals. My subject expertise lies in the organization of information and when I work to make library tools more sensical, teach information literacy sessions, explore new technologies and their potential applications in relation to my unique community of users, and when I work with professors to create research guides and select appropriate items for purchase I am acting as a Librarian and as an Educator both.

Information Literacy education is the external culmination of the internal work of the library. The online catalog, classifications schemes, thesauri, reference tools, circulation and collection development policies (to name a few elements) are all important pieces of the functioning of the library, but in information literacy instruction, librarians take our internal processes and jargon and expertise and convert them into expressions and explorations of the concerns of our users. We have sophisticated systems that allow the library to function and to thrive, but these processes are highly internal and translucent. Information literacy education allows information seekers to make their own way through the complex environment in which librarians are inordinately comfortable.

I believe that my ability to act on philosophies of librarianship is dependent upon the context in which I am placed. I can only achieve my philosophical goals when the campus and library goals support similar or complementary philosophies. The elements of the philosophy espoused above may read as abstract but I feel them personally. My colleagues, my community, and my campus play intrinsic roles in manifesting my philosophy of librarianship.

I should mention that this is a very specifically located philosophy, and I think it would be very difficult to translate this approach from smaller teaching-centered colleges to Research 1 or other institutional types.


4 thoughts on “My Philosophy of (academic) Librarianship

  1. Pingback: Editorial: Our Philosophies of Librarianship

  2. Thanks for posting this. I have worked in libraries before but never had to write this kind of philosophy / statement before.

    • Caroly, I’m glad it was useful! It’s been years since I first wrote that, but I have found over time that the act of articulating that statement solidified who I am as a librarian. Those core values are still my core values. It’s pretty neat to see it be so useful to others as well!

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