B – describe and compare organizational settings in which information professionals practice.
Meaning and Importance
There are many organizational settings in which information professionals work, most of which are in the traditional library field. Some settings, however, are outside of the typical “library job” setting. This is good news for any library school graduate, as potential jobs opportunities are everywhere. The basics of a librarian position tend to be the same across all different kinds of libraries, but the specifics of a librarian position differ depending on the setting. For instance, almost all librarians need to do collection development, but the specifics of how they get funding for new purchases differs quite a lot. Almost all professional librarian jobs require a candidate to have an MLIS, but some also require they have a teaching certificate or another Masters degree in addition to the MLIS.
Academic & School Libraries
These are libraries working within the confines of a school, whether that’s a K-12 school, undergraduate university, or graduate school. An academic library’s budget comes from the school or school district, and membership can be restricted only to students, school faculty, and other staff members. Librarians working within a school are often expected to be teaching a class as well, and are thus often classified as teacher-librarians. Teacher-librarians often, but not always, need a teaching certificate alongside their MLIS degree. They usually teach information literacy classes, including how to do research, use library services, and how to evaluate information.
Public libraries are are funded in whole or in part with public funds, and membership is open to anyone of the community within the library’s realm. Librarians working in a public library often do a combination of programming, reference desk work, customer service, circulation, and collection development. Public librarians also often teach classes, though in a more informal way than an academic librarian would.
Special libraries provide information and materials on a specific subject, and their budget usually comes from a larger body or a grant. Some examples of a special libraries include hospital libraries, law libraries, and local history libraries. Librarians who work in a special library are often part of a small staff, and so end up doing a lot of varied work. They may do reference, circulation, collection development, archival work, and perhaps teaching a class on information literacy.
No matter where a librarian works, they need to be aware of their organization’s strengths and weaknesses. Conducting a regular environmental scan and SWOT analysis can help determine areas of growth, such as partnerships with local companies, and opportunities to avoid danger, such as a decreased budget. This sort of analysis could even come in handy before working at a specific library. Librarians who wanted to move from a public library to a special library, for instance, could conduct a quick SWOT analysis to see if their professional needs will be met by the new library.
In Fall 2015, I took INFO 204 Information Professions, in which I learned all about the different avenues of employment for information professionals. As part of that class, we broke into groups to conduct an organizational analysis on a specific kind of library (special, public, academic, etc.) and one particular library within that specificity. My group picked the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. The Huntington library is a special library which focuses on art. It caters to researchers as well as the public, and was a good choice for our project as it has a lot of available information about its structure online. Furthermore, one group member lived nearby and was able to talk to a librarian personally.
This was a large group project, involving many different components. Our group broke up the different parts of the assignment evenly, so everyone did part of every aspect of the project. First, we did a literature review of the recent professional writings about environmental scans: the importance of them, how to do them, and why libraries should regularly conduct them. By researching this information, I learned not only how to do conduct an environmental scan, but came to understand how important it is to consistently conduct one. It’s easy for libraries to fall into a pattern, and not see opportunities for growth, or perhaps not spot dangerous situations. An environmental scan can help with that.
My group did an environmental scan of the Huntington ourselves, as well as a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis. This involved researching on the Huntington website for necessary documents, as well as talking to staff members. Group members each took a part of the analysis and then combined it into one paper. We then edited each other’s work and made it a coherent analysis. I personally added information about technology and finances to the SWOT analysis.
Building off of this analysis, we created strategic goals with assessment criteria/metrics. My part of this discussion was to incorporate technology goals such as upgrading the catalog and increasing wifi coverage within the Huntington. An annotated bibliography followed, and finally, we created a Prezi to present our project to the class. I built the majority of the Prezi, incorporating suggestions from my group members as to which information to include. It ended up being a mixture of the Huntington’s history as well as our own research. Here’s a link to the Prezi presentation: https://prezi.com/leborktt7q-b/the-huntington/
Though the group project was a massive undertaking, it was enormously helpful. I can now compare the differences between the many organizational settings that librarians can work in, and I know how to analyze those settings using measurable criteria. In the future, I will be able to consider the different avenues of professional work I may be interested in following.