How to be a Catalyst for Change: redefining the Library 2.0 Information Professional

hirsh-change-aheadPresented by Dr Sandra Hirsh
at Library 2.012 Virtual Conference

A review…

Dr Sandra Hirsh was the opening speaker at Library 2.012 (second) Virtual Conference, welcoming all attendees prior to delivering her presentation, “How to be a Catalyst for Change: redefining the Library 2.0 Information Professional“.

At the time of published recording, it is noted that Dr Hirsh is Professor and Director of the School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) at San José State University. As Director of SLIS Dr Hirsh heads up the world’s largest accredited graduate program in the field, ensuring that its curriculum continues to be responsive to emerging trends in the field. Her research focuses on information-seeking behavior and understanding the information needs of a broad spectrum of users in the United States and around the world; this work has been published in peer-reviewed journals and has appeared in international conference proceedings. Dr Hirsh speaks at and participates actively in several professional associations, including IFLA, American Society for Information Science & Technology (ASIST), and the American Library Association (ALA).

In Dr Hirsh’s presentation, she initially outlines her goal for the audience is to stimulate them to be a team teacher and to work together in advocating information professionals across the globe. Dr Hirsh points out the perceptions of the library and information science field (LIS), how opportunities are changing and what we need to do to be a catalyst for change.

Dr Hirsh acknowledged a (then) recent article published by the Forbes magazine (August 6, 2012) that targeted the LIS masters degree as being ranked in a Top 10 worst Masters degrees for jobs. The journalist had literally stated, “the low pay rank and estimated growth rank make library and information science the worst mater’s degree for jobs right now.” Dr Hirsh counteracted this underlying perception of the Forbes’ journalist with different magazine, the US News & World Report (2009) that ranked the LIS profession as one of the 31 best careers. With the absence of other objective measures, Dr Hirsh confirms these types of rankings are generally flawed and should not be taken too seriously.

Many feathers were ruffled by this article from within the LIS profession and had sparked numerous responses from American LIS professionals. Dr Hirsh believes this article fundamentally attacked the value of the LIS degree and thus is relevant for all to discuss no matter where you are located geographically.

Dr Hirsh went on to say some people who responded to the Forbes article urged people from the profession to advocate for libraries and communicate more clearly the values library provide. She further added, that many responses discussed some very important efforts undertaken by LIS professionals, such as Turning the Page 2.0 (a free advocacy training course) and also the Edge Initiative (that helps libraries collect data).

Maureen Sullivan’s (President, American Library Association, ALA) response was interesting, “… for librarians, the primary motivation is job satisfaction derived from the opportunity to make a significant difference in the lives of others.” She additionally implied “… LIS training covers a broad range of competencies that can be successfully applied not only in librarianship, but also to careers in other fields.’

Oh, so true!

As Dr Hirsh continued discussing the misconceptions and perceptions of people who took a limited view of the LIS masters degree, I was (inwardly) very keen to know what she was going to suggest as the catalyst for change recipe!

To change perception, ensure relevancy and to continue to adapt, Dr Hirsh feels there are 3 things needed to be done by the profession collectively:

  • redefine the profession by being clear and proactive
  • leverage our skills as technology evolves while being open-minded and creative
  • become catalysts for change in the profession by uniting and advocating

Dr Hirsh explored these 3 things thoroughly and explained the implications for how our rules as information professionals will continue to evolve as new technologies emerge. She identified job postings calling for LIS skills have made way into other professions as emerging job titles that want applicants possessing knowledge of networking and cloud storage, metadata standards for digital content, creating web and social media presences and as well, implementing digitization projects for example. All of which are LIS skills that are attainable when completing an LIS masters degree.

There is a clear call of action by Dr Hirsh that required the need for advocacy by information professionals worldwide and confirms the importance of advocating helps employers understand the value of what this profession has to offer.

My ears piqued up when Dr Hirsh advised that she works closely with ASIS&T Information Professionals Task Force and invited all those that attended this presentation and who shared the same vision of advocacy to contact the website. As part of my career development that is already on the steps of networking internationally, I will look into this organisation in very near future, to see where I may fit in as that advocating LIS professional.

While Dr Hirsh’s presentation only lasted for 30 minutes, the feedback given to audience participants provided very valuable information as to the best methods of developing technical skills outside of formal education, what skill sets are deemed a requirement for the 21st century information professional and explained how to build better partnerships with academic institutions and as well others within the profession as a global community.



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