The Importance of Professionalism
19/10/2012 § 13 Comments
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Katie Clausen.In one of my courses we are analyzing ALA’s “Core Values of Librarianship.” We take on one core value every week, reading articles and discussing how these values define us as librarians. It is important to understand the policy that makes the foundation of our profession, even though it can be….well, boring. But if we take the principles and apply them to our everyday lives and jobs, it is easy to see why we need these standards. They are, as the ALA states, “the foundation of modern librarianship.”
Last week, we tackled Professionalism, and it was quite the dialogue.
First of all, The American Library Association’s core value of professionalism states that the ALA “supports the provision of library services by professionally qualified personnel who have been educated in graduate programs within institutions of higher education. It is of vital importance that there be professional education available to meet the social needs and goals of library services.”
Let’s break it down. What does professionalism mean? Why do we need it?
1.) Professionalism in our speech: Speak with confidence, and maintain appropriate language. We are models for our communities, and in order to sustain professionalism, we need to be positive examples in our speech. It is not acceptable for the public to hear librarians curse, name call, or use improper grammar. This doesn’t mean we have to be robots or never have any fun. I love talking to kids using “abbrevs” or joking around using some of their lingo. But there is a boundary; patrons deserve respectful, courteous language from us at all times.
2.) Professionalism in our attitude: There are all things we don’t want or don’t like to do. Picking up the toddler room (with its used band-aids stuck to the floor or peanut butter on the toys) is not my favorite thing to do, but I don’t scoff and drag my feet while doing it. I hold my head high and just clean it up. If we are having a bad day, we need to maintain a calm demeanor. People are good at sensing each other’s attitudes, and patrons need to see positivity and warmth in librarians. If we have positive attitudes, our patrons will want to come back.
3.) Professionalism in our dress: This goes without saying. And for all of you who are applying to graduate programs, this is also important! If you have any kind of interview, whether it is for acceptance to a program or for a part-time job or a full-time job, dress matters. This does not mean you need to spend tons of money on clothes though. I often go to resale shops or places like Dress Barn (or Plato’s Closet for both girls and guys), and I find professional pieces that I can wear with different outfits. If you are thinking, “What? We are librarians! We should be able to express ourselves however we want!” I understand. I loved one of my childhood librarians who wore huge, hoop earrings and tie dyed skirts! But I don’t remember seeing too much of her thighs. It’s great to wear creative clothes to express personality, as long as they are appropriate.
4.) Professionalism in our character: Be respectful towards others, both while we are on the clock and off. Librarians are respected leaders of the community, and it is likely we will see your patrons outside of the library walls. We need to watch how we behave, and how we represent ourselves. Speak and act from your professional stance. We all have opinions about things—religion, politics, ethics, art, values—but as librarians, it is important to try and maintain objectivity. I don’t mean we can’t put up political stickers on our cars or blog about our opinions we should not do so with anger or cruelty towards others with an opposing view. Our opinions and contributions matter—and they define our character. Let’s be authoritative and professional.
5.) Professionalism online: This one really matters and it is relatively new point of discussion. If you think about it, everything online is documented and searchable. If we put our thoughts and opinions online, it is ALWAYS possible for people to find it. This means that when we blog, update, tweet or post photos, we need to be aware that people (colleagues, professors, potential employers) can find and see it fairly easily. Do you really want a potential employer to see a picture of you from college, holding a beer and dancing on a pool table? No, you don’t. It could cost you an interview or a job. Again, this doesn’t mean you have to become a teetotaler and lock yourself in your room, but it does mean that you should analyze your photos, your social networking, and your blogging. Take down pictures that are unprofessional, or ask whoever put them up to take them down. It looks much better to have pictures of you with your dogs, your family, or with your books!
It may seem strict but professionalism matters. But it doesn’t mean we can’t have fun! We love stories, and stories are all about adventure. We can be adventurous, we can be silly, we can be quirky! But we can do it under the umbrella of professionalism. In order to be considered professionals, we need to act like professionals in every aspect of our lives. Let’s represent the body of knowledge we call library science with dignity and character.
What is your definition of Professionalism for LIS? How does this play out in our every day education, work and personal lives?
Katie Clausen (@katiekangaroo) hails from Minnesota, where she actually enjoys the snow! She earned an M.A. in Children’s Literature from St. Olaf College and an M.F.A. in Writing for Children from Simmons College in Boston, MA. She is currently attending Dominican University in River Forest, IL for her Masters in Library Science, focusing on Youth Services while working in The Butler Children’s Literature Center at Dominican and in the children’s department at Oak Park Public Library.