A message I sent to the Texas Library Connection

There are many viewpoints in the information profession… the changing role of libraries and who information professions are is one of them, as is the role of our educational institutions. I’ve just squashed a ton of discussion and debate into that sentence, because I’m kind of tired right now. ^_^; At any rate, I recently sent this letter out to the tlc list in response to something my mother passed along…

I work at the school, and my views don’t necessarily reflect anyone else here.

I am not a librarian. I would be proud to call myself a librarian. It’s just a fact. I, like many, have an MLIS degree. I graduated from the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Texas at Austin. I am a member of TLA. I am a member of ALA. I am concerned with intellectual freedom, access to information, libraries and information services.

I am a “Computer Resource Development Specialist” at the School of Information, formerly GSLIS. Am I anti-libraries? No. I love libraries. Am I anti-book? No. I love books. Am I anti-librarian? No. My mother was a librarian for many years. My wife has worked in libraries since college. As a matter of fact, in the tech department here at the iSchool, all of our mothers were librarians, and all of us have an MLIS. ^_^

I am not a librarian. I love librarians, and what they do, but it feels wrong for me to call myself a librarian. It’s not because I don’t deal with books- I do actually deal with books. It’s not because I do technology support and deal with vendors, licensing, budgets, and so on- lots of librarians do the same thing- or because I teach a web-based undergraduate course. Librarians teach all the time.

It’s because I don’t work in a library. I don’t have a library titled position in a library setting. I would be proud to call myself a librarian if people considered what I do librarianship. I’d be happy to call myself a librarian even if ALA thought what I did was librarianship. But most people focus on the setting. I was happy when someone recently referred to me as an MLIS-related professional. ^_^

I do interact with people. My purpose is also to connect people with information. Sometimes the best way to do that is with a book. In the questions I get asked, it’s often not, but that’s to be expected in my own role. ^_^ But a whole lot of our graduates do the same thing, and not in the library setting. We’ve got archivists here. We’ve got records managers. We’ve got a great preservation and conservation program. We’ve got people who work with human computer interaction, and people who work with information architecture, and people who program, and people who work with education and distance learning and organizing and accessing information, and people who love books, etc. etc. But you’d better believe we have librarians. We have school librarians, academic librarians, special libraries librarians, etc.

Many of the positions people end up in, or even their areas of interest, though, don’t directly involve libraries. And I’m not saying that to slight libraries. But all of these positions have commonalities. We are all concerned about people interacting with information. People are still the focus of all of our positions.

I was a student at the school just before the degree name change. The MLIS became the MSIS. GSLIS became the iSchool. I was okay with that. I would have been happy with either degree, actually. I was really okay with dropping the “information science” part of the name. I think School of Information is more inclusive- because all of those roles can fit. Does it deepmhasize the role of libraries? That wasn’t the intention. Libraries are very much a part of our program. But they couldn’t call it the School of Archives, Records Management, Libraries, Instructional Technology, and you get the picture. They went with the broader theme, and chose not to focus on one setting. One setting is more limiting than it should be. I don’t think they expected to the change to have been quite as divisive as people make it out to be- it was supposed to be inclusive and focus on the common areas and values we all share.

Now, this UGL thing- it disturbs me. But the article is premature in describing what will happen to that space, because right now nobody really knows. It’s been talked about for a long time, and I don’t even know if it’s really in actual planning stages yet. The removal of the books disturbs me, but I suspect that it was more of a budgetary thing than anything else. (I don’t know.) The University Libraries have gotten the short end of the stick regarding money in the past, which I find awful. I am fairly confident that the space isn’t going to simply be turned over to ITS with no regards or thought about student needs, though.

I find that the biggest problem is, for a lot of people entering the field, is that librarians don’t earn what they should. I don’t know how that can change, but it’s one of many reasons that I joined the professional organizations.

Just another information professional,
Carlos Ovalle

1 Comment »

  1. copy this blog » Blog Archive » Google as Library Rhetoric said,

    August 16, 2005 @ 9:04 pm

    […] professionals, and popular media portrayal of librarians. My perspective is probably best shown in my letter to the Texas Library Connection list. I have an MLIS, but I don’t co […]

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