I’d like to highlight a few differences between the core skills needed to complete my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. Hopefully this will demonstrate the skills needed to keep up to date in the profession, and how a professional qualification can help. Keep in mind I’m new to the profession, I’d be keen to know what those with more experience think!
Prior to starting my MA, I studied history. The skills I learnt – essay writing, structuring and planning – have all been put to good use this year, as has my ability to chomp through journal articles and books. The primary difference has been the way in which I select resources.
Whilst studying for my BA, I rarely strayed away from JStor and the university library catalogue. The currency of articles and books that I referenced was only taken into consideration when trying to determine the historiography of the topic. A stark contrast to my MA; secondary literature is ‘old’ after several years as opposed to several decades. I now think very seriously about using an item from more than a few years ago, unless it is to illustrate how much things have changed. The difference between currency of information in the two professions came as a shock to me. It had always been important to ensure that you found the most up to date interpretation on a historical event, but if you didn’t agree with it, it was reasonable to backtrack to a previous argument, providing you sufficiently backed it up with relevant facts. In my experience, this is not the case with librarianship. For the most part, arguing against changes can be seen as regressive (with a few exceptions- libraries and politics mix A LOT and cause a lot of debate, making the use of alternative arguments more acceptable).
Despite this, there are still similarities between how librarianship and history are both practiced. Ranganathan’s principles still hold true, but have been evolved and incorporated with new disciplines and technology. Similarly, historical practice has evolved from the times of Von Ranke, but acknowledges where today’s practices stem from.
I’d like to highlight a few points arising from this comparison:
1) Librarianship is exciting and fast paced. Keeping on top of emerging trends and technology can be difficult. It won’t do to simply follow advice from the 2000s. Make use of those current awareness skills, not just to help users, but also yourself.
2) Librarianship is practical. The master’s course serves as a way to prepare you for a role as a professional librarian (keep an eye out for a presentation from myself and Laura at the NPC11 on what “professional” is). To be ready for this, you need to be as up to date as possible.
3) A good librarian looks forward as well as at what is going on around them. By doing so it is possible to prepare yourself and the service provided to meet the constantly changing expectations of users.
4) Don’t get lost among all the new ways of working – it is important to keep a handle on what makes a good librarian. Understanding the ethics surrounding the profession is still essential, whether you are dealing with users face to face or virtually.